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Written by Susan Kim

By now, most of us in the pole community have heard about the purging of hashtags regularly used by pole dancers. I have posted and re-posted about this issue as I have tried to sort out why this is happening to us. While reading different social media feeds on the topic, I came across Michelle Shimmy’s well-written post in which she makes several excellent points, including that hashtags such as #femalefitness have been banned while #malefitness has not.

Furthermore, a photographer friend of mine informed me that social media sites have repeatedly removed photos taken by professional photographers because the pictures were deemed “sexually suggestive.” I immediately asked him if those pictures depicted women, and he replied yes. Quelle surprise …

The pole community is beautiful for so many reasons, especially its diversity. The International Pole Convention truly embodies this diversity with showcases that celebrate Polers who are also part of the LGBTQ+ community, are differently abled, are men, and are people of color. But pole dancing is still a female dominated activity and the vast majority of us identify as female. And unfortunately, this is part of the reason why we are being targeted and our posts are not meeting Instagram’s “community guidelines.”

I ran a search of hashtags in which women are partially clothed, and I learned that Instagram had no issues with #victoriassecretfashionshow which accompanied almost 200,000 posts, many of which depict women wearing as much as or less than we pole dancers do. The hashtag #victoriassecret was also fine and was used in over 6 million posts. Why are posts about women’s underwear and glamorous supermodels wearing that underwear perfectly acceptable and posts of athletic dancers defying gravity and demonstrating a #pdayesha not?

I have had many discussions about pole with those who do not pole. A male friend of mine who does not pole said to me, “Men are uncomfortable with displays of female energy that they do not dictate and control.” This issue has made me really think about his observation. A former female colleague found out I poled and while wearing a coy smile, she asked, “Oh! Who are you doing this for?” I replied, “I do this for three people. Me, myself, and I. I have bruises on weird parts of my body. My calluses have calluses. I have spent thousands of dollars and countless hours on pole. And I don’t even compete or perform. I have done damage to my shoulder, and my friends have demolished their rotator cuffs. This is not something you can do for the exclusive purpose of making someone else happy.”

I have spoken to other pole dancers who share this view or have similar ones. And because so many of us are women, in many ways, Pole is the ultimate expression of female energy that men do not dictate and control. And sadly, this demonstration of female independence, strength, agility, athleticism, and artistic expression can be incredibly threatening. The same people who think we’re indecent do not take issue with a fashion show dedicated to women’s undergarments. And I suspect the men my friend described see the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show as something that is really for them and not for the women who are purchasing Victoria’s Secret’s products. Is the problem that we as women are blatantly using our bodies to do something exclusively for ourselves, whether it’s engaging in any form of exercise or hiring a photographer to take pictures of us? Is this when social media sites have to take down pictures, engage in shadowbanning, and purge hashtags?

Sadly, it appears the answer to both questions is yes.

About Susan Kim: “I only worked as a lawyer to pay her way through Pole dancing school.”

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