It has often been remarked that our most internalized standards are the ones we find hardest to view as anything other than natural. Even at a time when gender roles are increasingly confused, many young people react with hostility to any attempts to explore roles that they prefer to accept as pre-ordained. Yet once a teacher introduces the arts – both classical and popular – of dance and music into the classroom, a space opens for questioning, exploration, and discussion. Using music with a long history, such as opera, allows a teacher to show how images of gender have shifted over time, so that, for example, the castrati singers of Renaissance Italy were among the most celebrated sex symbols and the most popular portrayers of heroic men in their day. Using popular music, such as videos from David Bowie’s glam rock days, provides an opening for students to identify aspects of self-presentation that we now categorize as “male” or “female” and to discuss the disorientation that occurs when those categories blur. Likewise, showings of classical ballet can prompt students to go beyond their initial discomfort with “men in tights” to recognize how male danseurs have embodied power and sexual prowess for generations of audience. Hip-hop, meanwhile, gives a modern-day example of dance that is so aggressively “male” that female dancers sometimes find it hard to establish themselves. Thus using the arts in the classroom can allow us to examine and analyze the ways in which we construct gender identity and norms.
|Keywords:||Music, Dance, Gender|
Professor, English Department, Minnesota State University Moorhead, Moorhead, Minnesota, USA
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