college students on grass with study materials and laptop with tweet by Ben Shapiro centered caption '#ThingsCollegeKidsDontGet A job after majoring in Lesbian Dance Theory'

vectorfusionart/Shutterstock @benshapiro/Twitter (Licensed)

How ‘lesbian dance theory’ became an anti-liberal insult—and a meme

Lauren Boebert's talking point isn't new to the internet.


Tricia Crimmins


Posted on Sep 1, 2022   Updated on Sep 7, 2022, 6:11 am CDT

A conservative’s homophobic, anti-liberal insult sent the phrase skyrocketing on social media, including in TikTok memes.

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The phrase “lesbian dance theory” boomed in popularity after Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) said on Fox News that President Joe Biden is “robbing hard-working Americans to pay for Karen’s daughter’s degree in lesbian dance theory” with his recent student loan forgiveness program.

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Content ridiculing Boebert’s use of the phrase has gone viral, but “lesbian dance theory” isn’t Boebert’s creation; it’s a conservative rallying cry against academia and college majors that typically earn less money. “Lesbian dance theory” is a mainstay on conservative Twitter, can be found in trolling comments on leftist and liberal TikTok videos, and has been used by right-leaning pundits including Ben Shapiro.

A now-viral TikTok from Makalena Kolarov (@randomlena1) points to the phrase’s existence pre-Boebert’s Fox News appearance. On Tuesday, Kolarov posted a TikTok saying that after looking into “lesbian dance theory,” she found a question-and-answer post on Best Accredited Colleges, a site that ranks institutions of higher education, that explains that “lesbian dance theory” is “not a real major but an umbrella term for a type of major.”

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The site gives a long list of examples of majors that are ironically labeled “lesbian dance theory,” some of which might be expected—like visual and performing arts and drama and theater arts—and others that are more general, like general medical and health services and communication technologies. According to Best Accredited Colleges, all of the jobs listed pay less than $50,000 per year.

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The phrase’s inception doesn’t just predate Boebert saying it on national television; Google searches for “lesbian dance theory” peaked in January of 2005, according to Google Trends. There were smaller surges of searches for the phrase in the late 2000s, and to a lesser extent throughout the 2010s, but the phrase picked up more consistent speed starting in early 2017.

Shapiro has used the phrase in tweets and media appearances, as well.

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In December 2015, Shapiro tweeted that college kids don’t get jobs “after majoring in Lesbian Dance Theory.” In May, Shapiro said on his show that women shouldn’t be getting abortions just so they “can go back to school and get their degree in lesbian dance theory.”

Other conservative Twitter users have tweeted about the umbrella term for college majors. Some have said that students should learn trades rather than “lesbian dance theory.” One user created a poll that asked followers if they’d rather be fatally shot or “be forced to enroll in gender studies and lesbian dance theory at the nearest community college.” (Guess which option won.)

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“Lesbian dance theory” has a history on TikTok, as well. While a search for the phrase on the app pulls up many videos made in the wake of Boebert’s utterance on TV, it also shows that trolls have commented the phrase on videos in the last two years.

“Lesbian dance theory is no education,” @s2007_3 commented on a video posted in June in which a TikToker says that right-leaning states are less educated than their left-leaning counterparts.

“Unless you jump off a bridge before you graduate because lesbian dance theory is too stressful,” @jabu99 commented on a video about Cornell installing nets under its bridges after increased suicides on campus.

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Another commenter on a TikTok about gender studies likened the major to lesbian dance theory and asked the TikToker who majored in gender studies what McDonald’s they worked at, recalling Shapiro’s interpretation.

Recent jokes about lesbian dance theory since Boebert’s Fox News appearance from non-conservative TikTokers have made light of the term. Kate, who goes by Girl with a Mic (@thegirlwithamicrophone) on TikTok, posted a skit in which she played a teacher of lesbian dance theory class at the “Rosie O’Donnell College of Fine Arts.”

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“There’s been a lot of talk about our major in the news,” Kate says, referencing Boebert. In her video, she demonstrates different dance moves that play into lesbian stereotypes, like playing softball and U-hauling, or getting into a serious relationship with someone shortly after meeting them.

Thanks to Boebert and possibly videos like Kate’s, Google searches for “lesbian dance theory” are higher than they’ve been since mid-2018. On Tuesday, they were still on the rise.

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*First Published: Sep 1, 2022, 7:05 pm CDT
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