Thursday, March 24, 2011

Christian Pole Dancing: Where's the controversy?

WARNING:  The following post blends theology and feminism, and is not recommended for people who are offended by either, or by any combination of the two.

Also, we're going to be talking about pole dancing the whole time, so if that bothers you, might want to just check out now.  Click here for more wholesome fun.

Okay, now that the prudes are out of here, let's talk about the newest moral outrage cluttering up my Facebook feed:  Christian pole dancing.

I woke up to multiple status updates that read, "ZOMW!  There's a Christian pole dancing group!  Change your profile pic to a cartoon and forward this to 50 friends, or Bill Gates will eat your hard drive!"  Or something like that.  Poorly-researched status updates tend to run together for me.

Nevertheless, at first, I was properly incensed.  A Christian pole dance group?  That sounds terrible!  Do they strip around a crucifix?  Is there Michael W. Smith music involved?  That would be visibly and aurally offensive.

Then, because I'm generally not an impulsive moron, I researched into it a little, and found the original news story.  After reading the story and watching the video, I have no problem with it.  It turns out, a self-proclaimed Christian woman who runs a dance studio in Texas is offering "Pole Dancing for Jesus" classes.  Women are encouraged to come in after church on Sunday (bringing in that day's church bulletin for admission), and are led in a pole dancing work-out to upbeat Christian music.  None of the dance moves taught are salacious or sexual, just genuine toning and strengthening exercises, not so very different from typical gymnastics.  In the news video, the women aren't wearing lingerie and pasties; they're wearing tanks and sweats and other generic exercise clothing.

What sealed it for me is the interview with the instructor.  She summed it up with, "If people want to judge me, that's fine.  I know I'm good with God, so what they think doesn't matter to me."  You go, sister.

I've already heard the rebuttal of, "But if what they're doing isn't sexual, why are they wearing 4-inch stiletto heels?"  Let me ask you this...Have you ever tried to pole dance in flats, or barefooted?  It's incredibly difficult.  In addition to helping work the legs and glutes, the high heels keep you on your toes and make it easier to pivot.  Also, it's easier to hook the heels behind the pole when you're doing spins, or other acrobatic moves.  (Editor's note:  I have never been, and will most likely never be, a stripper.  The dance pole was a housewarming gift from my husband, solely for exercise purposes.)

So what is the true reason for all this animosity towards the pole dancing Christian women?  In my opinion, it's because too many narrowminded people have an inability to reconcile female empowerment and Christianity.  These sort of people are especially offended by female sexuality.  Allow me to elaborate...

It is no question that men are dominant in every overt sense; physically, financially, politically, etc.  With the exception of a few scattered matriarchal cultures, this is how it has been since the beginning of time.  However, women have always held a sort of subversive power over men, in the woman's ability to distract and disarm a man through her own desirability.  This feminine power has always been perceived as something mystical, perhaps even demonic.

Take the story of Herod's stepdaughter.  When she danced for him, he promised her anything she'd ask for.  Directed by her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist, whom Herod then had put to death.  Herod was a mighty and powerful king, but a young girl forced him into doing something he didn't want to do.

Or Delilah, who seduced and betrayed the mighty Samson.

And who can forget Jezebel?  The powerful, domineering queen who fell to her death and was eaten by dogs.

To this day, we hear backwoods preachers condemn women in make-up as "having the spirit of Jezebel".  One such pastor made national news when he said that wives who withheld sex from their husbands were "practicing witchcraft".  Hear that ladies?  The old "I have a headache" excuse can fasttrack you to hell.

I remember being a teenager, not even old enough to drive a car yet, and sitting through a boring Teen Mania (ugh) class about how to please my future husband.  The mantra was that old lie that women have no carnal desires, but must be subject to the desires of men.  From puberty (or even earlier), we cloistered Christian girls were forcefed the madonna/whore complex (or, if you prefer the terms of the great philosopher, Ludacris, the "lady on the street but a freak in the bed" rule).

Taking the roundabout trip back to our original point, we locate the source of outrage towards these pole dancing women.  They are taking an activity originally designed for the desires of men, and reclaiming it for their own purposes.  Nowhere in the news story or video does the instructor talk about teaching these women to dance for their husbands; she says she's helping them get in shape and "feel good about themselves".  How dare she.  Simply disgusting.

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