The last time I discussed this topic with someone, he told me to fuck off and his best friend Internet trolled me hard, so historically it has not been a peaceful one in my experience. But, not one to shy away from a subject just because a couple of psychos can’t handle it, I’m here to talk about it again. I think it’s a complex, important issue that warrants exploration; as Macklemore says, “there’s layers to this shit, player.”
On the surface, the conceit of strip clubs is ostensibly straightforward: they predominantly exist as a place for men to go see naked women. Presumably because they are sexually stimulated by naked women. And because they want to get together with their bros and bro it up while they’re being sexually stimulated (anyone else seeing homoerotic undertones here? Hmm, I wonder why that particular theme is missing from the strip club narrative…). And at strip clubs men are paying to see a certain type of naked woman. Meaning not their naked wife or girlfriend in their bedroom, or bathroom, or shower, or while she’s giving birth. And barring a pimp/ho situation, the women who are stripping choose to strip–they don’t have to be there and they like how much money they’re making. Seems simple enough, right?
Well it’s not. I hate to kill your hard-on, but strip clubs are about more than men going because they like boobs, and women stripping because they feel like it. They’re about the systematic oppression and objectification of women. Here’s why: while most female strippers are probably technically choosing to strip, meaning they’re not literally being forced to, they’re choosing to strip in the context of a society which promotes the objectification of women as not only acceptable, but preferable, desirable, and profitable. I’ve said it 1,000 times before and I’ll say it infinity times again: we don’t live in a vacuum. Meaning that our decisions cannot be solely independent of external influence and pressure. If a stripper popped out of the womb proclaiming “I’m going to strip!” then maybe I’d concede your point that strippers have as much agency as their patrons and society at large. But we all know that’s not what happens.
What happens is that girls are raised in this society and culture, which bombards them, via billboards, film, television, magazines, music, and advertisements, with the message that they need to look sexy for men, and be attractive to men, and their worth, as it’s dictated by men, lies in their physicality and sexuality. So they learn that if they succumb to this objectification, they’ll get ahead in life, personally and professionally. Enter: stripping. A job that pays you to sell your body, and pays you a lot. And reinforces the idea that if you look and act a certain way, you will be admired.
If stripping wasn’t such a lucrative job, I bet a lot of strippers wouldn’t be doing it, and it wouldn’t be so lucrative if our sociocultural model didn’t promote viewing women as sexual objects–lucky for us, two of the things we as a society hold dearest are material wealth and the subjugation of women. So strip clubs are part of a nice, self-sustaining cycle of oppression. It’s pretty fucking straightforward. Don’t feed me your bullshit lines about how strippers like to strip, and want to strip, and there’s nothing exploitative about it; zoom out and look at the bigger picture. When tested against the hard and fast truth that our society overwhelmingly exploits women, all the hot air leaves your argument and it deflates. Of course women are going to choose to strip if it’s the easiest, fastest way for them to get the money and validation they’re taught to desire and value above all else.
Since there seems to be no end of the patriarchy in sight, I propose we start hosting “dress ins”–protests at strip clubs where we go in, storm the stage fully clothed, and refuse to move until women are valued for more than their bodies. We’ll have female poets, artists, authors, lawyers, doctors, musicians, teachers, social workers, etc. who can talk about their jobs and life passions and what it really means to be valuable as a person, and open discussions about feminism. And we’ll knit clothes for the strippers. It’ll be the strip club-goer’s worst nightmare: having to appreciate women for their minds. Actually, that’s what we should all dress up as for Halloween–intelligent women who defy objectification. It’ll be the scariest thing most men have ever seen.
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