When I was young, there were radicals who argued that women should be regarded as the intellectual equals of men--that regarding women as sexual objects was degrading and wrong. Maybe I grew up in a "weird" home, but this didn't seem terribly radical to me. I had always understood that women were different, but different didn't mean inferior--just different. Part of this liberating radicalism was the idea that strip clubs, pornography, and the like, by objectifying women, were reducing women to an inferior status.
You could argue that the traditional approach of American society, which put women on a pedestal, claiming that they were too pure to be part of a man's world, was an excuse for keeping women in a lower station, not a higher one. But at least on the pedestal, they weren't being degraded.
You doubtless know what pole dancing is--an "art form" that you will see in strip clubs and such. I was utterly startled when my wife told me that she had heard advertising for a fitness club that teaches pole dancing--in Boise. And sure enough, it's true. From the December 18, 2008 Boise Weekly (one of the alternative weeklies):
For thousands of years, Chinese acrobats have awed and amazed as they perform spins, lifts, holds and inversions on vertical poles, showing off their strength, flexibility and concentration. But when a Western woman performs some of the same moves, the connotation suddenly becomes one of sex, conjuring images of clubs with low lighting.Yeah, yeah, I'm sure that it really does strengthen all sorts of muscles. But pretending that something that is so intimately tied with sexual exploitation of women is "empowering" is rather like reading feminists defending Islamic clothing rules as liberating women from being ogled by men.
But women are taking control and taking pole dancing out of the clubs thanks to pole dance fitness classes where strength, grace and flexibility are stressed, rather than the inherent sensuality.
"Some people see it as demeaning or degrading," said Allison Holley, a Boise-based pole dance instructor. "But I see the opposite in class. It's empowering."
Holley is one of a handful of instructors in the Treasure Valley to bring what has quickly become a national trend to the Gem State. Holley began teaching classes early last summer, and since then, her classes and workshops have quickly filled with the eager and the curious.
"If you even whisper 'pole dancing,' they will come," Holley said of the response to the classes.