Is Dancing With The Stars Secretly Sexist?

Photo: Eric McCandless/ABC.
If you have somehow missed the magical news, dance pop queen Erika Jayne of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and bedazzled unitard fame is heating up the dance floor on Dancing With the Stars this season. Her partner is literal male underwear model Gleb Savenchko, their team name is PrettyXXpensive, and their first performance involved an actual unicorn — the entire thing is entirely too much in the best way.
Still, the professional entertainer was hit with straight sixes from the judges in Week 1, essentially giving Jayne a solid C. She was also seemingly slut-shamed for “raunchy” moves. For comparison, comedian Chris Kattan — whose cha-cha was repeatedly called “goofy,” “bad,” and “hungover” — received at least one five, basically putting him right on par with Erika. Mr. T. was also awarded fives and a confusing amount of praise, despite his jarring, wooden dance.
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As Vulture pointed out, the moment shows a sexist DWTS double standard where men are graded on a very generous curve, while women aren’t.
Yet, Jayne isn’t the only DWTS woman whose performance has fallen victim to the same crimes against ballroom dancing. Fifth Harmony star Normani Kordei and partner Val Chmerkovskiy opened up the show with a dazzling quickstep. The only problem the judges could find with the three-time MTV Video Music Awards winner’s performance was her “long” and gorgeous opener in front of a mic.
Somehow, the pop star still got a six from stickler judge Len Goodman, who almost equates few-seconds-long introductions to nearly hitting your head on a disco ball, a la Chris Kattan, or Mr. T.’s statue-like demeanor.
This uncomfortable double standard is nothing new for Dancing, as Vanilla Ice and Rick Perry bafflingly blew the judges away last season. While judge Goodman has been tough on the likes of Jayne and Kordei, he couldn’t heap enough praise on “Vanilla,” as he lovingly called him, in the last fall’s Season 23 premiere.
The British dance expert said the rapper’s performance was “terrific,” despite admitting it had very little cha cha elements at all. The “Ice Ice Baby” singer even scored two sevens with his cha-cha-less cha-cha to his biggest hit, putting him above Erika Jayne, who also danced to her own song, and all her actual salsa moves.
We know the season premieres of DWTS are supposed to be encouraging for some and sobering for other front runners, but the show should probably stop dimming the shine of its most talented women to make certain floundering men look better. Let’s hope to see some changes come Week 2.
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