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Vancouver swing-dancer banned from club after ‘mansplaining’

The B.C. Human Rights Tribunal has declined to hear a complaint by a Vancouver swing-dancer who says he was banned from his dance club after being accused of “mansplaining” by a younger female dancer.

The tribunal first heard Mokua Gichuru’s complaint in February of last year and decided not to accept it because the Vancouver Swing Society was within its right to ban a member. Gichuru filed an appeal.

In a decision dated Jan. 26, the tribunal outlines a heated dispute, which all began when Gichuru made a post on his Facebook page about “why he thought the operative factor in the American presidential election was race rather than gender.”

In response, another swing-dancer asked him to stop “mansplaining” and unfriended him. Yet another dancer then jumped into the discussion, accusing Gichuru of forcing the first dancer to perform “emotional labour” by telling her he had a crush on her while she was in a monogamous relationship.

The exchange continued until Gichuru complained to the president of the swing society about “online harassment, bullying and defamation.”

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The swing society asked Gichuru not to attend the last two events of the 2017 to allow a “cooling-off” period, said the tribunal decision. A board member also sent him several articles explaining the concept of “emotional labour,” which Gichuru interpreted as the society having “concerns about him as an older man interacting with younger women.”

After further discussion, the board told Gichuru he wouldn’t be welcome at future events.

In its decision, the tribunal considered the dancer’s complaint, but found his allegations of discrimination based on race were “speculation,” while allegations based on age and sex didn’t have merit.

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The appeal also considered an internal swing-society email that discussed “socially awkward men and men who give the ‘maybe creepy’ vibe, including ‘usually older men who seem to hold follows a little too close and spin them a little too vigorously.’ ”

Gichuru argued the email showed the society “pervasively stereotypes men, particularly older men, as being ‘creepy’ and misusing their ‘power’ in the dance community.”

In its decision to deny Gichuru’s case for a second time, the tribunal decided that the swing society “being alert to the power imbalance that may exist between older men and younger women in the community does not support the view that it operates on stereotypes about men or that it may have done so in Mr. Gichuru’s case. Indeed, organizations should be aware of and sensitive to the social realities of power.”

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