Pole dancing is a controversial sport. It’s hard to do; you have to have excellent core and upper body strength, and you have to be fairly coordinated. But it’s also undeniably erotic. Watching it immediately conjures up sexual thoughts for men, and most likely even for some women. It is inexorably linked to exotic dancing, otherwise known as stripping.
Therein lays the feminist dilemma. Most people consider stripping demeaning to women, objectifying women, and reducing them to pieces of meat to be used and potentially abused by men. Stripping, some believe, is a gateway to prostitution. To be fair, these things are true for some dancers. But they are mostly not only untrue, but the polar opposite of what is true.
One of my best friends is an exotic dancer. She’s also a life coach and a very conscious, loving woman. Meeting her, watching her dance, and talking philosophically with her about her craft helped me formulate a different kind of feminist perspective. Our conversations have been a kind of lynch pin tying together my beliefs and experiences with Tantric philosophy and the Magdalene archetype.
I’ve been working with the energy and archetype of Mary Magdalene for nearly a decade now. Widely discounted as a repentant whore, that mischaracterization has been revealed as false. In fact, in 1969 the Vatican issued an official, if quiet, retraction. Mary Magdalene was a spiritual teacher in her own right. She taught alongside Jesus, often translating his more esoteric teachings into plain language so others could understand. There are many who say that she and Jesus were married. Anyone who has seen the painting “The Wedding at Cana” would believe that this is true. In the painting, Jesus and Mary are seated at the center of the table, in the traditional place for bride and groom. Rather than being a whore, Mary Magdalene was a powerful teacher and healer. And she was undeniably a woman who honored and valued herself as a sexual being.
For many years feminists (myself included) have strived to make women equal to men in a man’s world. I now believe that this strategy is demeaning to women, and also a losing battle. In a misguided effort to mold ourselves into replicas of men, we discount all that is good and valuable about our womanhood. Women who do this set themselves up for failure. We are not physically stronger than men. We do not think like men. We do not conduct business the way men do, if we are left to our own devices. We do not learn things in the same way men do, nor do we process thoughts or emotions in the same way.
In trying to mold ourselves after men, we deny our inherent self worth as women. In agreeing with the ways of the patriarchy, we have set up a vicious cycle, which ensures that women will always be subjugated. We will always be less than; second class citizens in a world that says the masculine way is the right way. In that world, pole dancing and stripping (and pornography and commercial media) do become demeaning to women. They do objectify us and can set us up to be used and abused.
But I don’t live in a world like that. In my world, the ways of the feminine are sacred and valuable. I honor what is good and pure about the masculine, and I place equal value on what is good and pure about the feminine. I seek balance, both within and without.
I am not a man, nor do I want to become one. I revel in my feminine essence and I appreciate my ability to tap into my masculine essence when I need to. But mostly, I am interested in exploring and revealing my feminine essence as fully as possible, so that I can be the most authentic version of myself. Pole dancing is one of the many ways I allow myself that exploration.
From watching my friend strip and from experimenting with a few strip teases myself in front of my partner, I have concluded that there is tremendous power in the dancing female form. The amount of clothing is nearly irrelevant, thanks to the power of the masculine imagination. While dancing, we tap into the power of creative energy (Shakti) and sexual energy (Kundalini). When we use those two energies in the exploration of our authenticity, we are able to glimpse our divinity. This is the truth of the Magdalene; this is the truth of the sacred feminine. This is our birthright as women. This is my brand of feminism.