Besides 2016 being a complete shit hole for the rest of the world, it was actually a great year for my personal growth. I kept up with pole dancing, I advanced and learned so much at my job, and I started seeing a therapist, who I love. Looking back over 2016, I'm very surprised at how much pole dancing has affected my life. It gets to you little by little until you look back and realize that you're a different person. So I'd like to write about why I love it so much, talk about some of the challenges I face, and end with a few comments on feminism.
Why I Love Pole Dancing
I've always been interested in learning how to dance but my parents couldn't afford classes when I was young. Instead, I spent nights longingly watching So You Think You Can Dance. Now that I'm a pole dancer, I feel like I'm finally part of the dancing community! I still have lots to learn because I obviously don't do traditional dancing but I love being able to move to music and make it look pretty.
And it's honestly one of the funnest workouts I've ever done. I played soccer for six years in elementary/middle school which is how I stayed in shape for most of my life. Then in high school my metabolism was so fast that I stayed skinny without doing much. That lasted a couple of years in college too until I became a Resident Assistant. At that point, I stopped getting enough sleep, I felt stressed all the time, and I ate out a lot. My metabolism went straight down the drain. But I still didn't gain that much noticeable weight until I entered the job force after college. With an 8 hour desk job, I quickly gained weight that you could see. I knew I had to find some way to work out again. So when one of my friends told me that she went to a couple pole dancing classes I was like "Sign me up!" I think I started a week after she told me about it and I haven't stopped since.
Now I'm the strongest that I've ever been and I'm getting stronger every week. I love flexing my muscles and looking at my strong back. I'm still not as skinny as I used to be but I'm much more comfortable with the fact that I have a curvier body than I did growing up. I think it's just going to be how my body is and I want it to stay like that. Now you might be thinking that I don't look curvy at all in these pictures but compared to how I used to look there's a big difference and I also know how to make myself look great in pictures (it is definitely a useful skill that anyone can learn).
One of the challenges I face is who to tell about pole dancing. Since there's still a still a stigma some people don't understand what pole dancing actually involves and that you can choose your sexiness level. On social media I've mostly stuck with my public pole dancing account on Instagram to show off my photos and videos. I've posted a few things on my private Instagram account where most of my followers are friends from high school and they are very understanding. But I haven't posted anything on Facebook since that's where all the family is...bleh. I think I would get mixed comments if I posted on Facebook and I mostly just don't want to deal with it. And I go back and forth with how much I really care about Facebook at this point. My mom did call me one day after looking at my Instagram profile and told me that I shouldn't be posting pictures with my legs spread open (the pictures was of a wrist sit). She's never been comfortable with anything remotely sexual so I wasn't surprised, but it did hurt me a little. Imagine if she saw my public profile haha! I think I make it harder on myself too because I assume that people aren't going to understand and I hate explaining things like that and so I tend to avoid it. Maybe most people wouldn't care and I'm over thinking it.
My body image has improved greatly since I've started pole dancing but that doesn't mean I don't have bad days. I still have those moments where I wish all my extra fat would disappear. Self esteem is a constant battle and I have to keep reminding myself that I look amazing. It also nice to remind myself of the things I really like about my body. For example, I'm not crazy about how my stomach looks in some photos and videos that I take of myself but I typically love how my legs look. So I try to concentrate on those!
I'm a modern feminist, reader of Lean In, listener of Stuff Mom Never Told You, admirer of Emma Watson, etc. I fight for equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal pay for all! Well not so much fighting as I probably should, but I try. And I just want to say that pole dancing is so feminist! I don't agree that pole dancing sexualizes women. Even if it may have started for that purpose, it doesn't mean that a woman is sexualized just because she is being sexual. Some other types of feminists want nothing to do with anything that remotely hints at sexuality but if you want to be sexual and raunchy then go for it! I think we need to stop nitpicking at women's' hobbies and focus on the important stuff like Trump's so called "locker room talk."
As a feminist who wants all genders to be equal, I'd also like to throw out there that I wish pole dancing advertised to everyone. The studio I go to is a "Girls Only Club" which I understand where that comes from but I feel like we're moving towards a more inclusive society of more than two genders. I want to stop marking every man as a potential creep and make men more responsible for their actions. My boyfriend would love to attend a class but feels very uncomfortable going because he doesn't feel like he'd really be accepted as a straight man interested in pole dancing. He also has body image issues just like everyone else. We're all in the same boat so lets work together instead of separating by some stupid category!
All in all, I love pole dancing and the pole community and I'm so glad that it is a part of my life!
If anyone has any comments or suggestions about anything here please feel free to reach out to me! And you can follow me on Instagram if you'd like to see more pole photos and videos @kristen_marina.