There is no way you could have missed the #metoo campaign going on on social media. It’s a harrowing feeling to see it spread like wildfire, the millions of testimonies coming into light being only the tip of the ugly iceberg. It touches every stratum of society, infects work, school, leisure, home. Nowhere is safe. Not even the pole world, especially not the pole world.
That’s why I’m getting serious today. No stupid joke, no Top 10, just raw thoughts on why we should care more about pole dance’s future than its origins, where pole is going instead of still trying to give it a politically correct past.
We’re being explained all the time that we, women, are the problem. We flirt, we dress provocatively, we were in the wrong place at the wrong time… and whatever happens, we’re always the culprit, not the victim.
And you know what makes me even more angry? To see some men take pole dance as one more excuse to victim blame the women they assault because of the nature of our favourite activity. Of its origins, to be precise.
I’ve heard, since I’ve entered the pole world four years ago, so many women describe the inappropriate behaviours they had to deal with, coming from men: ass groping as they were leaving the stage after a show, change of attitude during a date when they inform the guy that they pole dance, stalking by a customer, degrading comments, dick pics… and I could go on and on.
We cannot, and won’t be responsible for men’s actions that hurt our integrity – body or mind wise, because it will always be THEIR fault if they act on their impulses.
But we can fight it. There are things we can do within the pole community to assert that our sexuality is ours, that our body belongs to us, and that there is no way we are to blame because we pole dance. We’re dancing, not exposing for an all-you-can-eat buffet for men who can’t keep their private parts in their pants. We can be as sexy as we wish to, it still won’t be an invitation for assault.
POLE DANCE’S ORIGINS AND THE STIGMA
It really sets me off that in 2017 we’re still reading on the internet things like #notastripper, or hearing in a famous video “what I do is harder” (implied: harder than stripping, putting actual pole dance above the activity that made said actual pole dance possible), or girls defending themselves, when challenged about pole, by brandishing the Chinese pole flag.
It would be about time that we embrace this past once and for all, shut ignorant and judgemental mouths with pride and confidence, and half-mast the loosy defense in favour of a glitter banner.
I am proud to be able to use the magic wand of my stripper sisters/unicorn witches, filled with joy that they pioneered the path to today’s pole dancing, and I will never, EVER shut them down so I can express myself. How can we express ourselves anyway and be 100% honest if we have to hurt our predecessors in the process?
How can we expect men not to see the stigma, if we see it ourselves? How can we expect not to be shamed for it if we’re still ashamed of pole’s origins ourselves?
What prejudices we have, we cannot ask others not to have. We have a right to denounce assault (not a duty, it’s up to every woman to choose how she deals with assault, and I highfive all the women that had the courage to post the #metoo tag on social media, and I also support those who decided to stay silent, you’re all awesome ladies!), but we do have a duty not to reinforce rape culture and slut-shaming.
FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT
We shouldn’t legitimize the abuse because we still have this idea that female sexuality is to be treated as shameful. What is shameful is what we do to fellow women, yes, those strippers that brought us pole dancing on a chrome platter.
They paved the way with pride, with work, with dignity. Sex workers are human beings, and if we don’t acknowledge them as such and don’t give them the respect they’re due, then we’re counterproductive to our cause. Why are we judging a woman’s worth and trying to separate ourselves from the women we see as having a lower virtue? Men engaging in rape, assault and slutshaming are already doing that.
We can only hope for a safe environment for us polers if we come to terms with the fact that the origins of pole are nothing to be ashamed of, if we, ourselves, don’t see those at the origin of pole dance as lesser beings, and if women make it safe for women first.
But while it’s not our role to educate men on what is appropriate to do with a woman, because their brain can be used for more than just mansplaining, it’s our role not to feed sexism, it’s our role to support women, all women. If we’re divided, we’ll never win this fight. There’s nothing more harmful than women sabotaging women, in terms of equity between genders. How can we reach a similar status to men if we already believe that some women are worth less than some others?
Let’s embrace the stripper past of pole dance, especially as it knocks at the door of the Olympics now that it’s been officially declared a professional sport. Don’t clean it, because it’s never been dirty. Don’t asepticize it, because the only contagious aspect of pole is how much we love it. Let’s just accept it as it is, as it evolved, and as it was handed to us in the end, because if we’re pole dancing today, it’s because they stripped yesterday.
And if we pole dance tomorrow, let’s do it with pride, let’s do it stripper style, athletic style, let’s call it pole dance, pole fitness, pole sport, but let’s not, for any reason, be sorry for where it came from. Last time I checked, a woman’s virtue was in her heart, not in her thong.
(A big thank you to Drya Nide for helping me sort out my thoughts for this article!)
(This article is a rewrite of an article (removed because of this update) I wrote for my writer website (http://www.cloudbusting.fr) on January 26th, 2015, so if it sound familiar, you now know why 🙂 )