Fighting for Respectability: by AMD, originally posted 05/26/2014

A few days ago something popped up on my Facebook feed that I found tremendously interesting. It was a reference to a YouTube-housed pole dance competition, the rules of which include:

VIDEO CONTENT – Every location (no strip club or discotheque), training video, outdoor, etc…; the video must be elegant, sporty or artistic, originally, creative (to get the attention of the public) – Outfit: sporty, elegant, artistic; outfit must not be changed during the performance; barefoot, gym shoe, ballerinas, ballet shoes, gloves, and ankle protectors are allowed FORBIDDEN – no cuts in the video, no props, no fire, no high heels, no heels, not sexy, no stripping, don’t touch the body, no double or more person performance, a song not blocked on YouTube, the outfit must not change during the video, cheating in each way

Now, I understand that someone running a contest is fully entitled to run it however she/he wishes, even though I find the rules above to be crazily subjective (Who is to decide what comprises an “elegant, sporty, or artistic” outfit? Who decides what is “sexy?”).

But it makes me think about how the world perceives pole. It seems the global pole community fights tooth and nail for “respectability.” My question is — and I ask this honestly and openly — why? We know who we are. We know how difficult pole is, what level of commitment it takes to be on top of your game. What does it matter, really, if others don’t know or understand?

There was a time when all actresses were considered to be whores. When single mothers were considered to be of “lesser morals.” Heck, there was a time when wearing a little lipstick could get you branded as one of “those” women, whatever “those” women were. Seems there’s always a finger waiting to be wagged at people who are on the fringe of, well, anything.

Do the skateboarders in the X Games worry that people will think they’re all stoner hippies who can’t hold down a job? If I had to guess, I’d say that most of the world doesn’t give the skateboarders in the X Games a single thought on any given day. And I’d also guess that’s OK with the skateboarders. They know who they are … and they command respect among those who know what tremendous athletes they are.

And if I had to guess, I’d say that most of the world doesn’t give pole dancers a single thought on any given day. I don’t believe most people sit down to breakfast and think “I’m going to negatively perceive pole dancers today. I’m going to assume they’re all out there in the world gyrating and humping the pole and getting dollar bills tossed at them.”

I understand wanting to be taken seriously. I want to be taken seriously for all sorts of things. But responding negatively and getting huffy with journalists, or everyday folks for that matter may make the pole community seem like the lady that doth protest too much.

If we want to fight fire with fire, why don’t we invite naysayers into our world genuinely and kindly — let them see for themselves what we’re all about? Kill ’em with kindness, so to speak. When the shoe has been on the other foot, I can tell you that I’ve been far more receptive to those who accept my dissension and negativity with openness and a willingness to try to understand my point of view, even if they don’t agree with it.

Once someone has seen what we do, if they still want to think that pole dancing is nothing but writhing around on a floor covered with money, then so be it. Let it go. Your blood pressure may thank you for it.

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