Gender Discrimination in Folk Dance
Traditionally many forms of folk dancing (Squares, Contra, Ceilidh, Playford) have defined roles that are referred to as Gents and Ladies, which were danced by men and women respectively. As social and demographic changes meant more women danced than men, it became acceptable for women to dance the Gentís role, but not vice-versa.

With the onset of gender equality in society as a whole you now find men dancing as Ladies, but only occasionally and usually by younger, experienced members of the dance community. The more I thought about it the more I realised that in the folk dance community that I love, generally populated by decent people, there is a lot of gender discrimination. It may "only" be labelling dancers as Gents and Ladies, but it is both insidious and pervasive.

What is worse is that many in the community do not even see it as discrimination or exclusionary.

'Identity categories are never merely descriptive, but always normative, and, as such, exclusionary.' Butler (1991)

Folk Dance and the LGBTQ+ Community
The use of heteronormative terms such as Gent and Lady in themselves cause issues for LGBTQ people, as they can feel uncomfortable dancing a role identified with a gender label that they do not fit. One member of Exeter University LGBTQ+ society recently said "I love ceilidhs but I've definitely been put off by feeling uncomfortable with how people were reading my gender because of the 'gendered' roles."

Furthermore, with the modern social trend of movement away from binary gender identification and towards a more fluid approach, some people don't want their gender defined. So it is members of the LGBTQ+ community who are the ones most excluded, and the ones I wish to bring into the dance community.

Gender Free Dancing
It's just like an ordinary Ceilidh (or Barn Dance), except that we don't use gender related terms like "Man" or "Lady". Gender free, as the name implies, is an approach to folk dancing that dispenses with gender labels.
Jeremy Child   07969 297 633   01392 422 119   genderfree@barndancecaller.net