The “pole fitness shoe” catastrophe and Why we must not forget where our pole dance hobby came from

Good morning and welcome to the latest installment of fuckery in the pole dance industry. Just when we thought 2020 couldn’t possibly get any crazier, some stripper and sex worker cancelling bullshit goes down, and I for one am not happy about it.

To bring you all up to speed, the well-known stripper shoe maker Pleasers Shoes “released a curated catalogue for their pole fitness clientele to make things easier for studio owners to be able to select styles to carry in their studios” (Pleasers’ words, not mine). This curated catalog, because it was the newest release, appeared front and center of Pleasers’ website, as we can see from the screenshot below.

This rightfully caused strippers and sex workers to be very fucking annoyed. Head on over to @novacainedances_llc on Instagram for a full breakdown of what happened and check out Anne Marie Davies blog post about how this incident has deeply hurt the stripper and sex worker community. As a result of the public outcry, Pleasers were receptive to the many social media and email call outs and have since removed the “pole fitness shoe” collection from their website. Now, whilst this is a positive step in the right direction for Pleasers, they still have several vital issues to address, such as a lack of BIPOC and plus size models on their website and ultimately, not championing the strippers and sex workers who made their brand what it is today.

Now, as you can imagine, this whole fiasco has got my goat and has inspired me to have a good old fashioned rant. So strap yourselves in and grab a cuppa, as this could turn into a long one people.

First, what on earth is a fucking “pole fitness” shoe? As well as being a pole dancer, I have also undertaken a fair few fitness classes and activities in my time such as Zumba, strength and conditioning classes, bootcamps etc, and I can confidently confirm that I could not partake in even one of those fitness classes in a pair of Pleasers and if anyone can, I will eat my ten inch boots! Therefore, I’m going to bellow this as loudly and proudly as I can for all to hear;

They are STRIPPER shoes!

I have made it vehemently clear on this blog several times that I am one thousand percent pro- strippers and sex workers of all races and genders across the world. In the interest of full disclosure I ought to state that I am not a stripper (I lack the sex appeal, dancing ability, social skills and like to be in bed by 12am on the weekends these days, so I think baring all this in mind I would make approximately 50p in the strip club) but I have the utmost respect for all strippers everywhere.

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

I did not become aware of pole dance through gymnastics, ballet, the circus or Mallakhamb. As awesome as these disciplines are in their own right, they are not what introduced me to the glorious art of pole dancing. I became aware of pole dancing at the tender age of 11, watching strippers strut their stuff in the video for Dr Dre’s absolute banger The Next Episode. Most importantly, we must acknowledge that I became aware of pole dancing as a direct result of BIPOC strippers, and if we are going to be honest, I’m 99% certain that it was BIPOC strippers who opened the eyes of nearly all pole dancers to our beloved hobby. So naturally, a failure by Pleasers to showcase and put at the forefront of their brand the very people who have made it what it is today, BIPOC strippers and sex workers, didn’t sit right with me.

Although I am not a dancer who oozes sex appeal like a boss, I have learned a shitload as a direct result of strippers and have so much to thank them for. I have been taught by both current and former strippers in workshops over the years, and I cannot thank them enough for what they taught me about myself. The confidence and self-love I gained as a result of even attempting to dance sexily is all thanks to strippers, no contest. I wouldn’t be dancing in an erotic style or even know that part of my personality even existed if it wasn’t for strippers. Learning how to dance erotically in front of an audience I will forever count as one of my most life defining moments. Whenever I have a nerve wracking situation coming up, I always tell myself that I survived the nerves of performing for the first time on stage solo, so I can survive whatever else life throws at me. I have strippers and stripper culture to thank for that.

If you’ve read the above and thought, “you know what, fucking same girl” then you need to join me in playing our part to stop the erasing of strippers and sex workers. It is not right for us to appropriate stripper aesthetic and not be there for them right now when they need us the most. Instagram is going on a shadow banning frenzy at the moment and is straight up fucking with the accounts of many strippers and sex workers, especially members of the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+ and non-abled communities, which is bullshit. Also thanks to the pandemic, strippers have been unable to work in the clubs and have been left in the dark when it comes to financial support too.

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

As pole dancers, there are many things we can do to help as well as the many ways listed in Anne Marie Davies blog post. Firstly, we can seek out strippers to learn from. This is even easier in the current climate, as several strippers are running online classes and workshops, so you can join from anywhere in the world. My advice is to seek out your favourite strippers and see if they’re running any online workshops or classes during lockdown. If they’re not, you could always message them and ask for a private lesson too.

In addition to dance classes, it’s important to tip strippers and sex workers for their knowledge and emotional labour. Novacaine, Bammrose, Jordan Kensley and Ava Hennessy have all been putting in an awful lot of work and emotional labour to keep us all up to speed on the Pleasers saga and other ways that strippers and sex workers are being unfairly discriminated against, such as the horseshit that is the FOSTA/SESTA bills. Their profiles list how you can tip them via various channels, so do get on it.

Another way we can support strippers and sex workers is obviously to buy from stripper and sex worker owned businesses. Now, this is something I need to get off my arse and do my research on , but if anyone can recommend any stripper and sex worker owned businesses please drop them in the comments!

Also, the awesome organization that is Pole World Festival are hosting a panel discussion this very Sunday (22nd November) as part of their Diversity and Inclusion in the Pole Industry series on the appropriation of stripping. This seminar will be taking place at 12:45pm UK time and I urge any pole dancers to tune in, so that we can learn how to respect and honour stripper culture as opposed to straight up ripping it off.

Last  but by no means least, drop Pleasers a message. Tell them to support the strippers and sex workers who have built their brand and made it what it is today and to diversify the fuck out of their brand, as so far it’s whiter than the Milky Bar kid.

Anyway, that’s my brain dump on the whole situation. We HAVE to do better to support or stripper sisters. The hashtag #notastripper can get in the bin. Strippers invented our fucking hobby and we have to step up to the mark when they need us, not try and gentrify pole dance and distance ourselves from our foremothers. Period.

X-POLEDisclosure: The link above is an affiliate link, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s