My eyes rounded as the woman in front of me gripped the pole and spread her legs toward Heaven. God works in mysterious ways; this was the only explanation I had for what I was witnessing. Kirk Franklin’s Gospel song about redemption, “Imagine Me,” played in the background, an odd choice for a pole dance.
Her routine had begun with a (holy) body rolling chair dance, and now she was blessing the pole. Another flip, a well-timed thrust, and she straddled the air in a split. The audience applauded politely upon her dismount.
The studio was packed with people who came to support friends at their pole dancing recital, which doubled as a benefit for Haitian earthquake victims. The men in the audience fidgeted, unsure if Jesus was judging them for looking at booties while a choir sang. Praise Pole Dancing for the Lord, indeed.
I’m sure most people associate stripper poles with nothing sanctified, especially after seeing Rihanna’s visual ode to strip clubs, “Pour It Up.” Not much needs to be said about that; it twerks for itself.
I find strip clubs problematic for a number of reasons. Like many occupations rooted in sexuality, they inspire a Puritanical attitude from voyeurs who imagine themselves better than the women they spend money to ogle. Strippers become a sub-class of women to be despised yet lusted after, prized for their physical assets onstage but disposable offstage. People like to pretend they’re cool enough to not knock the hustle. However, stripping is still seen as a means to an end (i.e. the strip-your-way-through-college meme) and former dancers are “exposed,” as if their old jobs were illegal.
The majority of strippers don’t engage in prostitution, but still are lumped into the colloquial category of whore. And as the old African-American proverb goes, “You can’t turn a hoe into a housewife,” right? Tell Amber Rose that.
Turning the nonsensical adage on its ear blurs the lines of respectability in womanhood and opens the door for women to strip free of confines in more ways than one. Hence, the reason why I am quite curious about a class in the Atlanta metro area called “Toast and Twerk.” Combining cardio with cocktails, the description details a fitness class you can bounce to. The studio also offers pole dancing classes, ostensibly for non-professionals.
The growing popularity of strip clubs spawned the preponderance of pole dance studios (at least 11 in the Atlanta metro area). Women not privy to the strip game are taking it upon themselves to learn a little something for an audience of one.
But many men who admittedly enjoy attending strip clubs prefer that their wives not learn any of the trade, even just for the bedroom. “It would be degrading for me to rain money on my wife’s head.” Clearly, some like their women categorized in neat Virgin or Whore boxes. Why else would it be okay to degrade these women and not others?
Pole dancing classes strip the activity of the paying voyeur dynamic and leave attendees with a feeling that most professionals appreciate about their craft: agency. It can be heady to command the attention of an entire room. Perhaps the pole dancer I saw was “spreading” the Gospel of empowerment in her own way.
Now if we can just get society to see strippers as women undeserving of scorn, then maybe housewives could serve dessert a little more creatively.
What do you think about pole dancing classes? Would you take them or encourage your significant other to?