Is pole dancing empowering — or degrading — to women?
“… why is gyrating and twirling around a pole supposed to engender sudden feelings of empowerment and sexiness? How come doing charitable work and a new haircut can’t provide the same?”
The above is from a post on the Psychology Today blog that is causing a furor among pole dancers of all kinds. If pole dancing helps women feel powerful, and in control of their own sexuality and bodies, and liberated from the confines of what we’re “supposed” to be according to society … then pole is empowering.
What’s interesting to me about it is that even as pole dancers around the world react to the post, the different factions of pole dance remain firmly entrenched in their respective camps.
I write this thinking of October’s Pole Dance Bloggers Blog Hop subject — the sanitization of pole.
We, as pole dancers, all seem to be against the article, but we’re still also against the types of pole dancing we don’t like. Stripper style advocates don’t go in for pole fitness, not per se … pole fitness advocates have a distaste for stripper style … and then there are other groups too. We’re all together in the “we love pole!” camp, but it strikes me that we’re so divided despite the fact that we’re all sort of standing together. We’re trying to sanitize pole from the inside out, because we don’t want to be associated with … what? Strippers? Being sexy? Rump-shaking?
In so many ways, women are trying to get by in a man’s world. If a woman wants to be professional and successful in business, she’s expected to conduct herself as a man would. She’s supposed to be mentally and physically and emotionally tough. On the other hand, if a woman wants to be sexy (whatever her definition of that is), people expect to see her in a partially unbuttoned, too-tight blouse and play the part of the sexpot. The unintelligent, uses-her-looks-to-get-what-she-wants sexpot.
For many women, pole dancing helps combat the stigma associated with being a woman, not the stigma of pole dancing itself. In pole classes, at least at my studio, there’s no fat-shaming, no thin-shaming, no sexy-shaming, no fitness-shaming. We are women who come together week after week in order to commune and enjoy ourselves doing something we all love to do.
Very often, the women who initially join our studio for the fitness aspects of pole find themselves drawn more into the sexy side of pole as they become more comfortable with the IDEA of pole. By the same token, many women find the fitness side of pole to be increasingly attractive, and they begin to gravitate toward more fitness-based work.
Either way, as they begin to break down the stigma of being a woman, they begin to realize that strong, sexy, powerful, sensual, intelligent, silly, tough …. these are not mutually exclusive traits.
Ask the women who come into the studio where I teach whether they feel degraded. I’m going to bet the answer will be a resounding no.
The pole dance community really needs to get past the in-fighting and come to the realization that some things just are. Just as with any divisive issue, “X” camp is never going to fully cross over to “Y” camp, and vice versa. Maybe we need to stop trying to sanitize pole, stop trying to fight for pole being sexy, and just enjoy it for what it is to US.