Poles apart?: women negotiating feminity and feminism in the fitness pole dancing class

Allen, Kerry Louise (2011) Poles apart?: women negotiating feminity and feminism in the fitness pole dancing class. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis explores the current trend for pole dancing as an increasingly popular fitness activity for women, taught in health and fitness clubs across the country. With the use of participant observation in classes and in-depth qualitative interviews with women who take these classes, as well as women who teach them, I explore what these types of class mean to these women, how pole dancing classes fit into contemporary feminist debates around the nature of and the future of feminism, and the pressures and expectations placed upon women to look and act in a feminine and sexualised way. Moving beyond what I see as the quite limiting previous accounts of these classes, which have debated whether or not they are empowering or degrading for women, my research suggests that pole dancing classes are complex, may be neither empowering nor degrading, for these concepts are complicated and problematic, and that the pole dancer cannot be seen as one dimensional.

Women describe their participation in pole classes in a discourse of choice and control yet I show that their choice to participate is constructed somewhat by the media and the advertising of these classes which presents them as enabling women to create a particular desirable feminine and sexy self, perpetuated throughout our culture as the 'ideal'. Exploring the ways in which women attempt to manage impressions of themselves and present themselves as ‘respectable’, examine how the women in this study wish to dis-identify with both women who work as strippers and women who are feminist, seeing both identities as contradictory to the feminine image that they pursue. I explore the capacity of these classes to offer women feelings of agency, in particular through the fun, fitness and friendships that women gain from classes, but I challenge the idea that participating in pole dancing can offer empowerment, arguing that ultimately we can view these women's participation in terms of both their active engagement and enjoyment of these classes and in terms of the structures and pressures which continue to shape their lives.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Stevenson, N.
Bott, E.
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GV Recreation. Leisure
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Sociology and Social Policy
Item ID: 13167
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2013 11:24
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2017 06:05
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/13167

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