Do you have the privilege of liking a stigma you don't live? Your response to pole in the Olympics might be a clue.
If you are hashtagging your social media posts #ILikeTheStigma in response to pole being recognized as a sport and you have not lived the stigma by working as a stripper or adult entertainer, sunshine, go away. I don't feel like dancing and I'm definitely not dancing to your tune.
God I hate the word privilege. It’s overused and its ubiquitousness is already starting to water-down the effectiveness of the word. Privilege can also be interchanged with luxury or how about the most relevant definition: advantage. Whether earned or not (one would literally have to pick apart each person’s story to determine that and I for one have a life to attend to) having something others who are equally as deserving do not have is an advantage.
I’ve written about pole in the Olympics before and what I thought of it and the divide in the pole community surrounding it. This was 2 years ago and since then I have watched the community become more divided and less tolerant of opinions other than one’s own.
In late October the federation campaigning for pole in the Olympic games announced it was granted “observer status” by the Global Association of International Sports Federation bringing them one step closer to getting pole into the Olympic games. As a response some pole enthusiasts, hopefully strippers, and studio owners have taken to posting images of themselves in heels and as much skin as they are comfortable with the hashtag #ILikeTheStigma.
Polers are speaking out specifically against pole being recognized as a sport. Many in the pole community believe in the mutual exclusivity of tricks style and sexy style pole.
Many do not want to see pole in the Olympics and are actively working to keep the stigma alive in everyone’s mind. They do not want pole to become mainstream or accepted as a sport or legitimate form of fitness. Mainstream: widely accepted.
Their argument for not wanting to see pole in the Olympics is they don’t want the sexy to go away. Every time I hear someone utter that phrase I think to myself “Please stick out your bottom lip, insert your pinky into the corner of your mouth, and say that in the highest pitched, smallest, baby talk voice you can manage.” Boop boop be doop. It’s sexaaaayyyyy. “Now go pout in the mirror, bat your eyes, and practice that vapid stare.” For the rest of you grown people who can think for yourself on what sexy is I’m pretty sure you already know that a huge part of sexy is doing what the fuck you want regardless of what some entity outside of you thinks. Here’s the “secret” to sexy that no one tells you, actually there are 2: the first is that 1. even the sexiest person in the world has people that don’t see it in them, and 2. anyone that genuinely believes in their own sexiness, regardless of why, will be sexy to many people.
People are claiming they are afraid the sexy type of classes will no longer be available if pole is seen as a sport. Social media observation shows that sexy to the pole community is about making pretty shapes and sticking your high-heeled ass in the air with plenty of hip thrusting hair flipping movements. High heeled shoes (at least 6” heel) circular hip movements, waving hip movements, floor work with lots of open leg poses and head tosses (regardless of hair length) are all staples of sexy pole. There are classes dedicated strictly to these concepts as well as classes that are tricks based. Many times they are offered at the same studio.
If pole sport were to make it into the Olympics there would still be classes that featured strutting more than climbing, body waving over splits, and anywhere from 5.5” to 8” high heeled shoes. Why? Because to many pole lovers out there those aspects of the sport of pole are still the most appealing parts of pole. At this point there are so many subcategories of pole dance/sport/fitness that the old cliché “to each their own” really applies.
The stigma has become another elitist playground that only special people with a lot of fans and/or money get to enjoy.
Before you get your thong all twisted with a response rest assured I don’t fucking want to hear it and there is a lot more for you to read.
As pole dance is art and art is not just subjective but unregulated its total amorphousness allows for abuse of the artists. From mild "did you really just offer to pay an ex stripper in exposure?" to a belief of entitlement to the artist's personal space and sometimes body, abuses of stigmatized artists continue with no Ashley Judd to speak for the stigmatized.
This isn’t a marginalization of sexy, bodies, pussy, tits, ass, spreadys, floor fuck moves, body-waves, or skimpy outfits. I don't give a shit what you wear or how you like to dance. It’s a condemnation of elitism wrapped in so-called respect for strippers and the roots of the pole industry.
First, If you’re not [or have never] working as a stripper shut the fuck up. If you are [you] know I’m not speaking to you. Hashtag your SM whatever you want you’ve earned it by living the stigma. After having lived the stigma you’re also aware that not everyone is able to be as open about their occupation as you are and recognize that everyone has to work their own hustle to make their money. What non-strippers don’t comprehend is thee emotional labor strippers deal with that pole dancers who don’t support themselves as a stripper and have never stripped do not. There are things one cannot possibly know unless they've had the experience.
I’m talking to the women who see the tricksters and throw shade claiming ‘I don’t like tricks performances I only like to watch the #lowflow floor work stripper moves’ when in reality they are hating on moves they don’t believe they can get. Oh, that doesn’t happen? Bullshit. Of course envy and its interchangeable friend jealousy are at play with some of these claims. Not all. But really, stop hating on other styles and forms because the pole deserves more respect and so do the people who have put the time into each move they have acquired.
How many of you hash tagging your shit “I like the stigma” barely dressed in your safe space, either your home or your studio have actually lived with the stigma because you were actually working as a stripper? How many of you though you don't own a studio or really have a dog in this fight, have simply jumped on a bandwagon because you think it makes you look so cool to be so down with strippers?
Here's a hint: if you have not worked as a stripper and you teach classes called "stripper moves" or "authentic stripper style" you're not actually teaching stripper anything. First of all there is always that move that every performer who worked as a stripper won't do. It's different for everyone but every stripper has that one move they see a performer doing in a "sexy style" performance that makes them say to themselves "yeah, they move well, but I would be surprised to find out they worked any significant time as a stripper, I could be wrong though." It's something you would only understand if you worked as a stripper.
I’m talking to the pol-e-brities with over 10k IG followers following 20 people, the people who have the privilege of “liking the stigma” because they don’t have to overcome it to make a living in the pole or fitness industry because they already own their own profitable studio or are in demand “stars” traveling countries for workshops.
Second, I don’t give a shit how you dance or what you like to watch on instagram stop putting down one style to lift another up and calling that positive anything. That goes for you as well sport federation. Stop trying to call known moves something other than what they are popularly known as because a stripper came up with the move. I see you. Crossbow???? It's the goddamn spatchcock you assholes. Everyone fucking knows that. And an ex-stripper came up with it. Her name is Felix Cane. Your attempt at erasure is not okay even if you think you're fighting the very stigma I'm sitting here bitching about. You’re definitely not fighting the patriarchy who “generally prefer the company of men and keep women around for entertainment purposes only.”~$ Girlfight!!!!! ("ooooh do y'all have pillow fights!") It’s not sex-positive nor is it feminism. And you video vixen, you can insist that glitter is sexier than sweat but unless you are coming at pole from an other physical [dance, gymnastics] background, are genetically blessed with strength and hyper mobility or are very young you will have to work at some point to get a move or spin or hold you want. Or you can pretend you don’t care about that style and are all about the sexy low flow floor work while secretly hating on people with aerial skills you don‘t have the stones to work for. What most who try to argue for one side over another refuse to acknowledge is the most interesting and viewed performances have all the elements. They have heels, (I don't know why sport draws the line at heels, those things especially now that they are getting into 9" and 10"s are at least a pound. On the end of your limb! That you are lifting over your head!) extreme body waves, crazy strength and flexibility and flow.
Maybe the stigma works for you; it doesn't work for everybody
Pole is already the sport of queens without enough influencers that really know what they are doing educationally. Classes are usually no less than $20/single class so you already have an exclusionary set up when you can get group fitness instruction for $5/class in some arenas. Quality home poles are no less than $250 and while there are other pieces of exercise equipment that are comparable and even higher in price, there are other pieces of home gym equipment (jump rope, stability ball, significant amount of free-weights) that are drastically less expensive.
Fact is what you need to own your own studio and teach pole is a lot of money. To own a studio one does not need to have pole skills, flexibility, or basic knowledge of the body's skeletal muscles much less how to safely and properly engage them to avoid injury when poling. You need money. Money to pay the rent, money to pay the trades people to set up your space, money to pay for utilities and marketing, money money money.
There's a reason everyone is trying to be instafamous. If you don't have money it really doesn't matter what your pole skills are your chances of making a living in the pole industry are nearly nil. As of now (with of course exceptions!) the people making a living in the pole industry meaning either as a clothed performer or an instructor are pol-e-brities and successful studio owners.
Some studio owners actually believe that an instructor is more valuable if they are a competition winner. If you don't compete 'you're not at the top of your game,' is the sentiment. I've even heard of studios asking instructors to sign contracts with terms of more money for winning this or that competition. Not for educating yourself in something kinesiology or dance related, not for having a certain level of skill or years of experience, for winning a competition. Yet bring up pole in the Olympics and you get a bunch of faux superiority about how only some dance styles are capable of respecting pole's roots. You don't know what respect for strippers is unless you've worked as one. Period.
Classes are expensive, choreography professionals are expensive, costumes are expensive. Ironically most of the pol-e-brities got that status by either winning or putting on a competition. With 7.8 billion people in the world that is a pretty elite group of people wouldn’t you say? Is the Olympic games not the ultimate competition?
A consequence of the stigma is getting a loan to open a studio is almost impossible. (Never mind that really to get a loan you have to not need the money.) People with big dreams who come from affluent yet conservative families can't get financial backing to open their own pole dance studio because of the stigma.
But nowhere is anyone policing whether studio owners and their hand-picked usually former student instructors have the general knowledge to instruct people in body movement without causing long term damage to paying clients. The lack of standardization means it's like the wild west with people barely qualified to teach sometimes literally putting people on the pole that aren't ready to be in that position on the pole.
At a health club usually the minimum requirement for employment in a fitness instruction capacity (either group exercise instruction or one to one personal trainer) is either a degree in fitness or a related field or a fitness certification from one of the major known established certifying bodies of health and fitness.* There is usually no such requirement to instruct at a pole studio. People are teaching paying clients how to do dangerous things with their bodies without full knowledge of why they are able to do what they can do themselves. They lack the education to know what muscles they are using.
Many studios hire instructors from their pool of most loyal students. A studio owner will hire a student who has been coming to their classes for 6 months over a more experienced "outside" instructor because they are already trained to the owner’s methods and know no other way to learn or teach. In some situations students are hired because owners don’t have to pay them as much or with some agreements owners don't have to pay them to teach classes if the student is willing to work in exchange for "free" classes from the instructor who is usually also the owner. Nothing wrong with it if the student agrees and for a broke college student in a kinesiology, dance or personal fitness program this could be a great deal! But as the consumer would you want to be taught by someone who wasn't being paid to teach by the studio? Should you pay full price for those classes? What other industry does this, has students teaching entire classes and payment is instruction from the head instructor/owner/person-with-all-the-power who may be qualified to pass their knowledge along and maybe just had money to burn on the latest fitness craze? Oh academia, you say? You mean people with more education in their field than I have in fitness? In many situations student tutors earn money from tutoring.
I don't know if those are the same people who claim to only have love for the low flow floor fucking but for real love it, know it, but if that's all you know please let that be all you teach, too. This is not to say that you must be able to physically do a move to teach it. It does mean that you must have a thorough understanding of the move and the way the specific muscles are used for the move. You also must have knowledge of correct and effective spotting techniques and the knowledge to evaluate whether a student is ready for the move they want to learn. You may be capable of teaching it but are you capable of knowing if your student is able to learn it?
If you are a studio owner and recognize that you don't have the knowledge or skills to teach (this is about your observance and communication skills not your personal pole skills) to an ever advancing student body give the pole, the industry, your students the respect they deserve and hire instructors with the experience and knowledge to safely teach.
People are worried about the sexy style of pole ceasing existence. I'm worried about pole itself not existing when too many people are injured by people with more money and fame than education and experience.
I don’t care if you don’t want to see pole in the Olympics, that is an opinion you are duh, entitled to like the rest of us are entitled to our beliefs. But if you’ve never worked as a stripper or adult entertainer you are offensive when you flash your privilege of liking a stigma you’ve never had to live with. If you really want to know respect for strippers pay your bills from going to work in a real stripclub and find out what sexy and living the stigma is really about.
~$ Quote is from a toxic masculinity website I’m not giving space to on mine even to have a properly cited quotation.
*Certification is through an organization accredited through the National Commission for Certifying Agency.