How not to be a feminist (apparently)

Limit #19 feminists shouldn’t pole dance

I was a bit afraid of pole dancing. Afraid that I would be completely useless at it, that it would be too difficult and I would tell myself I hated it so I didn’t have to admit how gutted I was that I couldn’t do it. I was afraid I would be the only fat person in the room, and the most unfit, undignified, un-everything else I could possibly think of.

Except un-feminist. Because, aside from actively adding to the oppression of women and minorities, I don’t believe that’s a Thing.

So I threw myself into it. Literally, for some moves. And it really shouldn’t surprise me by now that trying something scary ended up with me loving it.

Somehow pole class has the same effect as Thai boxing does; it makes me feel dangerous. In a world where I’m 3 to 4 times more likely  to be a victim of some form of assault, there’s a potency to feeling dangerous.  I wear it like armour.

That starts with the bruises.


They call them pole kisses, but this is not how I kiss.  These are battle scars and medals of honour in one. I fought gravity and friction and the doubting voices in my head, and I won. These stripes were earned.

When I get a move right I am pure muscle. I am light and stardust. I hold galaxies in my skin.


I collect skills like a trainer hunting pokemon; I love the new and unusual ones, but any and all are welcome.

I can write, I can bake, I can crochet, sing, salsa, play flute, run, calculate the volume of a cylinder, swing kettlebells, paint faces, sew, give a massage, doodle, audit a personnel file, belly dance, set up a pivot table in Excel, and on and on. And now I can move my body on a pole, in ways I never believed I was capable of.

We all know how gaining a new skill feels. It feels like this:

sit hand off
My first hand-off pole sit

It feels like joy and power and victory and strength in every way it’s possible to be strong.

I’m used to fitness skills that grow like plants; you can never see the change happening, but after a while you find you have a fully grown flower. But pole is like watching a time-lapse video. Three weeks ago I completely failed to do one pole deadlift, and this week I did five each side as a warm up.

I expected to walk, and found that I could fly. Give me a month and I still couldn’t explain how powerful and empowering that is.

Every class pushes my belief of what I can do.  I watch the demonstration of a move and silently scoff at the idea that my body could do such a thing, then I get on the pole and nine times out of ten I do the move. Maybe not well or as gracefully as I’d like, but I do it. If it doesn’t work the first time, I manage on my second try, or my third, or even my twentieth. I know I can keep trying.

I can’t wait for the day when I see a move and think “I can do that. Let me at it.”

So yes, I am a feminist and I will continue to learn how to pole dance.

My feminism allows and encourages anything and everything that adds to the freedom and empowerment of women. We’re free to wear make up or not, to be ‘girly’ or not, to wear heels or not, to deadlift our own body weight or not.

My feminism knows that I don’t exist in a vacuum, and everything I do is an action or reaction to the socialising I’ve received since the day I was born. I can see why some people would think feminists shouldn’t pole dance, I can see how it would be problematic. But after centuries of patriarchy and oppression and conditioning there’s really very little, if anything, that isn’t problematic.

So I choose to do it anyway. I didn’t reject society telling me what a woman should and should not do, just to let feminism tell me what a feminist should and should not do.

In doing so I’m proving that I am mighty; not to any man, or even to any woman except myself.

Just like running 10km, just like snatching 20kg kettlebells, just like studying STEM when I’ve only ever known arts, every time I go to pole class I prove to myself that I can do and be anything if I’m willing to put the work in. I’m not held back by my gender, or my size, or my introversion, or anything else that people might try to limit me with.

And that fits my feminism just fine.

Sweaty pole grin
My I-just-nailed-a-new-move face