Here is an interesting question: When is it OK to exclude same-sex couples because of “tradition” and when it is not? Over the weekend Ellen DeGeneres ruffled a few gay feathers when she appeared to say that same-sex ballroom dancing was “weird.” In a conversation with former Dancing with the Stars contestant Kelly Osbourne, the topic of the all-female dancing pair on the Israeli version of the show. Kelly called the coupling amazing, Ellen’s answer as reported in the press (including this site) came out more awkwardly:
I think it’s just weird. Because it’s not like a romantic thing, it’s an art form. And dancing, it doesn’t matter. We are just so used to seeing men and women dancing together.
Ruh-roh, equality alarm. To extrapolate that reasoning out further, since we are just so used to seeing a man and a woman get married, why have same-sex marriage? Or we’re so used to seeing straights in the military, why let gays serve openly? Or we’re so used to seeing men wear ties, why let adored lesbian daytime talk show hosts wear them? You see where I’m going with this.
But, big BUT, Ellen’s statement was actually out of context. Once you track down the full video, her meaning becomes much clearer:
I think it’s just weird. Because it’s not like a romantic thing, it’s an art form. And dancing, it doesn’t matter. We are just so used to seeing men and women dancing together. It’d be nice to see — I think that that’s great that they’re going to do that.
You can watch the clip here for yourself. Ellen and Kelly were talking about the rumors that Ellen’s wife Portia de Rossi might go on DTWS:
Whew. So, everyone relax and put away your Bad Gay Scoldy Fingers. Ellen meant it’s weird that it hasn’t happened yet and thinks it would be great if it happened here. Yep, she’s still a terrific gay advocate. Also, Ellen and Portia looked simply gorgeous dancing at their own wedding.
But that still doesn’t fully address the earlier questions, which was are there some traditions that simply shouldn’t be viewed through the lens of inclusiveness? In the comments yesterday, some of you argued that ballroom dancing was indeed an art form and therefore exempt from the need to accept same-sex couplings. That it wasn’t about romance or gender in any way, but the dance.
I would fervently argue back “no” to that. Any tradition can become inclusive and just because it has always been one way does not mean it has to always be that way. But I’m open to discussion. What, in your minds, makes ballroom dancing different that the tradition would trump equality?
Why, as some of you mentioned, does a gay or lesbian person have to dance with a person of the same sex? Why not make straight people dance with people of the same sex, too? Is the all-female DWTS team in Israel just a rating stunt or another step toward equality?
I, again, would argue the latter. The more same-sex couplings are normalized, be it in marriage or in the military or on the dance floor, the better. Much of homophobia comes from fear and much of that fear comes from misunderstanding and much of that misunderstanding comes from not seeing everyday representations of gay people.
So thanks, Ellen, for thinking it’s “weird” that more same-sex couples aren’t seen dancing professionally. Also, thanks Portia for making this adorable face when asked if she was going to do DWTS.
If Portia decides to do the show, I just might watch – regardless of the sex of her partner. How could you not?
UPDATE: Ellen definitively cleared up that, no, she does not think same-sex dancing is “weird” on her show today.
So, in case you missed it, she says: “I think it’s a great thing and it’s about time. So just to be clear, I don’t think it’s weird for same-sex couples to dance together.” Any questions?