Pole dancing to problematic music, do we separate the art from the artist?

CW & TW: racism, white supremacy, sexual assault and peadophilia.

There’s no denying that it’s a pretty awesome feeling when you discover an absolute barry banger of a song that you know will be cracking to pole dance to. It’s got everything, a filthy beat (if you’re into that sort of thing), sounds sexy as fuck and has a tempo which is perfect for dancing to. However, just as you’re about to add your new favourite song to your Pole Jams Spotify playlist, you discover that unfortunately, the artist behind said song is problematic as fuck.

As a fan of all things metal, this has happened to me a fair few times. Back in the day, one of my favourite bands was the infamous groove metal group Pantera. I loved pretty much every one of their songs and was chuffed to bits to discover just how many of their songs made for epic pole dancing tunes (I got into Pantera eight years before I began pole dancing). I have performed to Pantera in the past and had many a Pantera tune on my pole playlist. Sadly, their former front man Phil Anselmo fucked that up for me, and for many other Pantera loving pole dancers back in 2016, when he was filmed on stage at a gig giving a Nazi salute and shouting “white power” like prize cunt (more on Phil’s racist rants here).

In my continuous quest to educate myself about how prevalent racism is in society, I learnt that unfortunately, such gratuitous acts of racism were not a one off for Phil Anselmo, so despite his apologies (which I don’t believe are sincere, as these events were not isolated incidents) I have made the decision to remove all things Phil Anselmo related from my pole dance playlists.

Now, this for me was a very personal decision. I am well aware that Phil Anselmo was not the only member of Pantera, Down and various other Phil fronted outlets, and there are of course members of those bands who are not racist, but dancing to music featuring Phil just didn’t feel right to me anymore. Some may argue that this a bit of an extreme measure by me, but this is why I wanted to have this conversation. I have many lovely friends in the pole dance industry who are not racist people who have danced to Pantera, one of which made the very important statement which I want to explore in further detail;

Separating the art from the artist.

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.

As well as Phil Anselmo, in recent years there have been many other musicians who have had to be chopped off the old Pole dance playlist due to their problematic pasts. Off the top of my head, I can think of  Marilyn Manson, Michael Jackson, R Kelly, and Lost Prophets, yet out of that list, I believe only Ian Watkins from Lost Prophets is a convicted criminal (if you haven’t heard of Ian Watkins DO NOT google him, he is serving 30 years in prison for being a paedophile and that’s all you need to know). At present (please correct me if I am wrong), Marilyn Manson, Michael Jackson and R Kelly are heavily accused (and if you’re interested I think they’re guilty as fuck), but have not been convicted of any of these accusations. Be that as it may, I still do not feel comfortable dancing to any of their songs.

I would be extremely interested to know how the wider pole dance community feels about this. This sounds like a loaded question, but honestly how does everyone feel dancing to music who’s creators are problematic? Are there certain bands/artists we ought to just blacklist? Or do we separate the art from the artist and still dance to these songs?

Throughout this debate however, it’s important to always remember for those of us who do not experience racism not dance to any artists or musicians who have been called out for previous racist incidents. As white people, we categorically DO NOT get to declare something non-offensive or not racist when it is not something we experience, so let’s just not go there. There are many other badass musicians out there we can dance to instead.

Another point to add is the case of the other members of a band when one member has been problematic. In most cases, other band members are not guilty by association, and we shouldn’t end people’s careers when they haven’t done anything wrong. If we tar every person in a band with the same brush and end their careers over the behaviour of one of their band members, it could be argued that we are only adding to the problem caused  by their bandmate?

Furthermore, if a decision is made to not dance to problematic musicians, then when is it appropriate to draw the line? For example, we should obviously no longer dance to artists who have criminal convictions against them for sexual assault (ie Gary Glitter etc), but do we do the same for accused artists like Marilyn Manson and Michael Jackson. I guess what I am trying to say is at what part is the cancel culture valid and is there a point when it goes too far?

Personally, as mentioned previously, when it comes to dancing to, and sometimes even listening to problematic artists, I have gone with my gut instinct. I have tried dancing to Pantera and it just didn’t feel like the right thing to do. I have also tried listening to Michael Jackson, who used to be one of my all-time favourite musicians, but after the 2019 documentary again that also just didn’t feel right either. However I am well aware that basing what an entire industry should do on an issue as divisive as whether we should dance to “cancelled” artists  on my gut instinct is not an entirely reliable measuring system.

Ultimately, do you think we should dance to problematic musicians or is it time to give artists that fall into that category the boot? Please let me know your thoughts!

Disclosure: 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.

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