The negative associations fail to consider pole dancing as an empowering exercise routine.
Most would agree exercise is far removed from their mind when they think of pole dancing. When I agreed to join my friend in a pole dancing exercise class for the first time, I did it because I wanted to tap into my wild side.
However, there was nothing wild about it. After one hour of pole basics, I was sore all throughout my body. I soon realized pole dancing was comparable to a hardcore exercise. Since the first class, I’ve been attending classes at Philly Premier Pole Dance, and I’m proud to report the exercise is increasingly sculpting my arms and legs.
Despite this, I am a bit apprehensive to tell others I indulge in this type of exercise because it’s not entirely accepted in society.
“I absolutely feel like it’s stigmatized,” said Vivian Camille, one of the instructors of Philly Premier Pole Dance, an exotic dancer. “However, just because it’s my choice doesn’t mean it’s everybody’s choice.”
The phrase “pole dancing” sounds risqué. When I tell my friends I exercise by pole dancing, some judge and turn their noses up. The issue: pole dancing is associated with stripping.
It could take some time for this mentality to change, but for now, my experience with pole dancing has been positive – it’s a form of exercise, and the negative connotation should be removed.
“All women’s appearances and activities – especially our sexualities – are attacked, limited and kept in line by the threat of ‘sluthood’ and ‘whoredom,’” she added. “In that sense, we all pay. We all have a stake in taking down these social structures.”
In a guest blog post for the website Feministe, Chicago-based sex educator Clarisse Thorn wrote, “the more effort women put into distinguishing ourselves from whores, the less effort we put into actually working on the issues that harm women.”
Females face so many negative body issues, yet with pole dancing, the focus isn’t on how to get skinnier or how to get the perfect butt, but rather, building confidence and trying physically challenging moves while having fun and being creative with your sexuality. You aren’t obsessing on the treadmill or checking to see how many calories you’ve burnt.
“I don’t care how women get their fitness in, but they need to get it in. I am fortunate that I am able to provide an alternative form of fitness for women with the pole dancing,” Camille said.
After pole dancing, I feel relieved, relaxed and stress-free, and I walk out of the studio with a new attitude.
“It’s a workout that gives you a great amount of confidence,” Camille said. “You feel like you’ve accomplished something physically, and it gives you a little extra pep in your step when you’re leaving here … you strut a little more.”
I am not endorsing pole dancing as a profession, but if it has this many positives, the stigma needs to go. I understand the media, popular culture and music will continue to perpetuate the negative connotations, but pole dancing is a fun and sexy form of exercise that will make anyone feel strong and empowered.
This is what it boils downs to for me: Would I rather pump iron with the guys or pole dance? I would much rather work the pole.
Kierra Bussey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.