Great title, huh? So a few Saturday nights ago, I was home alone drinking wine and catching up on my Facebook pole dancing news. After watching Alethea’s super amazing chair dance video, I went to her page to find more of her fantastic work. Find it I did, and I also found a rather disturbing account of one of her so-called “fans”, a gentleman – no wait, he is not a gentleman – by the name of Eddie Albert. Because Alethea is strict about her privacy I’m a little reluctant to go into great detail, but I will say this: If you think that telling a woman how she should improve her body or change her looks or cover herself up or expose herself more could ever be considered positive feedback, you are a moron. If you say these things to a woman you don’t know with the intention of improving your own personal viewing pleasure of this woman, you are not only a moron, you are an ignorant pig who needs to be slapped.
And boy did Mr. Albert get a slap. Alethea’s response was…wow. Even better though, was the pack of women who wrote to Mr. Albert on Alethea’s behalf, and on behalf of pole dancers and women everywhere. One of these ladies posted Mr. Albert’s response to her letter to him. I think Mr. Albert was a bit confused at this point about which pole dancer he was talking to (because obviously we are all the same), but here is his response:
I offered to you, whom I thought to be a professional, a fan's opinion.
Personally, I believe the hostility of your reaction is unwarranted. Who knows, this may be how you handle any criticism. This is my second and last message to you, unless you reply. I have included the message you sent from facebook for reference.
The first message was my opinion on your chair dance which I stated could be discarded if you were not looking for an opinion. I also said you were very good at what you were doing, I only gave minor appearance prefences... Which I stated were only MY preferences. I sent the message privately to you so as not to not embarrass you and in the hopes of helping without offending you.
It should be noted, I did not use any profanity in my messages to you, I have not threatened you in any way, nor do I intend to.
Apparently I failed miserably in my attempt at helping without upsetting you, for that I apologize.
Now, I almost feel sorry for the guy - he is so goddamn misguided. Except that one of his “tips” for Alethea was that she put more clothes on so he could watch without worrying that his wife would catch on.
So what are we seeing here? Well, aside from the fact that Mr. Albert is kind of a jerk, there are some other, more fundamental beliefs being exposed that I think are actually quite common in our culture. For example, if a woman is dancing sensually, she is doing it ultimately for the viewing pleasure of a man (any man). The idea that a
woman might be dancing for her own pleasure and gratification or for the purpose of educating other women in the art of pleasure and dance runs contrary to the chauvinistic belief that women’s sexuality exists only in relation to a man. Also present in Mr. Albert’s twisted letter is the belief that a woman who chooses to put expressions of her sensuality (i.e. picture, videos) in any sort of public venue is in fact asking for, or even worse, deserves the kind of attention he gave her because she is obviously open to it and he is just being “helpful”. My favorite part has to be when he carefully notes that he did not use any profanity in his messages to her and did not threaten her in any way. Oh yes, good. Because offering your unsolicited, unwanted,sexist comments under the guise of “helpfulness” and being a “fan” was definitely taking moral high road, Mr. Albert. Well done.
So how do we resolve this? What do we do in the face of such misguided ignorance? Certainly, if someone offends you, it’s best to make them aware of that. But there is a bigger issue here that we as a community need to address and which will require educating the general public. It’s not enough to distinguish ourselves from the stripping community. It’s not enough to point out all the artistic and athletic merits of pole dancing. What people have to begin to understand is that a woman dancing sensually might not be doing it because she wants the attention of a man or for the purposes of pleasing a man. She might just be doing it for her own sense of pleasure and personal satisfaction. And even more importantly, people need to begin to see the dance for what it is – an incredibly beautiful, sensual, athletic and sometimes even erotic expression of the body – and to respect the women who have the courage to perform. Instead of condemning women who choose to share their sensuality with the world, we need to begin to ask questions like “What is the value of female erotic expression and embodiment?”. These are perhaps not questions that someone like Mr. Albert might be able to wrap his head around. But by making it clear again and again that we are dancing for our own pleasure, that we are dancing to teach others how to find that same pleasure in their bodies and that there is a great deal of value in the sensual display of the female form we can begin to change the way people view female sexuality. And then perhaps Mr. Albert will finally write a proper fan letter to the beautiful and very talented and very sexy Alethea Austin.