Sometimes a Cigar is Just a Cigar

I can’t enjoy Peep Show in the same way anymore, since reading this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/apr/18/students-pole-dancing-david-mitchell

While I don’t agree with the spokesperson quoted in the article that pole dancing is ‘empowering,’ I don’t agree with David Mitchell either.  I’ve recently joined both the UEA Feminist Reading Group and the Pole Dancing Club.  So, I thought I’d write a post questioning whether a woman can be both a feminist and a pole-dancer; I argue that we can!

I’ve quoted Freud in the title in order to highlight the idea that one doesn’t always have to over-analyse something.  Why would someone who claims to be a feminist, knowing its connotations of strip bars and objectification, take up pole dancing?  Well, because it’s fun!  However, it is a sad fact of society still that we can’t simply enjoy such an activity and have to question the implications and how such behaviour reflects on us as women.

It’s like a combination of gymnastics and dancing, and you do feel a great sense of accomplishment when you learn a move and after a bit of practice you finally get the hang of it.  In just a few months my friends and I have moved up to the Intermediate class, and I’m even planning to take part in a competition in the Beginner s category.  I enjoy trying new things (I’ve also taken up boxing at the same time) and I am always trying to find ways to improve my confidence.  I don’t feel very sexy when doing it, but the better you can fake it, the better you look doing the moves, and the better you feel.  If executed in the right way (and personally, without those awful ‘stripper shoes’) it can look beautiful and elegant.

Just look at videos such as these:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UrPf-ImD_H8

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYci4f0nEZo

When I’ve told people about my new hobby, some (men) have made suggestive comments and asked if we do it in our underwear.  The reason why people may do it in underwear or costumes that resemble underwear is because you need as much flesh-to-pole contact as possible.  But when we practice we just wear shorts and a vest top or t-shirt… nothing more sexy than what you would wear to the gym.

It would be ignorant to not expect attitudes such as Mitchell’s, but we do not have to accept these kinds of judgments.  As someone who has dance since the age of five, it adds another element to what I already know, and shows that life’s experiences are never-ending.  I do these classes because they are fun, but I won’t lie and say I don’t enjoy the sexual aspect of the dance form.  I wouldn’t personally feel comfortable doing a routine to a bunch of leering men, as that is something I would find degrading, but if I happened to own a pole and be in a committed relationship, who wouldn’t want to show off some moves in the bedroom to spice things up a bit?  You could even try to teach your man a thing or two!  Though painful moves such as learning to ‘sit’ on the pole could be more painful for the opposite gender!  It’s not just for girls though.  I once went to a club in Norwich which has poles, and a massive mixed gender group took over the poles and one guy even got told off by security for hanging up-side-down. 

Yes, the world we live in is still dripping with sexism, but for every guy that just thinks ‘phwoar’ at the prospect of a girl pole dancing, I would hope there are still some that appreciate the skill involved in the same way that I might think a swimmer is hot, but marvel as he does the butterfly.  If pole dancing is still viewed in this one very black and white way, then it just serves to give men the excuse that they are incapable of thinking beyond what goes on in their trousers and presents them as animalistic, which comes right out of the school of thought that says a rape victim is ‘asking for it’ by wearing a skirt.  I’d hope for a bit more from men.

I find it offensive that Mitchell would question my role as a woman and a feminist simply because I enjoy spinning around a pole from time to time.  The article just latches onto the word ‘empowerment’ and goes off on one in an attempt to get the reader to agree with him because if you don’t then you are a poor excuse for a women, most defiantly not a feminist and should be ashamed of yourself.  Well, fuck you Dave!

No, I don’t find pole dancing empowering, but I enjoy it.  I may even go as far in proving my point as to adding it to my CV (though I may refer to it as vertical dancing, because I am aware of the misconceptions made clear by Mitchell).  I do many other things that I find empowering, but, sometimes, in the words of Cyndi Lauper, girls just want to have fun.

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About carminamasoliver

I'm an ex-UEA writer from South London. Founder of She Grrrowls. Feminist Arts Writer for The Norwich Radical. BAR poet. Published by Nasty Little Press.Currently living and working in Spain.
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