I was watching the new episode of Lose Women on ITV today (03/03/14) when a conversation about stripping, about what we all think of it and about if we judge the women who do it popped up.
Okay…to even BEGIN a conversation about stripping with ‘do we judge women who chose to strip’ is misguided and absolutely stupid. NO of course we don’t. We are decent human beings, why in the hell would we judge women for their choices.
We heard mention of a study from Leeds University that many women working in strip clubs are students who need to earn their way through Uni. What a nice fact, the Loose Women say, and then skip immediately back to the question of ‘Do we judge them?’. I’m sorry, is there not a discussion to be at least TO SOME EXTENT explored that women are finding it so hard to execute their basic right of education that they are choosing to do such work that they otherwise wouldn’t do? But apparently even when it comes to monetary need or the economic climate we still need to have a discussion about whether we blame them.
Coleen talks kindly about a stripper she once met who she didn’t judge for stripping - how nice - before clarifying that of course, she wouldn’t want her own child to do it when they reached eighteen. Why? The only reason you wouldn’t want your child to strip is because you feel it is somehow representing women in a bad light, somehow perpetuating damaging gender roles. Is there not something to look at in this? Why are these strip clubs still around? Why do we have this culture at all? Who is responsible for it? Who needs to be talking about it and doing something about it? None of this is addressed, we make no further analysis of the situations, and move swiftly onward.
Nadia makes the useful input that if you’re child chose to strip at eighteen they would no doubt feel the niggles of shame and regret when they’re older. This conversation is horrific. The problem is strip clubs is NOT that women degrade themselves. It is not that men have won. It is not that they are shaming themselves, that they are disgusting because they took their clothes off.
The problem with strip clubs - and by that I mean the whole institution - the managers, the owners, the clientele, the council approval, NOT just the strippers - is that they are part and parcel to a culture that values women on their sexual appeal to men, it is that their role within those walls is purely for the gratification of others, not for their own desires, thoughts, opinions, feelings, ideas or any of their individuality as a whole (the subject/object argument in a nutshell).
The evidence for the damage of sexual objectification is endless - men exposed to this imagery of women fail to psychologically register women in this imager as HUMAN, those who see it are more likely to buy into rape myths and victim blaming, women exposed to this imagery of women experience depression, eating disorders, body monitoring, body shame, lack of political efficacy, lowered pursuit of careers, lower cognitive and motor functioning, sexual dysfunction, the list goes on and on and on and on.
The problem with strip clubs is how they impact the mental health of women who work in them. You know, real, human women who are needlessly and unjustly suffering these consequences. And yet we insist on gearing our conversation so simplistically towards how embarrassed or ashamed a woman should be as a person for making that choice, even if she needed the money. To clarify, I’m sure there are SOME women who work in these jobs, find them genuinely empowering and suffer no negative effects. But the impact of this and things like this on actual people is real and it is tangible. WHY, out of all of these things, are we discussing how embarrassed women should be of themselves?
Why, are we not discussing how ashamed we would be of our son’s if they got to eighteen and went to a strip club? If they picked up a lad’s magazine or cat-called somebody or talked disproportionately about women’s appearances, body parts, or sexiness. Why is their a complete silence on men who take part in a patriarchal system? Why, if this is such a bad thing for women, are the people that are carrying out this act ON women, not responsible, not part of it, not involved, not even worth discussing?
Kaye chips in that the argument women make about stripping being empowering is ridiculous. WHY ARE WE STILL HAVING A CONVERSATION ABOUT WOMEN’S CHOICES? Where are the men?? Where is society?? Where is EVERYONE ELSE INVOLVED IN THE VERY CONCEPTS OF WOMEN THAT ALLOW THIS INDUSTRY?? Why the fuck are we taking up a discussion about something that we personally deem, IN OUR OWN OPINIONS, to be sexist towards women and henceforth discussing women’s CAPABILITY TO ADEQUATELY DEAL WITH THE THINGS OPPRESS THEM. This is like making a panel show about the limited perceptions of people of colour and entitling it ‘Should we blame black people for twerking? High unemployment of BME people, white supremacy, and other political issues that we’re going to entirely ignore in favour of blaming the oppressed.’
She keeps on at this idea to the point of saying that women who think this work is empowering are ‘fooling themselves’. Fooling THEMSELVES? Yes, It’s not the media fooling them. It’s not the continuous representation of women as sexualised in music, tv, movies, advertising and EVERYWHERE. It’s not the continuous analysis of discussion of women’s appearance, women’s body parts and women’s weight in women’s magazines or the pages and pages dedicated to men’s desires, what men want, how to rock a man’s world in bed. It is you, you substandard women, who chose to be such fucking idiots in this giant institution that asks you value yourself as less than human, that predisposes you to low self esteem, to self hatred, to sadness, to less success in careers, to rape, and to being paid fucking less for doing the same fucking job as the fucking man across the road.
Finally and most beautifully Jane concludes that in stripping women are allowing the men who go to strip clubs to head back to their friends, brag about their experience and perpetuate negative views of women. WHAT A GREAT POINT JANE. GOD-DAMNIT WOMEN LOOK AT YOU ALLOWING MEN TO BE SEXIST TOWARDS YOU. Don’t you know that men aren’t capable of being decent human beings and that you, in this patriarchal society, are responsible for correcting their perceptions and treatment of you??’
This is the stupidest conversation about inequality that I have ever fucking witnessed. The attitude that men are driven purely by sexual desires, are incapable of not seeing women as sexual, or of seeing them as friends, that men have always and will always value women in this way, that there will always be demand in the sex industry, is the exact attitude that allows things like strip clubs to be a thing, it is the exact attitude that allows rape to be thought of as inevitable and allows women to be thought of as responsible not just for strip clubs but for BEING FUCKING RAPED. Why are we not questioning this? Why are we not trying to see MEN in a different light? Why are we not trying to understand our son’s motivation to pay a woman to perform for him naked?
The sexism in this whole fucking conversation is staggering. We will not, ever, get ANYWHERE, if we expect women to fix what is being done to them. Women are the victims of the patriarchy. They are overwhelmingly the ones who suffer under it. Sexism is embedded deeply in all of us, in all of our perceptions of gender, in all of our judgements of what is natural and normal. Looking to women to solve what is being done to them will be exactly as effective as telling women to go home in daylight, shaking their keys, without having had a drop to drink has stopped men from raping them.
Rant over. Here’s some links that are relevant and amazing.
- a video by Laci Green about sexual objectification that I can’t praise highly enough.
- a video by Caroline Heldman about sexual objectification and her research on objectifying imagery.
-an article by Paris Lees about prostitution and university for a working class woman.