Monthly Archives: September 2008

Same-Sex Ballroom Dancing

Laurie and Debbie say:

Coming up right in Debbie’s home town of Oakland is the California Dreaming Same-Sex Dancesport Classic, including the “spectacular dance show ‘Love and Marriage.'”

butch_femme women dancing

The first thing we noticed is how much fun the people in the pictures are having. Second, of course, it’s clearly the time to be celebrating same-sex marriage in California (and don’t forget to vote No on 8!).

But there’s more to be said than that. Ballroom dancing is historically an extremely romanticized heterosexual activity, with very clearly delineated male and female roles. Of course, you can’t tell from these pictures whether these couples are even couples off the dance floor, and if they are, whether these are roles they play for the dance or live out in real life.

butch-femme men dancing

Nonetheless, mimicking romanticized heterosexuality, for the short term or the long term, can have consequences. More than 30 years ago, when Debbie was first meeting Lesbian couples, she remembers clearly people reflexively asking “which one is the man?” a question that is often completely inappropriate. One of the delights of same-sex relationships is the opportunity to re-invent roles to suit individual situations. (This can also be done in heterosexual relationships, of course, but the weight of cultural tradition means it is perhaps harder in a het context.) Also, of course, a couple can look like they’re in gender-traditional roles and something much more complex and genderqueer may be happening.

Gay, straight, bi, trans, and/or more complicated than that, we all carry the weight of gender expectations with us, and it’s not at all surprising that same-sex couples can be drawn to culturally gender-defined patterns (or patterns really close to the canonical gender definitions). And that’s terrific, if that’s what both people want. The cardinal rule of relationships is “Whatever works.”

That being said, there’s a lot of nasty cultural weight in those canonical divisions: we can’t really lose the history of men owning their wives, and thus owning their children, or the history of women being required to have the patronage of a man. We can’t even lose the much more recent history of men as breadwinners and women as homebodies. So there’s a risk to choosing those stereotypical gender definitions; they may come with baggage the couple didn’t expect to be carrying.

This is a lot of weight to put on a one-day dance competition, especially one that has a good many non-gender-stereotyped photos in its slide show. And, at the same time, these pictures are worth a thousand words.

We wish everyone involved in the Dancesport Classic a wonderful time. For the joy of the dancers, we’ll leave you with a quotation from W.H. Auden:

“Dance ’til the stars come down with the rafters.
Dance, dance, dance ’til you drop.”

Thanks to Serene for the link.

Brains, Coral, and Helixes: Oh My

Laurie and Debbie say:

I (Laurie) was in Seattle staying with Vonda McIntyre and visiting with friends last week. Vonda is a marvelous (and multiple-award-winning) science fiction writer and she is also a maker of fabulous sea creatures.

Her house has really magical clusters of anemones, jellyfish and other creatures of the sea. They’re made from tiny beads and are three-dimensional, vivid and alive. While she was there I helped her set up a window box with semiprecious rocks and lots of her undersea denizens.

beaded sea creatures in Vonda McIntyre's window

Vonda and her sea creatures have also been written up in Science News Online.

She told me a lot about crafts based on math, science and nature, a design area I was unaware of. When I got home I talked to Debbie about science/crafts and we decided it would be fun to blog about it and show you some examples and links.

quilt of brain cross-sections

This quilt is from the Museum of Scientifically Accurate Fabric Brain Art (no, really!).

Neither of us is as clear as we would like to be on exactly what a Lorenz manifold is, but apparently crocheting “the famous Lorenz equations that describe the nature of chaotic systems” was both a complex task and turned out to be a very good way to demonstrate a multidimensional concept in a three-dimensional world.


Debbie has followed science artist Bathsheba Grossman for some time; she does astronomicals and molecules in metal or lucite, and also some stunning science concepts, like this Quaternion Julia fractal carved in lucite.

Quaternion Julia fractal set

The Institute for Figuring brings us this giant coral reef project, crocheted by thousands of volunteers from around the world. The link includes an email where you can contribute your own piece of the reef (or of their “Toxic Reef,” made from yarn and plastic trash).

crochet coral and anemone garden

There’s lots more, and here’s a pattern for a hand-knit DNA helix scarf that any knitters out there can make for themselves.

Many of the above links are from Vonda.