Weeks after controversy erupted over the potential inclusion of pole fitness in Take Back the Night, performers are inviting Londoners to their own event supporting an end to violence against women.
On Saturday, Oct. 1st, The Pole House at 3-30 Adelaide Street North will host Take Back the Pole. The event is free of charge and the group will host classes from 1:30 – 5 p.m. That will be followed by a 6 p.m. showcase of performers from across Ontario.
The event is open to those 18-years of age and older. Those between the ages of 16 and 18 are welcome to attend with parental consent.
Donations from those who attend will be directed to SafeSpace, a not-for-profit group working to prevent violence against women.
The Pole House found itself in the middle of a firestorm two weeks ago when it was suggested they be included in London’s annual Take Back the Night event, which focuses on the fight to end violence against women.
Organizers wrote a Facebook post asking for input on the idea saying including The Pole House would “showcase women participating in exercise that is empowering, fulfilling and healthy for them.” The London Abused Women’s Centre objected to the group’s inclusion so strongly that it pulled its support for the entire event.
LAWC issued a statement saying the discussion about including The Pole House was too close to the event and hosting pole fitness at the event would be “antithetical” to its purpose due to the connotations with strip clubs and the sex trade.
In light of the opposition and resulting controversy, The Pole House declined to participate and has since planned the weekend event in an effort to explain its operations.
“We do want there to be an opportunity for anyone who wants to learn about pole fitness to come out and try it because we are concerned that what we do has been grossly misrepresented,” Pole House Fitness Instructor Kris Mac tells AM980.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about how what we do is somehow linked to the sex trafficking industry,” Mac says. “(The) sex trafficking industry is a very important conversation, but that’s not what we do. What we do is offer fitness classes and we see these as being empowering to women.”
Mac says they feel LAWC’s response to the discussion in the lead-up to Take Back the Night was premature and they certainly don’t agree with characterizations made by the group.
“We continue to welcome any respectful conversation,” Mac says. “However we do want to be adamant about our position that the LAWC suggesting that we contribute to violence towards women is completely inaccurate and inappropriate.”
“(Pole dancing) can be very sexy, (but) a lot of our classes are actually about athleticism, for some women it’s about the art, it’s about dance, it’s barefoot, it’s more like contemporary dance or gymnastics,” Mac says.
“For some women it is about exploring their sensuality, but in all cases our goal is to provide a safe and supportive environment for women to interpret pole dancing however they wish.”