The pole-dancing fitness craze has hit my gym, planting one more stumbling block on the road to healthy body images for local women.
Learning to dance like strippers is just one more way women and girls succumb to the pressure to be sexually desirable. It is hard to
underestimate how powerful this pressure is in our society, and how tightly it pegs many girls’ and women’s self-esteem to their perceived sexiness. Girls record images of themselves stripteasing and send them to boys (who often broadcast them) just for “the validation of getting seen as sexy.” Writing in Jezebel, gender studies professor Hugo Schwyzer quotes experts on the phenomenon, who explain that teen girls “just want to be affirmed as hot.” (Tongue in cheek, The Huffington Post described a pole dancing doll — yes, really — as having “low self esteem.”)
Sadly the same is true for many adult women. They don’t exercise just to look and feel healthy; they want to look and feel sexy. So they learn to dance like strippers, whom men pay to be sexy. In one example of the connection between trying to look sexy and self-esteem, Rihanna found that “the more flesh she bared the more confident she became.” Kate Hudson has recommended pole-dancing to women “because it’s great for your self-esteem.”
I don’t dispute that pole-dancing could be a great workout, and I don’t think “women should be ashamed of their bodies or their sexuality.” The problem is when women consider their sexuality their most important asset: the sexier men think they are, the more valuable women believe they are. The pole-dancing trend reinforces this association. Exercise can be emotionally empowering, but not when it comes with the mental image of oneself slithering around the stage at a strip joint.