Renaming the Jack & Jill : a Recap and a Poll

Swingin at the Savoy, March 2017. Photo by Larry Colen.

Swingin at the Savoy, March 2017. Photo by Larry Colen.

Last Monday I posted to Yehoodi an opinion piece about why I thought it was time to change the name of the “Jack & Jill” dance contest. Apparently I struck a nerve, because we got a huge response from people all over the internets.

Let me recap a bit of what the conversation has been so far, what suggestions have been offered, and close with a poll to see what you think.

Recap on the Conversation

There are lots of discussion threads that I’ve looked through all over the internet – primarily here on the Yehoodi, on Facebook and on Reddit. I’m sure I missed a bunch, but here’s my summary of what I’ve read.

Arguments Against the Change

“It doesn’t need changing, it’s great!” 

Some folks made the point that for them the term “Jack&Jill” is “fun” and harmless. Some non-English speaking commenters noted that the name meant nothing to them in their native languages, and had no connotations beyond being the name of a particular kind of competition.

Some observed that most competitions already allow men to follow and women to lead, so there’s no need to change the name. Others argued that no one is asking for this change, and it’s just an invented problem.

“It’s part of our history, we shouldn’t lose it.”

Some felt that the term “Jack&Jill” was a part of the history of lindy hop, which was important to them. By changing it, we are negating or denying our history.

“Progress is fine and welcome, but not at the cost of trying to condemn and shut away the history of the dance we all love so much. Lindy without its history, is just about meaningless.”

“It won’t make a difference.”

Some commented that changing the name won’t improve the scene at all, or make people feel more welcome. 

“Changing the name is not going to change how people think. We need to educate people to accept all kind of genders, disabilities, characters etc.”

“You’re forcing your politics into the scene.” 

Some felt this was an effort to introduce “politically correct” politics into the scene. By arguing for the change, I am demanding that every scene comply by my liberal standards.

Arguments for a Change

“Inclusion is important for me/ the scene.”

Supporters of the change felt that this would help some people feel more welcome in our scene, particular dancers who prefer the non-traditional role, LGBTQ folks, and others. 

“The question isn't about assuming the gender of Jack and Jill, the problem is that Jack and Jill stems from a traditional gendered view of dancing, and moving away from it created more opportunity for inclusivity.”

“We’re not bound by our history.”

Several noted that while our history was important, there were parts of our history that we’ve thankfully left behind, like segregated ballrooms. Some remarked that Jack Carey’s term came later in lindy hop history. so we were not as bound to it. Some felt he would not have a problem with people changing up the name.

Other Views

“It’s far down the list of things we should be concerned about.”

There were several comments that with all that is happening in our world and in our scene, this was far down the list of priorities of what we should be focusing on. For them, it was misspent energy and time. 

“As a woman, a lead, and a feminist, the name of this competition doesn't even make the list of garbage most non-traditional dancers face, or even language that continues to make non-traditional dancers feel alienated in modern dance culture.“

I’m sure I missed a few, but I think I captured the general buckets of views.

Moving Forward

First off, I was surprised by this level of debate and emotion. I definitely learned a lot! It seems clear to me that while we all share this love of lindy hop, there is much that we are not in agreement on, including what kind of community and values we want associated with lindy hop. I also am reminded that people can be truly unpleasant to each other on the internet, even in our tiny corner of it.

For me, the most valid argument is that this issue is far down in the list of priorities of things we as a community need to spend our precious time on. I definitely get that. As a cis-gender straight male that primarily leads, I’m not in a great position to say what our scene needs to be more welcoming. Several people have already schooled me on what they experience and feel as a trans person, a woman who leads, an "ambidancestrous" dancer, etc. and I realize that there’s lots to discuss and consider.

So given this, Yehoodi is going to be convening in the near future an online conversation among LGBTQ folks and hear from them what issues they experience, and what they would like us to focus on. I’m super excited about this!

Regarding the original question, clearly there are lots of people who are interested in moving forward with some new phrase to describe the Jack & Jill format. In fact, several people have told me that they have already changed the name for their upcoming event.

So what name to choose? I would be the last person to say that we need some kind of consensus across the entire lindy hop community before we can try something out. There is no “International Council of Lindy Hop Contest Name Deciders.” We’re just a bunch of people who run events, from a local dance in a community college to a multinational competition with hundreds of competitors.  Let’s try some out and see how it goes.

Here are the most popular suggestions that have been put forward, or are already in circulation: 

  • J&J
  • Mix & Match
  • Jess & Jo
  • The Social Division
  • The Carey Contest
  • Lead & Follow

Personally I’m a fan of “Mix & Match.” It preserves the original formulation of “Jack & Jill,” and has nice alliteration. It also more accurately describes what happens during the competition. People are mixed up randomly. And then they are matched with each other. Doesn’t mention names or genders at all.

The “Jess & Jo” is also appealing to me. It keeps the cute convention of using two people’s names, but uses ones that could refer to someone of either gender. It also sounds nice.  A similar suggestion of “Pat & Chris” serves the same purpose, but does not sound quite as fun.

The “Carey Contest” keeps the association with Jack Carey, which is a sweet gesture that I’m sure his fan and friends would appreciate. But it does require some explaining.

“The Social Division” works for a large event with multiple divisions. Imagine a list of contests and it looks kind of nice:

Strictly Lindy Division
Classic Division
Showcase Division
Social Division
Solo Jazz Division

The Poll

So which name do you like? I’ve created a poll below to get your views. (And no, I’m not including “Jack & Jill” as one of the options. If you want things to stay exactly as they are, more power to you. But that’s not the point of the poll. It’s to help people who want to try out a different name to see what ones other’s like.)

We’ll summarize the responses and share them out next week.