Pole Fitness Society Banned by Swansea University.
Swansea Pole Fitness society has been operating successfully under the watchful eye of PDC Approved 4 star pole dancing instructor Dawn Roberts. Dawn is the principal instructor and proprietor of Circadian fitness and classes are held in her stunning Swansea venue _ see picture left.Despite a successful track record and having classes attended by both men and women board members of the Swansea University Students Union have voted unanimously to ban the club.
Here is the response from SUSU board. We would like to invite you to comment on this letter so we can send SUSU a response on behalf of the Pole Dance Community.
SUSU TRUSTEE BOARD RESPONSE
RE: POLE FITNESS SOCIETY
On September 12th 2013, a Swansea University Students’ Union Trustee Meeting was held. As part of the Agenda, a list of proposed Societies for the academic year 2013-2014 was presented. These were looked at in succession and a decision made on whether or not to accept each one.
The criteria used on which to base this decision was; whether the Society had applied in time and filled in all the required paperwork; whether the Society’s aims, objectives and activities met the Union’s aims and objectives; whether or not the Society was acting legally and whether or not the Society was in the best interests of the university’s students.
The Pole Fitness Society was discussed in turn and at this point a paper was presented by one of the Trustees who believed that the Society did not meet the criteria needed to be accepted. It was this paper that was the basis of the long discussion that took place. The following is the outcome of that discussion and the reason why the Pole Fitness Society was refused acceptance as an official Students’ Union Society.
The Trustees believe that ‘pole fitness’ classes are increasingly marketed as an empowering way for young women to keep fit and regain control of their lives. This is especially true on university campuses. We asked ourselves however, is it empowering to gain fitness in a way that is inextricably linked to the multi million pound sex industry?
Pole fitness and pole dancing are a direct spin off from lap dancing. Can we separate ‘pole fitness’ from ‘pole dancing’? We believe that you cannot, because whatever you name it, pole ‘fitness’ or pole ‘dancing’, you are still participating in the social context of what the pole represents. Everyone knows where it comes from, that pole dancers are to be found in strip clubs and sex establishments and that pole dancing is a dance form specifically designed to sexually excite the watcher. Pole dancers are almost always women, and watchers almost always men.
Although ‘pole fitness’ is sold as an empowering activity, we believe that women have been deceived into thinking this is a way of taking charge of their sexuality and their own decisions. Moreover we believe that it is just a further debasement of our culture and another sign of a creeping backlash against women’s true empowerment and a show of misogyny.
We believe that this is linked to the rise of ‘Raunch Culture’ in our society and our ever increasing pornified world where women are increasingly being portrayed and treated as objects for sexual enjoyment. This not only normalises the practice of ‘pole fitness’ but encourages and hoodwinks young girls and women into accepting and embracing this behaviour.
Even if individual women can separate pole fitness and pole dancing in their own minds, we believe that once context and politics are taken into account they are inextricably linked. Women as a class are detrimentally affected by activities such as ‘pole fitness’ which upholds and bolsters sexist attitudes and behaviours. What is useful about pole fitness – to the sex industry at least – is its association to pole dancing and lap dancing. Whereas we are not saying that anyone who attends pole fitness classes are training to move into pole dancing or lap dancing, what we are saying is that it is normalising the practice to the wider group of young women and girls who see work in the sex industry as a viable option.
As a Student’s Union, we should not be deaf to the very real issue of ‘pole fitness’ playing a part in upholding this Raunch Culture and objectification of women and girls and the impact of this on our female students. We have achieved some outstanding work on gender equality, notably by banning the sales of Lad’s Mags in the Union, the banning of sexist advertisements and the Zero Tolerance Campaign. We believe that allowing the Pole Fitness Society would not be in line with our gender equality work.
Female students have gender equality legislation behind them in allowing them a student experience free from inequality, sexual oppression and objectification.
Swansea City Council has recently passed a ‘Nil Policy’ for the establishment of Sex Entertainment Venues in the City, and Welsh Government has a ‘Right to Be Safe’ Policy which outlines its strategy for ending Violence against Women and Girls. Pole dancing and the sex industry is a part of that and are seen as a form of violence against women.
Evidence also shows that young women aged 16-24 are the group of women who experience the most domestic and sexual violence. This is the age of a large group of our female students. We believe that activities such as ‘pole fitness’ contributes to an atmosphere where women are viewed as sexual objects and where violence against them is acceptable.
The decision of the Trustee Board was unanimous in refusing the Pole Fitness Society official Students’ Union status.
To comment on this letter please e-mail us. We will be sharing your responses with former members of the Pole Fitness Society and liaising with other university pole clubs and societies.
Please see our original response to SUSU which to date they have declined to comment on. We felt the lack of response meant we had no choice but to air this publicly.
RE: Swansea University Pole Fitness Society
Dear Ceinwen Cloney,
I am writing on behalf of the Pole Dance Community, we are the largest advisory body to the fitness pole dancing industry and we require our members to abide by a strict code of conduct. We would like to respond on behalf of our members to your letter sent to Swansea Pole Fitness Society (SPFS) earlier this week. Please see the response to individual aspects of your letter below:
"Following on from the meeting of the Trustees Board last week, I am writing to inform you that the Trustees have decided not recognise and approve Pole Fitness as a Students' Union Society. The Trustees considered all of the society registrations and determined that Pole Fitness was not in line with what their expectations of what a Union Society should promote as an activity. It is believed that Pole Fitness does not promote full gender equality and the empowerment of women students through its promoting and upholding of a sexist unequal society."
We would like to question why you think the society does not promote gender equality when the group takes on both male and female members and is clear in its promotion. We also noticed you have a cheer-leading society which is still active which only takes on female members.
Also you state that the pole dancing society does not promote empowerment of women and is upholding of a sexist society, I feel you need to elaborate on these points and explain exactly how you feel the society does this. I have checked the society's details and they clearly promote pole fitness and not lap dancing or similar activities which you may have confused them with. I must draw your attention to the following slogans/statements used to promote SPFS:
Pole fitness is a fun and alternative way to improve strength, balance, flexibility and a great way to increase your confidence!
These classes are purely for fitness, there will be aches and bruising (its worth it!) and clothing is shorts and t-shirts.
This decision will mean that you are unable to attend Freshers' Fayre or receive any further support or recognition from the Union.
We feel that until you can answer the points raised above then your decision to prevent the existence of the SPFS is deeply unfair on this hard-working society who are using pole fitness (a blend of dance and gymnastics) to increase the physical and mental health of its members.
We would also like to point out that the society classes are run by and overseen by one of our PDC Approved 4 star pole instructors Dawn Roberts. Dawn has an impressive CV and has been an active member with us for several years. Dawn abides by our strict code of conduct which I have pasted below this letter for your perusal*.
Please be aware that your decision is very different to that of Plymouth University who have given their pole society sports club status in recognition of their hard work and that of Essex, Bristol and Newcastle universities who have worked with us to promote the inter-university pole dancing competition held annually at the aforementioned establishments.
if you would like to respond to this before we share your original letter with our members and their students then that would be great as this issue is extremely important to them. We are also happy to take this to a higher level as we feel your actions are against equal opportunities and that you are merely discriminating against a society on the basis of ignorance and misplaced stereotypes.
Sam Remmer on behalf of the PDC Team
* Codes of Conduct.