So....right now, I'm bartending and saving my pennies to go to grad school in the fall, and as a bartender, I hear some pretty offensive shit, like all the time. Now, I'm not proud of it, but I have to let a lot of things slide because a) I work for tips and b) I would probably get fired if I open my mouth as much as I want to... but last night, I just couldn't help myself.
I was talking to three guys who were basically out looking to meet some ladies and the subject came up of going to a local strip club (Delilah's). Then one guy mentioned that he wouldn't want to go there because they take your phones at the front door. To this I replied, "Duh, so you can't take their pictures." Seems like common sense, no? This sent the guys into a tizzy of ignorant offensive sexist rhetoric. Their basic argument was that, they're strippers, and because they CHOSE to be strippers, they should have no rights? I know, I know... it blew my mind too. They went on and on about how since they're naked they've given up any rights to not be exploited, and that they deserve to be degraded. After all, if they didn't want to be treated that way, they could just not be strippers. This, of course, is my synopsis of their argument... they sounded slightly more like cavemen. So, I decided to check my tip at the door, and I schooled them.
At the core of this argument was the idea that these woman are naked for you, so you should be allowed to take pictures of them. But lets look at the facts, these are woman at work and what you're paying for is entertainment. They're dancing for you, not because you're such a stud cowboy, but because you are paying them. It's like going to the theatre really... you're paying for a performance for a couple of hours. There are laws that say you can't record a play while you're at the theatre, so why should you be allowed to record your adult entertainment? Oh right, because men (and other people too) think all women were put on this Earth as property for the sole purpose of being objectified! She deserves it, after all, look at what she's (not) wearing! And, lets, for a second think about the language behind "taking" a picture or "capturing" an image. Sounds sort of aggressive doesn't it? It implies that the image taker usurped ownership of the image with brute force. I sure don't think that guy at the strip club deserves to "own" a picture of the dancer.
Like I said, these are woman at work and they are just trying to make that money (isn't everyone?). Maybe they're a single parent just trying to pay their heating bill and buy diapers. Maybe they're trying to pull themselves out of generations of poverty. Maybe they didn't have access to an education. Maybe they are escaping a violent and abusive domestic situation. Maybe they ran away from home when they were 16. Maybe they're trying to put themselves through medical school. But the bottom line is, these woman deserve to work in a safe and respectful environment and do not deserve to be exploited, degraded, and demoralized... unless it's on their terms. That's what it really comes down to, I think.... allowing these women to dictate what is and what isn't ok. Working in a space where they can create and maintain safe boundaries. Hopefully these boundaries are dictated by them and not by management.... but that's probably a whole other blog in itself.
This brings me to the ever controversial question: Can stripping be a feminist act? If women are being objectified every second of every day anyway, why not take control of it and make a profit? If living as a female means living a life where your worth is based on predetermined beauty standards, why not reclaim your sexuality on your own terms. Or as a dancer are you hurting feminism by perpetuating harmful standards of beauty and enforcing the notion of women as property. What does it mean when your body is your work / art? I don't know if anyone can say it is or it isn't a feminist act. I think it's personal to each dancer. I guess you have to ask yourself: as an adult entertainer, do you feel empowered or disempowered? Could stripping be a feminist act for me? I think it would be. Actually, it was, the one and only time I performed at a women only amateur strip night. However, I was only able to do it because of the night itself . Would I be able to do it for men? Probably not... but it would certainly be a feminist act if I could! My body and gender presentation don't align with any of the mainstream strip clubs I've ever been to.
But the moral of this story is: strippers (and bartenders!) are people too. So please treat them with respect and tip them adequately for their services. Oh, and in case you were concerned, those guys tipped me really well despite the fact (or maybe because) I called them ignorant assholes.