Gender is such a tricky issue, it affects our relationships, our work environments, our love lives, it shapes and defines who we are. Navigating the ocean of femininity and masculinity is difficult enough on our own, without someone else assigning judgement to ones own view of gender. It made me wonder, just how does gender fit in within the pole dancing community and in pole dancing classes specifically?
This topic is one that is near and dear to me and as I started this post I realized there was no way that I could complete it without reaching out to some of my students and instructors to give their journey a voice as well. Therefore this entry is one of 3 that will come out over the next 3 days exploring Gender, Men & The Art Of Pole.
Being an African-American, female studio owner in her 40's, who hovers anywhere from a size 10-12, it was very important to me that my studio was welcoming and inclusive of all ages, shapes & sizes. I like to think of myself as that open, artsy, liberal type with friends that run the gamut whether it be sexual orientation, class, age, race, religion etc. I wanted, no, I needed a studio that represented all of these differences, hell our tag line is one studio, with no judgments, where everyone and every “body” can come together to work out and have fun while doing it. I was extremely proud of the fact that all of our classes were co-ed, well all except for pole. I saw nothing wrong with excluding men from the pole classes and it was never really an issue - until it was.
We had only been open for a few months and started to receive a few calls from men regarding pole classes. While I was adamant about creating a "safe space" for females to explore their sensuality and pole, it never really occurred to me that maybe men would benefit from the same consideration so I cheerfully brushed the calls off with "Sorry our pole classes are female only but all of our other classes are coed!". After a while that statement started to leave a bitter taste in my mouth. And then it got really confusing.
My husband and co-studio owner called me one day and said "We have a young lady who is a pre op transsexual in the middle of transitioning that would like to take pole. I told her I would speak to you regarding classes and get back to her. I think she should be able to." Boy, I did not see this coming. It really made me take a hard look at gender equality in classes and honestly I was torn. The liberal Gemini in me thought "Hell yes come take class!" The not so liberal Gemini thought "but if you don't allow men in class isn't this the same and won't the students feel uncomfortable?" I spoke with my husband and he said "Maybe it's just you who is uncomfortable, why not ask the students and instructor?" So I did.
Everyone was extremely supportive of her and at that point it hit me, one studio, with no judgments, where everyone and every “body” can come together shouldn't just refer to size, or age, it really needed to refer to gender as well. From that point on we went completely coed. Has it being tricky at times - sure. Do we deal with issues of finding a happy medium and balance for all of the students in class - yup. Are there some students that it may not work for - I'm sure there are. Do men have just as many issues exploring their sexuality in class - maybe more so as it is so unembraced and unexpected of them within our society. Do I regret having all coed classes - nope, and I wouldn't turn back! I have learned so much from our male and female students. I truly believe by working together we gain a better respect for each others struggles and emotions. I would like to think that by bridging the gap in pole class and helping to empower men explore their journey we are empowering our own as well.
"I've taught male polers of all ages, ethnicities, shapes, sizes and orientations. Contrary to what people may think, it takes a man very secure in who he is to embark on the rewarding adventure that is pole fitness. Pole can be what you make it: sporty, sexy, athletic, flexy... It's all a self-expression. " Veronika Pole - pole dancer & instructor
This post is my entry for the “Pole Dancing Bloggers Association” Feb Blog Hop on Pole Dancing & Men
Click here to enter your link and view all the additional Pole Dance Blogs in the Hop…
*** And just because - here are 2 of my favorite pole dancing videos which happen to be by men. The first is by Ibrahim Tunic and I love it because it challenges what we think of Pole Dancing and the 2nd is Steven Retchless who is just pure hotness to watch and always challenges the norm!