A few days ago, in”A Pole-Dancing Mother of 14,”my colleague Bridget Crawford took strong issue with the view that”a woman who puts her body on display (in a lingerie contest, as a topless performer or as a mother of 14) is somehow less deservingâ€¦.”I remember thinking at the time that Bridget could not have been more right.
Then I saw a report (here) about a judge in New York who ruled that pole-dancing is an â€˜art.’ In reaching this conclusion, the judge reviewed DVDs of performances and considered the expert testimony of a cultural anthropologist and dance scholar from the University of Maryland. Citing this expert witness, the opinion referred to the”skill and training,”â€œsymbolism”and”fantasy”that go into the dancers’ routines.
Obviously, many who patronize performances such as these may be drawn for other than artistic reasons. And, as the judge pointed out, many in our society take a jaundiced view of the erotic content that the performances express. But is it fair to the performers to judge them by the boorishness of their audiences or, even worse, by their detractors?
The expression by females of their sexual natures has long been the object of particular anxiety and disdain (as I have written at greater length here). However in this case, the judge concluded, the fact that”someone”may find the entertainment inappropriate or that there’s”titillation”of patrons”simply does not render such dance routines as something less than choreographed performancesâ€¦.”
So why the giddy interest in the”news”about Nadya Suleman’s night as a topless dancer and the snippy articles (e.g., this) when the item came out? Because she quit after only one day, and did not perfect her art? Or because we cannot imagine how a capable adult making a free choice of her own could ever uncover her body?
-John A. Humbach