Phoebe Christofi dismisses the stigma regarding Pole Fitness, arguing that it brings a whole new meaning to the word 'liberation'

[Phoebe Christofi | Redbrick]

I consider myself quite a sporty person. I’ve participated in more sports over my twenty years than I can even count, and I’ve always seemed to be able to pick them up relatively quickly. I’ve sported names through the years such as Little Miss Soccer, Little Miss Irish Dancing, Little Miss Rowing, Little Miss Lacrosse; friends and family have always encouraged and supported every sporting choice I’ve made. One sport that I never would have considered while growing up as a child was pole fitness.

A decade ago, undertaking pole dancing as a fitness regime would have been considered unladylike. I’m sure my grandparents who were born in the 1910’s in an extremely traditional Britain (where women didn’t even have the vote yet), would be appalled to know that their youngest grand-daughter was participating in such a stereotypically risqué activity. To my grandparents, I reassure you: good girls can pole dance too. For decades and decades there has been the stigma that pole dancing is highly sexualised, and in terms of erotic recreation, it is. Strip teasing while using a pole in an erotic fashion began in the 1960’s in America. Since then, there has been an unconditional stereotype regarding the physical activity. However, pole fitness is another game entirely.

"A decade ago, undertaking pole dancing as a fitness regime would have been considered unladylike."

— Phoebe Christofi

Undertaking pole fitness changes you. Physically it alters your body to become a stronger version of itself. You use and develop muscles that you never even knew existed, and if you did know, you wonder where they’ve been hiding all these years. You learn to resent gravity and sweaty palms. You become accustomed to new bruises blooming over your skin and constantly think to yourself “how the hell did I get one there?!”

You start to develop a thicker skin, and become used to the pain; pain that sometimes feels like your skin is being ripped from your bone, but you persevere. You also develop thicker skin mentally. Yes, I feel sexy and confident when a move finally clicks, and I can perform it with more ease than before; but that doesn’t mean that I feel sexualised while I do it. Instead you feel empowered and strong, because you’re not doing this sport for anyone but yourself. Feeling objectified is hard when you’re supporting all your weight on one knee and gradually spinning in a rotation guided by your abdominal muscles. I don’t judge you when you’re running on a treadmill or lifting weights, so don’t judge me when I’m performing acrobatic moves on yet another workout apparatus.

"Feeling objectified is hard when you're supporting all your weight on one knee and gradually spinning in a rotation guided by your abdominal muscles."

— Phoebe Christofi

As of October this year, pole dancing has been officially granted seven pole dancing events “observer status”, meaning it is now provisionally recognised by the Global Association of International Sports Federation as a sport. To become a fully recognised sport you need federations in forty countries and across four continents; currently the International Pole Sports Federation has twenty-five (all of which have only been developed within the past six years). Furthermore, this means that Katie Coates, the founder of the IPSF, can apply for membership for the International Olympic Committee. Coates has strived for this goal since establishing the IPSF in 2009, gaining 10,000 signatures in a petition for the sport to be officially recognised. Since the establishment of the federation, pole fitness has become extremely popular with many gyms and recreational centres, holding classes for beginners all the way to advanced, with three thousand athletes competing globally.