Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beyond parody: the FlirtyGirl Fitness chair dance workout

By Chloe Angyal

I just snorted red wine out my nose.

FlirtyGirl Fitness, a new "workout system" that offers you the chance to "learn some of the world's sexiest dance moves from videos, club dancing and even exotic dancing and turn them into fun, fat-burning routines that anyone can do" (seriously people, just go for a run) has a pole workout, which looks like it might actually build some muscle, but it also has the completely hilarious chair dance workout, which looks like it was made by Saturday Night Live as one of their fake TV ads.
Say what you will about pole dancing classes as a way to get fit and "unlock your inner diva," as the FlirtyGirl Fitness website puts it, but this is just absurd.

Incidentally, this is what Jessica Valenti at had to say:

"What seemed to appeal was an all-female environment where they could act out "sexiness" and "femininity" in a safe space. (I use scare quotes because of the limiting versions of femininity and sexiness that I think pole dancing and such things offer.)But the sexuality offered in classes like these seems to me - I've never been to one, so correct me if I'm wrong - so put on and so based on the male gaze. After all, many of the women interviewed in this article and others talk about bringing the workout back home for their significant male others."

I'm with Jessica on this one. Also, red wine hurts the nostrils.


At November 12, 2008 at 9:13 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

What is wrong about putting something on for the male gaze, particularly if it is for a person that you are in a relationship with...?

Pff, please, what is wrong with exploiting what you know the other sex is going to like? Since when is it wrong to make your partner feel good or get aroused, isn't that what sexuality is all about? It really starts to scare me when anybody, especially sensitive feminists, start interfering with what should be behind closed doors, namely sexuality between two people. If someone wants to practice this, is that anti-feminist? If a girl wants to practice a blowjob, is that so wrong? I'm not saying that the man shouldn't practice oral sex either, mind you, I'm saying in general what is wrong with that? Finally, it really starts to get to me when feminists like Valenti start labeling certain actions as inherently macho or chauvinistic, such as pole dancing. Pole dancing is just as chauvinist as the man watching makes it. There is a glaring line between objectification and having a good effing time with your partner (and I say glaring because one knows when they are objectifying someone, it's a pretty easy self analysis, namely if one could just replace the woman in front of them for another, it's a good bet it's objectification), so let's let those people figure out where that line is for them, instead of already putting them on the defensive and making them justify themselves for something that may be completely innocent. Next thing you're going to tell me is that we should have sex with our clothes on because just seeing and getting aroused by the female figure is chauvinistic!

At November 12, 2008 at 9:20 PM , Anonymous Chloe Angyal said...

Pole dancing, in its usual context (a strip club), is objectifying, by your definition of objectification, where replacing one woman with another changes nothing. So I find it pretty disturbing that women who aren't strippers are aspiring to being objectified, and by their significant others no less.
Of course there's nothing wrong with pleasing your partner (within reason), and there's nothing wrong with feeling sexy, but I think there is something wrong with emulating strippers, and with turning the most basic of every day activities, like your daily workout, into an exercise in male titillation.

At November 12, 2008 at 11:36 PM , Blogger Franklinster said...

Regarding what roscoe says about "what should be behind closed doors," I think we should be careful when we draw distinct lines like this. Is sexuality ever really "between two people"? Our sexual desires and behaviors are shaped by a long exposure to a culture that teaches us what sexuality is. For example, the "female figure" -- our ideas about female bodies are not biologically inherent or a matter of personal or interior freedom (though those might have some impact); rather, society teaches us what a beautiful female body looks like. This education extends to all aspects of sexuality, and our private sexual experiences certainly shape our experience and behaviors regarding gender and sexuality in public interactions. Therefore, while making the distinction that allows for a private space of partners' sexualities is acceptable, we cannot pretend that meanings, behaviors, and norms do not bleed back and forth between those two realms.

However, I don't think the story ends there. As Chloe says, the context of pole dancing gives a particular salience to its meaning as an act of phallocentric sexuality. However, it's not fair to essentialize this; if feminism is in a sense centered around uprooting patriarchal assumptions taken to be immutable truth, why are we so ready to overlook the cultural contingency of the objectifying meaning of pole dancing? For a thought experiment, could you imagine pole dancing for your partner? Would this act definitely subject you to an objectifying male gaze? I think that in the context of partners who are aware of the ways in which their sexualities are shaped by phallocentrism, an act like pole dancing might be able to acquire new meanings.

So in conclusion, I tend to agree with Chloe that pole dancing is conventionally objectifying. And further, women who want to take pole dancing classes seem to be -- maybe without knowing it -- subjecting themselves to the male gaze. However, there's a lot more to the situation than just this; maybe some self-awareness would go a long way in this case towards turning pole dancing into a sexual behavior that doesn't reinforce the dominance of the male gaze.

Josh Franklin

At November 13, 2008 at 12:40 AM , Anonymous Lizzie Cruikshank said...

On a less intellectual-debate-worthy note:

SNL already did make this parody.

At November 13, 2008 at 4:17 AM , Blogger Franki said...

I've gotta respectfully disagree with you, Chlo. While pole dancing in its usual context is formulated for the male gaze, that doesn't mean that the meaning has to carry over into female space. There's also something to be said for the idea of using these traditionally sexual movements to increase comfort with one's own body and sexuality. The problem with analyzing things in terms of the male gaze is that sometimes it's just not about them. Sexuality doesn't have to be for anyone else; sometimes it's about creating a form of sexiness that makes you feel good about yourself. And while I don't think that's how everyone is going to take this product, I think that's something it could be.

At November 13, 2008 at 9:55 AM , Anonymous Chloe Angyal said...

Excellent points, Franki. But your last point is right: "And while I don't think that's how everyone is going to take this product, I think that's something it could be."
You make the case for a "right way" or a way in which this workout could be interpreted to be just about women and their sexuality. And that's totally plausible. I just think it's the rare case in which it'll be taken the way you describe. And I doubt VERY much that that's the intention with which this business was started.

Also, and I know you agree with me on this one, isn't this workout just kind of hilarious?

At November 13, 2008 at 3:53 PM , Blogger Roscoe said...

No ya, I mean, I totally agree with you all about how objectifying it CAN be and how objectifying it WILL most likely be taken for. My point is that: should we waste our time criticizing these things individually, particularly if they are not INHERENTLY sexist, when we should really be focusing on the question of why people are going to predominantly use this objectifyingly. My point is that by putting pole-dancing itself into question, you are also putting an emphasis on the thing itself as what is wrong with the situation, not on a man's feeling of entitlement to a sexy body or a woman's insecurities of their own. We should focus on these two issues and then, with good confidence that these two people will not use things in general as ways to objectify their partner, and then let them do whatever they want.

Though to actually believe you are going to get a real "workout" from this is just hilarious...go out and swim or run haha!


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