Question of the Day: What do you think of pole dancing classes? Would you take a class? Wednesday 23 September, 2009

There are many negative connotations associated with pole dancing. Check out this clip from Chris Rock: The first time I heard about pole dancing as a form of exercise, was from one of my students in Tokyo (I teach English as a Second Language online). When I first heard about it, I laughed and thought […]

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There are many negative connotations associated with pole dancing. Check out this clip from Chris Rock:

The first time I heard about pole dancing as a form of exercise, was from one of my students in Tokyo (I teach English as a Second Language online). When I first heard about it, I laughed and thought I would never participate–I was too bashful, too insecure and intimidated. However, after Miriam and I did an interview with TaMara Campbell of Beautifully Me, the pole became more appealing…

In a discussion piece I submitted for a sociology course, I explain how I became interested in pole dancing. I also discuss why I’m disappointed with critiques of how black women should not be depicted sexually–not because I think such criticisms are wrong or untrue, but because I think no one has an idea of what is “appropriate sexual behavior” for females in general, and black women in particular.

Here is what I shared:

What is appropriate sexual behavior for black women? How big a stake does academia have in answering this?

Two readings demonstrate that black women are freighted with a particular historical baggage concerning our sexuality. A presenter at the University of Chicago’s feminism and hip hop conference argued that the asexual mammy, sapphire and jezebel have been re-coded in hip hop as mama, wifey, bitch and hoe. For black women who understand these tropes, their sordid past and continuity, where do we go from here? How ought we express ourselves sexually?

I laughed when I read: “We now live in a porn saturated culture…women can take exercise classes with a ‘stripper’s pole’” (Hunter and Soto, 174). I hope to start pole dancing and sexy flex classes this Saturday. I hadn’t been self-reflexive about my decision as a feminist—I just knew I was getting on that pole. Now, that I sit with the idea, I think one could argue that women who participate in these classes are appropriating symbols of exploitation, nullifying and inverting their meanings—similar to the way in which black men and women (but mainly men) are said to have appropriated derogatory words associated with blackness.

A friend and I did an interview TaMara Campbell (http://liveunchained.blogspot.com/2009/08/live-unchained-had-opportunity-to-ask.html) the woman who owns the business that offers dance and sexual education classes including a tele-class in which, women call in to share their personal experiences and questions about sex and sensuality. This interview made me interested in the classes.

In terms of getting in touch with my sexuality (or, as I like to say being the C.E.O. of my sexy), I feel I’ve only been told what to avoid and who I shouldn’t be. Perhaps taking the classes places me in that feminist morally grey area that Clay highlights with a quote from Rebecca Walker (57). I don’t believe that this class is about equipping me to fulfill a man’s objectifying sexual fantasy (still, one can argue that in strip clubs, the line between subject and object is blurred)—certainly, I don’t see it as a stepping stone to a side hustle as a stripper. Yet, I do believe sex, sexuality and sensuality are important parts of life. I’m searching to learn more about this aspect of myself. I think I will the same way I learned about other important parts of me, by looking to other knowledgeable black women, who I happen to admire, for assistance. Maybe I’ll see you on Saturday…

—-

As a class, we discussed the politics of the pole and came up with several interesting discussion points and questions including:

  • Women approach the pole with different degrees of privilege. As one of my classmates stated: “You have some women paying to take the pole dancing classes while other women are getting on the pole to make $100 to hopefully pay their rent.”
  • The degree to which a woman can be empowered by pole dancing depends on whose watching her and if she gets a say in whose watching her.
  • Why is the sexual exploitation of black women so profitable?

What do you think??

The question of the day is: What is your opinion of pole dancing? Why would you take a class or not?

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5 Comments

  • Beautifully Me says:

    Once considered as a specific activity that only occurred in gentlemen’s clubs, pole dancing for fitness has begin to pop up in health and fitness clubs all around the country and even around the world.

    This seXy aerobic workout provides all the benefits to a traditional aerobic work. Pole dancing exercises every part of the body – sliding up and down the pole works the quadriceps and the gluteal muscles; holding oneself against the pole works the biceps while the continuous hip movement whittles the waist. Apart from toning muscles, Pole Dancing also increases upper body strength and works the entire body. However, unlike other more rigorous dance forms, pole dancing is low on impact and can be practiced even by people who’re not in top condition. Each session with the pole can burn between 250 to 350 calories per session, and boost one’s confidence and self image as well.

    Pole Dancing also provides coordination, grace, and agility. It provides a conduit for individual creativity and “free form” interpretation of established movements. The true sensuality of pole dancing lies in the awesome and seemingly effortless body control.

    While physical benefits of Pole Dancing are numerous, this seXy fitness workout also provides amazing mental health benefits. Most recently, a London newspaper reported that a doctor there even prescribed pole dancing lessons to a patient suffering from depression. Women who have participated in Pole Dancing classes have reported an increase in confidence and self-esteem and self-efficacy. Additionally, many women have reported feeling less stress, enhanced social skills and increased in sensuality and seXuality.

    What Sets Beautifully Me Apart?

    The Beautifully Me Art of Pole Dancing not only provides participants with a fabulous fitness workout but it also provide an empowering eXperience for women on a journey to discover, eXplore and unleash their feminine powers in a safe, health and unapologetically seXy manner!

    Additionally, Beautifully Me is so much more than the Art of Pole Dancing! It's not just a series of classes or workshops. It's a lifestyle! It's allowing your inner beauty, confidence and energy to radiate. It's an attitude of empowerment and awareness, now that's seXy! It's taking control of your seXual health and protecting yourself. It's a knowing of who you are and a respect for the powers and the gifts that you possess as woman. It's vulnerability yet strength. It's an open heart and mind…dropping all knowledge in order to gain it all. It's tapping into your higher self and manifesting your destiny. It's a journey into who you are and want to become.

    I truely believe that once people can learn to open their minds by stepping outside themselves and laying aside their moral judgements that society will begin to accept the art of pole dancing as a true art form that allows women to eXplore not only their physical side but their mental, emotional, social and spiritual sides. For anyone who believes differently, I challenge you to try it!

  • lnaturalle says:

    I don't care what people think of stripping itself, I love the idea of pole dancing classes. Not only does it help women feel sexy by learning sensuous moves, it is also a fantastic core and upper body workout! Pole dancing is tough work. I tried it once (a class of course) and I have also taken a burlesque dancing class. Both were very fun and provided a low impact but effective workout. I was sore afterward! Anyone want to take a class…I'm so down!

  • Kendra says:

    Ok, so at the request of Kathryn I'm posting my thoughts here. When Kathryn first told me she was taking pole dancing classes and asked if I wanted to join her I laughed and told her that I was too shy and clumsy to do that. I can see it now. Somebody call 911 because Kendra fell off the pole. Haha! But seriously, Kathryn poses a good question about black womens' sexuality and the class discussion that followed her question was interesting. For me it’s complicated. I definitely believe pole dancing can be a form of empowerment for women. Then at the same time I know as we mentioned in class that there are those who pay to dance on the pole and others who dance on the pole to get paid. In no way do I believe all women who dance on the pole to get paid are victims because for some of them the pole does serve as a site of empowerment. Like Kathryn said, it’s not the pole itself, but rather the meanings people attach to it. But how do you express yourself sexually when there’s this historical baggage weighing you down of having your sexuality defined and crunched into stereotypes of the Mammy, Jezebel and Sapphire? The meanings attached to the pole are different when this body is there because there are different levels of privilege for women according to your race, class, sexuality, and nationality when it comes to the pole. It’s a privilege to not have to worry about whether my actions will have implications for all black women because of this shared history of having our sexuality defined for us. Of course as Audre Lorde said, “If I didn’t define myself for myself I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” That would be living unchained. But that’s easier said than done. The only times I can recall being told what my sexuality should be was “wait until marriage” and “be a lady in the street but a freak in the bed.” Both of these are for the benefit of some male partner I am assumed to have currently or in the future. What does that do for me? I think another interesting point that came up in class but we didn’t really talk about (and is also related to Audre Lorde) is the issue of using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house, or finding new tools, or maybe redefining the tools. So maybe in this case, in taking charge of my own sexuality and defining it for myself can I dismantle these stereotypes about my sexuality? Also as a side note, I think the only people in academia who seem to care about black womens' sexuality are black women. I certainly haven’t seen anybody else write about it in academia. That’s my thoughts for now…time for me to get to class!

  • I never actually considered taking a pole dancing class, but didn’t necessarily see a problem with it from a workout standpoint. It all seemed like marketing fodder to me, but reading this makes me realize there are questions about the sexual depiction of black women that can be explored around this topic. Empowerment, in this case, can be a state of mind, and maintaining control over it is a personal journey that greatly determines how you, and others, look at your sexuality. That being said, I probably still won’t be taking a class any time soon!! Call me bashful.

  • legal roids says:

    Another interesting post on your blog, keep up good work!


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