The Butler County woman who got national attention last year when she sued Adams Township for its refusal to allow her to open a pole-dancing studio has settled her case.
Stephanie Babines, of Cranberry, will receive $75,000 in damages
and attorney's fees to end the federal lawsuit in which she claimed a violation
of her First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.
Ms. Babines, who has a master's degree in project management, has been involved in pole dancing for about three years. Last February, she leased space at 222 Mars-Valencia Road to open a dance studio. After spending about $10,000 on renovations to the former children's clothing store, she was told by the township code enforcement officer she would not be allowed to open because he believed it was an adult business.
I find this an interesting story and turn of events. Personally, I think it is laughable that teaching exercise classes with a sexual theme counts as an "adult business" while Pittsburgh lets a bath house operate as a health facility. While I don't really get the appeal of pole dancing, I have to be honest that the only person I ever knew who took it for exercise was someone who behaved in sexually inappropriate ways in the workplace all the time so my insight is limited. (It is one thing to pole dance, it is another to demonstrate it for your clearly uncomfortable coworkers.)
Granted, these are two different governing bodies with different regulations. Still, the facility that allows women to express their sexuality in what really does amount to a healthy way (exercise) is labeled "adult entertainment" while the club (Club Pittsburgh) where men "allegedly" engage in sexual contact and film pornography gets a pass? Come on.
Ms. Babines teaches several classes, including striptease, hoop aerobics, power
lap dance, Stiletto Strut, belly and salsa dancing, SeXXXercise -- an ab and
core workout -- as well as pole dancing.
Again, we can have a discussion about the impact of her business --- does it exploit the culture of female objectification or turn it on its head? But unless she has a viewing room with private booths and popcorn, it is hardly an adult business.
Still, Ms. Babines fought her battle in public with the assistance of the ACLU because she wasn't trying to skate beneath the surface of zoning regulations -- she had a legitimate appeal. What she did not do was "pay to play" with the Mayor to get the zoning commission to turn their heads the other way. Good for her. Her club is properly zoned and will be properly inspected.
I have a few thoughts still rolling around in my head:
1. Is this form of exercise exploitative?
2. Would I feel differently if a man opened the club?
3. If she had been zoned adult entertainment, but given a permit, would it have been an acceptable solution for Ms. Babines?
4. How different are these classes from the belly dancing classes that are all the rage in Pittsburgh's women and feminist communities?
What do you think?