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Pole Community Reacts to Rihanna’s ‘Pour it Up’ Video

Pole Community Reacts to Rihanna’s ‘Pour it Up’ Video

Pole Community Reacts to Rihanna’s ‘Pour it Up’ Video

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Rihanna finally released the music video for her song “Pour it Up” this past week. All over the Internet she was subsequently criticized for being “vulgar,” “awful,” a “slut.” Any derogatory term you can think of, she was called. In the video there are women gyrating, twerking and shaking their bare asses. RiRi herself wears a bedazzled bra with her nipples slightly exposed. The pole community was also not so impressed. Many pole dancers lamented over the lack of pole tricks in the video. And again, many saw it as unnecessarily sexual. 

Can we remember for one second what the premise of this song is? It’s about going to a strip club and throwing dollar bills at strippers. What did we expect the video to look like? Do we really need the artistic side of pole dancing to be shown in a video about making it rain on strippers? Also, when has a male artist ever been criticized half as much for including strippers in songs about strip clubs? Let’s take a look at some of the lyrics of the song and ask ourselves if this video was an accurate portrayal of the song’s meaning or not. 

Strip clubs and dollar bills 

Yes I think they did a good job there. There were strippers AND plenty of dollar bills in the video!

Bands make your girl go down
I still got more money 
 

Yes those girls were getting down. And again, RiRi still got her money.

Throw it, throw it up
Watch it fall off from the sky
Throw it up, throw it up
Watch it all fall out
 

She STILL got that money!

Since the video’s release I have also seen a lot of judgments coming from pole dancers towards strippers and their style of pole dancing. I find it awfully hypocritical for anyone to criticize a segment of the population that he or she borrowed from. We can cherry-pick pieces of “stripper style” pole dancing all we want. We can sanitize it to be accepted by the mainstream or even an Olympic committee. We can take away the heels, do away with the gyrating and get rid of the vulgar music. We can incorporate ancient styles of Chinese pole and Mallakhamb all we want. At the end of the day though, the style of pole dancing we do now was originated by strippers in strip clubs. 

I get that pole dancing has changed. I celebrate the directions it has gone. I understand that we try so hard not to be dismissed as strippers by the general public. What we do today is not the same thing that is done in strip clubs. But every mainstream craze can always be traced back to underground roots. Pole dancing for recreation or fitness came into popularity when regular women saw what strippers were doing in the clubs and wanted to learn. Strippers would teach classes in their spare time, and from there it blew up. What it has grown into does not change where it came from. 

As a pole dancer I also consider myself a feminist. I admit, at first it was hard to reconcile these two seemingly opposing viewpoints in my mind. How can I fight for women’s rights while supporting something that comes from an activity so degrading to them at the same time? One of the many things pole dancing has given me is a more open mind. I see now that being a stripper does not automatically equate to degrading oneself. I’ve learned that we can’t judge others so easily because we have never walked in their shoes. And of course I’ve realized that pole has improved my quality of life in so many ways that I don’t care what others think about what I do. 

Even though pole dancing has changed and morphed over the years. It sounds bad to turn your nose up and say, “That is NOT what I do.” Maybe you never wear heels and hate dancing to Lil Wayne. That still doesn’t mean you aren’t borrowing something that would not exist without a subculture first popularizing it. Let’s try to reconcile this discomfort we have with strippers and pole dancing. Because the more we try to ignore the fact that this connection exists, the more obvious it becomes to everyone outside our world. What if the next time someone says to you, “Oh you pole dance? Don’t strippers do that?” Your response is, “Yeah, so what?” 

***The views expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of United Pole Artists.

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