Here's why we need to acknowledge the real history of contemporary pole dance...
When researching the history of pole dance, we find this quote unquote “fact” all the time: back in the 12th Century, men started practicing Chinese Pole. 800 years ago, Mallakhamb emerged as a pole sport for Indian men, and now… TADA! We have Pole Dance! Errrr… no. That being said, this is not a video about the history of pole dance. I’ve already done that one (you can watch it here). But in case you haven’t seen it, spoiler alert, our contemporary pole community was created and pioneered by female strippers.
Here’s a little clip of a problematic History of Pole Dance timeline video that spread like wild fire around Facebook last year (see video).
Now, am I saying strippers were the first people to dance on a pole? No, of course not. But neither were Chinese Polers. Let’s be real, I’m fairly certain that someone managed to find a pole to dance on prior to the 12th century.
That being said, that’s not what is in question here. When we reference the history of pole dance, we are acknowledging the people who legitimately founded and built our community, and those people were not men in Chinese Pole or Mallakhamb.
I think my homegirl Annemarie Davies, founder of United Pole Artists, said it best in an interview on my Pole Parlour podcast last year (see video).
So, why is it a big deal when you deny the true history of pole dance and credit men outside our community? Who, brief aside, most likely know and care very little about our industry, just as we know or care very little about theirs. Well, the problem is that by doing so, you are participating in a whitewashing of our history, where you delegitimize the accomplishments of these pioneering women in order to fit a more socially acceptable mold—i.e. asexual and patriarchally approved. Basically, dishonestly trying to legitimize pole by denying it’s true roots in the strip clubs.
Another homegirl of mine, Toni “Misty” Mansell wrote a great article on this topic, which I will link to in the notes below, but here is a fantastic excerpt about this practice of new wave polers participating in historic whitewashing as a means to validate their own participation in pole dance (see video).
It comes down to an ingrained sociological belief system that women’s sexuality is a thing to be ashamed of, and morality is directly linked to how openly or prolifically a woman is sexual. So because the development of pole from sex workers is considered ‘shameful’, but people want to do it, they need to find a means of justification to ‘cleanse’ themselves morally and absolve themselves of any associations with ‘dirty’ women, lest they be painted with the same brush.
I’m going to argue, that if you aren’t able to support a woman unless she is deemed prudent, then perhaps pole dance isn’t for you. That being said, what I’d rather see happen is people open their minds and support and respect women of all backgrounds.
FACT: we are one the few female-dominated sports in the world, and our industry was created by some bad ass women. They worked against countless odds and broke down many barriers to create the industry as we know it today, where now we have the freedom to practice pole in its array of styles, be that sexy, athletic, artistic, etc. So stop trying to delegitimize that, and instead, let’s celebrate this impressive feat of social progress.
If you are interested in reading up more on this, I’ll place links to some additional articles in the notes below. And I hope this video helped you better understand and respect this topic, so we can stop perpetuating the bullshit story that men on rubber and wooden poles birthed our industry. Because the truth is, contemporary pole dance, now taught, practiced, and performed by an endlessly diverse array of women and men from around the globe, was still, in its genesis, founded by female strippers, and the only thing shameful about that is when you try to deny it.
Do you have more to contribute on this topic? Comment below, I’d love to hear more about your thoughts and experiences!