Written by Nia Burks
“Jennifer seemed drunk, crawling on all fours around the stage and bending over for men to ogle.” No boyfriend would be okay with that behavior!”, says a staff member of OK! Magazine on a story they reported on in which Jennifer Lawrence jumps on a pole while out on the town with her girlfriends. The actresses boyfriend, Darren Aronofsky, was supposedly appalled at her behavior. Where do we start here?
Celebrity media has been “covering” this story for about two weeks now. The actress was out, she was with her girlfriends, she gets on stage and does a (possibly) drunken pole dance with some twirls and floor work. We’ve all seen this type girl out, the one that confidently leaps onto a stage, pole or not, does a jig and goes about her night. This happens every weekend night at nearly every nightclub on Planet Earth.
This isn’t really the topic of this reporting, is it? No. It’s not. The topic is HER, it’s her behavior, it’s her agency. She is doing things that men deem shallow or inappropriate, those same things they also consume when they so choose. She was on the pole, but she wasn’t on that pole for a man’s consumption. She was on that pole for HER. The topic at hand here is women defying the expectation that they are just along for the ride in a man’s world, and that they had better not fall out of line. The media, the world, the patriarchy wraps this up in a nice gift box with a bow that we call “class”. When we imply that a woman is sloppy, drunk, doing things her boyfriend wouldn’t like, we imply that she has no class. She doesn’t act right. She’s a bad girl. Class, as we all know, is nothing other than the means by which women are controlled. The less controllable she is, the less class she has. Class is a currency that determines your worthiness of love. If you’re not rich enough in class, you might end up like Jennifer: pole videos abound and a boyfriend that’s upset, and thus, unworthy of love.
Jennifer’s boyfriend might dump her as a result of these antics, the media says. He isn’t happy. Jennifer’s boyfriend is a 48 year old man dating a 26 year old woman who directs movies in which two young female drug addicts engage in a sex act involving a double ended dildo for money. Can we talk about the male gaze thrust (no pun intended) upon the desperation and struggle of women and the fact that he gets to be the arbiter of that topic in the name of art? Can we talk about what kind of man is shocked and appalled that a beautiful young woman does beautiful young woman things with her beautiful young woman friends without the permission of her boo? Jennifer Lawrence did nothing wrong. In fact, I am certain we would have all given her high five, if not jumped on that stage to show her proper shoulder engagement on those spins so she wouldn’t be sore in the morning, ammiright?!
The media reports of her angry boyfriend function as a frame to her being an aberration; the woman that misbehaves. Jennifer Lawrence is not an unwelcome deviation from the norm. She is a woman having a good time, it’s really that simple. Her lack of apology solidifies her badassery because the response to the media is always expected to be repentant. She’s supposed to say she’s sorry because her stage performance wasn’t classy, right? Her rejection of this is inspiring in a world where her boyfriend, and the watchful eye of the media is implied the authority in her life. Her expectation to conform to the very narrow and ever shifting parameters of proper behavior is highlighted by her rejection of it, and she serves as a fantastic ambassador of saying “nah” to dudes and entities of power who believe it’s their place to call all the shots.
Jennifer Lawrence is not an unwelcome deviation from the norm. She is a woman having a good time, it’s really that simple.
Speaking of stripper poles! Did you ALSO see the video of Zac Efron on The Graham Norton Show? The show’s guest, Zac Efron was discussing a photoshoot image in which he was doing a flag pose on a parking meter. Graham Norton had a pole waiting on stage for Zac to prove that the move was in fact his strength and prowess, and not a staged photograph. The volume of the voices in the studio audience cheering was the first thing I heard when I watched this video. It was so loud and so positive that I had to watch it several times to hear the actual conversation. In the clip, Zac feigned discomfort as the show host Graham Norton suggested that he prove his ability to do a flag pose on a pole provided on stage. He obliged.
Where were these cheers for Jennifer Lawrence?
Why is she about to get dumped by her boyfriend and Zac Efron got overwhelming applause? Was it because his actions on the pole was a pose that demonstrated strength? Was it because he is a man? Was it because he was sober and not being a naughty man? (Side note: Doesn’t it sound absolutely crazy to use naughty and man in the same sentence? Think about that.)
It’s no shock that athletic pole that demonstrates feats of strength is much more respected than raunchy defiance, even by polers themselves. The more masculine a gesture is, the more valuable it is. This is important to remember. Further, Efron was in a suit, sober, and demonstrating great form and strength in his interaction with that pole. Lawrence was swinging around on a pole in a nightclub in an Alexander Wang top, looking fabulous as hell while doing so. My question is this: Who are you and what kind of person are you when you draw those distinctions and assign value based off of them? Both of their behavior was appropriate for the environments they were in. In clubs we get down and cut loose, and in public we maintain some level of socially acceptable composure. So if their respective behavior was appropriate for the spaces they are in, what’s the real issue?
Here’s the issue: the media response to both of these folks on poles is nothing other than plain and simple misogyny. There’s no other way around it. Women on poles are spectacles to be made fun of or judged. Men on poles are fabulous athletes. Certainly Efron was objectified too, but that objectification was rooted in a places of awe, rather than a place of moral judgement. Why are we in awe over a man that has been doing what women have been doing for decades? As a side note, I’ve been teaching pole in studios for 7 years and nearly every single man that walks into my class can do a flag on their first day, so if you haven’t watched the video, don’t bother. It’s not impressive. When Zac Efron can do what, say, Pole Assassin does, while also making money, interacting in a potentially dangerous environment, and also still remain a total boss when the pole community criticizes her micro bends in her knees, THEN I will be impressed. Until then, I shake my head and hold resistance in my heart against business as usual.
Jennifer Lawrence, I salute you. Get it, girlfriend.
Zac Efron, good job on your from bro, but try harder, you’re missing the mark.
Media, go take a seat. I’ve had enough of you.
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