Pole dancing has become something of an obsession in today’s millennial culture. The sport has taken over the spare time of many a student, parent, man and woman. But can you pole dance and be a feminist? And how difficult is it really?
I chatted with the new president of the University of Birmingham’s Pole Society, Jade Fabian, to find out.
You’re the new president of the UoB Pole Society! Congratulations! What made you start pole and become so passionate about it?
I don’t remember why I wanted to start pole, to be honest. I imagine that I just thought that it was cool. The first time I went I was absolutely shocking, I still haven’t seen anyone that has been as bad as I was on their first go. It definitely didn’t come naturally to me, but I had paid for a 6-week course, so I was going to stick to it. It took me those six weeks to get the hang of the basic spins that several of my classmates could do on their first time. I was also one of the last (probably the last) in my class to invert. But pole is so addictive. It feels so good when you get a new move, especially is something you’ve been working on for ages. It is just addictive and that’s how I became so passionate about it. My Instagram timeline is full of more pole than it is people I know to be honest.
What (if any) problems have you encountered being on the committee for a (potentially) rather controversial society?
We haven’t really encountered any problems from a structure point of view. The guild (our SU) are always really supportive of the society and we’ve never had any issues with them (at least from while I’ve been at uni). They let us run classes and host showcases without a problem, they’ve also started posting about our accomplishments alongside other sports. The other day they posted on Facebook saying how we’d placed in competitions. As pole is also now recognised by the sport federation our current president has had a meeting with UoB Sport about becoming a sport rather than a society, but that is a very vague plan at the moment.
Where problems occur really is talking to students about it. For example, at the beginning of every academic year, there is a sports fair where each sport has a stall for people to come around and chat to the committee members in order to get a feel for the sport. This year we had a pole and demonstrations at the sports fair which was really great. It’s in spaces like this where we’ve had more challenges with people’s opinions. There was a fair amount of men saying “oh can I just come to watch *wink wink nudge nudge*” kind of thing. While that can be problematic, the committee has always taken it as an opportunity to educate people – while yes, there are strippers and pole can be about that and it can be exotic, it is also hard work and it is a sport no less than any other. At sports night there are also sometimes – though rarely – ‘rude’ comments about pole not being a sport, us just being sluts etc. You just have to brush these things off though.
What is your response to people who say that you can’t pole and be a feminist?
I’ve honestly never understood this point of view. I think it comes from that people see pole and assume that is synonymous with stripping, which people then assume is to please men *sigh*. Talk to anyone about pole and they will tell that this isn’t the case. They’ll tell you how it has brought them more confidence. It is kind of the opposite to that, it really teaches you to love yourself, regardless of what anyone else – including men – think. And that is kind of a central notion to feminism. Even if we are talking about exotic/heels pole, it has honestly brought me nothing but empowerment.
About a year ago, I was going through a really bad patch with my ex, and I honestly felt completely worthless. The relationship had got to a stage where I felt nothing I did was ever good enough. And that’s nothing on him, that just happens when relationships break down. But putting on my pleasers and going to pole reminded me that I am and always will be more than just someone’s girlfriend. I am capable of being sexy and fierce and confident regardless of what men (in that circumstance, one particular man) thought of me. I don’t see how in any one’s world that is anti-feminist.
Also 9/10 of the badass feminists I know I’ve met through pole, go figure.
You recently organised and hosted a regional championship – did you learn anything from this? (even if all it taught you was how stressful pole comps are!)
GOD, THAT COMPETITION. Alongside the ridiculous amount of uni work I had to do while organising that competition, it was honestly one of the most stressful things I have ever done. There is so much more to it than you initially think. I think we had 9 universities in the competition? 10 maybe? And even getting them to all reply to an email or sending us their music was an absolutely mammoth task.
Regardless of all of that though, organising it made me so ridiculously proud. I learnt a lot about what I was capable of. The night before the competition we had a committee meeting and I had written down all the things that needed doing during the competition and made sure everyone knew what job roles they had. If you would have told me a year ago that I was going to even talk at a meeting like that I wouldn’t have believed you – never mind running it. If we’re going to be cheesy about it, it also taught me a lot about teamwork. Sarah (our president) and Becky (next year’s VP and current kit sec) were absolute angels throughout the whole thing, and it was really important for us to be able to rely on each other to get things done, but also check in with each other and make sure that we were okay.
During one of the performances at the competition, I sat at the back and watched one girl’s routine, and honestly was in awe that we had actually pulled it off – the competition was running AND SMOOTHLY. Such a proud moment man.
What plans do you have for the society in the coming year?
This year we introduced heels and core classes, so more of the same! My friend Emily and I are going to start running flexibility classes as well so that’s really exciting. I also want to invest in some nice stretching stuff as well, like mats and blocks and stuff. Things that people don’t necessarily want to buy because they don’t know how to use! It’s not really until you start using extra little bits like that that you realise how useful they can be.
Honestly, I just want more of the same. This year we have had around 250 members or something like that, as well as non-members that come to classes.
Top 3 pole Instagrammers for those who are interested in starting out?
We have to start with Dan Rosen really don’t we? Not only is he phenomenal, his account is such a laugh with his ‘Dear Dans’. [a funny feature where he answers questions – TBB]
Bendy Kate is an absolute staple to the pole Instagram diet.
follow accounts like ‘poledancersofinstagram’ because they post a variety of stuff and you can find what you like yourself!
Also the hashtag #pd*insertwhatevermove* is super useful!
Finally – what is your dream pole move and why?
At the moment my pole goal is middle splits!