Feminism & Stripping

A few friends and I went to the vegan strip club, Casa Diablo in Portland, Oregon over the weekend. This was my second time at a strip club, and many of the dancers were entirely nude.

The other strip club I went to was three years ago at Jumbo’s Clown Room in West Hollywood, California, where Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain met. Jumbo’s was fairly dirty, and cramped, in a small building that smelled really weird. I understand it is owned and managed by women, so that’s kind of redeeming. However, the vibe in there was really depressing – the dancers seemed so sad and had soulless eyes. They looked like showbusiness hadn’t come through for them, and they were desperate for cash. This wasn’t a group of women who felt empowered, they seem to have given up on life.

Not so at Casa Diablo, at least not for most of them. When I was in the restroom, I spoke with five or six women who were taking a break. One of the ladies was sharing photos on her iPhone of the new pink bunk bed that her boyfriend bought for her twin daughters. The other ladies looked at the picture and cooed over how cute her daughters are and how difficult it is to find a boyfriend that’s worthwhile. Like a conversation I’d hear…anywhere else.

Another woman had just given a “lap dance” to a guy who recently broke up with his long-term girlfriend and was lonely. She had given him real lap dances earlier in the week, but on that day, he just wanted to talk. I asked her if this is rare, and she said no, this is not terribly uncommon. She said 80% of the guys who come in are very respectful and do not violate any boundaries. But what about the other 20%, then, I wanted to know. She fussed with her hair in the mirror and said they get thrown out quickly, and the bouncers at the door have good memories of who not to let back in. All the women in there echoed how fantastic the bouncers were to them, and how chivalrous they are with them. I was really glad to hear that.

Another woman, who was especially pretty, graduated from college with a degree in gender studies and came to a strip club for a paper, and wound up working in the industry she was prepared to discount. She has been called a slut and whore and more, but she shrugs it off, saying she is a feminist, and the empowerment she feels is exhilarating. Did I mention she saves over $5,000 a month?

At this point, I left the bathroom along with most of the women. I saw most of them either up on the stage performing amazing acrobatics or walking around over the next hour or so, and it wasn’t sad or depressing. While some of them seemingly did have serious or semi-serious issues, others seemed like “normal” women and I found that sort of comforting.

The economics of women earning 70% of what a man makes is obviously unacceptable. For the women who have to strip in order to earn a living because of lack of education, or lack of other types of employment, I am so sad. Feeling like you don’t have another choice would be awful. On the other side of that coin, I believe that women who want to strip absolutely should. Some ladies I met enjoy stripping and are making incredible amounts of money doing what they like.

How many of us can say that about our jobs?