Pole fitness for kids – a different perspective

In the last couple of days, a story about a BC studio offering pole fitness classes for kids has hit the news and caused some major controversy.  Everyone is weighing in with their opinion on the matter, accusing the studio of teaching kids how to become strippers and judging the morality and parenting ability of the parents who have decided to put them there.  People are making completely uninformed comments, most of whom, I am guessing, have never even set foot inside a pole studio.  And by pole studio, I do not mean a strip club.  I am really and truly puzzled by the attitudes of people about this subject.  On Wednesday, I got into a discussion with some friends about the idea of putting a kid into a pole fit class.  Notice how I said pole fitness.  Not stripping.  There is a difference, people.  People who do pole fitness are not strippers in training, or people looking to make some extra money on the side.  They are women and men (yes, men) who are looking for a way to get fit, work their whole body, gain cardio, and have some fun.

The same goes for kids.  Kids are drawn to poles.  Ever take a good look around a playground?  Or remember them from your childhood?  Do you recall the “fireman” pole?  What do kids do when they see a pole?  They climb, and slide, and spin around it.  Always have, always will.  No one has to teach them.  They just know.  There is nothing sexual or adult about a pole for them.  It is about innocence and curiosity, and seeing what your body can do.  Pole fitness is no different.  Kids learn how to use a piece of equipment ( it’s nothing more than that to them, trust me) and challenge their bodies in a way that is fun for them.  We, as the adults, are imposing our views of the world on them.  We, as adults, are putting sexual connotations on what they do.  I, for one, have never seen a kid “grind” on a pole like they are working for money.  I have, however, seen the glee and excitement as they figure out how they need to move and what exactly they need to do to get their bodies to do what they want like climb it or slide all the way down without falling.  Kids love to swing and hang from things, and they love to goof around.

One of the arguments that I have heard against letting children do pole fitness is that it is exposing them to the sick, twisted and perverted minds in society.  For starters, these classes are being taught in private dance studios, just like any other class.  They are far less likely to be exposed to pedophiles in a dance studio than they are to be at a public pool.  It’s not like pole fitness classes are held in strip clubs.  Another point that the uneducated or judgemental people have made is the outfits.  Kids are not dancing nude.  They are wearing shorts and t shirts or tank tops.  If they get really good, they will need to wear cropped tops so that there is more skin to stick to the pole.  It is what keeps you from falling off.  This is no different from kids dance classes.  Actually, in some kids dance classes, they wear less. Maybe just a leotard.  I have a question for those who are opposed to the classes and passing judgement based on costumes.  Do you or have you let your daughter, from baby to teen, wear a bikini or two pieced bathing suit to the pool or the beach? I would argue that the sexualization of kids is FAR less in a pole fitness class than in a lot of kids dance classes.

Take this for example.

These girls are 7 years old.  Why does no one see anything wrong with that?  How come no one challenges the parents for allowing these girls to perform this on a big stage or have it all over the internet?  These little girls are shaking their non-existant thangs all over the place, grinding their hips and making all sorts of suggestive gestures.  I don’t see an outrage about this.  Why? Is it because it is dance, and is more “socially acceptable” to everyone?  Is it because it is something that lots and lots of people do?  Or do we just expect it and laugh it off as girls being girls? What about cheerleading? You see the same sorts of things there. If you listen to the video, people are going NUTS over this routine.  Let me say it again.  These girls are SEVEN.  Not seventeen.

In comparison, this video is from a pole competition that took place earlier this year in Russia.  There is no sexual movements in this routine, it is very gymnastic and strength based.  I have watched it several times, and no where in it could she be mistaken for a stripper.

The similarities to gymnastics are also lost on a lot of people.  Turn the bar sideways, and you are doing a lot of the same moves.  Have you ever watched a competitive girls gymnastics class or practice?  Gone to a meet?  Again, how is it different?  Pole fitness is simply vertical gymnastics.  The moves are based on strength and flexibility, as well as being able to put an artistic spin on the moves that you choose.  Hmmm, does that sound like anything to you?  Almost all of the gymnastics events?

As I was reading posts and comments about this very subject, I saw someone comment that they would not want their child or themselves in something that required the equipment to be wiped down with antibacterial spray.  I guess that people who feel this way should make sure not to go to the gym, or the yoga studio, or bowling.  People sweat. Do you want to work out in someone else’s sweat?  I don’t, thanks.  That is the purpose of wiping down the pole.  That, and everyone has different body chemistry and some need the pole to be cleaned all the time, whereas others need to build up a layer of chalk to help them not slide off.

I’m sorry, but to all of the people who say that this is child abuse, you clearly don’t know what that actually is.  If you like, I can give you some examples of what true child abuse looks like, and trust me, it ain’t letting your kid have a spin around a pole, or play on a hoop or some bars.  To those who say that letting your child take fitness classes that involve a pole is turning them into a stripper – how do you explain the firefighters who use it too?  We, as adults, need to open ourselves up a bit to alternative ways of fitness, and stop making preconceived notions about things you know little to nothing about.  There are a lot worse things that kids could be doing rather than strengthening their muscles, learning confidence, exercising their minds and having fun.

If you are so opposed to pole fitness, because you already think you know what goes on, I challenge you to check out a class. Take a step outside of your comfort zone and your preconceived notions.  Then come back and tell me what you think.  Watch videos of amazing aerial artists like Jenyne Butterfly.  Educate yourself before you jump to conclusions.  Go and talk to the studio to see just what they do in their kids classes.  Because I can guarantee you that it is nothing like what you imagine.

Comments

  1. Amanda says

    Oh my goodness Brandee! So well said! I was having a conversation with my brother yesterday about the photo that I posted of Stephanie doing jasmine at cultas and he felt that it was in appropriate because children were around. I don’t understand that mentality – all we were we doing was a move that requires some strength and coordination – we weren’t grinding the pole or doing anything sexual so what is wrong with that. Just because society has said that poling is inappropriate because strippers have been known to use it doesn’t mean anything – heck, most strippers couldn’t do what we do on a pole! It’s just another piece of gym equipment – that’s it, that’s all. A very fun pice of equipment mind you, but just another piece of equipment. I am all for kids taking class and showing them what a pole can be and not what society has decided it is.

    • Brandee says

      I totally get what you are saying Amanda. No one gets mad at people for doing pushups or chinups at the playground, how is this different? Kids are the next generation, and they will be the ones who decide how pole is seen in the future, in my opinion.

  2. says

    Great post! I too agree that people are making a big deal about nothing. I’ve seen dance competition with little girls that has me more concerned than a pole fitness class. What about beauty competition for children? Honey Boo Boo, anyone? As far as I’m concerned, those things are much, much worse for our daughters than a fitness class that helps build strength and endurance. The only stigmas on pole fitness are the ones that we, as adults, put on it.

    • Brandee says

      Thanks Raquel. The beauty competitions frighten me. They truly do. I once turned on the TV to see an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras and as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t turn away – it was a complete trainwreck. This mother was taking her 2 year old (yes, 2) to a garage to get spray tanned. The kid didn’t want to go and was so upset and having a total tantrum, so the mom ended up just holding her down to get sprayed. I was so horrified that I did turn it off, it was so upsetting to me. I don’t know what or who Honey Boo Boo is, but I will have to go and check now, haha.

  3. Wendy says

    Brandee, yes well written indeed. My goodness I too have heard all sorts of comments since that article came out. As long as we as adults are ensuring the safety of the children and making sure they are having fun then let them play.

    • Brandee says

      Thanks Wendy! That is just it. Let them play. They are only kids once, and as long as they are safe and having a great time, it’s all good!

  4. Alexis says

    I don’t have an opinion on pole classes for kids, but I do have to mention that when that seven year olds dance video first hit the net (a couple of years ago, I think?), I saw posts and twitter comments from many people who were disturbed by its sexually suggestive nature, and by the inappropriate crowd reactions on the tape. It wasn’t viewed as ok.

    • Brandee says

      I am really glad to hear that it wasn’t well received on Twitter, at least. Sadly though, it wasn’t the only one like that I found. I’ve seen routines similar (but thankfully not quite as raunchy) at the local berry festival and fair. People make such a big deal about pole classes without ever knowing what they are about, but don’t rise up all over the place to stop sexualization like that, seemingly (to me, at least) because it is considered to be more socially acceptable.

  5. Kvanell says

    Yes! My sentiments exactly! I’ve taught my daughter some pole fitness poses and she loves it. She’s been doing rhythmic gymnastics for a while so she’s very strong and flexible. I took some pictures and felt terrible at seeing how disappointed she was she couldn’t share them on her FB page because of the stigma. It wouldn’t be an issue if adults didn’t make it one. I shouldn’t have had to explain any of that to her. I should be able to let her revel in her strength and athleticism!

  6. Jacq says

    My boys love climbing my pole…yes my pole that is in my basement at home!! I go to classes and I don’t hide it. It’s fun and something different!!

    • Brandee says

      Exactly! Climbing is a natural kid thing to do and my son loves climbing on the one we have at home too. It has also made it so that he can climb up a lot of other things, like the ones at the playground and stuff. Glad to hear that you enjoy your classes too – they really are a lot of fun aren’t they?

I love comments! Care to share your thoughts?