Screw Gender Roles: Ballet is for Boys, too

Sasha Brown-Worsham

My toddler son loves trains and trucks and bikes and cars. He loves firemen and policemen and pointing out excavators.

He also really loves to dance.

For the past two summers, I have planned out my childrens' fall classes in August. Since they are both so young (2 and 3 now), they have always been classes we do together -- Spanish classes, mommy and me yoga, art classes, etc. This year, both children are old enough to do both dance and gymnastics, but when I decided to sign my kids up for pre-ballet/creative movement, my husband balked.

"I'd like Alan to know he is a boy before you make him a ballerina," he told me.

I was shocked. Isn't this 2010?


My daughter loves tea parties and princesses as much as the next girl, but she also helps her daddy change our tires when they need them and runs faster than any boy at the park. She loves ballet and gymnastics, but I also know she will love karate and soccer when she is four, too.

So, why can't my son be the same?

I took this question to Facebook and got more than 65 responses to my question. And the funny thing? The people who were the most opposed to Alan taking ballet were the ones who did not have children. Those that did understand that at 2-years-old, a "class" is really just an excuse to boogie down and besides, I really do not feel comfortable shoving society's gender rules onto my happy, well-adjusted toddler, thank you very much.

But those who were opposed (a vocal two of my friends), were very clear on this idea that my toddler son would be bullied at some point if I put him in ballet.

I walked away from the conversation feeling quite bullied myself. I went into it thinking it was a fun and frivolous topic and I walked away from it feeling like we are living in the 1950's where boys are boys and girls are girls and boys watch football while women clean and cook.

I am not OK with this.

I am also not OK with the idea that the way we combat bullying is by giving in to the bullies. In many ways, I think the very children who get bullied are the ones who are willing to compromise themselves at the behest of the bully. That is not the way I want to raise my children. We do not negotiate with terrorists.

But even so, I am more bothered by this notion that my happy, healthy, sweet boyish toddler cannot do something that would make him very happy because society and people who are scared "of what the neighbors might think" say he can't.

Boys who have taken ballet are more agile for sports later, they are quick on their feet and strong in their legs. They are graceful and note to Alan's Daddy: They can jump so high, they will be able to dunk any ball you give them.

They also have a leg up with the ladies because what woman is not a sucker for a man who can dance?

I am going to win this fight with my husband, but I am less sure about the one with society.

What do you think of ballet for boys?

Image via tibchris/Flickr

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