I am a dedicated student in her fourth year of studies at Western University. I study criminology and women’s studies and do well in both. I enjoy spending time with my family, friends and my cat, John. I like spaghetti and long walks on the beach. I’m also a competitive pole dancer.
I attend dance classes as much as I can depending on the “season” in school (exams are laughably not a time you will find me in the studio). I began competing two years ago, and I have done three competitions thus far—placing in two of them. I would describe my style as lyrical and contemporary in nature. Although I really love watching erotic competitions, my body is far too awkward to ever pull that off. Instead, I’m hella good at telling a sad, slow story with my body.
There are hard parts, too. The first hurdle was telling my family that I had fallen irrevocably in love with this sport. I described the way that music has changed and how I can no longer listen to a song without mapping out its story in my head. They had questions and concerns. They still make a few offhand jokes every now and then, about the nerd in me gone rogue. But each member of my family can now be found watching my dances on YouTube, commenting on my pictures and videos and celebrating my passion right alongside me.
As for others, the reaction is often very different. The first phrase I almost always hear is the famous, “oh, if my daughter ever did that” followed by a wide-eyed sigh of sympathy for my parents considering my deplorable behaviour. I always smile, laugh and ignore what cannot be fixed in one conversation.
Consider this an open letter, an announcement of sorts to those mothers. I hope your daughter is a pole dancer.
Not completely out of spite, but maybe a little. I mostly hope that your daughter is a pole dancer because I want her to feel the way that I feel. I want her to feel comfortable in her own skin, strong and graceful. I want her to turn on a song and get lost, frustrated and tired because she has danced her heart out trying to figure out her own rhythm. I want her to be surprised in the mirror one day at the changes she is seeing as she develops a stronger, healthier body. I want her to finally nail her nemesis trick, the one she has been working on for months, and then find a new nemesis to drive her crazy. I want her to feel the support that I have felt, with the giant family of powerful women I was adopted into when I joined my pole studio.
What I don’t want for your daughter is the other side of pole dancing. I don’t want her to feel ashamed to do her sport, share her story, or explore the things that her body can do—because of people like you perpetuating a stereotype that should have been buried long ago. If women as a collective began treating the exploration of the female body (through something such as pole dancing, gymnastics, soccer, what have you) as normal and appropriate, perhaps female sexuality could be seen as something normal and appropriate. I don’t want her to have to defend her body—to you, to others, or to herself. I never want her to question what she loves because it is associated with negative connotations of “inappropriate behaviour.”
So, I hope your daughter is a pole dancer. But, I also hope that by then we will have eliminated attitudes like yours. We deserve to feel strong, empowered and passionate no matter what we are doing. Even if society isn’t quite there yet, I hope you are. As mothers, I hope we teach our daughters to embrace their bodies wholesomely, to become strong, sexual, powerful, happy women.
Actually, come to think of it, I hope your son is a pole dancer too. But, that’s another topic all together. We’ll get there.
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