Please find below my response to an experience that is unfortunately quite common for pole dancers like myself. The details are specific to my most recent “Regina George”, but after a number of years of being deeply in love with this sport, the mean girls all tend to blend together.
Dear “Regina George”,
The other day you called me out for being “just a stripper”. I was offended, but not for the reasons you think.
A few questions for context, if you please:
Who are you to limit me, exactly?
Who are you to paint me in such a reductionist manner?
Why do I need/deserve to be diminished?
I wish I could say that “Just” and I don’t know each other that well, but the reality is that I am intimately acquainted with it and the way it is used to negate people and their opinions/experiences. I bet you are too, which is why it rolled so naturally off your tongue.
“Just a secretary”
“Just a kid”
I use “just” too. I use it about things that I’m afraid of. I hear a noise in the night and think, that’s ok, it’s “just” the fridge. I hear my small child’s laboured breathing and I think, I’m pretty sure it’s “just” a cold (please god let it not be another round of pneumonia, or an asthma flare, he’s all I have in this world).
“Just” makes things that are overwhelming less scary. I’m not scary. I make happy faces on my kid’s sandwich baggies when I send him to school. Your biggest risk in being in my circle is getting hit by an errant pompom when I’m celebrating your success exuberantly. You don’t know that because you don’t know me (paraphrased from every episode of Jerry Springer I ever watched when home sick with the flu).
“A Stripper” (not that you called me one, but that you said it like that’s the worst thing in the world or something)
A couple more questions, if you please:
If I were in fact a stripper (which I’m not), why would I be “just” a stripper?
Why would my profession (no matter how distasteful it may be to you) usurp my status as a person? A mother? A girlfriend? A friend? A daughter? A woman? A sister?
I’m a pole dance instructor with a focus on fitness. Not all strippers pole dance and not all pole dancers strip. Calling me a stripper isn’t an insult; it’s just not who I am. It’s like calling me Monica. It’s a lovely name, there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just not my name. I don’t have a problem with women who choose to be in the exotic industry. That’s their choice and their business and how they live their lives is none of mine (or yours).
I don’t know much about stripping. What I do know is that it takes more courage to be naked and vulnerable in front of a group of people than it does to take pot shots at someone who you don’t know,who you have never even met, and who has never done anything to you. What I do takes courage too.
You see, I’m a writer and that means I’m naked a lot (emotionally). I bare myself in my words twice a week (sometimes more often if I’m particularly prolific. Just call me a literary nudist). I’m painfully unclothed when I blog in an effort to generate discussion and help other women who struggle with the same things feel like they aren’t alone (do you feel alone?).
The truth is, I’m a bit socially awkward, painfully shy and I’m a people pleaser. That’s probably why your words hurt me so much. Everybody wants to be liked or at minimum respected, and I’m a person too.
Peace be with you,
(Data analyst, single mom of one beautiful boy, pole dance instructor, writer, person who puts her pants on one leg at a time “just” like everyone else)
Before I wrote this post, I thought about John Galecki’s words about why he hasn’t spoken out about rumors around him being homosexual. He said ‘I’ve never really addressed those rumors because I figured, ‘Why defend yourself against something that is not offensive’. Usually I just smile and say “I’m really flattered you think I’m pretty enough for that to be a viable career option. I think you’re really pretty too!”. Sticks and stones, lady. We normally don’t braid each other’s hair at that point.
This was also written to speak to a rift I have observed within the pole dance community. Camp ‘Sexy” and Camp ‘Fitness’ can coexist peacefully. Let’s not allow ourselves to be divided against each other like parents in an acrimonious divorce. Let’s be a family instead and lose the us and them attitude, because it serves nobody. When it comes down to it, we are all ladies who rock cute shoes and like to dance.
Alison Tedford is a single mom from Abbotsford, BC. She documents her adventures in fitness, feminism and parenting on http://www.sparklyshoesandsweatdrops.com