In Defense of Heels
There is a difference between having a preference, and having a prejudice.
I can say, “I don’t like to pole dance in platform heels.” That’s a preference.
To say, “People who pole dance in platform heels are slutty” is a prejudice. You are forming a judgment on a group of people based on a single characteristic. Historically, prejudice has gone hand in hand with discrimination… meaning, oftentimes, people who hold prejudiced opinions also discriminate against the group that they are judging.
Unfortunately, I am seeing that more and more, and among people who are important and have a voice in our industry, sport, and art form. I have tried not to let it bother me, because everyone has a right to have their own opinions, and to run their businesses and classes in a way that reflects their values and beliefs. However, I believe that there is a way to do that without disrespecting others.
If you were to think of 5 influential pole dancers, who are world-renown for their flexibility, strength, innovation, movement quality—how many of them have performed in heels? Well, maybe none of them, if that is your taste. Maybe all of them: Jenyne. Alethea. Marlo. Karol. Bobbi. Allegra. Felix. Just to name a few. It can’t be denied that athleticism can just as easily come on a 6” spike heel and wrapped in a gold lame bikini as it can sneakers, sports bra, and a booty-covering top. What you wear has nothing to do with what skill is in your body, or how passionate or dedicated you are to your craft.
In a female-dominated industry, it is easy to fall into some of the patterns of behavior that women are “known” for: cattiness. Competitiveness. Judging one another. Putting one another down. Fighting dirty. Name-calling. I won’t say that I’ve never done any of those things. But it would be nice to think that we can move beyond that. What’s wrong with being proud of the way you look and wanting to show it off? Don’t we work hard for these bodies? We pole dance, for crying out loud–you can’t wear much clothing to begin with. Can’t we be accepting of others? How else can we be accepting of ourselves? Are we mature, healthy women with self-respect, or are we just pretending to be? Is there really place for judgment of one another in a worldwide pole network of trust, compassion and support?
I have read, over and over, about how pole dance has transformed people’s lives. Women who have never worked out or thought that they could be a dancer. Women who were in loveless marriages. Women who have had double masectomies and needed to feel feminine again. Or have dropped weight and dress sizes to become happier and healthier. Pole dance is empowering because we learn about the power in our bodies: not just the muscles, but the curves. We talk about fluidity and flexibility and these are inherently feminine traits. We talk about growing self confidence and having healthy self image and that comes with being accepted… not judged, categorized, labeled, or discriminated against. If someone feels sexier, more alive, or just likes wearing heels– then who are you to say anything about them?
I’ve spoken to many people about their opinions on heels, and whether or not they have a place in pole dancing. I can understand wanting to present a clean image to the public. I can understanding wanting to push acceptance of our sport, passion, and dance form on to the public. But at what cost? Are we alienating people within our own ranks, by presenting prejudices of one another based on shoe and outfit choices? As a wise friend said: “Defend the sport for who we are, not for what is or is not on our feet.” Fitness is not determined by footwear.
As long as bachelorette parties continue to be hosted with feather boas, platforms at the ready, and booty popping, the “pole fitness” label will never stick. Can’t we learn from the inspiring story of Steven Retchless, who went on national TV as himself, gyrations and platform heels and face makeup and all, and was accepted and loved by millions of viewers? Can’t we learn from one another, no matter what type of movement we choose to express, and realize that having diversity in our art form makes this a richer, more vibrant medium of expression that is more rewarding for our students and ourselves?
Tomorrow’s post: Tuesday Tips…