The Modern Girl’s Craze for Dancing

the modern girl seizes her opportunitiesIn 1920 Arnold Bennett wrote in his book Our Women about everything from the “perils of writing about women” ~ “the idea would not occur to me to write a book about men; the subject would insufficiently attract me, because it would contain no challenging possibilities, I should as soon think of writing about the multiplication table” ~ to two chapters outlining the masculine and feminine views of the sex discord.

The following excerpt is from an entertaining chapter entitled “Salary-Earning Girls.”

1920: The Modern Girl’s Craze for Dancing

Admitted, [the modern girl] is fond of pleasure. All young people are fond of pleasure, and if they are not then there is something wrong with them. The grey-haired lady when her hair was golden was precisely like the modern girl in this: she took all the pleasure that the social machine had offered to her. Often it was little enough, perhaps. To my mind the tragedy of existence ~ provincial existence in particular ~ fifty years ago lay in the failure of communitites to organise themselves for pleasure. The doom of ennui lay upon whole districts, including the suburbs of great capitals. And it was terrible and its effects were vicious. That is altered, and is being still further altered. Society has organised itself better for work, and better also for pleasure. Life is made to yield more than it used to yield, and yet life lasts longer and youth lasts longer.

The modern girl seizes her opportunities ~ she does no more. The increase of opportunity is due to the improvements in education ~ and in transport. It is due, that is to say, to improved work, part of which work is done by the modern girl herself. And since work precedes pleasure, and the energy of the modern girl is finite, she is very unlikely to carry pleasure to excess. If she did, it would as usual cease to be pleasure.

Much is said about the modern girl’s craze for dancing. But seeing that the modern girl dances with the modern youth the alleged craze cannot be charged against one sex only. And is it necessary to point out that dancing is not an invention of the present age? On the contrary, the erudite affirm that dancing is among the oldest, if it is not the oldest, of human diversions. No later device has surpassed it in healthiness, sanity and pleasure-giving quality. Probably there never was a time when the healthy girls were not “crazy” for dancing. If the modern girl dances more than her ancestress, the explanation is that nowadays a dance can be arranged and carried out with less than a tenth of the trouble necessary in the past, and that communities have discovered their own vast potentialities for organised enjoyment. The explanation is certainly not that something sinister and incomprehensible has happened to the modern girl.

Source: Bennett, Arnold. Our Women: Chapters on the Sex-Discord. New York: Truth Publishing Company, 1921.
~ pp. 146-48 ~