There are as many reasons why someone wants to pole dance as there are people who pole dance. One of the most common reasons, though, is the empowerment and ownership of one’s sexuality that comes with learning the art. However, there is much debate within the pole community of who is entitled to that empowerment and who we can credit for developing and refining the art of pole dance. One of the embodiments of this is how people describe their passion to others. “Pole fitness” is sometimes used to emphasize the athletic ability involved in pole. However, there is the connotation that “pole fitness” is somehow better or less taboo than “pole dance.” This us vs. them mentality divides the pole community into those who choose to be inclusive and those who do not. There is nothing wrong with emphasizing the fitness aspect of pole. However, the sense of superiority that accompanies the term “pole fitness” is undue and exclusive.
Another point of contention is stripping. Similar to the pole fitness sense of superiority, too often I have seen people discuss the pole passion while being quick to clarify, “I pole dance, but I am NOT a stripper. I would never be a stripper #NotAStripper.” These are often the same people arguing that pole comes from ancient Indian and Chinese arts, like mallakhamb. Mallakhamb is a traditional Indian sport that involves performing gymnastics on a wooden pole. Some cite this as the roots of pole dancing. The similarities, however, end at the presence of a pole. The pole is wooden, not stainless steel or chrome. The diameter of the pole is 10x that of a pole dancing pole. Mallakhamb is a team sport, not an individual sport. This is to say nothing of the completely different styles in mallakhamb and Chinese pole. It is clear that pole dancing originates from the hard work of strippers in the 20th century and not an Indian or Chinese sport from 700 years ago. Differentiating oneself from other styles or strippers is not an inclusive mindset and practice. As a community, we must give credit where it’s due and acknowledge everyone’s right to express themselves as a dancer without being belittled. We all deserve to have a community that accepts everyone without worrying about being shamed for choices.