I have seen posts like the one I am about to write for years, but never have I understood, empathised with or fully felt the way they have until now. Until I read what the London Abused Women’s Centre had to say about pole fitness/dancing. They have withdrawn their support for Take Back the Night, an event by the Women’s Events Committee because there is going to be a pole fitness display included.
Within multiple statements made on their very public Facebook page, they have posted the following statements and images:
Their official statement on withdrawing:
They have also stolen an image from Body and Pole without asking permission to create the following meme:
Not only is this illegal as it is copyright and the owners at Body and Pole are working hard to get this taken down, but it is also highly degrading to any woman who chooses to pole dance and makes suggestions that if they were to be abused by a man, that it would be their own fault for normalising it through pole dancing/fitness.
The first thing I have to say is that when I started pole dancing, I called it pole fitness, didn’t tell many people I was doing it and only started posting pictures privately because I was 18 and didn’t know how people would react. However, I started getting good and wanting to show off and share my achievements, so I did. I have received one negative comment which was not abusive, but merely slightly weird and kind of humorous. I know people who have been slut-shamed, called prostitutes and treated incredibly badly for doing their chosen sport. I have one thing to say about this: call me a circus freak, a failed gymnast/dancer or whatever you choose, but never call me a slut. I hate this word and it has taken me a long time to realise why. I hate the word ‘slut’ because it is a word used by men and women alike to put down another woman for what she chooses to do with her life. I hate the idea that a woman would put down another woman for doing something out of anything other than jealousy. We all say things we don’t mean from time to time, in the heat of the moment out of jealousy or shock. But more often than not, these things are not perpetuated, we apologise and move on with our lives and never even think this way again.
The LAWC have made this statement, that pole dancing women normalise men’s violence against women, and they have stood by it multiple times. I can see and understand that some of their women have had bad experiences in the stripping and sex industries from men forcing them onto a pole against their will and beating them up for doing it wrong, however this has nothing to do with the pole itself. The men chose a pole and sexualised it. They put women in underwear on a pole and made it into the known and accepted image of a pole dancer. However, firemen use poles in their practise, hence the fireman’s pole at the park, the Indians danced on it in their traditional Mallakamb dance and the Chinese used it for feats of incredible strength and power. It is not about the pole. It is about what people do with it.
Men’s violence against women simply cannot be normalised by women taking a pole fitness class at a respected studio where no men are even present, and if they are, it’s because they are joining in themselves. This is because men can be violent towards anybody at any time for any number of reasons, but mostly it is because they choose to. This is not exclusive to men; women can be violent just because they choose to also, anybody can, I am simply referring to what is said in the picture above. Any man can attend a strip club, a pole dancing competition or pole fitness lesson and go home and not think about it until the next time they see it. They can think about it, they can think sexually about it and still choose to do nothing. Or they can decide that they can have their way with a woman just because she danced on a pole in his view. Or they can decide that they can have their way with a random woman on the street wearing nothing revealing after not watching any form of “trigger”. All of these come down to the same conclusion: if a man abuses a woman in any way, it was his choice. They can blame it on a short skirt or a pole, but at the end of the day, they wanted to do something so they did it, not taking into account how it would make the woman feel.
I hope LAWC read this, and if they do, this is for them:
You, at London Abused Women’s Centre have made me feel like I cannot come to you now if ever I need your services. I feel that I will be judged for pole dancing and, just like the many women on the street get asked ‘what were you wearing?’ by police, I would fear that you would ask if the abuser had seen me on a pole. You may be withdrawing your support for reasons related to some of the people you help having had bad experiences with pole dancing and exotic arts, but just consider what this says to strippers and pole dancers alike who choose to do what they do and get abused regardless of whether they do it or not. It says that you do not support pole dancers, or the pole fitness industry and, while you may not have meant for it to come across this way, this is how it has come across.
If I ever get abused, don’t you dare suggest it was my fault because I pole dance.