Written by: Jaci Tipton
Today is Women’s Equality Day (08/26) in the United States, which commemorates the adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment. This is one day that always provides me with an opportunity to reflect back on my own feminist journey. I grew up in a tiny town in southeastern Ohio. The type of town with no stop lights and only one four way stop. I always thought of myself as a free thinking, liberal, feminist; and I supposed compared to the general attitudes around me, I was. However, thanks in large part to my pole journey, my view of feminism has grown to be much more inclusive and all encompassing. The pole studio has become something of a sacred space where I can interact with women from a multitude of backgrounds and career paths and find more common ground than differences.
When I moved to Columbus and took my first pole class, I initially didn’t tell anyone. I loved the idea of getting in touch with my sexy side, but still didn’t believe that pole was necessarily a hobby that someone entering the legal profession should be open about. I didn’t want to be confused with the type of woman who would be involved in stripping.
Exotic style of pole never felt authentic to me on a personal level. I still move with all the grace of a baby giraffe in my pole shoes. Every time I tried to dance with any sort of slinky/sexy movement it feels like an act (although this doesn’t keep me from trying from time to time). I quickly fell more in love with the sporty and artistic sides of pole. As I grew more comfortable in my own skin and prouder of my poling achievements, I shared more of my poling life on social media. But when people would ask questions, I was always quick to make it clear that what I did was a sport, not stripping.
The more engaged in the pole community I became, the more flaws I found in my mindset. I initially set foot in a pole studio because I was captivated by the idea of exotic movements; now I was subtly (and not so subtly) shaming women for engaging in exotic dance. I’ve met a number of wonderful women who are amazing at exotic flows. For some of them pole is a hobby that gives them an outlet from the 9-5 grind, for others pole is a profession and they’ve worked hard to master their craft. Understanding how empowered women can feel by their choice to dance professionally made me embarrassed of my previous way of thinking.
Further, while I may prefer the sportier side of pole, the fact of the matter is that modern polesport evolved from clubs, and yes, from strippers. Truly appreciating the sport means paying homage to the roots, not trying to deny them.
Women face enough challenges in the world. On average, women still make less than men in the workforce, women are still faced with societal pressures regarding marrying and raising a family, and women are significantly more likely to face violence at the hands of an intimate partner. We’re all a lot better off when we focus on building each other up and supporting each other rather than criticizing and denigrating one another. I feel very fortunate that pole has helped me become a better friend, human, and feminist.
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