Saturday, September 24, 2011

Speak/hear/see no evil at the Milonga?


A tanguera may have reason to feel more loved, protected and psychologically safer than in any other community she has ever experienced.  However, in spite of this sense of safely in our "embracing community," I have suggested we be aware of how we must protect each other and ourselves.

From private emails and a many comments, I see four basic reactions from the tango community about this series on personal and psychological safety in tango.  I will list these basic responses below, but as a review, you can see that this series of six posts started out very upbeat.  In case you came into the middle of the discussion this is the whole series:
  • Tango: Your Safe Place?  A friend of mine finds her meditation on dancing lowers her blood preasure.
  • Re-finding Tango as a Safe Haven  But what if one has lost this Safe Place?  This was a post for a friend who no longer felt safe.
  • Tango Vultures This post was on how to identify and protect oneself through knowledge from being a victim of a predator.
  • Kasimir the Tango Tomcat:  This post was about a less predatory individual, yet still a harmful person to the local community, a translation from Cassiel's tango blog.
  • Whatever happened to Kasimir?: An update of the above post 16 months later on what happened to the local tango scene from the prowling Tomcat described in May 2010.
  • The Cause of Tango's Gender Imbalance:  This post sums up the series with a counte-rintuitive thesis that the victims are women but the community has fewer men because of the Tomcat's behavior.
I did not start out knowing where this was going, obviously.  As a result, my definitions for predatory behavior may not seem very clear, as some have complained.  I agree, but I suggested a book!  And at that, a very important book that any parent should share with their late-teen daughters.  Also, this is a book that any adult would find fascinating and helpful in our modern world.  The Gift of Fear and its salient points were mentioned in Tango Vultures.

To clarify inappropriate behavior, let's start with appropriate behavior:  Men and women in relationship with each other are playful.  We play "catch" and take turns.  Seduction is a game of catch, not hunt and vanquish.  Tangueros and tangueras are advanced at the game of playing catch, and by far the tango community is a very wonderful and safe place to meet others to play this wonderful game.  Yet, when inappropriate behavior over and over shows a person, man or woman, who is harming the community by making the community an unsafe place, this person -- one would think -- should be identified and confronted.  In rare situations this person should be shunned for he serious harm he is causing.  I am not suggesting going out to save the world or being altruistic.  My suggestion is that in especially smaller communities that NOT taking action will have a long-term effect on your own ability to enjoy tango where you live.  I also feel strongly (but only social research would prove my thesis) that the traditions of "los códigos" (tango etiquette norms) protect a community and identify inappropriate behavior sooner than in a non-traditional community.

If this all seems heavy-handed, then consider a milonga organizer.  This person from time to time has to kick someone out of his or her milonga.  Why?  Having him there is bad business -- plain and simple.  Mostly readers have been open to consider this taboo topic.  But there has also been a bit of speak/hear/see no evil.  Readers have responded in four basic ways:

 Speak no evil response # 1:  Really there is nothing to say!  Tango Vultures are mythical creatures.  Men and women both play with the fire of seduction.  If it works out, great things happen.  If it doesn't work out, name calling ensues, such as "Tango Vulture" or some other much worse epithet.  We are all adults.  This is all just paranoia and sour grapes.

Hear no evil response #2:  Predatory people are very rare.  This is way too much information, and does not describe the tango community I know.  This is just too negative, and is better not said.

See no evil response #3:  My combat vets, whom I treat as a therapist, are affected by terrible events.  The hallmark of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is avoiding anything that reminds them of war.  They wish to go into a world in which they are not forced to see crowds, cars or people who could cause them or others harm.  Going to a milonga would be way too difficult.  Tangueros and tangueras have confided in me of how difficult these posts have been from their own unresolved harm caused by a predator (often before taking up tango).  However, the report having better insight of how to protect themselves in the future.  In a word, my suggestion is therapy for avoidance behaviors after a victimization, not just the book that I recommended.  New therapies truly work.  I especially suggest using a therapist trained in trauma therapy. Find an EMDR therapist at this link.  Without getting help, we will not see you much or ever again at the milonga.

The resiliency and aware response, #4: 
The Experienced Ones (men and women) tell me that Tango Vultures or Tango Tomcats described the very person who ruined tango for them or for others.  More portentous, they tell me how destructive "tomcats" have been to their small communities.  Private emails tell the story of sightings of these "mythical creatures" and that they do indeed live!  They have a sense too of how to protect themselves and their tango community.

Perhaps we all will embody any of these above responses sooner or later, during different days or seasons of our lives.  I understand.  Some days I too just want to dance.


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