The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Empowering or degrading: Chatham students give their opinions on pole fitness

Every January without fail it’s the same story. As the ball drops and one year comes to an end and a brand new year begins, countless women resolve to get in shape. When most people think fitness they think of treadmills and exercise videos. They assume they’re in for long hours at the gym or outside. This semester Chatham women looking for a workout can take a different approach.

In the South Side of Pittsburgh there lives a studio called Fitness With a Twist that teaches one of the few dances in the world where women get to lead: pole dancing. Eight years ago, intrigued by the new trend of “pole fitness,” Vanessa Russo decided to give the new form of exercise a shot. The problem was that there was no place in Pittsburgh that offered such an activity. Russo then decided to take matters into her own hands and create one.

Some might be wondering why an institution that prides itself on creating World Ready Women would sponsor a class that revolves around an activity that some people consider downright degrading. Student Affairs’ answer: the students requested it. And why would a future World Ready Woman or any woman in general take such a class? “‘It looked fun’–that is the number one line that I get,” said instructor Ebony Seskey. “Whether you’re a young college woman, a mom, a doctor, whatever, we all have our insecurities. Here, you learn to love yourself for who you are and not what society wants you to be.”

The Chatham girls who took the class would agree with Seskey’s take on Fitness with a Twist. When asked why she took the class, Ciera Young, a senior and first time attendee, said, “I’ve heard varying opinions about the class and I wanted to experience for myself,” and added, “The class was not as sexual as I expected it to be and it was more of a workout than I expected. I probably won’t take a full class in the future but I understand why some women would take the class.”

However there are still people unconvinced of the potential merits of this kind of class. In a piece for the Guardian in opposition to strip aerobics titled, “Actually, You Won’t Find Female Empowerment Halfway up A Pole” writer David Mitchell said, “Pole dancing is grim and I don’t see anything empowering about learning it. Even if you say that it’s just dancing and good exercise, surely it would be more empowering to learn a dance that can be employed in contexts other than strip clubs?”

When asked what she would say in response to naysayers such as Mr. Mitchell, Seskey did not feel the need to provide a lengthy defense of the practice simply saying, “No one truly knows what to expect when they walk through those doors, it is my job to show you that this truly is a workout.” Seskey additionally spoke of the pride she felt seeing her once shy students perform at their yearly dance recitals and more lighthearted moments like her students participating in a Harlem shake video.

“I don’t think that it’s wrong to be sexy,” said sophomore Kyara Francis, a fan of the class, “We’ve been programed to think certain things are trashy. We were taking a class, I don’t think it was degrading I think it was a good time.”

One thing that Seskey thinks that people should know about Fitness With a Twist is how accepting the students and teachers are. “We all believe that every woman that walks in those doors are amazing in their own right.”

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    Pole DanceFeb 22, 2015 at 3:09 am

    So ironic that it was a man that said he didnt understand the empowerment! Does anyone else see the irony here. Pole Dancing is empowering! Great article!