The Backlash We’ve Received For Putting Our Son in Ballet

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By Sheba Siddiqui @shebasid & online at: www.shebasiddiqui.com

Email Sheba at: life@masalamommas.com

bigstock-Ballet-Shoes-1396484Most South Asian couples dream about having a boy. I know I did. I knew I always wanted a boy, as much as I knew I always wanted a girl. Most fathers dream about all the father/son bonding they are going to have with their son. My two eldest children are boys ages three and five, and not a day goes by without my husband playing rough and tumble with them. They wrestle and fight and do all the things you couldn’t pay me to want to do.

We are also an athletic family, so between basketball, swimming, biking and anything else we can do with our kids, we always try to be as active as we can be in our family time together. Our goal is to try to show our children that being outdoors in the fresh air really is more fun than some repetitive video game.

My husband is also a taekwondo black belt and runs a taekwondo school for children. So we are a martial arts family on top of it all. I remember as a child begging my mother to enroll me in karate or taekwondo and her answer was always “No, girls don’t do things like that.” This, coming from an obstetrician mind you. So when I was old enough, I took it upon myself to start training in martial arts. I still have a passion and love for it to this day, three kids later.

So it came as quite a shock to many people when we enrolled our 3-year-old son in a ballet class. He’s our middle child and yes, between his older brother and new baby sister, he doesn’t always get the attention he deserves. So we wanted to change that. We made a list of things he enjoys doing, such as dancing, swimming and anything related to the real superheroes, firefighters and police officers. Ballet happened to be available so we said why not?

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Many people were shocked that we would ‘do that’ to him.

Since when is ballet strictly for girls? God knows I had zero interest in ballet as a child. We chose to put our second born in ballet because he loves to dance. I have recently gathered that in South Asian culture, ballet is one of those activities that people deem as only for females. It seems very threatening to some people to put a boy in ballet.

Most women tell me their husbands would never allow their sons to do ballet. 

I guess their husbands are unaware that stars like Christian Bale (aka my beautiful Batman) or Jean-Claude VanDamme of Bloodsport fame started off in ballet. Or that 70-year-old Mick Jagger credits ballet to his being able to have moves like Jagger. Even athletes do ballet, like NHL goalie Ray Emery who was looking at the end of his hockey career in 2010 due to hip surgery. He decided to take up ballet and was playing for the Mighty Ducks a year later.

bigstock-Martial-arts-man-tying-his-bla-47307487For the boxing fans out there, World Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield credits his flexibility in the ring to ballet. British American football coach Stephen Marcus introduced ballet to his football team, The London Olympians, as part of the team’s training to improve footwork, balance and agility. They’ve gone on to win the British League several times.

So why shouldn’t my son do ballet? For one, it’s adorable to see a three-year-old in sweatpants running around in the midst of pink tulle doing pliées. Secondly, he loves it. He has no idea that this sexist mentality even exists. There is thankfully one other boy in his class, otherwise, he might feel like the odd one out. And third, he’s the most rough and tumble of all my children.

Maybe ballet will soften him up a bit and teach him to be more gentle with his baby sister. Here’s hoping anyway…

In the three weeks since he’s started his ballet classes, we’ve noticed a huge change in him. His confidence has soared. He’s no longer caught in the shadow of his older brother. Granted, it may not only be the ballet but the combination of different classes he’s in. But his excitement about going every week is enough for us to know we made a great decision.

In between driving them to swimming, basketball, art and taekwondo classes, we now have a little ballet dancer on our hands. I don’t know how long we’ll keep him in. Of course, I want him to try other forms of dance to get all of that energy out, but in the meantime, we are hoping the training in ballet will make him a leaner, more flexible taekwondo fighter.

What can I say? The kid likes to dance.


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There are 3 comments

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  1. Shalini

    Great article Sheba and thank you for writing about this topic. More south Asian parents need to see that there is nothing wrong with boys taking dance classes. My son took dance for about 2 years starting at age 4. We were already taking my daughter to her her dance school every Saturday morning and son wanted to go as well as he loved to dance. So we signed him up. He loved it and couldn’t wait each week to go.

    Unfortunately our family and friends didn’t think it was such a great idea – we endured a lot of teasing and even some angry comments as to how could we do this to our son. We didn’t care we kept him in dance because he loved to dance.

    Our son stayed in the dance school for 2 years and only quit because it started interfering with his other activities. He is now a teenager and still loves to dance and I have to say is an awesome dancer.

  2. Alya

    I understand why you put your son in ballet and I like how your family is athletic and participate in a variety of sports. Buy I would like to play devil’s advocate here. In Islam it is important that we do not imitate the opposite sex. Now ballet is not just seen as feministic in south Asian culture but its seen as feministic on the whole. Yes there are men that do perform ballet but society, even American society does not accept them to be masculine. So by enrolling one’s son in ballet is that not imitating the female gender? In regards to dance I think its cute he likes to dance. My 2 year old son loves to dance too. But dancing in public brings attention to one’s body…I would be uncomfortable enrolling my children son or daughter in any kind of dance. If they want to dance at home I won’t stop them but letting strangers watch them us another story. I would also worry that they would not give it up as they get older. I think choice is great but sometimes as parents its best to put some limitations down. Some boys are allowed to wear dresses as children because parents dont want to discriminate and in some circumstances it causes gender confusion. I know every case is different. Just like youentioned those celebrities that used to do ballet. Its just a strong concern I would have. Also if my son’s peers in the future were to find this out it would cause a lot of bullying. Kids have enough to worry about and I wouldn’t want to add more to it.

  3. Tori

    My 6 year old son kept begging me to put him in ballet after his sister started taking ballet classes, so of course I signed him up! I proudly tell other parents my son is in ballet. Today a little boy at the dance studio asked him “why the heck are you in ballet?!” after my son told him he takes hip hop and ballet classes. My son didn’t seem phased but it worries me. Next year we will begin homeschooling and I’m hoping he won’t have to hear these comments from too many people who don’t realize how misinformed and sexist they’re being.


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