(This blog was written by our awesome student contributor, Tash Gillezeau).
Women are told explicitly and implicitly to reduce their magic in so many ways. There are many false dichotomies telling women they can be this or that – sexy OR smart, athletic OR into fashion, hot OR a nerd… but not both.
It’s a new year, so let’s make a promise to one another at Sydney Pole – in 2018, there will be no making ourselves smaller. There will be no reducing yourself to a 2-dimensional trope because society doesn’t allow for the full, wonderful complexity of women, LGBTQIA+ folk and non-binary people to emerge. We are not just this OR that, but this AND that, or sometimes neither. Or one… but not the other.
Like I said, we’re not simple.
Growing up, I subliminally caught onto the idea that I was meant to reduce myself to one aspect. I had difficulty allowing myself to feel or look sexy because I saw my identity as predominantly academic, and didn’t feel like I could be both.
Speaking to my Southeast Asian friends, I found when racism is compounded with sexism, it can lead to a “what type of Asian are you?” question. Asian women can feel faced with two ridiculously limited choices: to be a ‘sexy’ Asian (highly exoticised) or a ‘nerdy’ Asian (almost de-sexualised entirely). But people are not mute, secondary characters written by some problematic Hollywood dude, and you shouldn’t feel you have to conform to a ‘type’ rather than just being who you really are.
Pole dancing combines much of what can make us feel powerful with little regard for limiting binaries. Because of its origins in sex work and strip club culture, pole can be unabashedly sexy*. Doing pole regularly also makes you stronger, and learning new moves requires discipline. You can even workout in lingerie and heels.
Basically, you can be strong, smart and sexy at the same time; being one doesn’t negate or diminish another.
"CARDI B GETS IT."
Whilst this is something I’ve experienced inside the supportive environment of Sydney Pole, society still harbours sexism. I see a lot of anger projected onto women who excel in more than one area. People have no problem calling Kim Kardashian ‘dumb’ even when her business acumen suggests otherwise. But if you’re an attractive, successful man, there’s rarely a penalty or suggestion of bad character. James Franco or Leonardo DiCaprio can excel in different ways and be applauded, whereas women from Hillary Clinton to fitness entrepreneur Kayla Itsines are regarded with suspicion and scrutiny. Sexism teaches women to minimise their success, and that any successes need to look like a cute accident or random blessing rather than the result of ambition, talent and hard work.
“THE HATE AIN’T GONNA STOP KIM K FROM DOING HER THING”
The game is impossible to win, because it isn’t a game designed by women for women. Many women harbour internalised misogyny in this game, judging women for being “too made up” or flaunting it for the camera. In this mode of thinking, expressions of confidence or self-love are mistaken for a lack of depth, but we need to see this story for what it is – a myth designed to make women hate themselves and each other so they don’t realise their full potential. Instead, we must reinvent the game and support one another to become the fully flourishing people we are meant to be. You can get that hoe pic, and give to charity. You can workout in lingerie, and work in a law firm. Respect the glow up when it feels great, but certainly don’t worry about looking perfect all the time.
In 2018, I hope we can reclaim our complexity and never feel that we have to ‘choose’ one thing to be. Don’t erase your edges – enhance them.
*If you are doing pole recreationally, please remember and respect its roots. Play a role in smashing the stigma surrounding sex work, not perpetuating it.