Let’s Talk About #NotAStripper

Let’s Talk About #NotAStripper

Apparently this is a thing again.

Let me start off by stating what hopefully other pole dancers you follow have voiced: the #NotAStripper hashtag is stupid. Snubbing a group of people in attempt to portray yourself in a better light is stupid. Disrespecting the group of people who pioneered an industry that you are now able to take part in for fun is stupid.

If you’re tagging your pole-dance videos with #NotAStripper, well, I’m not going to call you stupid, because this blog is all about positivity ::takes deep, calming inhale and exhale::, but you should consider deleting it.

Thankfully, everyone on my Instagram feed seems to steer clear of this offensive phrase, but last night I noticed from a few of the strippers I follow that #NotAStripper is trending again, so I feel like this is a good time to revisit an interview I once did with writer/stripper/activist Elle Stanger, who created #YesAStripper as a response.

Prior to producing Pole Positive, I did a multimedia piece on the evolution of pole dancing for grad school. In order to get a well-rounded story, I needed to touch on some of the negative actions pole dance hobbyists have taken that have slowed this industry’s potential as an inclusive feminist movement. That’s where Elle’s input came in.

Below is an excerpt from the story, followed by Elle’s on-camera responses.

In 2012, Elle Stanger, a Portland, Oregon-based stripper, writer, and sex-work activist, was nursing her baby and scrolling through Instagram when she saw the #NotAStripper hashtag for the first time.

“I started seeing pole stuff that would be like ‘learned a new trick today … hashtag #NotAStripper,’ and I’m like, OK, why is that important? Why do you feel the need to differenciate?” Stanger says.

“Then you go deeper into the #NotAStripper rabbit hole and you see memes and verbiage [used by pole dance hobbyists] where it’s very, very hateful. And it just blows me away because it’s like, I make my living being paid to do what you are paying someone to teach you, so, respect your elders please.”

Stanger lets out a quiet laugh at the end of her statement, but she’s not wrong. Some news sources claim that contemporary pole dance derives from ancient practices like Chinese pole, which involves males and acrobatic moves on rubber-laced apparatuses, or Mallakhamb, a competitive mens’ only practice with fast-paced tricks performed on a large wooden pole.

But the truth is this: the contemporary pole dance industry—from the first studios to the first events and competitions—was built by strippers.

Stanger turned to a group of strippers on Facebook, encouraging them to retaliate by posting videos with the hashtag #YesAStripper in response. As of July 2017, #YesAStripper has 17,146 tags on Instagram to #NotAStripper’s 5,218. It may sound like a triumphant social-media win, but Stanger believes there is more work to be done in order for all recreational pole dancers to fully respect and embrace her profession as it relates to their hobby.

Hear Elle’s answers to these key questions:

4:33: Do you think recreational pole dancers have affected the sex work industry in any way?

5:36: How do you feel when pole dancers say: “Now I respect strippers because I realize how hard pole dancing is,” instead of respecting their work all along?

7:05: What about pole dancers who come into strip clubs and tip sparingly or when you do a trick they can’t?

8:54: How did #yesastripper form?

11:39: Do you think a lot of recreational pole dancers have that “not a stripper” attitude?

12:40: How can recreational pole dancers be better allies to strippers?

I also talked to Annemarie Davies, founder of United Pole Artists (UPA), who had this to say about #NotAStripper and choosing your hashtags appropriately:

Moral of the story here? Be careful of the language you use to differentiate yourselves from strippers. You’re not better than them. They’re not better than you. But, without them, you wouldn’t have an outlet to “defend” in the first place.

Feature Photo By Школа Синди (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons