Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

Paul Ryan and Pole Dancing

Paul Ryan and Pole Dancing

Photograph via New York magazine

Does life get more ridiculous every four years? Pole dancing will be an Olympic event in 2016. Yes, that kind of pole dancing, with scantily clad women performing various feats of, er, acrobatics, from a vertical pole. Meanwhile, exactly four years after a Grizzly Momma reinforced the glass ceiling for women, a Mormon is running a major presidential campaign with a vice-presidential candidate who claims his two guiding philosophies are atheistic libertarianism and conservative Catholicism.

Who needs a novel when we have life to read about?

Some of the world’s top pole dancers are in New York City right now training at Body & Pole on West 27th Street, including Elizabeth Muñoz of Peru. As the reigning Miss Pole Dance South America and a top contender going into the Pole World Cup this November in Brazil, she’ll be in the hunt for a medal at the Rio Olympics.

“The performance is an expression,” she told me recently over a drink in the West Village (oh, the people you meet in the Village). “The dance is sexy. It’s emotional. It’s very honest. You have to risk everything. Your true self comes out.”

But, I said, isn’t pole dancing more suited to strip clubs than professional athletics?

The horizontal bar is already an Olympic event, Muñoz replied. Her bar is just vertical—both require perfect lines, balance, concentration, incredible arm and abdomen strength, ballet.

Touché. And Muñoz can also make the argument that pole dancing is as legitimate a sport several other questionable events we saw at London 2012. Racewalking, which I only noticed for the first time this year, has been around since the 1904 Olympics (outlasting croquet, basque pelota, and Tug of War, all of which had brief stints as Olympic events). Trampolining became an Olympic sport in 2000, four years after the scantily clad beach volleyballers joined the Olympic club, which did a nice job in further reducing the global event to something of a block party.

“The facts are now established: beach volleyball is just that—a beach game,” says Matthew Engel in the Financial Times.

[quote]It has minimal tactical depth and the players’ skill levels are mediocre. But they are all fit (in more than one sense of the word) and the women, by decree, play in their scanties, which is the sole reason for the sport’s inclusion. The International Olympic Committee, amid their pompous self-regard, have a keen eye for showbiz.[/quote]

Yes, life is growing more absurd every four years, at least between the Olympics and the U.S. presidential election cycle.

Take the most recent political development of GOP candidate Mitt Romney announcing that his running mate will be Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

It’s an unprecedented match-up on several levels, as fellow columnist Ian Cheney noted here at Construction: “We’ve never seen a pair of tickets like this before. There are no southerners on the ballot. There are none who served in the military.” Moreover, only three times in U.S. history has a mere House member been on a major presidential ticket, and all three times that ticket lost.

The GOP ticket itself a narrative of America’s rightward drift. Construction’s Ben Hoffman pointed out yesterday out that Ryan is the most conservative vice president candidate in more than a century, and more conservative than any Democratic VP candidate has been liberal.

Ryan is also fascinating because of his internal battle between Ayn Rand-style atheist ultra-libertarianism and pro-life Catholic conservatism, as Anthony Resnick highlighted. “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand,” Ryan told the Rand-obsessed Atlas Society in 2005. He was recently still giving away copies of Atlas Shrugged as Christmas presents, and he told The New Yorker that he has been profoundly affected by Ayn Rand. Never mind that Ayn Rand said that “faith is the worst curse of mankind, as the exact antithesis and enemy of thought.”

So what’s more absurd, an Ayn Rand-loving Roman Catholic in the presidential race or pole dancing in the Olympics? Either way, it’s great entertainment.