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.