Already in your early childhood, you understood fairness. If your brother or sister got a bigger piece of cake or more attention, you noticed immediately and you wanted to be treated equally. That's why you fought or cried. Think for a moment about your own stories of unfairness you've lived through.
How many times have you been in a situation where your thought or feeling was: "This is not fair!"? Disappointment, sadness, fear or even anger may occupy your heart and the first question that comes to mind is: "Why is this happening?".
We consistently witness unfairness, discrimination, cancel culture, corruption, various expressions of injustice, wars, conflicts... And yet, we move on with hope for a better tomorrow.
My attempt is that while reading this article you put a lens on yourself and scan through your own principles and sense of fairness. Do you treat others the same way you want to be treated yourself?
Our behaviours depend on what we seek in life. And then, we are very sensitive to unfairness when it affects us, but we have a capacity to tolerate it when it affects other people. For example, it’s easy nowadays to tolerate the fact that women were not allowed to vote or own property in the past and that the trafficking with slaves was legal. But what if you were the slave?
The Principle of Fairness and Beliefs
There is a difference between principles and beliefs. Principle is something deep in yourself, your fundamental truth. You will hold on to it even if others are behaving differently, be it because something is popular or common to the majority. When you stick with your principles you are considered a person with integrity and honour.
But your beliefs may change with the wind. Here is a trap, you can believe something just because it is trendy. For example, a top couple is introducing some novelties to their choreography which have nothing to do with the character of the dance. Will you stick with your principle of dance characteristics and fundamental principles of the dance or will you go with the flow and judge that performance as good only because you assume that most of the other adjudicators will do so? You don’t fall into ideological fads if you have clear principles.
In the dance community the principle of fairness is often put to the test. Take the so-called "teams" for example where some coaches/judges believe that they have to "protect" their couples. What do they do? They "help" each other with marks, they bypass their principle of fairness in order to get the outcome that suits them. With other words, they don't evaluate the dance as such, they are lobbying for their own benefit. By becoming a part of those "teams" you may earn more money, become more important, more influential, more powerful. And here we face a possible conflict between personal gain and fair judging for common good.
Herd mentality or mob mentality, as it is called today, describes how you can be influenced by others in order to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational basis. When you are affected by mob mentality, you may make different decisions than you would have individually, standing firmly on your own feet. But it feels safer being a part of a group of like minded people and you can hide your actions under the pretense that everyone else is doing so. That way you get rid of your own responsibility and feel less guilty.
Expressions of Unfairness
There are many areas in teaching and judging processes that require repair or upgrade regarding fairness. One should not tolerate humiliation, sexism, racism, unequal opportunities, cancel culture and corruption. You can close your eyes and pretend not to see it, you can fight or, ideally, start talking about all critical issues, sharing your concerns with others and searching for improvements.
Let me mention just a few examples of unfairness, although there are differences between dance federations, organisations and countries and I'm sure you've noticed that. We cannot put everyone in the same basket, some organisations and organisers of events do understand the principle of fairness better than others.
Women are still not always treated equally to men. Men are more often nominated as adjudicators, lecturers or officials. Here is some evidence. At the past International Championships in Royal Albert Hall (evening panels) there were 38% of female and 62% of male adjudicators. For WDSF World Open and Grand Slam competitions from the beginning of this calendar year up to the present day nominations were granted to 24% female and 76% male adjudicators.
I've witnessed more lectures at congresses where men were lecturing and their dance partners were quietly assisting. Balance would be appreciated because whatever was achieved in our profession through history is a result of male and female cooperation.
Furthermore, if you want to be free and officiate where you feel you can contribute, you might be accused of not being loyal to a particular federation. If you don't fit within the context of those in power, you might just be canceled, elegantly ignored or even not allowed to officiate outside a certain federation. It happens to dancers, adjudicators, lecturers, even chairmen. Oppression of freedom of choice is not only unfair, it is illegal in any democratic society.
Fifty Shades of Grey
However, situations regarding fairness are not as black and white as we often want to see them. There are always reasons, cultural and personal, why people act as they do.
The dance society is international, in a way global. There are distinct groups of people - dancers, coaches and judges with their own cultural tradition, ideals and norms, values, religions, unique educational systems, all that shapes one's school of thought and beliefs. Therefore we all see beauty and quality according to our background. What is considered ‘’normal” in a certain country might be totally unacceptable in another. And then what is fair or just becomes relative.
On top of that, each of us is a unique person with our own character, personality and identity, a combination of nature and nurture. Somewhere on the way we were all wounded. The reasons for behaving unfairly might be deep buried trauma or unsatisfied needs from early childhood. In order to cope with life, we all developed various defense and coping mechanisms, some healthy, some unhealthy, that are often unconscious.
If you turn a blind eye, if you live in denial or if you project your issues onto others, you are avoiding facing the complexities and seriousness of today's situation in dancing. Denial is often used to hide from the truth. Unhealthy defense mechanisms can cloud your judgment and may lead you to harmful patterns, for you and towards others.
By applying introspection, healthy self-talk or cooperation with a good therapist if necessary, you can improve, overcome these defenses and start making better decisions. The job of every one of us is to consistently reflect upon our actions, revise our behaviours and take responsibility for our decisions.
Fear Challenges Honesty
Your honesty and fairness could be challenged when you are about to lose something. The fear of loss, in one form or another, is the motivator behind all conscious and unconscious dishonesties. When you are afraid of losing a couple, a partner, a job, a result, you might be a step away from starting to bypass your principles of fairness.
I had a talk with a colleague of mine who to my surprise evaluated the rather average performance of an official's daughter extremely high. As I trust my colleague's expertise and experience, I was curious to find out what motivated her to over-evaluate that performance. She answered that she had to do so if she ever wanted to be invited to judge an important event again.
Sometimes it is very difficult to make the right decision, especially if your existence depends on it. And yet, by being more aware that fairness matters for every person, that every dancer deserves a fair and honest evaluation, we could create a society where fairness is the prime and only goal.
We should all learn to cooperate in spite of different schools of thought, interests and visions. Ideas need to clash so that a better truth can be discovered and even disagreement has a potential to push us further in our pursuit to improve.
Each of us can contribute to a healthier dance community where values like respect, honesty, transparency, fair-play and integrity are shared as core beliefs. Vision drives decision. Now, this is all talk, let's start walking the walk. The first step in the right direction can change your life.