Ben Cohen shakes his groove thang for equality

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Ben Cohen, a hugely successful English rugby player who’s taking part in the British TV show Strictly Come Dancing. He’s doing it to raise awareness of the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation, which funds organizations that are fighting homophobia and bullying.

He’s also ridiculously cute. But that’s not important. Here’s his latest dance.

I know what you’re thinking as you watch that video. “Wow, what an amazing philanthropist. I want to rub my hands all over his firm stance on equality.”

Hey, you’re only human.

When this season of Strictly started, my husband and I were talking about what a shame it is that no one is paired up with a same-sex partner. Some of the male dancers and celebrities are openly gay (I don’t know about the women, but presumably some of them are too), yet they still dance with someone of the opposite sex.

I recently read an article that Ben Cohen felt the same way. In fact, even though he’s straight, he apparently wanted to be paired up with Robin Windsor, my favorite dancer on the show.

I know most of you are in the U.S. and might not be familiar with Robin Windsor, so let me tell you about him. Robin Windsor is built like a brick shithouse – but he’s not afraid to get a bit tearful when he and his partner are eliminated from the competition.

Big men with big hearts. They get me every time.

Because Robin’s so strong, he’s usually paired with celebrities who are average size or larger. If I were on Strictly, I would probably be paired with him.

But that’s not why I’m so fond of him. I love him because every year when he finds out who his partner will be, he looks like he can hardly believe his good luck. I can practically hear him thinking, “Score! *fist pump* No waif for me! Baby, you’re gonna learn how to dance!”

And because I can put myself in those women’s shoes (or Spanx, as the case may be), I can imagine how reassuring it would be to receive that look when standing next to a woman whose body will stop doing the cha-cha when the music stops, whereas my boobs and bum would keep on groovin’.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so a video must be worth a million, at least. Here’s Robin doing one of my favorite dance routines with his partner Lisa Riley last year. Make sure you watch all the way to the end. It’s brilliant.

I would looove to see Ben and Robin dance together, and not for some voyeuristic guy-on-guy fantasy, either (Really. Not at all. Seriously.). I’d love to see them dance together because the more we break down stereotypes, gender roles and unfounded fears surrounding homosexuality, the better our world will be.

Homophobia is pervasive and destructive. It creeps into even the most innocent conversations and touches people of all ages. My little girl, Doodle Bug (not her real name), is only six months old, but I’ve already been asked by two people how I’ll feel if she grows up to be gay.

Seriously? Why is this still a question?

Here’s my answer: I would love, LOVE for her to grow up and fall in love. More than that, I want her to fall in love with someone who loves and respects her in return. Whether that person’s plumbing is indoor or outdoor makes jack-all difference to me.

When I think about the qualities I hope she’ll find attractive in people – compassion, humor, intelligence – the nature of their genitals is nowhere on the list. I couldn’t care less if their genitals hang low, if they wobble to and fro, if they can be tied in a knot or indeed in a bow. Couldn’t. Care. Less.

I have friends whose husbands have slapped and punched them. I have friends whose husbands have told them they’re nothing. NOTHING. I have friends whose husbands coerced them into consenting to sex, which is not consent but rape. I have friends whose husbands have said, “I’ll kill you if you ever leave me.” I have friends who have been abused, defiled and threatened by the men who swore in front of their families and friends to love, honor and cherish them forever.

I have a friend who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend. She was an aid worker and a rugby player. She was wickedly funny, brilliant, fearless and passionate. She’d just returned from a dangerous posting in Pakistan and was murdered in her own home by someone she’d once trusted.

Ask me again how I’ll feel if my baby falls in love with a woman who loves and respects her.

How many kids out there hear their parents asked that same stupid question but get a different answer? How many hear, “I’d be horrified if my child were gay.” How many are damaged by shame or by feeling like they’re alone in the way they feel?

While part of me knows that it wouldn’t be hugely groundbreaking to see two men dance together on TV, another part of me can’t recall seeing it happen when it wasn’t played for laughs (“Look at how uncomfortable the straight guy is, haha.”). And I can’t remember seeing two women dancing together when it wasn’t done for the titillation of straight men.

Me and Doodle Bug in LondonI want my daughter to grow up believing that everyone deserves respect. I want her to see healthy interactions between people who respect each other – whether they’re the same sex or not. I want her to watch Ben and Robin waltz together because I want her to grow up thinking that men dancing together is unremarkable.

Of course, she probably wouldn’t pay any attention. Right now her idea of a good time is being able to gum her own foot – or any foot close enough to divebomb mouth first. But if they waltzed barefoot, she’d be riveted.

You know what I really want? I want Doodle Bug to come to me in twenty years and say, “Mom/Mum, what was the big deal about Ben Cohen?” Then I can explain to her that it used to be remarkable for a straight athlete to stand up for equality, respect and basic human dignity – and we can both marvel at how far the world has come.

Right. I’ve never been too comfortable around horses, so I’m going to slide off the high one I’ve been on since I started writing this post. If you have time, go check out the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation. Maybe support them by buying a T-shirt or making a donation. If you don’t have spare cash, then do something for free: tell your friends about them on Facebook or Twitter.

Do it to support a whole load of organizations that’re fighting bullying and homophobia. Do it for Ben’s chest. (There’s no connection, but look at that chest. Did you notice it? You might need another look. Go on, I’ll wait.)

Dancing in Ethiopia

I’m going to Ethiopia for work this weekend, so since I’ve been thinking about my coming trip to Ethiopia – and dancing – here’s a video I took when I went to Ethiopia last year. It’s in a dance club in Bahir Dar, a city along the Blue Nile.

Ethiopian dancing is so freaking cool that I think we should campaign to get it added to Strictly. I may not be able to watch Ben and Robin waltz together (such a shame!) but maybe they could stand next to each other and bust a few of these moves. (If you don’t have ten minutes to spare, fast forward to 7min 30sec and watch till the end. Those are the moves I want to see busted.)

In other news, I handed in the final edits for the second book in my London Legends rugby club series. Yay! Playing It Close comes out on April 14, and it stars Liam, the team’s fly half. I really, really enjoyed writing his book, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

Also, don’t forget that my Christmas novella, Mine Under the Mistletoe, comes out on December 5th. You can pre-order it now.

In fact, I think I’ll give away a copy of Mine Under the Mistletoe to someone who leaves a comment on this blog post – a reward for reading all the way to the end! I’ll choose a winner when I’m back next week.

That’s it from me! I’m off to Ethiopia, where I’ll be training African journalists who cover HIV issues, helping them improve their writing, blogging and social media skills. One of my key messages is to keep their articles short and to the point. Ha!

Have a great week everyone!

If you liked this post, you might like:

10 thoughts on “Ben Cohen shakes his groove thang for equality

  1. What a long post, but so worth reading it! I sign under every word you said. Have a safe trip and enjoy your time in Africa!

  2. I love this post! It is late right now and I’m on my way to bed, but I am keeping it open in a tab so I can watch those dance routines later. I love dancing a LOT!

    Also, Doodle Bug is preternaturally adorable.

  3. Everyone needs to be treated equally, no matter their differences. You will e setting a great example for your daughter.

    Have a great time in Ethiopia.

    A now to Ben. What can I say, what a hunk and from your article seems like a good man. Do you think he would come here for Thanksgiving. LOL.

  4. Beautiful, hilarious, poignant post, Kat. Our children are growing up in a truly ‘blind’ home. That is, we actively teach them to see past someone’s: skin color, sexuality, religion, cultural differences, and instead focus on their: character, moral conviction, and intelligence. And you know what? That’s exactly what they do now that they’re teenagers. They often stand up for others (my daughter even got an award at school for that last year) and they never allow those silly superficial differences to get in the way of being kind to someone. They never allow it to deter them from doing the right thing.

    I might fail as a mother at other things (laundry and making it to conferences on time come to mind) but I’ve succeeded where it matters. My children know how to love. That makes me feel like mother of the year.

    Xoxo, Emily
    Emily Hemmer recently posted..Does Having Dreams Make You A Bad Parent?My Profile

  5. PREACH! I too have fielded the totally bizarre-o “what if your kids are gay?” question. I’m always like “As long as their partner can hold interesting dinner conversation and loves my child as much as me—we are all good.” Have a fun trip and I’m way excited to check out your Christmas novella.

Leave a Reply to Lia Riley Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *