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Why the fuss over Miss USA's pole dance?

This past weekend Rima Fakih became the first Arab-American crowned as Miss USA.

By Monday our society was already trying to rip her to shreds after some photos flew through the Internet, featuring Fakih dancing on a pole like she paid for college with stacks of dollar bills.

In an instant, the cultural dialogue shifted from praising the rare fact that a Muslim woman was selected as Miss USA to questioning if Fakih should have her title revoked because we saw a couple photos that suggest she doesn't always act like an "all-American girl" - whatever that means.

Moms wondered how their daughters could ever view Fakih as a role model.

Purists demanded this new role model relinquish her title for not acting like a "real lady" every second of her life.

And I was wondering what the fuss was about because Fakih looked more like a "normal" American woman dancing next to a pole than she did on stage with a tiara, sash and contrived smile.

I'm not suggesting that a woman's purpose is to be a sexual object. I don't believe that. If I did, my wife would crucify me on a stripper's pole.

But the truth is I know more women who dress in short shorts and skimpy tops, like Fakih wore in those controversial photos, than women who drape themselves in bedazzled gowns that wrap the body like cellophane.

And I know many more women who have danced on stripper poles - either ironically or seductively - than women who subject themselves to beauty pageants that point out imperfections.

Whether we care to admit it or not, pole dancing has become part of the "normal" American lexicon.

Pole-dancing classes are taught around the nation to everyday women. You can order workout DVDs designed around pole-dancing moves. And some people are installing these poles in their homes as openly as they'd add a new oven.

The pole is not the back-alley sex-trade tool it was perceived to be decades ago. Rather, it's become an instrument of female liberation for women unafraid of their sexual identities or of being a little flirty for their loved ones.

Sure, some men (and women) will always associate the pole with illicit desire. That happens.

But seeing Fakih getting her freak on against a pole wasn't an isolated example of sexual deviance. It was a regular American woman having some fun in a way her peers can relate to.

And like a regular woman, Fakih's response to the backlash was cool. Earlier this week on the "Today" show, Fakih said, "I didn't do anything wrong."

It's too bad the rest of our country doesn't realize that.

Robert Morast is the Forum's Features Editor.