Reader Seagull has sent us this very interesting query:
A group of academics sent a letter to their university’s vice chancellor objecting to the presence of “pole fitness” classes being offered to staff and students in the campus sports centre. Our argument was that a university campus is not an appropriate place for a “fitness” activity which is an offshoot of the sex industry and a manifestation of the mainstreaming of raunch culture which objectifies women. We argued that we had a right to a working environment which enshrined respect for women, and we felt the university’s reputation could be damaged if the press got wind of the fact that we offer courses in pole dancing.
We received a reply from the university’s management which argued that there is nothing remotely sexual about “pole fitness” which is an entirely legitimate and beneficial exercise activity. This was accompanied by considerable documentation from various national fitness and exercise organisations which sang the praises of this wholesome health-benefitting activity which was so far removed from its sleazy pole-dancing roots that our suggestion that it might not be appropriate caused much hurt and incredulity among its practitioners. The most disturbing aspect of the response was the utter inability of the university management and the fitness organisations to understand our concerns about the promotion of raunch culture on campus.
We would therefore be really interested in this blog’s readership’s views on this, specifically,
1. How widespread is “pole-fitness” and other manifestations of raunch culture on university campuses, and how widely does it receive such strong endorsement from management, sporting bodies and fitness organisations?
2. Has anyone else tried to raise concerns about this, and if so, what was the outcome?
3. Does anyone have any strategies for how we could effectively challenge the mainstreaming of raunch culture?
4. Can anyone point us to academic studies or data that could help us show our university why raunch culture of this kind is harmful to women?
5. Finally, is there any point in fighting this fight? Perhaps “pole fitness” has become so mainstream that challenging it is futile and harms the feminist movement/s my making us look like strident old-fashioned harridans out of touch with the modern world?