Throughout the semester we have discussed the dominant belief that gender equality takes the form of women becoming equal to men in a man’s world. A strategy that I previously believed, but that I now view as demeaning and as a losing battle. It is a misguided effort to mold ourselves into replicas of men, and in this act we ultimately discount what is good and valuable about our womanhood. We are not physically stronger than men. We do not think like men. We do not conduct business the way men do. We do not learn things in the same way men do, nor do we process thoughts or emotions in the same way.
I believe the new trend of pole dancing serves as an interesting transformation of erotic dancing for men, to an empowering sport for women. I believe this transformation represents a step to equality that counters the dominant belief that women have to become men to be equal.
Pole dancing is a controversial sport. It’s hard to do; you must have excellent core and upper body strength, and you must be fairly coordinated. But it’s also undeniably erotic and inextricably linked to stripping. Thus, pole dancing has been deemed demeaning to women.
However, this sport has taken a turn for the best. Not only has pole dancing been integrated into the Olympics, pole dancing classes are a fast-growing part of the fitness industry, attracting millions of women globally to partake in classes held in gyms, clubs and leisure centres, on university campuses and so on. As a result the sexual nature of pole dancing has been undergoing a transition into less stigmatised, more mainstream leisure terrain.
This process has attracted recent attention from feminist academics interested in gendered physicality, sexuality and embodiment. For example Kira Jane, in In Defense of Pole Dancing,argues
There are pole dance studios burgeoning all over cities worldwide, classes filling up with women who have chosen this art form, chosen to spend what little free time they have to do something for themselves, to feed a passion and build muscles that would make Popeye greener than his preferred snack.Classes to nurture women and women only, as currently many do not allow a man to step foot into their sacred space.
We’ve discussed multiple times that making women equal to men is not necessarily equality. Pole dancing offers an interesting outlet that has transformed a sport rooted in the male gaze into sport for women about women. Similarly Johanna Lyman, in Feminism and Pole Dancing, concluded that
There is tremendous power in the dancing female form. While dancing, we tap into the power of creative energy (Shakti) and sexualenergy (Kundalini). When we use those two energies in the exploration of our authenticity, we are able to glimpse our divinity. This is the truth of the Magdalene; this is the truth of the sacred feminine. This is our birthright as women.
Pole dancing represents a source of empowerment for women that is not rooted in filling a shadow of male privilege; pole dancing serves as a pioneer for equality that has not been pre-molded by men.