Their Bluestocking Predecessors Who Fought for Women's Rights; FEMAIL MAGAZINE

Daily Mail (London), February 26, 2004 | Go to article overview

Their Bluestocking Predecessors Who Fought for Women's Rights; FEMAIL MAGAZINE


Byline: NATASHA COURTENAY-SMITH

Their bluestocking predecessors who fought for women's rights would be horrified. Even their own parents are aghast. So why have these Cambridge students formed their own pole-dancing club?

STUDENTS at Cambridge University provoked outrage this week when it was revealed they had set up a pole-dancing club, performing their routine in front of hundreds of students at a Queens' College dance. The girls say they are striking a blow for feminism, but are they really just undermining the continued battle for equality? Natasha Courtenay-Smith reports.

KSENIYA ELFIMOVA, 20, is in her third year of a law degree at Gonville and Caius College. She moved to England from Russia at 13, and lives in Dudley.

She attended King Edward VI state college in Stourbridge. She says:

MY mother is very sceptical about the fact that someone who worked so hard to get a place at Cambridge, and is so focused on a career in law, is pole dancing.

I didn't tell my parents about my new hobby at first because I suspected they'd be concerned, and didn't want to create a fuss.

Surprisingly, when I finally plucked up the courage, my father seemed fine about it. He asked if it involved stripping and when I said it didn't, he said it sounded like fun.

My mum, however, was less convinced. She was worried I would damage my reputation. She knows that people naturally make associations between pole dancing, and a seedier side of life, and no mother wants people assuming things like that about their daughter.

But at the moment, this is just something we are doing for the student union and I've reassured her we are doing it mainly for fun and not money.

She understands that there is a difference between being paid to pole dance half naked in public for strange men and doing it fully clothed in front of your student friends.

My boyfriend of three years, Richard, 20, a student, wasn't too pleased at first. I told him as soon as the idea came up and he hated the thought that other boys would be looking at me.

But he now insists he's cool about it and I imagine he's told all his friends, so he can't be that annoyed. He hasn't yet watched me perform, though.

I don't really see what all the fuss is about. Far from degrading women, I think we're liberating ourselves. I hate all the stereotypes that say 'intelligent women can't be sexy' or 'only bimbo's pole dance' and I'd like to see them all broken down.

If a woman wants to do something, she should feel free to do it without recriminations. Being intelligent doesn't mean you should hide your sexuality, and all women should be able to explore their sensual side without feeling ashamed.

For me, it's a bit of lighthearted relief from the hours I spend studying. I can see that some people might think reading law and pole dancing don't sit well together but I've always been a bit of a rebel.

TO BE honest, I can't imagine something like this coming back to haunt me in the future or affecting my professional reputation. It's not as if I'm stripping or lapdancing. I accept that some might say there is a fine line here, but I don't see why I should have to be restricted by other people's opinions. I wouldn't stop pole dancing even if my tutors were aghast.

It's my hobby, something new for myself and it doesn't interfere with my studies.

That said, I would hate to jeopardise my place here. I first heard about Cambridge University when I was a little girl in Russia and I worked really hard to get in, getting 4 As and 2 Bs at A-level.

My parents were proud of me.

Coming from a city like Moscow, it is quite an achievement to get into one of the best universities in the world.

I'm still focused on my future. I spend my holidays doing placements in law firms and sitting in court. Law is an incredibly tough course - I often work 60 hours a week and stay up late reading. …

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