The Swansea University Student Union (SUSU) has banned their student pole dance society. This has been a Hot Topic in the pole circles for a few weeks, but recently it’s also caught the attention of the rest of the world.
Their issue is that pole dancing is ‘inextricably linked to the multi million pound sex industry’, ‘upholds and bolsters sexist attitudes and behaviours’, and contributes to the rise of ‘Raunch culture’. They also claim that ‘women have been deceived into thinking this is a way to take charge of their sexuality and their own decisions’, and finally that it normalises ‘the practice to the wider group of young women and girls who see work in the sex industry as a viable option’. You can read their full explanation here.
Immediately all the polers were up in arms and defending the sport to the extreme. And it also seemed to cause a small sub-discussion about whether pole ‘fitness’ (ie in sports wear, no heels, minimal dance, focus on holds) is better than pole ‘dance’ (heels, more scant clothing, focus on dance and holds).
My two cents on the matter are this:
- By banning the society, they only perpetuate the link between pole dance, women, and the sex industry
- Believing that women aren’t able to make objective decisions for themselves on this issue without being ‘deceived’ seems to be damn pretty sexist
- The Union makes good points that many people at university have the potential to be quite vulnerable, but they practice a huge double standard: the Union’s ‘Beer Pong’ society arguably contributes to the binge drinking culture in the UK, which costs the NHS approximately £2.7 billion per year, plus leads to the vulnerability of young people too. Each society should be measured by the same yard stick.
For me, this article tackles the issue really well and looks at the underlying issues. Many of us who actually do pole dance are insulted by the assumptions made about us from this act, and so our arguments contain an awful lot of passion!
If it’s on an e-card, it must be mainstream, yes?
And, as someone who has been a pole dancer for 5 years, this has been my experience:
- It taught me to appreciate my body – not only it’s appearance but also what it can actually do
- It counteracts all the other messages in the media that we’re not ‘good enough’ by affirming that you are strong, you are fit and you are beautiful (so corny I know, but so true!)
- It played a huge part in my wider interest in exercise and keeping fit
- The girls I’ve met from all over the world really celebrate each others bodies and are supportive rather than competing against each other
- I feel like I have gained control over myself and respect myself – so if I hear sexist/mean remarks about my appearance I can shrug them off wayyyyyyy more confidently than I did before
This is not me. I wish it was.
For me, it’s been about ownership: I own my body, what it does, and it’s healthiness. I’ve found that how people react to it says more about them than it does about me. My family have all been supportive in their own way – they may not particularly like it, but they respect my decisions. And that seems to me to be where the SUSU falls down: if there’s demand for the society and they ban it, they’re not really respecting their members, their choices or their intelligence, whether they’re female or male.
What does anyone else think?