Monthly Archives: May 2012

Superficiality and the Liberating Aesthetics of Dancesport

I wrote this article when I was at University, in 2005. The Inter Varsity Dance Association has had it up on their website ever since:
Men in dancesport: take a closer look
Martin Jee, of Exeter, speaks out about men and superficiality in the dance world. Superficiality and the Liberating Aesthetics of Dancesport

The clothes we wear, our hair-styles, the things we say and do are the defining factors of our identities. We are judged everyday, every hour, and every minute by “everyone else”, and we judge them in turn. Our society’s superficial assessment system can find us friends and lovers, but also kill the sensitive among us. It is the most efficient way of summing someone up, but also the worst way to know somebody for who they are. So we create ourselves identities by which we hope other people will make the most favourable judgement.

With the majority of guys, there’s a brick wall of prejudice up against dancing. They think dancing is girly and that’s that. They say “dancing is for girls, and I am a man and I am far too manly to dance around like a girl; so I won’t be going ballroom dancing, my son.” In this statement they are asking you to judge them on their projected identity of positive manliness, on their aesthetic value. They betray their true motivation for wanting to be seen to be ‘manly’- their natural abhorrence of being negatively judged.

In actual fact these guys just want to be judged positively. They want to escape the hurtful consequences of being ‘mis-judged’. The way to do this is to judge each other on something deeper than the superficial, something deeper than the way we look, or the things we do. And if we can do this, if we can exchange superficiality for the personality, falsity for truth, our friendships will be stronger and our lives happier. We must extend carte blanche with our handshakes.

More and more it seems to me that our time at university is one of the few times in our lives where we will be able to escape the unhappiness of superficial mis-judgement. School was a cut-throat den of appearance and once we leave university, we will be jettisoned back into the world of superficiality: a world of value judgements based upon the CV we have, the jobs we get and the cars we buy. So wouldn’t everyone at uni be better off enjoying this environment where we judge each other on something deeper, and leaving the superficial judgements aside?

But these guys who think dancing is too ‘girly’ for their fragile identities to cope with are judging Dancesport on exactly the same thing they don’t want to be judged by: aesthetics.

Dancesport is an activity that combines the physical demands of a sport with the aesthetics of art. Every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday night we transform ourselves into living art. It has a purely aesthetic purpose. But that’s not why dancing is so good. Its so good because of the way it makes you feel. It is active, dynamic, new, challenging, self-expressive. It transports you away from the grey world of studying into a world of elegance and style. We dance holding on to members of the opposite sex. A way of dancing which can create intimacy between complete strangers. This ultimately makes friendship easier to establish, and then harder to break. Dancesport is the quintessential social society. Asking somebody to dance with you risks embarrassment because on the face of it you are asking someone to judge you not on what you look like, but upon what you do. In this way, it is a leap of trust. When you reach out for their hand you trust them not to turn you down. When you dance both partners share a risk of failure, a risk of messing things up and looking a little silly. This creates a temporary bond of necessity which leaves a residue that lasts beyond a three and a half minute dance. So although Dancesport appears superficial because it is an art form, in reality the social context in which it places you facilitates the creation of bonds of friendship and prompts social judgement based upon something other than the purely aesthetic.

So if you are a guy and you choose Dancesport, you choose value-judgements over aesthetic. You choose to ask others to look at you and think about who you are, not what you seem. I challenge all those guys wrapped up in ‘manly cotton-wool’ to come along to Dancesport on a Tuesday night and give it a go, it could be your first step to social liberation.


Cruizin’ for a boozin’

I also wrote this article at University for our student paper, Exeposé, in response to a succession of what I saw as alarmist anti-binge-drinking articles. I’m not sure I agree with everything I said in those days but I think the overall sentiment still stands. They printed it and it was nice when a couple people congratulated me on it over the next week.



Cruizin’ for a boozin’

Martin Jee, drink-sodden-popinjay-in-chief, laments the decline of alcoholism in this fair and pleasant land


THE lack of rationale and sincerity in the last Exeposé was a little disconcerting. We, as university students are literally the cream of British intelligence, and our behaviour (both academic and social) is not without logic. The recent Exeposé arguments on binge-drinking however, have been. As far as I can tell their case against binge-drinking goes as follows: “Binge-drinking is bad for your health and social life, and therefore it is bad, de facto.” If they would look at these articles again, with fresh eyes; they might realise that their argument is entirely fallacious and go off and write something sensible or funny for us to read. They might even realise their argument actually produces an effect that is counter-productive for their holier-than-thou crusade. Sorry? What’s this, you mean binge-drinking is good for me? Surely not! Have you not heard of the tragic and lethal consequences of drinking more alcohol than your body can take? No you condescending pinko-lefty, drinking is much deeper than that.


OK then, let me take the ignorant and naïve through the counter-argument: Number one: drinking intoxicating beverages is actually an integral part of European culture, certainly youth culture. This is because drinking is never about drinking for the sake of getting drunk (even when the drinker purports otherwise) but it is for the purpose of getting to know ourselves and each other better. If drinking was simply about getting pissed, would there be any need for tables in pubs? Or music? Tables turn uncomfortably empty rooms into cosy cluttered ones, they provide a simple structure for the arrangement of conversation and they allow one to pace oneself by providing a resting place for drinks to be placed upon. Music played in pubs fills in the gaps between our conversations, provides conversational points, and cultural of points of reference around which we can identify each other with. Pubs are the true centres of British culture, so much more important than churches or town halls. I have no scientific evidence for this, but I believe drinking relaxes people and the social situations in which they find themselves. It loosens the tongue and tightens the wit. This makes drinking attractive for freshers, or anyone for that matter who finds themselves in the daunting social situation of having to make friends. In short: alcohol is the oil of lubrication that allows the youthful to overcome their own social inexperience.


Number two: experimentation with the body is entirely natural. In this day where vibrators are freely available on the high street, no-one could doubt it. So what is wrong with experimentation with alcohol? Contrary to what the nanny-state fascists would tell you, every Briton knows that drinking too much alcohol will get you drunk. That doesn’t stop us, not because we don’t appreciate the physical dangers of too much alcohol, but because as young people we are inexperienced with our bodies and want to know just how far they can be pushed. I would like to point out that amazingly after the first year the desire to binge-drink is abated; not simply because our finances run out, but because as students of life (as well as history / biology / economics) we slowly learn the social skills that enable ourselves to make and maintain friendships without the aid of intoxication.


Finally, in this nanny-state in which we are bound in swaddling clothes from our birth until the coffin is nailed shut; we have but few freedoms remaining. The freedom to do with our bodies as we wish is the natural freedom of man, but now New Labour want to constrict even this freedom. Not by laws, but by propaganda, sustained and insidious. This is a government of fads, its new hobbyhorse just happens to be the terror of binge-drinking; but binge-drinking is actually an ancient cultural phenomenon, to which every British generation is veteran. New Labour has chosen fear, not reason, as the means by which to change our culture: we now drive in fear of speeding fines, go to work in fear of terrorists, and now we must fear our own bodies, fear our ability to make our own choices, fear the very act of socialisation that helps us to settle in to a new university. And now I find that Exeposé partakes in this propaganda assault as well? Has begun to write patronising tosh about fictionary characters called “Juliet” in copy-cat attempts to scare us into modifying our drinking habits? Pathetic.


So in conclusion: binge-drinking stems from our own cultural heritage, exists primarily in young adults due to their physical and social inexperience, and has been exacerbated by the attempts of the powers-that-be to constrain our freedoms. We as young adults hereby defend our right to drink as much as we damn well please and shout boisterously in one true voice: “CHEERS!”

Hello world!

A friend of mine recently suggested that I put some of my old articles onto a blog, and write something new.

The first part should be easy, but I’m not so sure about the next.