Monday, March 1, 2010

Strippers are people too.

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.


  1. this is half baked and rambly... but, here goes...

    it's interesting to think about how as consumers, when we spend money we expect to OWN something. it's not enough to pay for an experience, we need something physical (to prove to others that it happened? to remind ourselves that it happened? to re-live it later? to re-sell it later?). a ticket stub, a souvenir, a photo. people sneak cameras into theaters and museum exhibits and amusement park rides and concerts. it's weird to think about how that changes the way we experience things- (ex: cameraphones at shows- people actually used to DANCE in the moment instead of obsessing over how to preserve it.), and why we assume that we have the right to take a subject out of context for our own enjoyment.

    it's so upsetting that these guys felt entitled to photograph the dancers without their consent. (because they were naked? because they were women?) There are some situations where photography is restricted because only certain people are allowed to own or profit from these images, taking a picture in that situation can be an act of defiance, a statement on anti-capitalism. There are other situations where it is a safety issue, and where a camera can be invasive and exploitative, and taking a picture can be a form of assault. Taking a photo is having power over the subject. It is establishing publicly that the photographer is the viewer and the subject is the thing to be viewed.

    one time a male co-worker of mine brought a camera -with no film in it- to work, and went around "taking pictures" of people in the office. when people got pissed, he'd be like "what's the matter? there's not even any film in it. i'm just playing around!" besides this being really weird, it was really degrading. objectification is not in the photograph, but in the act of the person taking it.

    what do we "take" when we take a picture? control.

  2. i wonder how many strip clubs are owned and operated by women.

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