Tribalism. We see it in religions, workplaces, sports, even local communities. And good Lord, we saw it this election season. It’s human nature. Offend our tribe and we attack. Women are certainly no exception. Tori Amos said in an interview, “Women have no need for barbaric weapons. Our tongues are sharper than any blade man ever made.” That’s a painful truth. We as humans, and as women, often refuse to see any perspective other than our own.
In September of this year, Feminist Now recently posted the article “Whether you like it or not, pole dancing perpetuates sexism”
Many studios and pole dance professionals have sent open letters and emails to the author in response to her radical claims and rightfully so. It was a poor depiction of pole dancers from those whom ironically identify themselves as feminists. It was clear she never took a class and only based her article on a false perception. Although the tribal part of me would enjoy giving her a piece of my mind, I’m certain it wouldn’t be effective. She would just adamantly reinforce her point and thus perpetuate the cycle of negativity and anger. I dismissed the article as inaccurate rhetoric but was hurt by the downright nasty comments between women. Slurs were thrown by the same women who condemn men for using those exact words. The two tribes were sadly in a full cyber war against one another.
Somehow the initial issue of human trafficking in the article was overshadowed with petty and false accusations between these groups of women. We all overwhelmingly agree that trafficking is evil, but associating pole dance fitness in the current world with trafficking and sexism is just completely false. Women are innately sexy and feminine. There should never be a crime against celebrating or fostering that. Whatever style we pole dancers choose is not an endorsement for sexism. Our bodies and how they move are not the problem. Cast the blame where it belongs...on the sexists, not the women.
The one thing the author was correct on was that pole dancing was born in the strip club. That’s a fact. We need to give these pioneer women our respect and admiration. We can’t hijack an entire industry, turn it into a socially accepted sport yet deny them history because we want to remove the stigma surrounding our dancing apparatus. That is selfish and unfair. I too was guilty in the early stages of my pole journey. If it wasn’t for the exotic dancers we wouldn’t be where we are today, enjoying a growing, multifaceted art form that so many female and male athletes, designers, artists have evolved. The women that started this industry took those skills from the club and replaced a room full of lusty men with dance studios full of women getting fit and supporting each other; building confidence while keeping the clothes on and the movement appropriate. Legitimate businesses were created and studios have opened all over the globe where human souls of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds could dance and be supported. The sisterhood of beautiful pole dancers was born. This sisterhood is what renewed my faith in female relationships that have repeatedly let me down in the past.
We encourage each other. We place a huge amount of trust on one another while spotting difficult moves. I’ve never been in a place women built each other up as fiercely as I've witnessed in the pole community. Even in a situation where politics are at play or disagreements come up, there is still an immense support for one another. Our goal is the same. Increase awareness, expand this awesome pole community…And maybe nail a trick or two too. :)
When I’m in the studio I don’t see stigmatized apparatuses with a prior history of stripping. I see beautiful women tricking out on poles and realizing what their bodies are capable of. I see both physical and emotional transformations. I see a space full of laughter and love. The type of love that gives an embrace to one of our own who loses a job, is going through a divorce, has a family member pass away, or is even just struggling with a stressful day. Our members bring all that energy into our studio and we do our very best to meet them with compassion and non-judgement regardless of fitness level, age, ethnicity, or size. Our studio mission was built on those values and as an instructor, I get a front row seat to witness this with awe and amazement.
As we continue trying to make sense of this human experience, let’s try to withhold judgement of one another. Not just in reference to pole dancing but in all areas of life. So, before we anxiously attempt to present our argument, remember to use the Four Gates of Speech:
Don’t stop having healthy dialogues. These conversations are necessary for growth and understanding but resist the urge to attack using harsh words. It isn’t easy by any means and it’s certainly something that I’m working through for my own personal growth. We as a sisterhood of women can work towards a better understanding of our differences through the right communication.
Dawn Hansen began her journey to fitness and well being through pole dance in 2013 after recovering from a digestive disorder. She was immediately hooked on how fun and challenging pole fitness was and excited to see the changes in her body, strength, stamina and most especially her self-confidence. So much so, she became an AFAA Certified Instructor and loves sharing the amazing benefits of pole dance fitness. When not teaching, she works as a data analyst for a leading medical supply distributor.