Another article from our striptease correspondent Edie Lamort: a stripper’s view of the Olympics, pole dancing and “objectification”.
It was a working weekend for me and it coincided with the Olympic Super Saturday. There were only a handful of customers up until 10pm so we all sat there cheering on the athletes and watched Team GB row, run, jump and throw their way to Olympic gold. Girls in their underwear cheering and applauding for Jess, Mo and the rest of team. Then the conversation switched to the next day and the men’s 100 meters.
“Are you watching it?”
It seemed that most of the girls were planning on watching, to drool over the astonishing physique of the male athletes. So lengthy conversations flowed between ‘how amazing it would be to have a body like Jessica Ennis’ and ‘which discipline resulted in the best male body?’ ‘Is it the athletes? How about the swimmers? The boxers? Or the gymnasts?’ Now were we wicked women ‘objectifying’ these poor athletes? Focusing on their bodies rather than their feelings, opinions and stories? Having those very detailed discussions about the thighs, bums, shoulders and biceps of these alpha males at the height of their physical fitness. They use their bodies for their work and spend all their time striving for physical perfection. Is that a terrible thing?
Then it was time to ‘jug’ and go on stage. I went around and collected for my show, smiling and making small talk with the handful of customers, patiently waiting to watch some striptease. Small talk such as; ‘enjoying the Olympics?’
“Which ones?” asked a customer, “The track and field on the TV or the gymnastics on stage?”
Well thanks guys! It’s nice to know all that training gets noticed. All of us on the shift were pole dancers who stretch, train and practice our pole moves. We lift our body weight, do vertical splits on the pole, hang upside down from one ankle and hold on with one armpit. One of the girls I was working with is also a black belt kick boxer who trains three times a week and competes. She is an amazing ‘poler’ too with muscles I didn’t even know existed.
“Pole should be an Olympic sport,” said another group “It’s a form of gymnastics.”
The audience clapped at the end of the show, and also during the show, each time someone did an impressive move. From the incredibly posh boys in their suits and cravats, who had been at the rowing that day, to the rock ‘n’ roll-tattooed groups from the nearby council estate. These people appreciated the show we were putting on. There we only two idiots during that shift, one who I watched in amusement as he insulted the black belt kick boxer, and thought, ‘feminists’ worry about the safety of the girls but maybe they should be more concerned for the safety of the men!
The night before I had been at another pub in Shoreditch and the same conversations were happening. Screens at the side of the stage were showing athletics next to girls on the stage, doing gravity-defying pole moves. The female athletes were wearing tiny crop tops and hot pants, kind of like we do for the first half of our shows, before getting naked. I could see customers glancing from screen to stage making the connection. There was a particularly good set of dancers on that night including this year’s runner-up in Miss Pole Dance UK; a girl who is beautiful to watch and trains for a couple of hours a day, including an hour of stretching. Her shows are wonderful because it is the combination of aerial performance and the sexiness. As opposed to just a show of strength it also has the grace of dance and a stripper’s ability to be sexy. I admire her dedication to her training because I certainly don’t do that!
So as athletes performed on the track, strippers in London’s east end did shoulder mounts, hangback into half moon into bow and arrow, Aisha holds and vertical splits, flags and hand springs. Our mostly male, respectful audiences ‘get it’, those ‘feminists’ who wish to make us illegal do not.
Who ‘objectifies’ and fetishizes us? It’s not the majority of the customers in the strip pubs. What does that ridiculous word ‘objectification’ even mean? Some of the bizarre questions and obsessional sanction we get from the prohibitionists verges on a weird kind of voyeurism. I love my art form and have recently added another move to my repertoire, which is exciting and very satisfying. I look forward to doing more training and getting more graceful. I like the feeling of health and strength, and I like my biceps, even though they may not be considered feminine. We are independent and strong women. We do not need to patronized or rescued. We need to be celebrated!