Written by AM Davies
Pictured above, Elizabeth B Fit
Social media has officially gone too far and we all have the same question, how much further will this go? The majority noticed the threat with the recent Pole Dance Shadowban, but we are learning, it’s much bigger than that. It feels oddly like how we would imagine things going in the beginning of the end of ‘Handmaid’s Tale’. The systematic shut down of women being able to freely express themselves and their bodies on public forums, yasss, the internet. The place where we connect, learn and support each other. Instagram is blocking us from connecting, they are blocking us from sharing each other’s art and self expressed ways. How long before it turns from digital to actual?!
We have other things we want to do besides fight this war that we feel the media, social media and our own government has started with us. But since they’ve waged war on our bodies, we have to retaliate. They cannot silence a group of people without them wanting to fight back. And this group, like we mentioned, is fully self expressed, which means we don’t fear limitations, we do not go quietly into the night. We are starting a larger, global discussion about the digital oppression of women’s bodies! Instagram, simply talk to us, talk to your public. What is your reasoning?! Let’s fix this!
In July of 2019, on Instagram there was a world wide pole dance shadowban including at least 50 pole dancing hashtags. There may be more, but it was too many to count amidst the chaos. Pole dancers around the world are enraged. Instagram blocked our content, but not other scantily clad women’s content. Then they banned #FemaleFitness. This is leaving us scratching our heads. But let’s back up… after the signing of SESTA/FOSTA, Instagram banned all hashtags with the word stripper in it. They also banned #Women and #Woman for at least 24 hours shortly after the bill was signed. That’s the one that makes me, personally, the most nervous. There is something so wrong with being women that the content must be hidden?
The so called “robots” that do this banning work moved through sex workers accounts and started to delete accounts and shadowban accounts saying that they weren’t following community guidelines. Now, I can’t speak for everyone, but I was one of those people that was shadowbanned shortly after the signing of this bill and I was cautious to not violate. All my pink bits were covered up. But I was still “too much” for Instagram. Since then, I’ve been even more careful and begrudgingly so. Let’s admit it, banning sex workers made sense to some people. I’M NOT SAYING IT WAS RIGHT! I was one of those being banned and punished. Sex workers are usually being punished first and the harshest throughout history. ENOUGH! We won’t stand for it anymore! We are standing with Sex Workers and Strippers, Women and other affected siblings around the world. Instagram and Facebook, you have proven to us that you will not stop and quite honestly, your discrimination in the first place was invalid. How far will you go?! We need to know or we need to GO! And we want to take all the women with us!
A part of me is happy this pole dance shadowban is happening,
because now that it’s affected more women than just sex workers, we all feel the brunt of this type of discrimination. Unfortunately, it has taken the banning of an adjacent community for the rest of the players to pay attention to what Instagram has done to sex workers and strippers, but we are here now. It doesn’t matter how we got here, we are here now and we want to change the way we view, talk to and unite with the sex worker community. Loud and proud!
POLE COMMUNITY, this one’s for you: Here is something I personally do not tolerate and invite you to do the same. This is something we want you to be armed with when conversing with others and online in your posts. DO NOT SAY: “Pole is artistic and not lewd, I don’t understand because we are different.” OR: “We are covered up unlike other women that have been affected by the shadowban and pole is an art form and considered an Olympic sport.” Or any other justification of their being “OK to be shadowbanned” but not us because we are ‘different’. The truth is, we are all the same. We are all trying to be ourselves and share with the world. I myself have posted nude photos of myself, blurred out and covered (following guidelines) and have been banned. I’m also a pole dancer and now my business, which is all about pole dancing, never posting nudes or topless photos, and I’m again being affected because we have the word ‘Pole’ in our title. I was first punished for being a stripper and now I’m being punished by the pole dance shadowban as a pole dance business.
What’s the issue with the pole? What’s the issue with our bodies? How is posting dancing ‘violating community guidelines?’ Since when is women working out (re: #FemaleFitness) violating community guidelines? Since when is women’s bodies being shared in any light a danger to society?! Women are women, our bodies are our bodies. I woke up like this! This is a bigger fight than the pole dance shadowban. If it’s okay to ban sex workers and strippers bodies, then it would be okay to ban ours too eventually, WHICH IS HAPPENING NOW! We are all women and people, we are all artists. We all deserve to be on a platform like the rest of the world. If Instagram doesn’t want us, why not make that clear? You’re just ghosting on us like an immature, insecure dude that we really want to date.
Where are the rich people making a platform for adults? By shutting us out you are hurting our livelihoods while children and families dominate Instagram. Instagram changed the user age to 13… Is this what it’s all about now? Protecting the children?! The saddest part is that most sex workers on Instagram also follow the guidelines, because we know that if we don’t play the game right, we won’t be allowed to play at all. Instagram is a giant and most of us rely on it to maintain an audience and therefore an income. We have learned not to post our dangerous nipples online. We rely on this platform to make a living and to stay connected to the communities that protect us and inform us. We rely on you just like everyone else does. The message we are getting is…. Self expressed, in control of our bodies and outspoken women have no place on the Instagram platform. Is this the case? Because we hear no explanation from Instagram, but their actions are deafening to the ears.
This article here is a community effort in an attempt to raise awareness and show that we have banded together. We asked other polers, strippers and sex workers contribute to this article. Let’s start with Lori-Lu, a kinetic pole performer from Detroit and a founding member of the PoleFit Revolution Performance Team (PFRPT).
Sex workers have been battling societal stigma for as long as their work has been around. They have and continue to fight for legitimacy, while simultaneously striving for basic labor rights and safety protections.
All this censorship is a result of the recently passed SESTA/FOSTA law that was intended to target human trafficking but instead appears to be aimed at sex workers. This new law created an exception in an existing law (section 230 of the Communications Decency Act) “No provider user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by other information content provider .” That makes social media companies responsible if users (including consensual sex workers) post full service sex worker advertisements on their platforms.
The law is flawed for equating full service sex work with human trafficking. With the passage of this ill-conceived and ambiguous law in 2018, Instagram took it upon themselves to remove profiles they deem might even have the potential of promoting full service sex work (further criminalizing sex workers). When sex workers lost access to their on-line community, they lost a safe place to conduct business with boundaries.
Pole is a rapidly growing industry that owes its trendiness to the innovations started by strippers. They’ve made an honest living off that pole long before Rihanna recorded “Pour It Up”. Yet, strippers suffer from the stigma placed on them by mainstream society. This same society that populates strip clubs on Saturday nights while demonizing them on Sunday mornings. When stripper’s hashtags were confiscated and their accounts deleted, they lost a valuable resource for safe engagement and the ability to network with other people in the industry. This form of “self-censorship” by Instagram makes it very difficult for individual users to seek recourse.
Recently, I left a 13-year career as a Licensed Veterinary Technician to pursue a future in pole fitness instruction. Over the past months, Instagram has been reducing the visibility of my pole posts on the platform. This most noticeably happened to me after I performed at high profile pole events such as PSO in December, the Arnold Sports Festival in February, the USPDF championships in New York City in April and at Pole Con International in June. While performing at these events, I do a great deal of networking. Looking at the insights on my profile, my loss of engagement is obviously coming from the company’s confiscation of my hashtag and profile privileges. Previous attempts to reach Instagram in regard to this issue have gone unanswered. Every time my profile gains traction organically, the platform reduces my visibility on the site, yet they seem to have no problem offering me opportunities to boost my profile if i pay them. If Instagram is offering me opportunities to promote my posts, how can they simultaneously penalize me for posting “borderline content”? My Instagram profile was and continues to be a place for inspiration and I strongly disagree that my content is inappropriate.”
Read her full article on https://www.poleconvention.com/blog/
When speaking to the sex worker and stripper community about this, they have a few things to say. Their voice needs to be heard not only by the system that continuously discriminates against them, but the entire pole dance community as well. We had Nova Caine write a piece for us on behalf of the sex worker and stripper community. Nova Caine is a mother, thriving disabled veteran, POC, award winning poler, published model, and philanthropist who has found financial freedom in stripping as a career.
Here is her point of view:
“Hello Everyone, I would like to start this conversation by introducing myself to you all.
My preferred name is Nova Caine and I’ve been stripping in Florida on and off for over ten years. On my off years I was in the military, a stay at home mother, I learned how to pole dance, became a pole instructor, graduated colleges (yes, plural), worked at a world-renowned audio-visual company, and much, MUCH more. I’m letting you know all of this, so you see I’m more than “just a stripper”, in the same way that all of you are more than your jobs or careers. Like you, I am a whole human who wants to feel fulfillment and joy in my life. Whether you understand it or not, I have found joy and fulfillment in my career as a stripper. I excel at dancing and I am proud of it, but I also believe stripping is humanitarian work.
There are many reasons why patrons and dancers walk into a strip club. Some people need advice only a sex worker can give, some people long for physical touch and don’t know where else to find a person to simply give them the time of day. I’ve had a husband come to me in tears, with money in his hands tipping me, because it was the first time in two years that he had seen his wife smile! All I did was entertain them on stage and then gave her a beautiful, sensual, artistic lap dance.
That’s why it has hurt me to the core to have borne the brunt of the potentially dangerous treatment dancers go through not only in general society, but also in the pole dancing fitness community. I use the pole as I do to make a living, other women use it as a hobby or fitness routine, but all of us use it to find empowerment. How is it so easy for others to shame sex workers when they claim to find empowerment using sex work moves? As a pole dancing student and stripper turned pole instructor/stripper a few years ago, I was subjected to horrid bullying and poor treatment from my pole peers. The abuse was severe enough that I had no other choice but to stop being part of the pole community altogether. That decision completely changed me, but also led me to be the hard-working woman I am today. In my two-year hiatus from pole dance/stripping, I was forced to know myself without a pole in hand.
Who am I and what do I want to do in this life? That question haunted me until I realized who I was: I’m a caring woman who wants to help others who have had diversities in life which led them to the strip club. I want to lead by example, showing that a person with sexual trauma, and a physical disability who happens to be a sex worker can still be a great leader and cause a ripple effect of change that we all want and need.
This is a complicated conversation with many facets. Sex workers have endured, trials and tribulations for millennia, and the process of making sex work respectable will take many years to fix, but we are on the right track even when we feel we aren’t.
SESTA/FOSTA has forced a conversation in our community, especially now the impact is being felt not only by sex workers but by unsuspecting polers who are now being shadow-banned online as a result of this “anti sex trafficking law”. Polers, regardless of their support for sex workers, are getting the same shameful, censorship treatment as any sex worker. It has given everyone a taste of how it feels, even though it is minimalist version, to be shamed for something you love to do and has given you so much self-power. Just as me, now every ‘not a stripper’ hash-tagger has been condemned on Instagram.
I must admit it feels like karma is getting every single one of us for shaming, for letting shame happen by turning a blind eye, and not doing the sufficient amount of work educating polers on the dangers of excluding professional pole temptresses from the internet, studios and competitions. The karma came right back to us, to all of us. Whether you are a sex worker or not, Instagram and people who don’t pole, do not see the difference between you and I. They will only see a woman wearing close to nothing on a stripper pole and condemn both equally.
This false sense of safety, the narrative of splitting stripper and pole athlete, has manifested problems to both strippers’ and pole businesses’ livelihood.
The way we as society speak about sex work and how you, as an individual, speak and treat sex workers can and will help change what we all are going through. WE can-not expect society to treat our community accordingly if we ourselves can’t come to a peaceful agreement. In all aspects of life we get what we project. We need to unify as one to become stronger in numbers to deal with the outside world. Polers need to understand that verbiage is everything and we need a unified language in our community. Instead of “I’m just a pole dancer because I could never deal with creepy men” sentiments, you should say “I work out as a stripper, working out like them is so powerful, I don’t need to be a stripper to get the empowering benefits”. That’s what makes us such powerful beings, we survive even when others try their hardest to keep us down.
To conclude, when doctors told me I would never be able to walk correctly and without chronic pain, when they told me I would never be able to run after the baby I was growing inside of me, when they told me that I would be taking pain-killers my whole life, I accepted the challenge and changed the narrative and perception of what a person with a disability could achieve. I want to reach the same change within the community that taught me how to fly when doctors said I couldn’t walk. All things can be done if we unite, challenge past perceptions and take a different turn for a better outcome. If I can learn how to walk again, we can learn how to speak to each other and represent a community who is truly empowering to All, not just the few.”
Nova Caine’s words and thoughts have moved us and inspire us to invite you to truly be #UnitedByPole. See, that’s not just a hashtag to us, it has a meaning. Being United by Pole means that you embrace it all, you love all, and you never judge anyone for how they choose to move up and down this silver, slippery apparatus. We are all the same, we have a fight to fight and have ways that you can take action. Because even though some of our hashtags are back, we have not seen the last of this type of attack on women’s bodies. If we are not loud enough, we will continue to be BLOCKED. We are a unique and extremely powerful community with true love between us and an enormous network around the world. Reminder, practice your love and acceptance towards strippers and sex workers, as they are people who society leans on and then shits on. It’s our responsibility to accept them, love and them and be their biggest cheerleaders. If it wasn’t for strippers, we wouldn’t have pole and we would know less about being self expressed. If we are going to fight this, we need to truly UNITE!
This is more than a pole dance shadowban, this is a full blown blockage of women using their bodies on their own terms.
So, let’s change the world! Let’s invent new possibilities. Let’s grow and thrive from this and do it together. It’s time for a change and it starts with us, from within our own community. It’s 100% time to be banded together, arm in arm, from pole to pole. Will you stand for your siblings? Will you commit to fully being #UnitedByPole?
Here are some ways to take action on the pole dance shadowban…
Valentina Mazzei sent us the suggestion to write to Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram.
She is from a little town in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s a town where there is little opportunity to learn different types of dance, especially pole dancing. After disapproval from her parents, she showed them what pole dancing did for her body, her self esteem and confidence. But now her parents are proud of the path she chose. She says “with this discipline I feel free, and I’m able to show who I am. That is why I feel that what Adam is doing is completely absurd . We had come a long a long way in our sport to let anybody put us down.”
See her suggested message to Adam Mosseri below. Feel free to copy and paste this and send it to him yourself. The more messages he gets, the more likely he is to pay attention.
“Hello pole lovers, since we are experiencing a pole dance shadowban, I wanted to propose that all the pole dancers write a DM the Instagram’s Instagram page or to Adam Mosseri, who is the head of Instagram, complaining about this situation, they can’t censor us! We don’t post anything against terms and use, and pole dancers nor strippers don’t wear any less clothing than bikini models! How do they differentiate? Or will they not in the future? Will all women in small clothes be banned eventually? I don’t want to find out. Let’s make a difference. Copy and paste the message below if you want to take action. “
*Send a message ___________________________________________________________________________________
Dear Mr. Mosseri,
I’m writing to you on behalf of the pole dance community about the pole dance shadowban. We recently noticed that you banned some hashtags that we use for our publications because people might find it “inappropriate”, but we are not going to take this censorship lying down. The pole dance community had been growing a lot through the years, and some of us use this app to promote our jobs and be able to communicate our passions, and especially to learn from each other. We understand you have banned us and not other women wearing bikinis. Is this because we are tied to strippers and sex workers? Because we know that since SESTA/FOSTA, sex workers have been targeted and discriminated against. And now the bans are trickling down into the pole dance community and the female fitness community. We believe that the banning of hashtags (past and current) such as #Women #Woman #Stripper #YesAStripper (and all other tags pertaining to strippers) #FemaleFitness (but ironically enough not #MaleFitness) and at least 50 hashtags pertaining to pole dancing is an attack on women’s bodies. What will you do as a leader in the social media world to end this attack on women?
We want to get to 20,000 but we need all of you to sign and ask your family to sign!
*Reach out to your media contacts, your friends in high places, any celebrities you know. Share this article with them to raise awareness on the pole dance shadowban. The more influencers that see this and share it, the more traction we will get.
*Send your contacts and info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Tell your friends and family, share this article on your social media.
*Start to use new hashtags like #MaleFitness and #JesusSaves. Be creative and fun about it!
*Leave a review and rate the app 1 star – if enough of us do it, maybe others will notice.
*When hearing stories of Instagram being EXTRA weird, save screenshots, conversations and notes so we can all keep track. Send them to email@example.com.
We will leave you with this story that we just heard today that has made the mainstream media…
@sunnnaya – a popular blogger, posted on her account about other women being assaulted by a male photographer. When she posted about the women’s accounts of what this man did to them, she was flagged for bullying and her stories were removed for “bullying”. Then her account was threatened for deletion. She had to fight back to keep her account of over 26,000 followers after shedding light on a predator. Can you see how dangerous this is getting? That men have all the power? They are free to be, they assault and are protected. We just want to exist and share and are silenced. This is more than hashtags. Let’s pretend that what is happening is a fire alarm going off.
That’s what the banning of hashtags is, a very loud annoying fire alarm. Something much bigger is going on here and this alarm is alerting us. Time to pay attention. This is a part of the systematic blocking of women’s voices, bodies and rights. We must take a stand in order to live and thrive equally. Just because it’s an alarm, does not mean panic, but it does mean action must be taken to save our house, because yeah, it’s on fire. Will you stand with us and choose to take action? If yes, then please, act on the things we suggested above. Come up with your own plan of action and share it with us. We want to make a difference and we want to be the shoulders that carries the community through this.
If you need a speaker on behalf of your group or community, reach out to AM Davies by using the contact form.