A man doing pole dancing? Why we have some way to go to break down gender stereotypes at university

Think of yoga societies and you probably think of women. Think of video games, and it's more likely to be male-dominated. But does it have to be like this?

During our time at university, we are given the opportunity to join a wide range of societies alongside our courses. The world – or campus – is well and truly your oyster, as the choices on offer range from sports to volunteering to student media.

There are not enough hours in the day to join every society, and so students choose what interests them, what complements their degrees, or what looks good on their CVs and can help them after they graduate. However, there is another unspoken reason that determines whether or not we join a society: our gender.

You think of your local video gaming society and it's hard not to picture a group of guys crowding around a bunch of TVs playing "Call of Duty". Similarly, someone mentions yoga and you immediately imagine rows upon rows of women stretching towards the ceiling.

Sadly these gender stereotyping preconceptions are often spot-on. The Kent video gaming society has 72 paying male members, as opposed to just six female members, while its yoga society boasts hundreds of members, though in an average class of 30, only five are male.

Safiya Allaf, the president of the yoga society admits there are difficulties in trying to get male sign-ups during the Freshers Fayre.

‘When I asked men if they’d like to join yoga," she said, "they were more interested in asking how flexible I was as opposed to when the next session was or how they could join."

She noticed that a lot of the men that signed up to the mailing list failed to show up to any of the taster sessions despite the committee explaining that yoga was for everyone.

Similarly, the pole fitness society at Kent has around 160 female members but only 20 men though even this is a significant increase when it had just one male member three years ago. Co-presidents Abi Crowe and Isabel Riddy have turned the society around dramatically, throwing away the heels and the idea of "sexy" pole dancing, instead placing emphasis on fitness, strength and flexibility.

They insist that there is nothing sexual about pole fitness: "The amount of callouses on our hands and bruises on our legs are definitely not sexy!"

Both Abi and Isabel were outraged to hear that the pole society at Swansea University was banned last year for being "sexual" and "restricted to women only".

"The only reason they claimed it to be restrictive was because no men had joined. Here at Kent, we make sure that students know that Pole Fitness is for both men and women."

This still comes with its difficulties. While some men are genuinely impressed with the strength displayed at pole fitness, others have reacted with rude or dismissive comments - even though "men progress much quicker than women due to their natural strength when they first start".

19-year-old Will Shillibier, who is in his second year studying German, joined pole fitness in the Autumn because he was tired of going to the gym and wanted to try something different

"The gym is a bit of an intimidating place to be especially when you’ve got people there as thick as I am wide," he confesses.

He is already a member of the Kent's cycling club, which coincidentally has no female members in the main team, but wanted to build his strength and flexibility through another means of exercise.

He was aware of the society’s stereotypically female image and was slightly worried about what people would think.

"There has been the odd comment such as 'go and get your heels on', and sometimes it gets to the point where you just want to turn around and say 'f*** off'. I’m sure there are people thinking 'why are you not doing a ‘manly’ sport?', but it isn’t anybody’s business what I do in my free time."

What's more, Will will be taking part in the Kent pole fitness 'Fairytales and Legends' showcase which takes place this term. 

"I’m not scared. I’m excited to be playing a pivotal role having only joined pole fitness in September."

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Extras
indybest
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing software co...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate / Digital Account Exe...

Guru Careers: Junior Designer / Design Graduate

£18k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Junior Designer / Design Graduate to join...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick