Celebrating Women’s Strength

2 07 2010

Whenever I least expect it, a little jab comes out of the air and hits my self esteem. This time it came in the form of a throwaway comment “Women with 6 packs will never be sexy.”

Prepare for a soapbox moment.

All my life I have been muscular because I do more sports than most people – ballet ruled my life up to my teens then synchronised swimming became my life up to my 21st, now pole dancing is something I cannot live without. Because of all this I have always been much more built than other people. And I have always had other people around me tell me it is a bad thing.

I can understand this mentality towards female bodybuilders – they do push their bodies to the absolute limit and end up looking a bit ridiculous. Their training regimes also leave a lot to be desired and I do not agree with the diets touted about, yet something inside me admires their dedication, self control and iron will that enables them to look like this. I, however, never ever want to do the same.

Another knock that came at an unexpected time was when I was over at my mate’s house and discovered she has a random chin up bar that was installed by the previous tenant. I immediately jumped on it and started doing chin ups just for fun. My friend just stood there and eventually said “That’s disgusting. Women shouldn’t be able to do pull ups and muscles do not appeal to men at all”. After the initial insult sting had subsided her comment really made me think, as it ties in with the pole dancing debate. Do women pole dance for the aesthetic pleasure of men or do they do it to celebrate their strength?

Personally, I do not do pole dancing to please men. If anything it is to please and impress women as I break out tricks they have (hopefully) never seen before and eventually earn their respect. It’s a parallel to the classic fashion statement – “Women do not dress for men. Women dress for other women. If women dressed for men we would walk around naked all the time.” I can’t remember who said it, but she got the point bang on. It’s the same with dance and fitness – I dance firstly in the hope that eventually I will impress myself and secondly to earn the respect of other women. Being told that “women shouldn’t be able to do pullups” is a massive knock on both myself and feminism – why shouldn’t we be able to? Women can be as physically fit and strong as men, and in some women’s cases much stronger. The thought that I will never be attractive to men because I have muscles does sting me a little, not because I believe it’s true but because a fellow woman, one of my friends, thinks that it is. That hurts more because it is all too reminiscent of the classic ‘damsel in distress’ scenario where men are expected to save us. I like to think that mentally and physically I am strong enough to save myself.

I feel extremely lucky to spend the majority of my time (outside of work anyway) in the company of strong women. Pole dancing is the one place I have felt at home, and this is because women’s strength is celebrated and encouraged. The stronger you are physically and mentally the more tricks you can do and the better you are as a performer. Never in pole dance classes have I been told that I am unattractive or made to feel like I am a waste of space. This is an extremely valuable rare feeling and I hope that pole dancing, despite all the controversy surrounding it’s origins, carries on giving that feeling to more women and encouraging them to be stronger individuals.

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