As a self-proclaimed 'Tribeswoman', 'Fitness Fanatic' and general 'Boundary Pusher' as soon as I read the synopsis, I was always going to have nothing but love for the new Netflix show "Strip Down, Rise Up."
As the saying goes, "No idea is truly original" and I first of all have to confess that I was only aware of the programme after spotting, during a typical Sunday Facebook scroll, that Brig Newspaper had written a feature on it. I say that like Sundays are different to any other day right now, which in lock-down life let's face it, they aren't really! Anyway back to Brig, it is genuinely where I obtain most of my news, film & TV recommendations, recipes...everything really! As it is a student publication (which I have slight bias towards and professional 'stake' in), I often make a conscious effort to keep up to date with what is published. For me, as well as the impressively cutting edge, up-to-the-minute news, it is also an insight to what students, primarily young people, are interested in. I spotted the article (linked below) and instantly thought "that documentary sounds up my street, I'm intrigued". Since I'm a 'blogger' now (having published a grand total of two blogs), I decided not to read the Brig article until after watching the documentary and deciding whether or not I wanted to write about it myself. At this point of writing, I have still not read it, for fear of being influenced/plagiarising another's writing or doing a bit of 'comparison shopping' between my writing and someone else's. Nope, sadly I'm not immune to the old 'inner critic' which is rarely helpful/ Maybe, just maybe... (groundbreaking idea) they can both be good? I'll of course read it after posting this as it's always nice to read, acknowledge and champion others' work and I'm genuinely excited to see another's take on how I just spent an hour and fifty two minutes of my life. It's also a brilliant female journalist who has written the Brig piece and this blog and the documentary itself is steeped in female empowerment and "cheer-leading" and I'm a girl who practices what she preaches (and all the other cliches).
Since I launched this blog (around ten days ago), this is the second powerful piece of television which has inspired me to share my views with the world (well, maybe a couple hundred people). I watch very little TV so this has completely caught me by surprise but I'm rolling with it. I guess I've either just chosen really wisely in recent weeks or maybe I'm now thinking more consciously about what I am watching...I reckon it's a combination of the two. If you have not yet watched the programme, you should know that it comes with some guidance warnings and shows the very lived experiences of real people, (primarily women) who have experienced sexual abuse and discrimination, mental health and racism to name but a few. I will share some links below of support available and I don't intend to go into too much detail of the content in this particular blog piece (I'm not a spoiler!) but I feel that it is important to provide forewarning of potential triggers from this piece and the show, if you do decide to watch.
I have a very limited knowledge of the 'pole dancing' (or is the correct term 'fitness'?) 'industry' (or is the correct term 'sport'? or 'art form?'). I feel that sentence alone sums up the aforementioned 'limited knowledge' and uncertainly of the correct terms to use and I appreciate any pointers on this- never too ashamed to admit I don't know something, there's A LOT I don't know! What I do have is curiosity and a constant keenness to expand my mind. I guess this made me want to watch the show in the first place. I think it's worth stating that for this piece I will choose to refer to the practice as 'Pole Fitness' as I'm in complete awe of the level of fitness and strength (both physical and mental) involved. I've personally never tried Pole Fitness (yet!) but I've seen a handful of brave people on Facebook with incredible pics and my honest thoughts have been "WOW! They look amazing but I'd never have the confidence to do that!" It was really sad to hear one of the women in the film state "I wish for the day when the first question someone asks when I say I'm a Pole Dancer isn't...So, are you a stripper?" I don't have any judgement towards strippers but it is important to acknowledge that one does not equate to the other. Purely focusing on the sexual elements of Pole Fitness is to do it a total disservice but it was also incredible to see so many of these women find, uncover and regain their sexuality, far too many of whom had previously had it taken from them.
I totally relate to the theme in the show of how physical exercise and just moving your body can be so liberating. Up until recently I have tended to move in coordination (or lack of) to an instructed fitness class, which I'm certainly not dissing (big up all of my Stirling Sport colleagues/lock down lifesavers.) However, I am now consciously making an effort to try to move more freely and naturally, particularly in the mornings- blasting everything from Beyonce to Rage Against the Machine. Basically I'm either booty-shaking, head-banging or both! Maybe something from "Strip Down: Rise Up" will be my inspo for tomorrow's or the next day's moves...who knows?!
What I took from the documentary is that Pole (like many things in life) is whatever you want it to be. For some of the women in the show, it was the pinnacle of physical fitness, with many competing at the highest level. For others, it was recreational exercise but for so many it was a method of overcoming adversity, stigma and abuse. To watch one of the stars (in every way) of the show, Amy, represent the USA in the Pole Fitness Championships with a routine which she described as a "reclamation of her body" was one of the most moving things I've ever watched and this is just one example of the amount of times my heart was in my mouth at both the exhilarating routines and the personal and emotional challenges each woman had faced, overcome and channeled into what I can only describe as an art form and in many ways a 'healing'.
As mentioned, Pole Fitness means different things to different people but what was apparent and essential for growth in every single women's story was the human connection: the "girl power", the "sisterhood", the "tribe". This was ever prevalent throughout the show and it confirmed even more for me that I need this to be a main feature of my life. As mentioned at the start of this blog piece: I am very much a 'Tribeswoman'. Always have been. Always will be. In recent months this has been taken to a new level and I feel like I have a different "tribe" for so many aspects of my life, which is fine, in fact, not fine...it's GREAT! The way in which all of the women in the show were supporting one another: crying, laughing and just holding space for each other is pretty much identical to the personal experiences I have had of a course which I completed in October: Unearth Your Power, and one which I am currently enrolled: Unearth Your Life (links below). We've not arranged a Pole Party yet but I'm not ruling anything out! It's worth mentioning that this Blog would be non-existent if I hadn't stopped playing small and hadn't taken my own "swing round the pole" and had amazing people backing me all the way!
Find your tribe. People who are into what you are into. You can have as many tribes as you like. One for fitness, one for mental health, childhood friends, people to chat about politics and injustice, people you've never met in person. They can all overlap and compliment one another and at the heart of your network of "cheerleaders" is YOU! You, showing up for the performance of your life with everyone cheering you on. Go on...lap it up!
YouTube- "Strip Down, Rise Up" Trailer- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MMXqjMe1WQ
Unearth Your Power- https://www.unearthyourpower.com/
The S Factor Female Empowerment Movement- https://www.sfactor.com/
NHS Website Help After Rape or Sexual Assault- https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/help-after-rape-and-sexual-assault/
Featured Image Credit: Netflix