Written by Pallavi Yetur

The social media app based on how visible you are wants you to be less visible. By now, polers all over the world have gotten hip to Instagram’s shady ways. In an effort to regulate lewd or inappropriate content, Instagram has targeted the pole community and specific polers by shadowbanning those who use several of the hashtags with our beloved “pd” prefix, among others. The result is that posts from pole-lebrities and popular accounts are lost in the either, unseen by fans, and unfindable by those looking for new moves and inspo. 

In addition to those of us who seek out and participate in the social media pole community out of interest and enjoyment, there are many in the community who make their living from poling, and from promoting themselves on Instagram. Sex workers, who have already had reason to take issue with the mainstreamification of pole because of how some have conveyed an air of superiority in the appropriation of their work (the whole “I’m not that kind of pole dancer” thing), have spoken out about how detrimental to their livelihoods this discrimination has been. Pole brands and sellers of pole wear and other related merchandise, like our very own Push and Pole, have also been affected. Owner and Founder Tiffany Liu expressed having a moment of panic when she realized her main avenue for marketing her brand was now going through a filter dictated by a restrictive algorithm. 

Polers and bloggers have been posting about the shadowbanning, calling it yet another way our patriarchy has found to police women’s bodies. Many have cited the FOSTA/SESTA bills—amendments to Federal acts to protect against the use of computer services to promote sex trafficking—as the impetus for being censored all of a sudden. Legislation that defends against sex traffickers is vital. But somehow, arbitrarily cherry-picking content to exclude from social media platforms has become an extraneous part of that effort. It sounds a lot like how the country of Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale starts—under the guise of safety, the litigation of what is and isn’t “decent” falls into the hands of a few powerful men. As women being told that what we present isn’t appropriate, it is clear that someone is still viewing us as spectacles, still trying to control our bodies, no matter how much we try to be taken seriously. People who tend to take issue with exposed female bodies are those who desire and want to own them, but are unable to process their own feelings of envy and rage at not being able to do so. In fact, some polers and sex workers have reported that Incel trolls are the ones reporting their accounts. Thankfully, in Handmaid’s Tale fashion, we’ve been fighting back and getting results, creating petitions for Instagram to stop singling out our community, and even starting a new social media app just for us called Pole Riot. 

Our unity and the efforts of our pole leaders have not gone unnoticed, as just this week it was reported that Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, issued an apology to polers saying that the pole-related hashtags had been blocked “in error” due to the massive volume of content that Instagram employees must monitor. The social media giant, however, could not be much more transparent than that, and did not speak to how so many pole hashtags would have been blocked by mistake, or to the underlying implications behind such a ban. They did, however, implement an appeals process wherein owners of posts that have been removed can request a review. But they are still counting your strikes against you and retain the power to disable accounts according to their own discretion that they still don’t have to explain.

The pole community is special because of how the sport and art form has played a role in empowering a woman’s choice to show herself. Through pole, women have been able to take back their bodies from the patriarchal male gaze and be seen on their own terms. Instagram has played an integral part in that by providing a platform for showcasing and normalizing this mode of physical expression, allowing outsiders who would be otherwise ignorant of this community to understand what it really is because we can dictate our own narratives around how we inhabit our bodies, how we see them, how we show them, what we do with them. Collectively, we have created a space for ownership, one where we can give up the hang-ups about being too big or small or not perfect or not good enough, because all of us have come from a different place and bring a unique value and our own skills to this practice. Because we’ve been in it, benefitting from this amazing community’s inclusivity and body positivity, it’s easy to forget momentarily that there is still hate and taboo around female exposition. Instagram’s censorship of posts that follow all their rules of decency just because they involve a woman’s body on a pole reiterates the message that women do not have bodily freedom because we’ve in fact been scrutinized by our own platform this whole time. 

In Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, June says “They should never have given us uniforms if they didn’t want us to be an army.” What Instagram has taken for granted is that we are hundreds of thousands of unique individuals linked by a common language and a common love—and we’re badass beasts. We pole, we support our fellow polers, we fangirl on our fave pole accounts, we buy pole wear and gear, we post our combos and flexibility progress, we learn and grow stronger. We are going to keep doing what we’re doing whether Instagram wants us or not.

Pallavi Yetur is the Lead Copyeditor and a blog contributor for The Coachella Review. She let her pop culture nerd flag fly as she studied Communication and Literature/Writing at UC San Diego, after which she earned her MA in Mental Health Counseling from NYU. Pallavi splits her time between practicing psychotherapy in Manhattan, freelance coaching for a consulting firm, training for PSO competitions, watching a lot of TV, and working toward her MFA in Nonfiction at the University of California, Riverside. She was born and raised in Southern California and now lives in Jersey City, where she and her husband watch Bravo and argue over whose home state has the best tomatoes. @pallaviyetur on Twitter; @pallaviyetur and @nerdypoler on Instagram


Additional content


Leave a comment

All blog comments are checked prior to publishing