- General Information
You may have seen posts circulating on social media about changing the word exotic to some other term. My goal with community debates is to examine multiple perspectives, consult with leaders in our industry, and finally to make a choice about what actions to take. This time, I'm looking for the community's opinion. Here is your chance to anonymously weigh in on the exotic debate and help decide the language that our industry uses going forward.
Please vote here on which opinion best describes your take on the exotic word choice. All voting will be anonymous. Here are some details about the debate.
Nadia Sharif posted some very informative videos that you can watch on her Instagram @thenadia33. She has produced the most extensive arguments in the "yes, remove it" side of the debate. Nadia would also like to recognize NovaCaine for her efforts and education around this topic. She contributed to many of the ideas shared in this video. I will do my best to summarize the main points below.
5/6/21 update to this section: I received a comment on Instagram saying that I had pitched this as Nadia and Nova on the side of removal against pole industry leaders on the other side. Many SWers and pole industry leaders have made supportive comments on Nadia's video post, and clearly support removing the word. So, to clarify, there are plenty of industry professionals on both sides of the debate.
Yes, remove it.
The use of the term exotic is outdated and offensive and we should remove it from the pole industry when describing the sexy side of pole. This word has a history of use against non-Europeans, non-Americans, and to describe an us vs. them mentality.
The term exotic appropriates stripper culture for the financial benefit of the pole dancing industry. Pole dancing has a history of taking from strippers without giving them their due. Our industry profits from appropriation but does not give credit or provide financial benefit for strippers. Just the opposite, strippers are actively unwelcome. Strippers are welcome to use the word exotic, but not the pole industry at large.
Use of the word in general language objectifies and fetishizes women and non-whites. It is rooted in colonialism. We should remove the word from our industry in order to not offend others and to be inclusive. There are many other words that can be used instead of exotic. Nadia has shared an extensive list of alternatives on her Instagram.
The other side
To get this side of the debate, I have talked with many community leaders such as business owners, studio owners, and instructors, as well as some former SWers. The below is an aggregation of the different ideas that I have collected through those conversations.
No, keep it.
The use of the word exotic has developed a new meaning in the pole community. We have reclaimed this word in our industry to celebrate the sexy side of pole. Meanings of words change and evolve over time. The word exotic has come to mean the sexy, sensual, stripper-inspired styles of pole dancing. This word is useful because it encompasses many diverse styles of movement and is intuitive to polers and non-polers alike when describing a type of performance or type of class. Removing the word exotic from the pole industry is confusing, unnecessary, and furthers stripper-erasure. This has also become a predominantly American debate, so if we unilaterally change the word, we impose our terminology on the rest of the world and further our bad reputation of perceived superiority and disrespect of other cultures.
If you argue that use of the word exotic in our industry objectifies and fetishizes women, then it’s difficult to understand how one then also believes that pole dancing in general does not do that. Are we now against sexy pole generally too because it is objectifying? We believe that pole has reclaimed sexuality and sensuality and made it our own, and in the same way it has reclaimed the word exotic.
The main obstacle to renaming is that there really is not another good option to describe sexy style as a whole. Some terms are too specific to be used as style rename and are not inclusive of the same depth and breadth of styles (ex. Heels, slow flow), or are impossible for studios to implement because of advertising restrictions (ex. Including the word stripper or erotic). This leads us to conclude that exotic had become the word of choice because it is the best choice for including all aspects of the sexy side of pole.
Last But Not Least
This last opinion was the one that came up the most during my conversations. It boils down to:
I just don't want anyone to be harmed or feel uncomfortable.
Generally, I'm ok with it being changed or not changed, I just don't want to hurt anyone or make them feel uncomfortable.
Let's Hear From You
Please vote here! I am looking forward to hearing your voice! -Amy