Actually, you won't find female empowerment halfway up a pole: David Mitchell
I actually remember reading this at the time (because I am a fully paid-up, muesli-eating, fairtrade-wearing vegetarian middle-class Cambridge graduate Guardian reader): it made me put pole dancing on my list of things to do. I'm mean that way. And generally I love David Mitchell, but, hmm: whence the vitriol, David? Perhaps you should examine that one.
I give you this gem (read it: you'll see I'm not cherry-picking):
Pole dancing is grim and I don't see anything empowering about learning it. Even if you say that it's just dancing and good exercise, surely it would be more empowering to learn a dance that can be employed in contexts other than strip clubs?Because David has never been upside down up a pole, but I have (albeit very briefly, in case Lydia ever reads this ;-) ), I am now going to list for you the reasons I have found pole dancing genuinely empowering (although that is not a word I like):
- Pole is pretty much the first exercise, apart from a bit of C25K, I did since I was 12. Now I do yoga, run, and am fairly fit, but only because of the initial motivation to get better at pole. When I am still fit enough to backpack round Goa when I am 70 I will have pole to thank.
- Pole dancing is hard. It is really, really bloody hard. The instant you do it, you respect anyone else who does: anyone.
- As I said above, pole dancing is hard (and let me emphasise that ;-) ) - every new move has felt like an achievement. Sometimes I look at people who annoy me in other contexts and think, yes, but, can you do an attitude spin?
- I learned so much about my body from pole - what I can do easily, what I can't do at all, what I need to work on. I suppose I could have learned that from something nice like tennis. Guess what, though. I never did.
- They may not all be like this, but, the classes I go to are great - supportive and friendly, and the teacher deserves a medal for putting up with me and my Inversion Issues. Not like the games teachers at school: see point 1.
- Without doing pole, which I thought I would never be able to do at all, I would not have had the courage to explore dancing, burlesque, or theatre: and that would have been a shame.
I have a reasoned response to the article, and it is: fuck off, David Mitchell. I like you in other contexts, but: in terms of this article, even though it is three years old, you can fuck right off. Or, better, go and learn a few pole tricks (because actually, men do do it too), and then come back to me and tell me it's only for naive women who want men to ogle them. We'll talk when you've mastered Gemini.
Now I'm afraid you'll have to have my fan dancing post later this weekend without me engaging with feminism at all: I just don't have the energy. We'll just have to accept right from the start that I'm quite wrong for doing it at all (it wouldn't be the first time...)