August 24, 2019

Granted, it's not nearly as important as the fires in the Amazon, or the coming global recession brought on by conservative economic policies, but this little segment from Friday's Good Morning America just stuck in my craw.

In it, co-host Lara Spencer reports on Prince George of Cambridge, the eldest son of Prince William and third in line to the throne, and the rather substantial curriculum he faces for a six year-old.

"In addition to the usual first or second grade things, like math, science and history, the future King of England will be putting down the Play-Doh to take on religious studies, computer programming, poetry and ballet, among other things." Spencer can't hold down the giggling as she says it.

Speaking as a parent, I'd be thrilled if my kids' school offered something so comprehensive (assuming that it is appropriate for the age and skill range of a first grader). And many parents supplement their children's education with lessons as well. My kids took piano and swim lessons as six year-olds. Neither of my kids had interest in dance, but had they, I would have found a dance class too. At six, dance helps build both large and small motor skills, balance, and focus, all things we should encourage a child to develop.

Prince George reportedly loves ballet. I think that's adorable. I did too, as a child. My parents would take my brother and I to The Nutcracker every year. This is something Spencer apparently thinks Prince George will grow out of, or insinuates he will in a way that doesn't really try to hide some nasty gender stereotypes, as if real men don't like ballet.

Guess what, Good Morning America? Some males like dance, and that's perfectly acceptable.

I could extoll the numerous benefits that dance training has for any human being, not to mention one who is going to grow up to be a head of state. I could point to the physical upsides, the positive effects dancing has on mental and emotional health, the long-reaching benefits of the discipline and focus it requires, and, perhaps most significantly, the way dance training imparts the value of empathy.

But the thing is, I doubt that Spencer cares. What this is really about is bullying.

Because that's what we just watched: A grown woman bullying a 6-year-old child. On national television. To laughter and applause.

If that seems okay to you, I would recommend finding your nearest dance studio and enrolling in an open class, because your empathy could use a serious tune-up.

It is no secret that young boys who enroll in dance classes face bullying to an outstanding degree—according to the documentary DANSEUR, the number is 85% of male ballet students in the United States. We're all familiar with the hateful, illogical rhetoric that goes with it (ballet is effeminate, boys who do it are sissies, or worse, gasp!, gay), and one would like to think that if the adults in the room were aware of it, they would put a stop to it.

It's well past time for everyone who works for news departments to get training to not perpetuate these kind of hurtful and destructive stereotypes.

Prince George will never pursue a career in ballet or dance. His life is already determined by his birth. And he'll always live somewhat isolated from boys who will bully him. But there is no need for adults to send a message to other boys out there who might love dance that it's something for which to mock and laugh at them.

Because if you can't see the strength, power and athleticism of these ballet dancers, you're the one with the problem, not them.

UPDATE: Spencer has apologized on her Instagram page. "My sincere apologies for an insensitive comment I made in pop news yesterday. From ballet to anything one wants to explore in life, I say GO FOR IT. I fully believe we should all be free to pursue our passions. Go climb your mountain - and love every minute of it."

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