I have read some interesting articles of late highlighting how the #notastripper movement is just veiled slut-shaming. It got me thinking about why being a stripper is seen to be shameful. And I came to the conclusion that in fact, it’s just another way in which patriarchal values have successfully “divided and conquered” women. I think it is time that women en masse stood up in solidarity with the sisterhood and reframed the perception of “stripper”, just as we have started reclaiming the slut and begun to #freethenipple.
Let’s be honest, women make up about half the world’s population. So if we decide together to make the change, it will not go unnoticed. And as pole dancers we have a unique opportunity to lead this movement.
Forgetting about men for a second, why do non-stripper women shame their stripper counterparts?
Firstly, I think it is human nature to want to perceive yourself as “better” than other people. This is rooted in ego, however should not be judged – merely acknowledged. Most of us have this as an intrinsic part of our nature, no matter how much we rationally try and rise above it. This competitive nature makes it easy for internalised misogyny within women to slut-shame strippers – to see them as lesser value. Call them “dirty”, “skanky” or “cheap”.
In conjunction with this, they may enjoy looking down upon a career choice that is deemed socially inferior and of lower perceived status on the hierarchy of jobs than their own. For these reasons, buying into the patriarchal derision of stripping suits their own needs.
I also believe the perceived sexual freedom of a woman who takes her clothes off for money is a trigger for non-stripper women’s sexual inhibitions. This makes it easier for those women to form rash judgments and dismiss strippers as “sluts” – because they feel threatened by their flagrant disregard for the sexual status quo (whether consciously acknowledged or not). This is just another means of feeling superior, which at its roots is based in the misogynistic belief that women are demeaned by being sexually liberated. Something for which many of us have internal shame and subconscious inhibitions – even those of us who outwardly rebuke these notions.
Then there are feminists who argue that stripping unravels the progress of feminism by commodifying a woman’s sexuality, reducing her worth to how it appears to the male gaze and reinforcing the objectification of women. I actually feel that this is just convenient slut shaming under the guise of feminism, from women who feel triggered by strippers but don’t want to appear as though they are telling them what to do. The problem is, THEY ARE. They’re just rationalising it as the strippers’ problem, not their own.
Let’s break this down for a second. Put your hand up if you think males, as a gender, are commodified by the existence of male strippers? Are men reduced in worth by a small subset taking their clothes off for money? Anyone? Bueller?
The problem lies in the centuries of oppression of women, and how that translates to current patriarchal expectations of “how a lady should behave”, NOT in the present day behaviour of women who choose to get paid to take their clothes off. That’s flat out internalised misogyny dressed up as “feminism”, thank you very much.
The reality is, both genders objectify one another. Is it ok? Who knows! You can’t argue that we as women don’t do it. However, there is a clear precedent set that the existence of stripping, commodifying nudity, and objectification of men working as strippers DOES NOT result in inequality for men.
Why is this an important point? Because the onus is on ALL of us to respect women, NOT tell them how they should behave. That is true feminism. Men must embrace women as equals regardless of what career options they engage in. If it’s possible for women to watch a male stripper and still respect the male gender, it’s certainly possible for men to do the same. Men aren’t idiots, it’s just way more convenient for them to maintain the status quo without questioning it.
It is damaging for all of us to perpetuate this shaming of strippers merely because of their choice of profession. When we allow some of us to be torn down, we all go down together. There will be haters and bigots who get uncomfortable with an attitude shift, but it’s not going to happen until someone starts paving a new way. So let it begin with us. Pole dancers are still frequently faced with these fossilised chauvinistic beliefs, so we are perfectly positioned to start the revolution. We have the power to change it!
As pole dancers, if uneducated asshats insist on labelling us all as strippers, we should wear that label with pride. Stand in solidarity with our showgirl sisters! There should be nothing wrong with or demeaning about being a stripper. So if someone calls you a stripper say “What’s wrong with that? Strippers are totally badass!”.
With that in mind, here are twenty reasons why this is the case.
- Strippers are extremely self-sufficient, and some of the most driven women I’ve ever met.
- Strippers are often highly intelligent people, but take inane conversation and condescension with the patience of a saint.
- Strippers almost always have another name. Hence, they know what it’s like to lead a double life. Kind of like a secret agent. Or Batman.
- Strippers can MacGyver the shit out of a wardrobe malfunction.
- Strippers have most likely at least once put on a fake accent and pretended to be from another country. Even if it failed miserably, it was probably hilarious. You should try it.
- Strippers can be a lonely man’s best friend. And most of them are damn good at listening.
- Strippers know they are being judged by large portions of society as “less” – yet they do it anyway, in defiance, and refuse to feel shame for it. In this way, they are the frontrunners of a feminist rebellion.
- Strippers have an awesome sense of humour and solid appreciation for irony. Where else could you experience being tits-out in a camo g-banger, waving around a toy machine gun while a cop arrests some dude on the floor next to you?
- Strippers see the worst of men. So in a relationship with a man you can be sure they accept all his weaknesses along with his strengths in full awareness and love him regardless.
- Strippers understand the full beauty of the female form. Yes, some of them have cosmetic procedures. But they’ve all seen every type of vagina, every shape of breast, and every combination of thick and thin body parts. They know it’s all natural, all normal and all woman.
- Strippers have most likely had (on more than one occasion) some kind of mortifying “visible tampon string” situation or other very public “embarrassing bodies” type experience. They have lived to tell the tale and become more comfortable in their own skin because of it.
- Strippers are able to indulge their inner child by playing in costumes for large portions of the week. And write them off on tax.
- Strippers have overcome their own fear of getting naked in front of a room full of strangers. Fear – we all know it. It’s scary. These ladies felt the fear and did it anyway.
- Strippers experience what it’s like to have people talk to them without a filter. Few patrons actually care about a strippers feelings. Ever been cat-called, or given the old “show us your tits”? That is just the tip of a very large #nofilter iceberg. Unsolicited opinions about your physical appearance is pretty much par for the course for the average stripper, from approximately every second patron.
- Strippers witness first-hand a common internal battle of some men – needing to feel superior over women but secretly feeling powerless against them. This one’s a corker and could be one of the reasons why men feel the need to demean strippers – because they know their darkest secret.
- Ever had one of those days where you just wanted to crawl back under your doona and cry? Imagine having to shake that shit off, face a barrage of men throwing brutally judgmental opinions about your physical appearance twenty times in an hour… Then maintain a casual, fun-loving attitude in order to convince them to part with their hard earned dollars so you can pay your school fees, rent, or other pressing financial commitment.
- Strippers have been coerced, manipulated and harassed by vast numbers of men. Yet most of them have a mind open enough to take each man at face value, and a heart still able to trust them (as either a friend or lover)… Even though the dishonesty and betrayal they have witnessed countless times on buck’s nights would make your toes curl.
- Strippers at one time or another will deal with people who have committed serious crimes. They learn what it feels like to be around malevolent types, and they are damn good judges of character. Listen to them if they warn you about someone.
- Strippers have seen the parts of people which they prefer to keep hidden from the general population. Because of this, they have a good understanding of life’s weirdness and usually have very open minds. You can pretty much tell a stripper anything about yourself that you feel ashamed of, and they’ll just think you’re normal.
- Strippers know that large numbers of men are just scared, lonely little boys who would prefer to be hypnotised by a vagina than face their real world problems.
About the author:
Ally is a restless entrepreneur and passionate creative with a Piscean idealism and an aversion to authority. Having practiced as a Naturopath and Massage Therapist for 6 years, she abandoned clinic work in 2014 to spend more time doing what she loved most: working with her pole family at Bottoms Up! Dance and teaching 80’s dance fitness under her own creation RAD Fitness.
It didn’t take long before her creative juices led her to conjure up Pandemonium Events, and under this brand she produced and co-ordinated nine pole, aerial and variety performance nights in the space of 18 months.
Besides teaching and producing, Ally loves being on stage. She competed in the Victorian Pole Championships in 2013 and then again in 2015 where she won the Amateur division and went on to compete in the national finals. She also joined APDM Editor Jane Blair and their Bottoms Up! family in a Rocky Horror group performance at Encore! 2016.
Having toyed with the idea of starting a pole magazine herself in 2011, Ally watched the growth of Australian Pole Dancers Magazine with much interest, contributing articles to the publication before formally becoming a partner in November 2015. She loves being part of APDM as she feels it is something that the entire pole community can use as a means of connecting with one another, learning from one another and growing together.