The Short of It
A demonstration of a children's pole dancing class on TV has sparked a debate on whether pole fitness is appropriate or too sexual for kids.
Chris Rock once famously joked: "As a father, you have only one job: Keep your daughter off the pole! If she's dancing on a pole, you f@#$ed up!"
Wise words. Although it turns out, not everyone would agree. UK TV's "This Morning" stirred up a heated debate after featuring a bunch of 8-years-old girls whose parents willingly signed them up for a class that teaches them how to work the pole.
For a segment called "Is Pole Dancing Too Sexual for Children?," hosts Rylan Clark and Ruth Langsford spoke with the instructor Zoe Hardy and two moms whose daughters take the class. Hardy said she started teaching the young girls "pole fitness" after some of the kids saw her instructing the adult version of the class.
"We have to set up at the studio where they do their dance classes at," Hardy told the hosts. "They saw what we were doing, and they wanted to have a go at it."
Three of Hardy's students—two age 8 and one age 11—then hit the stripper pole set up on stage to demonstrate their moves while their moms stood nearby, looking on and smiling. Langsford's next set of questions was for them.
"You call it 'pole fitnesss,' but most people call it 'pole dancing,'" she began. "And you know as moms, people are very concerned about oversexualizing our children... and the connotations of pole dancing are: in clubs, girls with very little on in front of men who maybe paid to see it. As moms of the girls there, why did you let them do this?"
Lisa Grosse jumped in to explain that her daughter Tilly-Mae, 8, was bullied and overweight and not interested in things the other girls were interested in until she discovered pole fitness.
"She came to it, and she never looked back," she said. "It's fitness. When you see what they actually do, there's nothing provocative about it."
Another mom, Lorraine Handbury, compared it to competitive gymnastics.
"She likes to challenge herself," she said of 11-year-old daughter Mia. "So, why not?"
Why not, indeed.
Child psychologist Emma Kenny described the class as "horrendous," and I can't say I disagree.
"I don't doubt for one minute that the girls keep fit from it," she said. "And I also don't doubt that the moves we just saw there were more pole dancing than pole fitness. We are living in a culture that sexualizes children, but embracing something that, whether you like it or otherwise, is an adult pastime... it involves very sexual moves."
Viewers of the show took to Twitter to voice their opinions on the matter using the hashtag #poledancingdebate.
"The sexual connotations are from the media!" one commenter wrote. "In fact, I envy the children for having such core strength!"
"Pole dancing is something women do to entertain men," wrote another. "Not something you should get your child involved in."
And finally: "Let them be children. Innocence doesn't last long enough anymore; it's demoralising parading those wee girls."