For the record, I am not posting this as a recommendation to take this class. I am posting it because it represents one of the many thousands of ways that our society’s attitudes towards sex and gender affect can affect our lives daily.
My husband likes to pole dance. He’s quite good at it, and thinks of it, rightly, as a physically demanding form of dance and exercise. When I picked him up from his first (and possibly last) formal class on the subject, I was amazed at the sheer athleticism of everyone involved. Afterwards, he told me that the instructor had almost not let him take the class but at the last minute changed her mind, and that at the end of class she had thanked him profusely for showing her that the right kind of guy can take a pole dancing class without being sleazy. I can attest to this fact, because she gave me a hug, as if I deserved some credit for his behavior.
Which brings me back to this LivingSocial deal: in tiny print, down at the bottom, it says “Valid for Women Only.” In the FAQs on their website they state, “…[T]here are never any men or observers in class…” following a comment on students (women) judging themselves. I don’t mean to come down harshly on this particular company, because I have found the same thing in multiple companies across the country. There is a whole string of gyms that cater to just women for the very same reason: working out around men makes some women uncomfortable. And apparently pole dancing, unlike yoga or any other type of dancing, makes women particularly uncomfortable due to the sexualized nature of the dance. This entire sentiment is what I have a problem with, in so many different ways:
1. Not allowing men into a pole dancing class is discriminatory and unfair, no matter how justified your intentions are.2. The fact that women have such terrible opinions of themselves that you have to not only keep men out of the room but ensure that there is “low lighting” in the classroom is just depressingly sad. Soon I will write a post about how awesome women are as a gender, and maybe someday somewhere it will make a female feel better about herself.
3. The fact that many men are sleazy is depressing. The fact that some of them are well-intentioned but come off sleazy is sad. This is a two-parter: men, you need to appreciate that there appropriate ways and places to ask a girl out and/or have sex on the brain, and in the gym or in the middle of a workout is not one of those places. Also, take no as an answer graciously. Women, we need to grow a backbone or get a little bit thicker skin when it comes to male attention and find ways to say no graciously. Life will be easier if all of us do our parts.
4. Specifically targeting pole dancing as a class that men are not allowed in to because of its sexualized nature only feeds into our overall sex-negative culture (see previous post). One, it’s exercise, no one is taking off any clothes in the techniques class. Two, some men want to dance sexy, too, it’s not the sole provenance of women. As a lady, I want to see more male pole dancers! But then, I find competent dancing in any arena sexy, pole dancing is no different. No one walks out of a yoga class if there is a dude there, and in my opinion, the poses you take in yoga classes are way more sexualized than working up a sweat pole dancing.
In short: come on, Seattle. You are better than this.