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The following post is inspired by a Facebook post by pole superstar (and one of my many fangirl crushes) Nadia Shariff, where she says she’s sometimes inclined to lie about what she does in order to make things easier with the general public. But, as she says, “this will not benefit the pole movement,” and goes on to say that not all pole dancers are from the strip club, and if they are, so what? 

If I had to choose a side, I imagine it’s pretty clear where I fall in the fitness vs. stripper style camp amongst pole dancers. I happen to be a die-hard appreciator of The Slink. 

Fitness will happen, for sure!  Squats, leg holds, pullups, holding your weight with arm/arms only….whether you do it in 7″ heels with lots of body waves and grinding, or barefoot in a more gymnastic style, you’re gonna get into better shape. 

The bottom line is that Nadia’s absolutely right: pole dancing of any sort takes artistry, athleticism, and serious training. 

Unfortunately, the general (and judgmental) public has preconceived notions about stripping/exotic dancing, which is one issue …. but here’s what really troubles me. 

We are eating our own young every time we push those preconceptions onto each other, from one pole dancer to another.

If you begin your conversation about pole dancing with “And … I’m NOT a stripper,” as you make a face or roll your eyes, you have just disparaged an entire group of people simply because of their profession.

The general perception of strippers seems to be that they’re all crack addicts and prostitutes and homewreckers who can’t hold down a “real” job, and that couldn’t be further from the truth IN MOST CASES. Are some of them addicts or flakes or so-called “extras” girls? Sure. But there are addicts and flakes and unethical people in every single profession in the world. If you’ve never worked with any, lucky you! Strippers don’t corner the market on those undesirable traits. 

Here’s the truth of it all: some strippers dance because they need to in order to pay the bills, some strippers dance because they love it, and some strippers dance for a reason that falls somewhere in between. They have bills and kids and partners and responsibilities and pay taxes like the rest of the working world. 

If we’re honest with ourselves, probably 98% of us would say we stay in our day jobs for a similar line of reasoning. Either we can’t/aren’t ready to make a move elsewhere, or we’re lucky enough to love what we do, or it’s somewhere in the middle. So why do we shun strippers for what they do, when their reasoning for doing it is the same? Stripping is honest work, whether someone approves morally or not. 

To me, it’s the same as if an architect sniffed derisively: “Hey, I **design** buildings, I’m not a  BRICKLAYER. Harrrumph.” He or she might as well say that being a bricklayer is somehow lowering oneself. 

When pole dancing groups began to push for pole dancing in the Olympics things got really heated. Pole was in the public eye, and it seemed like the pole fitness advocates did everything possible to distance themselves from the exotic side of pole. 

I’m not sure I understand why. 

I mean, I do understand, but at the same time I don’t. Pole dancing as we’re talking about originated in strip clubs. If having so much distance in perception is a necessity in order to get pole dancing welcomed into the oh-so-mainstream Olympics, maybe pole dancing doesn’t belong in the Olympics, no matter what level of athleticism is involved. There are plenty of highly athletic sports that don’t have a berth in the Olympics, and that’s OK…… isn’t it? 

Why do we feel the need to sanitize pole dancing, to distance it from stripping, in order to make it “acceptable?” Why does it matter so much that it be acceptable, anyway? 

Here’s my plea, to ALL pole dancers, no matter what style you like. Relish your love for pole dancing, do it in a way that makes you happy, tell or don’t tell people as you see fit, and let that be that. Don’t slam on other styles. You don’t have to like them. You don’t have to dance in those styles. Just know that furthering negative perceptions about those styles or those dancers hurts us all.  It weakens us as pole dancers and as compassionate, just, tolerant human beings. It takes away the empowerment we so often go on and on about. 

Don’t let someone else take your pole power through negative comments … and don’t take another dancer’s power through your own!

**The views expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not represent the viewpoints of UPA, its members, or its staff.**

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