Los Angeles - United Pole Artists, Pole Dance Nation and thousands of professional and amateur pole dance athletes, dancers and fitness enthusiasts have united in an effort to bring Instagram to task with claims of sexism and discrimination attributed to the social media platform. A Change.org petition has already compiled over 12,000 signatures in less than a week, asserting that Instagram is unfairly hiding and burying pole related hashtags and content with their algorithm system. Hashtag usage on Instagram is instrumental for accruing exposure for postings and followers within the platform's system.
Pole fitness as an international competitive sport and dance art has exploded in popularity in the last decade. The Global Association of International Sports Federations granted Observer Status to the International Pole Sports Federation in 2017, the first step in a journey to Olympic recognition. Hundreds of thousands of amateur and professional polers from around the world have used Instagram for years to network, share inspiration and knowledge. For competitive athletes, instructors, performance artists and small business owners, social media is crucial to professional survival. Interest in the pole industry has been fueled by the growth in social media usage, with postings offering education and insight into an often-misunderstood art form.
In July 2019, almost all popular hashtags like #poledancing and #polefitness, and technical tags like #pddeadlift and #pdayesha, used by the online pole community to train and connect were hidden - tagged with a message from Instagram saying "...content may not meet Instagram's community guidelines."
United Pole Artists (UPA) has been active in the pole community since 2009 and boasts close to 200,000 followers on Instagram. The organization recently published an in-depth feature about the community's concerns per Instagram at https://www.unitedpoleartists.com/learn-about-and-take-action-on-the-pole-dance-shadowban/ . UPA founder and CEO, Annemarie Davies states, "Our community is under attack, yes, but there is an even bigger issue here in terms of how this scenario plays out for not only pole practitioners, but for all social media users. Who gets to define us and how? Instagram needs to update their algorithms - stop hiding pole hashtags and also to stop policing body positivity hashtags, and sex worker hashtags as well. The global hashtags lockdown seems to a be a trickle-down effect per the U.S FOSTA-SESTA bill - but banning our hashtags because they conflict with a nonsensical, vaguely defined, puritanical view of 'community standards' is just plain discriminatory!"
Nikki St John
, author of "Pole Dancer" and founder of @PoleDanceNation, with over 238,000 followers on Instagram, points out, "Instagram has no problem running paid advertising for the latest J-Lo movie 'Hustlers' featuring top Hollywood actresses and recording artists like Cardi B, and demonstrating their pole dance skills, but actual real life dancers and athletes are deemed 'inappropriate.' It's an unfair double standard."
Offers Laura Arbios, owner of Sadie's Pole Dance in Redondo Beach, CA and founder of Pole Dancers Vote, "We're of course very frustrated with Instagram's willingness to comply with the sweeping, ill-conceived legislation that is FOSTA/SESTA. It seems counterintuitive to censor our communities this way, and not even try to appeal or find a better solution. With women being responsible for more than half of the content on their platform, you'd think it would be in their best interest to defend and support their most active users and content creators. Our next collective goal should be to activate disengaged voters around the country to elect new leadership in 2020 and find ways to fight sex trafficking that won't harm sex workers or endanger the pole community's ability to share and connect."
The organized front of pole enthusiasts is hoping that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, take note and address the concerns of this community. As Dan Rosen, the UK Male Pole Champion and an instructor with over 56,000 followers on Instagram asserts, "We want Instagram to respect everyone on Instagram - as they advise us to do. Stop discriminating against us, unblock all pole dance related hashtags, and review their practices. We want Instagram to be a safe place to share inspiration and expression for all people - as is their stated mission.''
(Photos and credits: Pole athlete, Elizabeth Blanchard, international pole instructor, kinesiologist, aerialist and mother with 76 thousand followers on Instagram. Photo credit: John Higgins / @xanadu4.)