Friday, January 13, 2012

The "stripper" versus "pole dancer" debate

So one of the questions I have asked in the past of my blog interviewees is what they think about the "stripper vs. pole fitness debate."  It is clear that some people are very comfortable with pole dancing being associated with stripping and/or their sexuality (and sensuality??  I think I need to do a little soul searching to make sure I truly understand the difference between those words!!).  It is also clear that some people are trying to distance themselves and talk about the fitness, acrobatic and strength side of pole fitness.  

Does it mean that strippers or pole dancers aren't also into pole fitness?

Here are a couple of my past posts on the subject:

I feel like I have been caught with my pants down on occasion on this subject.  Not because I haven't chosen a side, but because I don't HAVE a side.  I have never stripped but I am not against strippers.  However, at the same time, clearly society's negative view of stripping occasionally may creep into my words because some people have taken things I have written as negative comments against strippers.  

Example:  I wrote this blog for The Pole Dancing Shop:

The post is about presenting your decision to begin pole dancing to a partner who may be concerned or jealous.  My comment was:  "If they are stuck on the 'stripper thing,' try to move past it by saying that you have no intentions of becoming a stripper, and that this adventure is about you finding your sexy side and building your own confidence."  One person ripped the post for being anti-stripper.  I felt bad because that wasn't my intention but it is certainly true that a lot of people in society associate pole dancing with stripping and that can cause a problem in some relationships.  I am not making a judgment about whether it is wrong or right, but it is what it is.  

I tried to make amends by writing another post for The Pole Dancing Shop:

In it, I included my very favorite quote from Claire of The Pole Story"If for some reason, the idea of your dancing being connected to the strip club scene is upsetting to you, if you desperately need to distance what you do from what those 'other girls' do, if you truly believe that you are doing this because it’s just a really good workout, then I strongly suggest you spend some time thinking about why you chose pole dancing.  Because there are a million ways to get fit without putting on six inch stilettos, a bikini and swinging sensually around a pole."   So then some of the anti-stripper people jumped in to comment that they were different from strippers because they didn't take their clothes off.

*sigh*  I just can't win so I should stop while I'm ahead. 

Then last night I read Michelle Shimmy's first blog post about having thick skin:  

One thing I took away from the post was that I cannot make everyone happy all of the time (of which I was aware but clearly needed to be reminded).  But this quote in particular struck a chord in me:  It's completely normal that not everyone will like what you do. As the pole movement gains momentum, and new skills are created, it's going to get harder and harder to impress people. People will become more discerning, and competitive. Sometimes, people will comment on other people's style of dance as a way of defining their own style. An example of this is a traditional "sexy" pole dancer saying she doesn't like contemporary pole, or a former ballerina saying she hates body rolls and hair flicks. What they're really saying is that they've adopted a particular style as their favourite way to pole dance, to the exclusion of other styles. That's ok too - there's room enough in the pole world for many different ways of pole dancing, and it's quite exciting to see new styles develop and change.

She's right!  There is room for EVERY kind of style.  You can be a pole dancer, an aerial artist, a pole fitness fanatic, or a stripper...whatever you want!  You can love to dance to classical music or hard rock music.  You can focus on amazing tricks or sexy floor work.  You can do whatever you want because THAT is the beauty of ART.  Dance is art.  And you are the artist.  Your art may not be beautiful to someone else, but as long as you're happy, that is all that matters.

Until next time, lovelies, happy twirling!


  1. Very well said. Everyone has there own view on pole dancing and each has there own comfort level. What women and men need to remember is pole comes from a sexual past and instead of causing controversy all of the place about it, All polers need too come together and say these are the differeent genres in this style of dance lets work togther and let it be known and accept each's preference. Lets stop the hate on the different styles and get everyone talking about what really matters "THE BENEFITS OF POLE!"

  2. I agree, you can't make everyone happy. When I started pole dancing I think I was a little naive living in a place that was pretty liberal. All I really ever had to say was "it's a form of fitness, I don't take my clothes off for money" and that was that. My reasons for doing this don't have anything to do with the perceived stripper lifestyle, but I celebrate all women who pole dance. It is an art, no matter what your reasons for dancing are. People often go to a negative place before ever thinking about the positive, but at least you're giving then something to think about. It's great that you are putting your thoughts out there. Keep'em coming! We need all the pole support we can get!

    I just wrote a blogpost on why I pole dance. As soon as I post i'll send it your way :)

  3. Really great post. I definitely know what its like dealing with the public (pharmacist by day, pole addict by night!) It took me a year to realize that people will say whatever they want to say and you can try and bend over backwards for some people but you can't make everyone happy. I totally agree with you. I'm in the middle between this whole debate and until now I didn't really have a view point. Strippers are what made pole to what society believe it still is. And I can understand why there are people trying to avoid that whole aspect. But a pole is just a pole. You are what you make of it I think. Honestly I love that sensual expression, its what attracted me to pole in the first place!

  4. For the most part, I'm very much "take me or leave me." So sometimes it really did surprise me that people found pole dancing so "inappropriate." lol Their loss!

  5. I don’t do pole, but I have concidered trying it out for fun. I can appreciate both sides of it, from the erotic to the athletic, so for me, it wouldn’t be about which style is better. Athletic performance and erotic dance both are definitely an art form and personally rewarding in their own ways. However I don’t see it as a bad thing that some may want to distance pole dance/fitness from the not so appealing aspects of the profession from whence it came. As a former (non-exotic) dancer myself, I constantly had to specify that I’m not THAT kind of dancer. People automatically think “dancer” = “she takes her clothes off for money”. I think the same goes for people who want to separate pole hobbies from the sex industry. I can understand why some are frustrated with being misidentified because of societal perception of what it means for a woman to even look at a pole.. Yes both Susie and I dance, and yes we even use some of the same sexy moves, and maybe we even wear similar skimpy costumes... but after my performance I go backstage to change into my street clothes, while she goes around the floor and rubs her body on strangers for tips... I don’t like people assuming I did the latter because of misconceptions. It’s more an issue of being labeled under the same umbrella term with a profession that does things that I didn’t and would never do. People don’t like being perceived as something that they’re not. That may be one reason I haven’t actually tried pole yet, since even the mention of pole dancing to people evokes thoughts of stripping and lap dances, which I’ve already spent my teens and early twenties correcting people was not my job.

    1. Maybe now that pole is being recognized as a sport and could potentially head to the Olympics one day, you will have an easier time helping your friends understand. :)