I rarely watch movies, but I was drawn to watch Black Swan because of the ballet. It had its good and bad points. It was clear from the off that the director was male and that he was fetishizing ballerinas, especially their feet, as men tend to do. But I liked the ending. So shoot me.
Ballet, in my opinion, is a feminist nightmare. It is full of paradoxes.
I am always mezmerized by the dancers’ etheral beauty. They are of another world. Hyper-femininity is a prerequisite, and yet the training is so rigorous that few manage to attain the standard required. Women must bend and contort their bodies in excrutiating ways, and yet they are given their rightful place as heads of the art: they are paid more than their male peers and their hard work is recognized.
It is serious art but as far as I can see it thrives on women’s oppression. Women have traditionally danced for their lives. If you could make it as a dancer, you would be presented with an alternative path to the traditional careers of wife or whore–the only other jobs available which provided women with enough for their subsistance (Women have always worked, of course,…but because men appropriated the spoils of their labour (as they continue to do today) they were unable to support themselves.)
So if you could make it as a ballerina, you would not have to have PIV with any man. You could earn enough to support yourself and eventually, you could own a school and teach. You could not have children, of course. If you did your independance would be over. But if you remained single you would be able to live a respectable life on a reasonable income. And for a woman that is no small thing.
Twenty years ago all the best ballerinas came from Russia, and I believe this was the motivating factor for their success. Today, the Russians are being replaced by the Chinese, who are dancing themselves out of poverty.
I believe this is the attraction of ballet to many girls (today it can be replaced with other dance forms), and to their mothers in particular– the dreaded stage moms.
The charicature of the stage Mom is worth closer examination. The term itself is misogynistic, as are the portrayals in films such as Black Swan. THey are painted as unbearable narcissists, who are living their unfulfilled lives through their daughters, and making their children miserable in the process.
But nobody asks the question why these womens lives are unfulfilled. And if you look closer you’ll find that it’s because they have spent their life supporting their husband’s career (and men never see a problem with using another human being like this, which is another thing that worries me about them TBH). More often than not they may have had to give up their own aspirations because of an accidental pregnancy. Or it could be that because they were women, they simply had no opportunities open to them.
BUt whatever the reason for their thwarted dreams, it is always depicted as a personal failing on the part of the stage mom. Accidental pregnancy? Should have kept your legs closed. No career to speak of? Should have tried harder. Husband didn’t respect your right to a career? Why did you let him treat you like that.
The failings are seen as theirs and theirs alone… and they are despised for it.
But who can blame them for wanting more for their daughters than they had themselves? “They should let their daughters live their own lives”.. goes the old argument.. Yes, but stage moms know what that might lead to– accidental pregnancy and dependancy on a man. “Let their daughters make their own mistakes”…Yes but the consequences of women’s mistakes are vastly greater than men’s, and girls need somebody around in their lives who will point this out to them. And besides, they know their daughters are worth more than that. Even if they can’t believe that the same rule applies to their own lives.
And this is why men will never be able to attain the kind of physcial perfection and artistic breaktrhough that female ballerinas do.. they are not dancing in order to retain autonomy over their own bodies, or to keep themselves out of the brothels, or even just to be left alone by the opposite sex, the way that women are.
Amazing Chinese Ballet Swan Lake. Wow!
Svetlana Zakharova from Russia