Monthly Archives: March 2015

A Lot More about Pole Bullies

Hi all.

So, I wrote this post about a recent bullying incident in the pole world. You might have seen it.

Here’s how it went down: I read the thread, talked about things online with some other bloggers, wrote my post, then went about trying to battle the cold I’ve had for a couple of days. I glued some rhinestones on a leotard. Watched some Six Feet Under. Took more cold meds. Talked about the blog post with my boyfriend, and about potentially making some edits to it. Went to bed.

Next day, I woke up, and Felix Cane had shared it. People I didn’t know were friend requesting me on Facebook, commenting on my blog, sending me messages of support. Friends were texting me about where they had seen it pop up. By the end of the day, it had racked up over 800 shares on Facebook and over 6,000 views on the blog. In other words, it went viral.

So, thanks for that!

I did not want to amend my previous post, now that it’s been read so widely, so this post is to elaborate on some of what I brought up.

First, to clarify: I don’t think the issue of bullying in the pole world begins and ends with the behavior exhibited by KT, or by any other famous pole person who gets called out. My choice to mention her by name was less to single her out, and more to use her as the most recent example in a widespread problem. The only “side” I am taking is the side of the pole community as a whole.

Regarding the points I made? I’d like to elaborate on those a little bit.

PR

Maybe it’s because I live in Hollywood, and I worked in the industry, so I know a little more about how the sausage is made, so to speak, but PR is a thing you need to understand if you want to be a representative of a company, community, or movement. It’s one of the ways you legitimize the thing you want to legitimize. Knowing what to say – and what not to say – helps you craft your message in the way that best serves you and your cause. If this isn’t something that comes naturally to you, do some research. Learn about how public relations work. If you can afford to, hire someone to help you – and make it someone who knows what they are doing! This is not just about advertising, although that is part of it. This is about crafting a public persona and staying consistent in your messaging/branding. Beyond that, it’s about creating a positive impression (if that’s your goal) and sticking to it. And, if you do fuck up…it’s about proper damage control.

I feel like I see a lot of room for growth with PR in the pole industry, at all levels. From how studios market themselves, to how pole stars interact with people online, to how pole businesses try to connect to the community….a lot of work could be done. Even my own business suffers from a lack of proper PR (mostly due to money – good product photos cost money!) – but, we do what we can. And, I think a lot of places do what they can – they try – but others? Not so much.

I don’t have a grand plan or suggestion on how to improve this in our community, but I do like putting it on the table as something to consider.

Too Much Bullying

Seriously, stop it. I’ve seen it at all levels, but it’s the most exposed when it’s online, between famous people in our community. And, that seems to be the only time it’s discussed, but people usually only go as far as taking sides or discussing that particular incident. So, let me be clear: bullying happens at every level, and at every level, it is damaging, toxic, and unnecessary.

Bullying can look like trashing individuals online; but it doesn’t have to be that. It could be not greeting the new student at your studio or including them in the group. It could be excluding someone at your studio because of a beef somebody else has with them (real or not). It could be a studio owner taking advantage of their teachers or guest workshop instructors by not paying them monies owed. It can be vicious, or it can be subtle, but it is happening, and it is happening too often.

Why? I wish I knew. I think pole can build wonderful, strong, passionate people. But, I think that the flip side of this is that it can also attract people who seek that, but aren’t ready for it yet. So…they get mired in petty bullshit out of fear. Or, they were never taught that true empowerment has nothing to do with making anyone else “less than” – empowered people don’t need to shit on others to prove that they or their way of thinking are great. They prove it through leading by example.

So, I ask you: what example do you want to set for our community? What example do you want to set for those already in it, but also for those who are going to join it? I’m not talking about sexy vs. fitness. That argument is moot to me. We’re ALL under this umbrella, together. We are ALL part of the pole community. Leading by example is the responsibility of all of us, at every level: from hometown studio to international superstar.

Opinions & Phrasing

We all have opinions. That’s good. We should. And, we have every right to have them, as well as to express them. But, in the public realm, it becomes tricky, because phrasing is hugely important. How you express that opinion, and what you choose to say – or NOT say – is vital. Think twice before you post something that could be inflammatory. Consider phrasing from the points of view of other people. Be thoughtful, particularly in your reactions to someone else.

Bullying the Bully

Where is the line between standing up for yourself and bullying the bully? I believe it is when personal attacks come into play.

You can be honest about your experiences and your feelings about them without crossing that line. I’ll give you an example, from a real situation: a few months back, Oona Kivela posted something inflammatory about the sexy side of pole dancing on her Instagram page. Many people called her out on it, most famously Michelle Shimmy. I think calling her out is fine – to be clear, calling someone out on bad behavior is not bullying in and of itself. But, I saw multiple comments that flat out attacked Oona on various points, including comments trashing her movement in the video. A few of these were incredibly harsh. I think it’s good to challenge people to stimulate thoughtful discussions, but the line was crossed in that situation. Telling Oona she sucks at sexy movement is not any better than Oona trashing it herself.

Be better. Sinking to the level of the bully doesn’t accomplish what you want it to accomplish. So, what do you do? Stand up, say in very clear terms, “This is what happened to me, and this is why I did not appreciate it.” Tell your side, without taking personal swipes at the offending individual. Behaving like the balanced person will highlight how off-balance the bully is behaving.

For those of you who are all, “Ugh, pole drama, shut up you guys!”…you need to care about this, whether you want to or not. This is your community. If you sit on the side lines and don’t say, “Hey, we want this to be better!” and then follow it up with your actions, things will never get better.

That about wraps up what I wanted to say. I hope that the bright side from this incident is that people will start to acknowledge that bullying is a real issue we need to solve, and that we’re now on a positive track.

Best to all of you, whether you love the Spatchcock or not. 🙂

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A Little About Pole Bullies

If you’re in the pole community, and you’ve been on Facebook this week, you’ve probably seen an influx of Spatchcock photos. For anyone who doesn’t already know, this is a reaction to an incident in which the head of IPSF – KT Coates – posted the following status update:

Screenshot via Facebook.

Screenshot via Facebook.

Later in the same thread, KT doubled down and made a poorly veiled dig at the originator of the move, Felix Cane. The results? Felix defended herself, other people defended her and the move, and calls were made to post Spatchcock photos. Thus, the influx.

I don’t really take issue with anyone expressing a dislike for a particular move – hell, I’ve been fairly vocal about how much I dislike Fonjis – but I do take issue with bullying. KT has a rep as a bully. She had an incident a while back with complaining publicly about Emma Haslam, the plus-size poledancer who made a splash on Britain’s Got Talent (and who, incidentally, deserves every bit of praise that comes her way – she’s incredible).

Incidentally, that video has nearly 25.5 million views. MILLION. Wow.

Anyway, Facebook exploded with the spatchcock support photos, and Alex Shchukin responded to the incident by posting a blog about his own experience with KT. It’s a mess.

I have some scattered thoughts on this:

One, KT needs PR help. If you are the head of a movement that is trying to legitimize our community to the world, you need to watch your mouth. Hire professionals to help you with your public image, if you can’t keep it together on your own. This extends beyond KT’s issues – I see a lot of poor marketing and behavior in the public realm of pole, from various businesses and “professionals” around the globe. It’s wildly dumb.

Two, there’s far too much bullying going on, in public and behind the scenes. It’s not just the shit that gets blasted online – it’s the stuff that happens at studios. It’s much more subtle: lack of encouragement, exclusivity, things like that. I wrote a piece about it for Bad Kitty a while back. As my good friend (and editor at BK) Claire stated, it’s just mean girl shit. And, it is – all of it. I’ve seen it from world class, internationally famous pole dancers, to owners of pole dance supply shops, to local studio owners. It’s at all levels, and it’s bullshit.

Three, we all have a right to our opinions, but how we choose to share them is important. Phrasing is vital, especially in a close knit community.

Four, bullying the bully isn’t the answer.

This last point is why I wanted to write this post. While I think it’s absolutely important to stand up to bullying, and to be honest about ones experiences, I don’t think it’s a good idea to go after the bully with personal attacks. And, I have seen those popping up. Did KT behave like an ass? Yes. Should she be called out on it? Yes. Should people be personally attacking her? No. Why? Because it’s no better than her behavior towards Felix, or Emma, or Alex, or whomever. Picking on her doesn’t solve the larger issue, and while it may shut her up for now, it isn’t likely to change her behavior. This is true in every case. I have seen these issues come up before, with other polers, and there’s always a backlash that involves personal attacks.

The best thing we can do? Support those who are bullied. Call out the bullies in clear, direct, and sensible ways. And? Refuse to support those who bully. Don’t participate in their events, visit their studios, shop from their shops. Whatever it may be. Use your dollar – or your energy – elsewhere.

Update: I wrote and posted a second piece on bullying, which dives deeper into the points I made above. Please check it out: A Lot More About Pole Bullies