The Muleskinner
The Latest at UCM
Chick-fil-A robbers still at large
by Leah Wankum Managing Editor Chick-fil-A in the Elliott...
COMIC: ‘Campus Stories’ by Britton Black
Stay cool, stay classy
by Shelby Bilbruck Columnist As soon as finals are...
Student lived above reproach: Dylan Austin, who died in a skateboarding accident, is fondly remembered at UCM
by Leah Wankum Managing Editor A UCM student died...
Spring ball: Q&A with Mules football
by Brendan Wade Reporter Mules football began the first...
‘Spring Awakening’ review (COMMENTARY)
by Erica Nowlin Columnist Last week, the UCM Department...
One punch at a time, student fights his way to Rio
by Steven Spears News Editor Eddy Guillen hadn’t even...
Outdoorswomen: Top-ranked Jennies track and field goes for gold at MIAA conference meet
by Alex Agueros Sports Editor Jennies track and field...
A response to The Student Freedom of Association Act
by Derek Pritchett and Jeffrey May Guest Columnists Periodically...
Faces of UCM: Kyra Woods
by Bethany Sherrow Reporter Kyra Woods advises everyone to...
Name card pick-up
Undergraduate students graduating on Friday, May 8 or Saturday,...
Comedy and improv club coming this fall
UCM students are preparing to start a new comedy...
UCM track and field throwers measure success differently
by Alex Agueros Sports Editor How do you measure the...
COMIC: ‘Campus Stories’ by Britton Black
Bills to allow religious student groups to restrict membership
by Leah Wankum Managing Editor State legislation being debated...
UCM FSL celebrates Greek Week
by Alex Agueros and Jacque Flanagan Muleskinner Staff It...
‘Spring Awakening’
by Paul Joyner Photo Editor The UCM Department of...
Mules baseball clean on senior day
by Tristan McClelland Reporter The Mules did it again,...
Bike of birds
by Andrea Lopez Features Editor Birds, bikes and babies....
UCM hosts sexual assault awareness fair
The Office of Mentoring, Advocacy and Peer Support is...
Give a gift with purchase: Pay it forward
by Shelby Bilbruck Columnist When you purchase clothes, you...
Faces of UCM: Preston Billingsley
by Bethany Sherrow Reporter “Treat everybody with respect –...
KC Chiefs mascot speaks to FCA
KC Wolf, the Kansas City Chiefs mascot, will speak...
Lights, camera action: Films promote social change
by Erica Nowlin Reporter The UCM College of Arts,...
COMIC: ‘Campus Stories’ by Britton Black
Students build houses for spring break
by Shelby Bilbruck Reporter While most students spent their...
‘Spring Awakening’: A tale of teenage discovery
Rock musical tackles issues of sexuality and ignorance by...
Golf competes for conference in Kansas
MULES by Brendan Wade Reporter The University of Central...
57 to 0: The true nature of sexual assault at UCM
by Mathew Martinez and Lacy Hembree Guest Columnists 57...
Need something to eat?
There are nearly 805 million people hungry around the...
The most interesting man in Warrensburg
by Andrea Lopez Features Editor He floated on an...
Four-year plan: Madison Smith
by Tremayne Fisher Reporter Madison Smith is a four-year...
Your perfect purse
by Shelby Bilbruck Columnist Purses aren’t just an accessory...
Faces of UCM: Jordan Page
by Bethany Sherrow Reporter Jordan Page has a piece...
Earth Day 365
In celebration of Earth Service Day, volunteers will work...

by Erica Nowlin
Columnist

Editor’s note: The print version of this story in the April 2 issue credited to the wrong author.

Many of us automatically associate pole dancing with stripping. We often look at pole dancing as highly sexualized, highly degrading and, therefore, highly criticized. “Those women should have more respect for themselves and their bodies,” we say. But is there another side to this story? What if I told you pole dancing could actually be a positive thing? A confidence-booster, even?

pole dancing

PHOTOS BY ANDREA LOPEZ / FEATURES EDITOR

I was given the opportunity to rethink my ideas about pole dancing when I attended Spotlight’s pole dancing event Wednesday, March 25 at The Stiletto Gym in Lee’s Summit, Mo. As a reporter, I did not participate. However, I observed how the class was run, how the girls interacted with each other and how the overall experience seemed to affect them as individuals. I was actually pleasantly surprised.

As a strong feminist, I would never have advocated pole dancing before. I always considered pole dancing to be degrading to women and thought that the women who chose to pole dance were probably doing it for the wrong reasons, and that they were basing their value as individuals on the “sexiness” of their bodies. And in the world of strip clubs, this is perhaps the case. However, there seem to be many misconceptions surrounding pole dancing and what it actually is.

What is pole dancing, really? 

Modern pole dancing is a combination of dance, acrobatics and fitness training, according to the International Pole Dance Fitness Association. Pole dancing in this context is synonymous with pole fitness. Carla Mock, owner of Fabulous in Mind & Body Yoga and Wellness Center and The Stiletto Gym, said pole dancing is a form of exercise that challenges you mentally, physically and emotionally.

There are even pole dancing competitions in which men and women can showcase their poling abilities. These pole dancers consider themselves trained performers and athletes, and for good reason. The kinds of tricks that they do require an extreme amount of strength and endurance. The most interesting aspect of poling competitions is that competitors are actually penalized for trying to be sexy during their routines. This shows that pole dancing is not about dancing provocatively but rather displaying physical strength and ability.

Where does pole dancing come from? 

pole dancingModern pole dancing has been influenced by many cultures. Chinese pole, which dates back to about the 12th century, is an acrobatic circus performance that focuses on physical tricks, including climbing, sliding, spinning and holding difficult positions, according to IPDFA. Indian pole, also known as pole mallakhamb, is a form of strength training originally intended for wrestlers. This tradition is used to develop strength, speed and coordination.

In several cultures, pole dancing is symbolic of femininity and fertility. Some believe that modern pole is influenced by traditional African tribal dances, during which women danced around a wooden pole for the men they intended to marry.

Pole dancing did not become popular in the United States, however, until the Great Depression. Women in traveling circuses would dance around the tent poles as a way of entertaining the restless crowds. These women quickly became known as “hoochie-coochie” dancers, and it was at this point that pole dancing as we know it became more about sex appeal than physical strength and ability.

So what are some common myths about pole dancing?

  1. A pole dancer is the same thing as a stripper. No. Sure, there are strippers who are also pole dancers or who pole dance as part of their acts. However, not all women who participate in pole dancing are strippers. Similar to gymnastics, pole dancing is a form of exercise that requires extreme strength and flexibility. Mock said pole dancing has come a long way from the strip club.

“If you come into a class, you soon realize that it is a legitimate form of fitness,” she said. “Pole is a great way to get into shape.”

  1. Pole dancers only do it to be sexy. Again, this is not always true. Pole dancing can be a fun and sexy way to exercise. However, it is not purely about sex appeal and it is certainly not about exploiting one’s body. As mentioned before, dancing provocatively in poling competitions is penalized and results in a lower overall score.
  2. Pole dancing is degrading to women and has a negative impact on their self-image. This is one that I still personally struggle with. However, Mock said pole dancing has a positive impact on women.

“I am a licensed professional counselor and have a degree from UCM in psychology and a master’s degree in counseling psychology, so I believe I know something about body image,” Mock said.

She said that women who come through her class are actually transformed by the experience.

“I see ladies having low body image and self-confidence walking into the studio, and soon after starting classes, I can see both beginning to improve.”

  1. Only women pole dance. If we consider Chinese and Indian Pole, we know this is not true. Although men are often drawn to the strength and skill training aspects of poling, they are more than welcome to participate. The Stiletto Gym offers coed classes that involve mostly pole tricks.

How did I feel about my experience at The Stiletto Gym?

pole dancingFirst walking into the studio was a little daunting. The lights were dimmed, and there were probably a dozen poles scattered around the room, mounted to the floor and ceiling. The UCM students who attended the event—all of them young women—seemed a little nervous but also excited about the experience.

As the class began, Mock explained the misconceptions surrounding pole dancing and reminded the women that poling is a perfectly legitimate way of staying in shape. Mock taught the girls a simple routine that included some basic tricks.

The girls who attended the event were of all different shapes and sizes and appeared to thrive in such a positive environment. The girls were incredibly encouraging to each other—something that Mock said she emphasizes in all of her classes.

I still do not know how I feel about pole dancing, but going to this event has definitely given me a different perspective. I was surprised that something I once thought was so hypersexualized and degrading could actually be positive and uplifting.

For more information about pole fitness, contact The Stiletto Gym at 816-256-5040 or visit thestilettogym.com. For more information about pole dancing, check out ipdfa.com.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: