Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Rape Culture and Pole Fitness

I don't usually talk about issues that are in depth as such as rape culture.  I've had friends in the pole community that have posted about this issue in the past and I've never really fully understood what it meant.  I knew the definition of rape culture but I've never really thought much of it and how I have experienced examples of this issue in my own life.  I have always just done my own thing, oblivious to anyone else's feelings about what I choose to do with my life unless it directly impacted me or those I share my life with directly.  I'm constantly immersed within a community of fellow pole dance enthusiasts that my sharing my progress and accomplishments via social media doesn't really register to me as offensive or something I should be concerned about.  We are all doing it in the pole community.  Social media has been the catalyst to our form of dance that has fueled its growth both artistically and to the masses of willing participants.  I often look to social media outlets for inspiration in my own practice.  It's just what we do. 

Yesterday, a long time friend privately messaged me voicing their concern for my sharing on my personal (non-pole) social media account.  I do have more than one social media account for this particular site.  One was for my family members and friends that are nonperformers and the other is from when I owned my pole and aerial fitness studio where I befriended fellow pole community members and former students. Prior to having a special account designated to my studio alter ego, I shared everything on my personal account. Lately, I have been sharing a bit more than I used to on my personal account.  I have everything linked to my personal account so it has just been easier to click the share button and it directly shares to that particular account.  Back to the message I received from a long time friend.  This person messaged me a story about someone they knew whose wife was sharing her fitness videos and was kidnapped, raped, and beaten by a husband of one of her friends.  Now, I appreciate my friend's concern or passive-aggressive way of telling me I'm over sharing my hobby and at one point my career choice.  It struck a chord in me deeply as I realized that this warning for my safety was exactly the type of situation that defines rape culture. 

Rape Culture: In feminist theory, rape culture is a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality. The sociology of rape culture is studied academically by feminists, but there is disagreement over what defines a rape culture and as to whether any given societies meet the criteria to be considered a rape culture. (Wikipedia definition, 2016).

Simply put, the fact that I am sharing videos and pictures of myself dancing or performing tricks on a pole is setting myself up to become a victim because pole dancing has sexualized origins that society perceives only as sexual in nature.  I am a woman who pole dances and I put it out there, therefore if I become a victim then it was my fault.  Unfortunately in 2016 this archaic way of thinking still exists.  I'm offended that anyone would feel the need to warn me of the dangers I am setting myself up for.  If anyone views my fitness journey as sexual, then that is their problem, not mine.  I am working out and engaging in a healthy lifestyle as I see fit.  I don't have the discipline to work out under traditional boring means.  I would never work out if going to the gym and using the treadmill or whatever it is people that go to the gym do using machines and staring at each other or listening to their ear buds do.  I dance because it is expressive, therapeutic, and fun.  I enjoy sharing my progress with my parents on my social media.  I was never athletic growing up, I like to think my Mom and Dad are proud that I have found something that is healthy for me and how strong I have become by learning how to lift myself up in the air when I never had any proper dance or gymnastics lessons as a kid.  I am surrounded by supportive people in my life that don't shame me for my passion.  I guess I have been very lucky to have such open minded people that would never try to tear me down by body shaming or gender shaming me because (insert sarcasm) I am a woman, therefore I am weak and susceptible to evil men who want to have their way with me. 

I don't feel like I should censor my lifestyle choices and who I am because someone out there in the world may be psychotic.  Have you watched the news lately?  It's full of stories of people acting out for far more littler things than someone's fitness videos online.  I can't be the scapegoat for someone else's actions.  I refuse to let fear drive me into a cave where I must consider my every move or else. Maybe its the eternal optimist within me but I refuse to let what others say or feel have any power over how I choose to live my life.  I can't read people's minds.  I don't know if something offends them and frankly, I really don't care. If you don't like what I do or post online then unfriend or block me.  I will not lose any sleep over it.  Stop thinking women can't take care of themselves because they are women.  Women are not a superior gender.  That is only a thought like the many thoughts that exist but are not substantial in any way.  I will not apologize for who I am, how I feel, how I act, or what I believe.  If it isn't your thing, then don't make it a part of your world.  Unfollow and move on. 

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