Yes a Stripper
Recently there has been the #yesastripper hashtag, where dancers have been taking back control of their portrayal.
I have recently returned to pole as a form of fitness, (it is THE best exercise I have ever done, and the most fun) and as such I have been following a lot of pole-based blogs, Instagram feeds and Facegroup groups etc. There is a huge ‘I am not a stripper’ group of pole dancers just dying to assure you that they are nothing like strippers (We know you’re not Prinny, we have sadly been witness to your floorwork, or should I say raw work).
Personally I find it both offensive and misogynistic as without strippers, you would not even be learning pole! You can chunner on about Chinese pole and the like, but let’s face it, pole as we know it is popular because of strip clubs. The best dancers I have ever met, strong, gymnastic, elegant, super fit, were once strippers.
And let’s not forget that this is a classed issue. You like Burlesque but hate strippers? Because middle-class nudity has always been more respectable than the working-class harlots taking their clothes off for much-needed cash. The ‘dirty’ working class woman has always been an object for disgust and scorn.
Also of course interestingly, when I speak with students about what constitutes sex work, we talk about how fluid sex work now is. The outfits and shoes women wear on nights out where once confined to lap dancing clubs, as with the carnivalesque hair and make up. (Strippers were well-groomed before the rest of society caught on). Instagram feeds of ‘Fitness’ and ‘Bikini’ modelling would once have looked at home in the pages of Loaded, Front, Nuts and Zoo. ‘Hostessing’ in clubs might once have been linked to escorting. Standing at trade show showing off your silicone-enhanced breasts in a tiny bra and short combo would once have been for the strip club promoters. Strippers get paid to take their clothes off, whether you see them as show girls, sex workers or exploited victims. It is the getting paid that seems to offend.
I speak with people I think I get on with, even admire, and the repugnant nonsense they come out with regarding sex work lets me know we can never be friends. As my journal article on being an academic and former stripper clearly articulates, you can be a sex worker and intelligent, the two are not mutually exclusive!!
There was a recent article about women getting in on the sex club scene that was once reserved for gay men, and it clicked in me, yes! That is why Pole Classique, or ‘Stripper Pole’ classes are proving to be so popular. Women want safe spaces to perform and experiment with their sexuality/sensuality in a non ‘sex’ environment.
I am lucky enough to be a student at Flying Ballerina Aerial Arts and Dance Academy, and the classes, both Fitness based and Classique, have made me feel so empowered and confident. My teacher and pole champion Toni Mansell is pictured below.
Toni has launched a pole competition to explore this very issue, Supreme Poledown – The Ultimate Sport vs Sexy Pole Showdown
.I wrote last December about having my breast implants removed, and the pressures of conforming to the beauty myth. Dancing with wonderful women in the studio has given me an amazing level of body confidence. I have been to yoga studios where the ‘fit’ women hate themselves, yet in our pole studio, all shapes and sizes of women love who they are. And women loving themselves and knowing who they are is a scary thing for society.
Society removes women from their bodies, it creates a hatred and anxiety, and sells us the many cures. A woman enjoying her own naked body or partly-clad body, and also enjoying the bodies of fellow women, does not make for an easy patriarchy.
Gypsy Rose Lee in 1931
The historic show girls, sex workers and ‘bad girls’ of the day paved the way for women to exhibit ‘masculine’ behaviours. They smoked, drank and stripped in male spaces. They made their own money, on their own schedule, often to a harsh backlash. I am hoping to research and write on the history of dancers in the near future. I know how hard it is to be a stripper in 2016… so I have no ideas how these ladies felt.
I was a stripper, I am not ashamed. I believe it has aided me to be a good researcher; I have life experience, I can mix and talk to anybody confidently. I have a past, I have a story. If you believe a woman is spoiled in some way, defective or damaged because she has been, or is, a stripper, then I believe you are a misogynist. Whether you ‘agree’ with the sex industry or not, as a woman you ought to be supporting the choices other women make for themselves. #yesastripper