In order to teach my Hispanic Civilization students about Latin American machismo (male chauvinism), I decided to start by talking about the tango. This beautiful dance offers a perfect and a very visual embodiment of the chauvinistic values that unfortunately inspire so much of Latin American culture.
In this dance, the woman is, for the most part, completely passive. The man decides where and how he wants to lead her. She has to guess his intentions and follow his lead. Sometimes, of course, the man might decide to stop and then the woman is allowed to swing her leg around for a while. Then, the male leading continues. I tried to learn this dance but soon discovered but the total passivity required from a woman goes completely against my nature.
The nature of tango lyrics that often is also very offensive to women has been noticed by some authors of tango. Here is an example of an author who denounces the chauvinism of tango lyrics:
"Mujer argentina, pedazo de historia, Argentinian woman, a piece of history,
que ofreces tu vida, ternura y amor. who offers her life, tenderness, and love.
El pobre poeta, en pos de la gloria, A poor poet, in search of glory,
olvida que es hijo de madre en dolor. Forgets that a mother has given him life in pain.
Con letras de tango te insulta y ofende He insults and offends you with tango lyrics
al fango te arrastra y ciego en su acción, He drags you through the mad and in his blindness
por unas monedas cual Judas te vende he sells you for a couple of coins like a Judas
mientras canta el pueblo lo que nunca sintió." while the country sings what it never actually felt.
The lyrics of tango drag a woman through the mud, while in the dance itself, the male lead drags his female partner across the dance floor in a symbolic gesture that highlights her passivity, submissiveness, and lack of agency.
Courtesy of my reader Vanessa, here are some actual instructions how to dance the tango:
"Argentine Tango Lesson 4: Walk
Start walking. Gentleman, take a couple of steps forward starting with your left foot. Lady, do the opposite: two steps back beginning with your right foot. Let him guide you. Stop. Repeat."
"Argentine Tango Lesson 11: It’s All about Communication
Tango has always been associated with desire, (mis)communication, sexual innuendos and possession."
"Argentine Tango Lesson 12: She Belongs to Me
Some characteristics remain faithful to its male-chauvinist origins when the pimp claimed he owned a harlot. For instance, the man leads, the woman follows him… always. He starts to move, she moves along; wherever he takes her, she goes, as if she belonged to him."