Bad Feminist: The Strip Club Edition

No, that is not an updated version of Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. Simply my idea of a clever title for this blog entry. My purpose though is to ask whether I am a bad feminist for feeling depressed in a strip club, is that disrespectful to the women who work there and would I feel depressed in another setting in which I am watching people in an occupation I would rather not do myself.

For a little context, a few weeks ago I went out with some friends in Williamsburg and we ended up in a fine establishment in East Williamsburg whose name I will not mention here, but it should be easily determined by using Google where we were. We spent about an hour there, watched the ladies dance behind the bar and my friends were very insistent on purchasing me a lap dance (thanks Tashay and Gabe if you ever read this).

I think this club should get a lot of credit for promoting body positivity. The women were of all different backgrounds, shapes and sizes which I think is great because it would be very boring to go to a club where all the ladies were plastic, blonde barbie dolls. I also think it’s great in general to show a wide range of beauty because there should not be any one definition of beauty, especially when it comes to the fact that barely any women truly fill the skinny, blonde stereotype of Western Beauty.

The women also possessed amazing strength and stamina while dancing, primarily on a pole which requires an amazing amount of flexibility and upper arm strength. Pole dancing is a legitimate work out and should not be solely associated with clubs, and in clubs I think women should be celebrated for their strength just as much as their sexiness.

What made me feel sad was when I did the lap dance. Nothing at all wrong with that in concept, it was a great experience and I had a nice chat with the woman who danced about how she trains and her style inspiration. What bothered me was, despite the fact that there was a large Do Not Touch The Women sign in the lap dance area (it was only semi private so other people receiving dances could be seen by me and anyone walking past in the back) there were multiple men touching the women. Maybe some of the women don’t mind, perhaps I am projecting my own personal hang ups onto them and I am sorry for being judgmental and being concerned about breaking the rules. It just made me sad that a basic rule to protect their personal safety was being violated, so what else is being violated?

My friend pointed out that it’s not really any different from an unprotected fast food worker which is absolutely true. Fast food workers in the US, and other low wage workers, are also subjected to potential and actual bodily harm due to basic work place safety being violated and that bothers me a lot too. I think serious reforms need to be made in all of these work places. I think it was just much more obvious and in your face in a strip club environment where workers are quite literally putting their bodies on the line for more money. There was a bouncer present and other male employees so I certainly hope that they intervene if there is an unruly customer who goes too far. It’s just extremely unpleasant to feel violated, and I certainly hope that I am just projecting or speculating or thinking of worst case scenarios and the women who work here never feel violated. I just thought of potentially feeling that way on a regular basis and that’s what made me sad.

I hope that this place where we went is a good employer, but for all good employers there are crappy ones which is why I think work like this needs to be de-stigmatized and dancers need to be protected in the same way any other bar or restaurant worker is. From what I understand dancers do not have to receive minimum wage and receive their entire pay via tips and selling dances (I can’t say what the specifics are in regards to this club in Williamsburg, I am speaking in generalities) and I think that can lead to dangerous situations if a man is allowed to potentially violate a woman so she can get a larger tip. Unfortunately this idea is unlikely be on anyone’s campaign platform, but hey, progress.

I am conflicted as to whether or not this makes me a bad feminist. I do not want to judge anyone who pursues this kind of work as I don’t think it’s right to look down on a grocery bagger, or a cashier or a fast food worker either. There are concerns that I have, but they can be applied to other occupations. I would also be disappointed if someone judged my work or made false assumptions so it’s the exact same thing. Perhaps I need to make another trip to the strip club to get a more accurate idea of what it’s like, or find an interview somewhere. Of course every one’s experience is different, I know there is no one size fits all answer to my question and my personal experience is just one small anecdote.

I wouldn’t return on my own, but I wouldn’t say no if someone invited me and I went to get a fresh perspective.

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