It’s stuff like this that depresses the living shit out of me

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010 · 52 Comments »

Read Echidne today: The New York Times Hates Women. Part I.

I’m guessing it’s going to be a thousand-part series. This first installment is on a Times article about strip-tease lessons for military wives:

What these stressed-out women obviously need is to learn to strip-tease! That was the one skill they missed and the one skill Uncle Sam really needs! After all, every wife is now competing with porn, and military wives are stripping not only for their husbands but for the country!

That’s what is angering me about the article: Its blind acceptance of the idea that military wives owe the country the provision of professional sexual services, its ignorance of the real reasons why military marriages are in trouble (hint: war and killing and long absences). The writer doesn’t put any of this into perspective, never doubts the point of this strip-tease therapy, never asks what these women really need. It’s all guy-centered and women are the things guys fuck. If they don’t feel like fucking, it’s the women’s fault and they must try harder.

Exactly. The Times piece is a study in patriarchy; you can read the whole thing and wonder if feminism ever happened. Actually, there is one clue, buried about half-way through the article, that once upon a time there was something the ancients speak of as “women’s lib”:

“For Ms. Knight, 32, this is her husband’s third deployment, meaning he has been away for 40 months, or three and a third years, since the wars began eight years ago. With two children, ages 1 and 3, and a part-time job teaching political science at a local community college, she has concluded, ‘I need a wife.’”

“I need a wife.” But the reporter doesn’t follow up. The statement just hangs there, a plaintive unanswered reminder that what overburdened working mothers really need is a helpmate, or at least some help. Instead they get stripper lessons.

See, I think I’m just gonna stay in my room and drink all day.

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52 Responses to “It’s stuff like this that depresses the living shit out of me”

  1. Sandra S. says:

    And the problems in these marriages couldn’t Possibly have to do with prolonged absences and extremely rigid gender expectations.

    I wonder what lessons the husbands of female soldiers get.

  2. Nadai says:

    “I need a wife” – that reminds me of the piece Judy Syfers wrote back when there was a real Women’s Liberation Movement going on.

    Ah, Google is my friend. It’s online here. So sad it’s still apropos instead of a glimpse into a hazy, half-forgotten past world.

  3. lambert strether says:

    Note the class aspect as well:

    In her latest book, “I Love a Man in Uniform” (Weinstein Books), she describes her unlikely marriage in 2002 to a soldier who taught at West Point and her struggles to gain acceptance among Army wives and their husbands. She notes that West Point once prevented her from doing a book signing on campus because she had been a stripper. (Her husband recently retired from the academy as a lieutenant colonel.)

    Rebekah Sanderlin, an Operation Bombshell graduate from Fort Bragg, N.C., said Ms. Burana faced a particular challenge winning over officers’ wives. Among enlisted soldiers, however, “it’s not that uncommon for husbands to have wives who were strippers,” said Ms. Sanderlin, a writer who is married to an enlisted man. “And some of them still dance.”

    The Lieutenant Colone’s wife starts a business teaching enlisted men’s wives. Just ick in every way. Maybe when the striptease thing has run its course, Buruna can career shift to being a “wellness consultant” under health insurance reform…

  4. The Ladybug Whisperer says:

    Maybe she regrets the essay. Syfers (now Brady) backed Obama.

  5. Nadai says:

    Ladybug Whisperer, did she? How utterly depressing.

  6. octogalore says:

    Sadly unsurprising for the NYT.

    I’m a connoisseur of books written by strippers, and Burana’s was unusual in its lack of feminist perspective. The best ex-stripper authors understand that the real story is the customer mindset and the things the stripper as investigative reporter learns. The issue of why a woman would disrobe for money is the most tedious thing to talk about, something most non-strippers with a rudimentary knowledge of the patriarchy could write. Sadly, that was the primary focus of Burana’s oeuvre. So seeing her turn up here in this context is pretty much par for the course.

  7. cgeye says:

    I’m not going to knock on Ms. Burana; she was one of the few unionized strippers in this country, and whatever changes she’s made in her life, I’m giving her respect for that.

    Also, I’m not going to focus on one woman obviously positioned between the misogyny of the armed forces generally (esp. the class-based bitchery between wives of the servant/enlisted class and the elite/officer class), when Cynthia Enloe has taught us that the mobilization of women on military bases has a long history of compartmentalization between mother/nurse/wife and whore, with ‘soldier’ a very recent addition, even those all those categories of women also exist in warzones.

    The issue ain’t army wives taking stripper courses; it’s the poverty and lack of options that make officials nervous that the wives will go back to work, any way they can, to support their families as their husbands are practically MIA, as well as the alienation caused in men by their long tours.

    And, yeah, what in the hell do women soldiers get, except their kids in their arms doing the second shift with PTSD?

  8. purplefinn says:

    Well, Violet it is depressing. We’ll never be out of a job it seems – the job of exposing misogyny.

    I don’t think the opposite of encouraging women to strip for their disoriented military spouses is having the military mate do the same for them.

    There are two assumptions here – one, that the military spouse in the least desires a striptease; and two that women and men find stripteases equally stimulating and satisfying.

    Of course, the real point has already been made that the problem lies in the nature of the deployment and the lack of adequate support for the returning military. It’s also depressing to think about the possibility of there being “adequate” support for what our military personnel are experiencing.

    Of course I don’t look to the NYT for examples of equity. I look here and a few other places.

  9. votermom says:

    It feels like we are really going backwards overall in terms of womens rights and equality. I wonder if there’s a way to measure that objectively.

  10. scott says:

    My wife and I noticed an ad the other days (I think it was for women’s running shoes) where the spokesmodel was in workout clothes, with short shorts, and the gag was that as she talked about the benefits of firming and toning afforded by the product, the camera periodically would break frame and ogle her ass. Beyond some mild irritation of the boys-will-be-boys variety, the ass ogling is accepted by the model (and the framers of the ad, obviously) as par for the course. Our reaction was that 10, 20, 30 years ago this ad wouldn’t have flown, but I guess it’s open season again. Jesus.

  11. Three Wickets says:

    Here’s an interesting diatribe in the latest Economist titled Womenomics. The author most likely a man (there is no byline for the regular Shumpeter column) is defensive and his argument ultimately collapses on itself imo. Funny.

    http://ow.ly/SEHi

  12. Briar says:

    There’s also the fact that the very nature of the military experience promotes and encourages the worst kind of patriarchal attitudes and behaviour – as well as stimulating all kinds of perverse sexual appetites. No romance about warrior heroes, please. Battle lust is lust as well. And the generals want their men satisfied. There’s not much difference between this and the camp followers of yesteryear or the brothels of Saigon.

  13. gxm17 says:

    So damn depressing. And, so damn tedious. Does it never end?

  14. Kiuku says:

    Yes I agree it is tedious. Too tedious for further comment.

  15. Violet Socks says:

    The issue ain’t army wives taking stripper courses

    Well, actually, I disagree. I think the ubiquitous pornification of the culture is an issue. The very notion of “stripper classes” — jesus christ. Are men lining up to take classes to be strippers? Hardly.

    This is just basic patriarchal training-women-to-be-the-sex-class.

  16. octogalore says:

    @cgeye: re “I’m not going to knock on Ms. Burana; she was one of the few unionized strippers in this country, and whatever changes she’s made in her life, I’m giving her respect for that.”

    I’m not sure if this was in response to my comment. If it was, I don’t see how an opinion on whether her book offered a feminist analysis is “knocking” on her personally or denying her respect for making changes in her life. Literary criticism isn’t personal.

    As Burana chose to return to stripping to write a book (about it), and called her stripping experience a “reprieve from rabid self-actualization” (e.g., studying and trying to get a clothed job) and “reclaiming [her] sexuality in the public arena,” your characterization of her moving into a new career — teaching stripping — as a brave, positive life change seems to be a statement she might not agree with. Burana is privileged economically compared to most strippers, and her exit from the profession appears to have stemmed from the same dynamic that forces exit for most sex industry workers: ageism.

    Also, I’m not sure how being “unionized” makes someone more worthwhile.

    The relevance of her book is that it fits in with her choice as discussed in the OP to teach striptease to military wives. Had the book focused on a feminist look at the industry, from someone eyes-wide-open leveraging the industry for financial empowerment while aware of its patriarchal dimensions, her exit strategy would not have entailed encouraging others to perpetuate those particular dimensions.

  17. Lily Burana says:

    I’m not a feminist? Really?

    Show your work on this one, kid. I’m watching.

  18. Lily Burana says:

    PS: As soon as you back up the claim that any feminist sensibility is absent from Strip City (Not enough overt polemic for you?), I’ll cheerfully rebut your cherry-picked analysis of my words, the frankly erroneous statements about my life, the circumstances around my “exit strategy,” and my new “career” and my motivations for same.

    v/r

    Lily

  19. Violet Socks says:

    Show your work on this one, kid. I’m watching.

    Hello, Ms. Burana (assuming that’s really you). I think you’ll need to clarify who exactly you’re addressing in this thread.

  20. Lily Burana says:

    Oh, sorry, Violet! Octogalore–even though I posted right after OGs posts, I should have clarified. ::headdesk::

  21. Violet Socks says:

    I was writing my question right after your first comment (your second one snuck in), so it was not at all clear to me who you were talking to. People don’t usually address me as “kid,” but you never know.

    Do you and Octogalore know each other already?

  22. Lily Burana says:

    Anyway, as far as Violet Socks’ post, and comments about same, I don’t want to go on about this forever, but there seems to be a bit of a “straw stripper” being set up here. Even if there’s an essential style conflict (or maybe an issue of taste, or in my case, lack thereof) in what constitutes “helping women,” I believe that the desire to help women is something we have in common.

    So there’s that as a start point.

    This is not my new “career.” Operation Bombshell is entirely funded by donations and fundraisers. I do not accept payment for my teaching, and I shoulder all expenses. I teach at the wives’ request, and it’s certainly not compulsory, or attached to a dictate of YOU MUST STRIP FOR THY MAN OR BURN FOREVER ON THE FIRES OF WIFELY FAILURE!

    It is simply one option among many for escapism during a husband’s deployment. Deployment is a lonely, isolating, stressful, and anxiety-making time, and I thought it would be fun to offer fellow wives a chance to get out of the house and do something just for themselves. Whether or not they ever use the skills later–for themselves, for their husbands, or for a roaring crowd–is not the point. (Actually, it’s not even my business!)

    The whole class/rank thing in the piece about my husband being an officer totally came out of nowhere and surprised me, too! It’s my view that being public as a former stripper within the conservative culture of the military is going to raise eyebrows no matter what your husband does. And, for the record, I’d say I teach enlisted and officer’s wives at about a 50/50 split. A fair number of wives have themselves served, as well.

    I agree that the pornification of culture is somewhat barfy, and trust me, as a third-waver who did a fair amount of squawking about sex work in the 1990s, I’m rather conflicted about how that chicken has come home to roost 15-20 years later. I think that’s par for the course: you can do your activism, but you can’t be entirely sure how it’s going to mesh–or not–with popular culture.

    But I don’t know that I’m part of the problem. I suppose that’s an individual call. It’s fine–I’m not looking for Super-Duper Perfect Feminist Poster Girl status anyway. What I’m looking for is a way to lighten the step for a group of women whom I’ve come to love–military wives who work their asses off every day to keep body, mind, soul, and family together during this seemingly endless war.

    Keep on keeping on. Thanks for letting me barge in, Violet!

  23. Violet Socks says:

    I thought it would be fun to offer fellow wives a chance to get out of the house and do something just for themselves.

    You see strip-tease as something women do just for themselves?

  24. gxm17 says:

    Anyone who doesn’t realize that stripping/prostitution/pornification, whatever words one choses to wrap it up in, is the abdication of power and not the celebration of power (unless you’re the buyer) is a part of the problem. (And yes I realize that doesn’t follow the IBTP canon but IBTN.)

    Teach women kickboxing or yoga to relieve stress, something that keeps their power intact. Or (gasp!) start a charitable organization that provides real help in their day-to-day lives. But categorizing free stripper classes as “helping women” is laughable. (But, then, I’m easily amused.)

  25. Nina M. says:

    I’ll echo what gxm17 said. Stripping isn’t something you do for yourself; its a form of hustle, a scam intended to separate a rube from his or her money.

    These women aren’t learning how to strip. Rather, they’re playing at “stripping-lite”: the glamorized, sanitized version of stripping promoted in popular culture in which all the women are young, beautiful, and healthy, all the customers are affluent, good-looking, and safely within the target demographic, and everyone has the time of their lives.

    Gathering an all-female group in a private studio so they can prance around in high heels, wiggle, rub themselves against a pole, sit backwards on chairs, and flop around on the floor while spreading their legs (can you tell I’m not big on Fosse?) while randomly whoo-hooing each other because they’re being so bad is not teaching them how to strip. Its play-acting, like teaching someone to bake using an E-Z Bake Oven, or how to sell real estate by playing Monopoly.

    I doubt very much they’re being taught how to smile and act stupid while a group of customers insults you, how to pretend to lust after a customer with piss-stinking clothes and repulsive breath, how to trick a lonely person into thinking you’re his friend, how to fend off germy hands, stalkers, and would-be rapists, how to create an alternative persona so you can compartmentalize what you experience, and how to stay clean when you’re surrounded by alcoholics and drug addicts.

    And therein lies the problem. The NY Times article etc. promote “stripping-lite,” the notion that stripping is good clean (albeit naughty) fun that women really enjoy. It obscures the reality of stripping as the nexus of very real, very serious issues — so numerous I can’t count, from human trafficking to exploitation of addicted / impoverished / emotionally damaged people to abysmal working conditions to affronts to physical and mental health… I’ll stop. The myth of “stripping-lite” allows us to collectively turn a blind eye, to ignore these issues, and, of course, to let business carry on as usual.

    I repeat myself (but when has that stopped me): I highly recommend Ariel Levy’s “Female Chauvinist Pigs” as a field guide to the culture of empowerful “bad girls” who strip “for themselves.”

  26. octogalore says:

    Lily – neither I nor anyone else has the power to say who is a feminist. I do not know you, but as you suggest here that you are a feminist, I have no doubt that you are a feminist.

    That’s why I didn’t make any such claims above.

    My view upon reading the book, in contrast to some others in the genre, was that it by and large didn’t present a feminist analysis. That’s just my opinion of the book. I acknowledge that “lacks a feminist perspective” is probably too strong, as there are undoubtedly passages in any intelligent woman’s book that do demonstrate such a perspective. So I am sorry for that. My comment reflected my overall take from the book, with which others, of course, are free to disagree.

    You do note in the book that “Sisterhood is powerful” (p84). That is something I agree with and believe is feminist. However, the context of that particular statement, a girlfriend of a male customer being bought a dance by that customer, is not one I personally identify as feminist (or antifeminist either, to be clear). [Note: I am sure that there are feminist-oriented statements I would agree with in the book, this is not meant to be exhaustive].

    “It takes real nerve for a woman to come to a strip club and it’s a form of female misbehavior I think should be richly rewarded. So I work it — belly to belly, breast to breast. I nuzzle her neck, inhaling her scent. It’s so rare to get any kind of approval from women not involved in this line of work, I want to draw her excitement deep into my lungs, as if to keep it with me always. If I rubbed up against this woman any harder, I’d end up standing behind her, and she really seems to enjoy it. Here’s to claiming new territory, sweetie. Sisterhood is powerful.”

    This demonstrates to me how our perspectives appear to me to differ. I don’t see a woman going with her boyfriend to a strip club as any kind of radical act of female misbehavior. I danced for a number of such women and also got to know some of them, and in most cases the motivation is patriarchal compliance rather than rebellion. Women are great actresses, and I never felt that I could assume that “excitement” in such circumstances was a real expression of emotion, or a simulation (I never underestimate a fellow woman’s acting ability) for the benefit of the man watching. I would not, personally, refer to any of this as “claiming new territory.”

    I don’t think you are part of the problem, and as a former stripper, I certainly support leveraging the industry as an income maximization or temporary fund-buildup tool. I am not sure that teaching strip-tease to others, not as a way to earn (financial) independence from men, but as a way to be attractive to men, is part of the solution. Without men in the equation, I strongly doubt that many of us would pole-dance as a way to find emotional succor.

  27. Rebekah Sanderlin says:

    Re: stripping as something women learn for themselves-
    it’s been several months since I participated in Lily’s class and I have yet to perform a single move for anyone. So that leaves me … Myself, that’s who I took the class for.

    As for learning something “they can really use” like kickboxing, charity work, etc. I am a former pro kick boxer and I used to teach self defense – And I have never needed to use any of that knowledge “in the real world.” Besides, there are self defense classes offered every day on every military base in the country.

    Like many military wives, I already do a TON of volunteer
    work. Many of us have had to give up our careers so charity
    work provides us with a work-type outlet.

    What we got from Lily’s class was FUN – a break from a life of relentless deaths, disappointments and loneliness. I took the class with the wife of my husband’s commanding officer and with a woman from my Bible study group at church. We weren’t trying to train up for a lap dancing career, we were trying to spend a couple of hours laughing with girls and remembering that our saddlebags, crows feet, stretch marks and worry lines don’t detract from our beauty one iota. In that respect, the class was a roaring success. ( If any of us hoped to make a career of it, I suppose the class was a failure.)

    If that’s not real feminism – true empowerment, not some antiseptic, emotionless, classroom concept – then call me a misogynist, too.

  28. Ann Valentine says:

    hmm..there seem to be a lot of negative characterizations of the Feminist perspective. We definitely, for one, aren’t “squaking” and Patriarchy should be substituted for “Popular Culture.” Unfortunately, the problem here it seems is that there is only one view of Patriarchy as conservative male religious patriarchs and any bucking of that system is Feminism. However, there is also the woman as sex object/slave/pornification Patriarchy that is housed by Liberal males. Any real Feminist would have no trouble identifying both and in fact all forms of Patriarchy. I don’t think a Feminist would find stripping empowering, nor stripping alongside a stripper with your boyfriend Feminist. Lets be very clear: a woman strips because she can’t get a better job. She can’t get a better job because of men. And this is in the best of case scenario that doesn’t take into account human trafficking. I see teaching women to strip..yea I guess it can be a bonding experience, but it does make little of the strife and horror of real stripping, and it’s not necessarily Feminist. I’d say it’s probably anti-feminist.

  29. Ann Valentine says:

    I guess it’s along the same line as having a tupperware party…and I don’t know lessons on how to make the house a nice place for your husband to come home to.

    I think its neutral bordering anti feminist. It’s not Feminist. That anyone proclaim this is Feminism repulses me.I don’t blame strippers. They need to make money. They can’t be CEO’s. A very small amount of (unmarried) women can be CEO’s or exist above the poverty line, actually.

    The real sell-outs are women who marry.

  30. Violet Socks says:

    Re: stripping as something women learn for themselves-
    it’s been several months since I participated in Lily’s class and I have yet to perform a single move for anyone. So that leaves me … Myself, that’s who I took the class for.

    If you think that stripping is something that could possibly exist in a world without an audience of men, you might want to think a little harder.

    If that’s not real feminism – true empowerment, not some antiseptic, emotionless, classroom concept – then call me a misogynist, too.

    No one is calling you a misogynist. But by the same token, feminism does not equal whatever makes you feel good.

    Beauty pageants might make the contestants feel wonderful, but they’re not feminist. Becoming the top-earning prostitute in a brothel might be rewarding, but it’s not feminist. Being the most powerful wife in a harem owned by a sultan might be gratifying, but it’s not feminist.

  31. Kookaburra says:

    I’ll break it down for the Fun!Feminists that seem to have found Violet’s corner of the internet, and have had their delicate sensibilities offended:
    -Feminism is about the abolishment of the sex class which all women belong to and are judged by.

    -Feminist acts, thought, and writing actively reject and condemn the existence of a sex class, and seek to liberate people from it.

    -Anti-Feminist acts and thought reinforce and celebrate women’s status as members of the sex class.

    Stripping reinforces women’s societal role as the sex class. Therefore, it is an anti-feminist act. Does that mean people who do it are anti-feminist? No, we all do anti-feminist things to cope with the Patriarchy, and one of the most effective coping skills is to convince oneself that one is actually choosing subjugation and degradation, because one enjoys it.

    You’d think women empowerfulized by stripping would have thicker skins, sheesh.

  32. gxm17 says:

    Rebekah Sanderlin @ 27: As for learning something “they can really use” like kickboxing, charity work, etc. I am a former pro kick boxer and I used to teach self defense – And I have never needed to use any of that knowledge “in the real world.” Besides, there are self defense classes offered every day on every military base in the country.

    With all due respect, you should go back and read my comment without preconceptions. I never said that kickboxing or yoga are something women “need… in the real world.” I said, they’re just as good for relieving stress while keeping a woman’s power intact.

    The “real help in their day-to-day lives” was referring to real help and I apologize if that term is too vague for you but it could be anything from daycare to elder care to grief support. Trying to pass off free stripping classes as charity work, as Ms. Burana has done @ 22 (Operation Bombshell is entirely funded by donations and fundraisers. I do not accept payment for my teaching, and I shoulder all expenses.), is absurd.

    As for whether you are a misogynist, I don’t know you so I really can’t say. But I’m pretty sure you’ve got empowerment confused with subjugation.

    And, FWIW, yoga can be used in the real world. Daily. Not to quibble or anything.

  33. Violet Socks says:

    By the way, I gotta say — that passage from the book that Octogalore quoted in #26: Jesus! That sounds like an assault!

    I can’t imagine being dragged into a strip club in the first place, but if I were and some crazy dancer started assaulting me like that, I would run screaming out of the joint. Good god.

  34. octogalore says:

    One thing I find confusing is how striptease lessons could help one in “remembering that our saddlebags, crows feet, stretch marks and worry lines don’t detract from our beauty one iota.”

    I mean, if they do actually achieve this, then great. I can’t speak to other women’s responses. In my experience in the trenches, those who derived affirmation of beauty from stripping were those who derived such affirmation from daily life. And those who didn’t derive it from daily life, found the ageism and conventional-looksism of daily life magnified a hundred-fold in stripping.

    Possibly a class with women only, with no men present, would be different. But why would striptease suddenly make one feel better about crows feet and saddlebags? With the context being an activity and moves designed for male titillation, would the absence of men in the class really remove entirely the framework by which women’s bodies are judged, and things like crows feet and saddlebags viewed as unattractive? Are men really absent from the class, in other words?

  35. DancingOpossum says:

    Lets be very clear: a woman strips because she can’t get a better job. She can’t get a better job because of men.

    I don’t know how “clear” either of those statements are. Impossible though it may be to believe, I do believe that some women really enjoy stripping and that it may well be a lot more interesting and well-paid than many of the low-paid jobs routinely available to most women (AND men) in this glorious post-industrial robber baron society that men (AND WOMEN) in power have foisted on all of us. And no, it isn’t because of men that they (or their male counterparts) can’t get better jobs, it’s because of our country’s wholly frakked-up priorities, for which responsibility goes, again, to both men and women in power. (Yes, I supported Hillary but she was just as devoted to the military-industrial machinery as any man she was running against, except Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich).

    I think it’s really, really, easy to sit and lecture from a position of privilege about what people do for a living, or even for fun. (And yes, a professional, educated, “creative class” woman is a great deal more privileged than an uneducated, poor, male of any race). The class bias in this discussion is deeply troubling to me.

  36. octogalore says:

    I don’t see what class has to do with the statements called out, and frankly it seems like a manipulative attempt to create guilt, rather than a reasoned analysis.

    I happen to agree with you that neither “a woman strips because she can’t get a better job” nor “She can’t get a better job because of men” are without serious accuracy problems. But those accuracy problems exist up and down the class spectrum. The reason you and I disagree with those statements applying to all women has to do with views of women’s existence in the patriarchy, not class issues.

    Let’s take “a woman strips because she can’t get a better job.” This is actually more likely to apply to poor women, despite your analysis that it’s creative class projection. It’s creative class women (like myself, when I chose to leave the practice of law to strip) who have more of the ability to “choose” to strip. Those CC women will be able to pop back into a job that allows one to work until ones 60s. Stripping doesn’t allow work past 40 in most cases, and often discards its workers much younger. So in fact, and per my experience, it is the poorer woman who is most often in the job because of a lack of alternatives, rather than a chosen vacation from other more long-term work.

    Similarly, “She can’t get a better job because of men” is also more likely to apply to poor women. Single moms with dads not in the picture, or who haven’t had educational advantages or the vocational training their male relatives have had, because of more responsibilities around the home, are more likely to find stripping as a necessity rather than a fun research project, escape from other choices, or fundraising tool, as with women like Diablo Cody, Lily Burana, or myself.

    It’s possible to disagree without randomly tossing out some ill-aimed accusation of bigotry, no?

  37. Carmonn says:

    It’s also really, really easy to be glib from a position of privilege about what an uncomplicated, interesting alternative to other forms of demeaning low wage work sex work is.
    Yes–sex work can pay better for some women, but that doesn’t mean we’re necessarily happy about it.

    I’d venture that there may be as many women who are or have participated in sex work as women with academic creative class backgrounds (with overlap, of course) on the feminist boards, too.

    Class bias is an interesting thing–I tend to find something ‘othering’ if that’s the word I want in the idea that working class women love to spend their lives that way because they’re more sexual or it’s more exciting than being bored in a factory or whatever, while most creative class women either wouldn’t like to do it at all, or as octo points out, choose to do it by choice for a short stint that doesn’t really confront the harsher, seedier realities of women without other alternatives.

  38. Debra Devi says:

    Interesting discussion here. As someone who has known Lily Burana since she was 17, though, I feel compelled to leap to her defense. 1) She IS a feminist and proud of it, always has been. 2) She’s never claimed to have been “empowerfulized” by stripping. Let’s not take bits from Strip City out of context to make her sound like an idiot because she was a stripper. Men pull that kind of crap enough already. She’s very honest in Strip City about the pain stripping caused her as well as the moments she felt exhilarated by it. Neither were easy things for her to admit. As for her being “unionised,” it took a huge amount of courage for her to bring a civil suit against Mitchell Brothers for the way they were taking advantage of her sister strippers. She literally risked her life standing up to these creeps (Jim Mitchell later shot and killed his brother Artie).
    3) As Lily said, Operation Bombshell is non profit; it’s service. It’s not her next “career.” Her career is being a writer. She pulled herself up by her own bootstraps out of stripping to become an extraordinarily accomplished one. 4) She’s not teaching army wives how to strip; she’s teaching them a VERY tame little dance routine that involves at most the removal of some gloves. It’s far closer to an old-fashioned burlesque routine than a strip tease. Her mission is not, as it is being misconstrued by some commentators here, to teach these women to strip for their husbands. Her mission is to teach them something fun and silly and give them a little space to hang out with each other and make some connections that may help ease the isolation of deployment. Check out the smiles on the women’s faces in the Times pieces. Women whose husbands are in mortal danger overseas smiling and enjoying themselves for a few minutes. That’s the mission. I’m sure Lily would be the first to strongly encourage anyone who’d like to volunteer to go on bases and teach a yoga class or a kickboxing class to some army wives. Go for it.

  39. RKMK says:

    And therein lies the problem. The NY Times article etc. promote “stripping-lite,” the notion that stripping is good clean (albeit naughty) fun that women really enjoy. It obscures the reality of stripping as the nexus of very real, very serious issues — so numerous I can’t count, from human trafficking to exploitation of addicted / impoverished / emotionally damaged people to abysmal working conditions to affronts to physical and mental health… I’ll stop. The myth of “stripping-lite” allows us to collectively turn a blind eye, to ignore these issues, and, of course, to let business carry on as usual.

    Much like the myth of the Happy Hooker (mid 20s -> 40s, predominantly white, ‘high end’ call girls and/or bored housewives empowerfuling themselves out of their suburban homes) helps turn a blind eye to the reality of sex work for the vast majority of women in the world.

  40. gxm17 says:

    DancingOpossum @ 35 said: I think it’s really, really, easy to sit and lecture from a position of privilege about what people do for a living, or even for fun. (And yes, a professional, educated, “creative class” woman is a great deal more privileged than an uneducated, poor, male of any race).

    I disagree. Uneducated, poor men of any race may have less privelege than educated and/or rich and/or racial majority men, but in our patriarchal culture, uneducated, poor men of any race, in many aspects, hold greater privilege than any so-called creative class women. Our culture is built on the assumption that women are the weaker sex, and that we exist to be dominated and to please men. This assumption encompasses women of all classes.

    Perhaps one day we will see so-called creative class women paying an audience of men (uneducated and poor or otherwise) to watch them strip (for fun) in the numbers that we see a male audience (uneducated and poor and otherwise) paying women to strip (for fun). I’m not sure that would be a real improvement. Regardless, we do not live in a culture where the male audience is considered disposable merchandise that serves for women’s pleasure; we are living in a culture where all women are relegated to the “sex class.” We may find different ways of dealing with our situation, some more positive than others, but we’re all in the same damn boat.

  41. crzysue says:

    DancingOpossum@35 seems to be insinuating that patriarchy=men. Patriarchy is an societal structure that includes women and men.

  42. Three Wickets says:

    The real sell-outs are women who marry.

    Would welcome a post on feminism and sexuality, just to get some basic definitions out there about valid sexual feelings and expressions.

  43. Violet Socks says:

    Debra Devi @38: I don’t know Lily Burana, aside from her comments in this thread. I haven’t read her book. I’d never even heard of her before this.

    This post was a response to the New York Times article, which is several degrees of ick. The story presented there is ludicrous. And the general notion of stripping-as-empowerment is ludicrous.

    But I don’t mean this thread to function as some kind of assessment of Lily, nor am I about to judge her as a feminist. Don’t know her, haven’t read her book.

  44. Debra Devi says:

    @Violet Socks – that’s cool, you’re entitled to your feelings about the article. I thought the reporter missed the point and was a tad clueless, too. Glad this thread isn’t about attacking Lily; she would never recommend stripping as an empowering career choice for a woman to make. Also glad I discovered your blog, some great stuff on here!

  45. Ann Valentine says:

    Would welcome a post on feminism and sexuality, just to get some basic definitions out there about valid sexual feelings and expressions.

    Personally I think they are all valid. Feminism doesn’t have a place in policing the actions of women in Patriarchy. In fact, that’s probably anti feminist.

    It’s just my opinion that Feminism should take an anti-marriage stance. I don’t think women if they are Feminists would agree with the institution of marriage. Ultimately if I had a choice for what a woman does with her life, if she had to choose between being a stripper and marrying a man, that I would rather a stripper. Ideally, if all women stopped marrying men, they would realize how dumb men’s economy is. There would be less discrimination in pay, because more women would demand equal pay. Instead, women do not realize how dire the situation is when they marry men. They do not realize that if they didn’t marry men, they would be impoverished. Truly. Why is that? Do married women really realize how much they are dependent on men? That’s not Feminism.

  46. octogalore says:

    Ann Valentine: I disagree with an absolutist anti-marriage stance.

    I think you are correct that marriage can serve to perpetuate economic dependency, but that this is because of the underlying patriarchy, not about marriage per se.

    I am aware of many hetero marriages (and am in one) in which the woman is the breadwinner, and the man has equal or greater household responsibility.

    Women are not forced to marry. Instead of prohibiting marriage, the better solution is to work toward equal economic power for women, and to reduce both self-created and externally-created barriers for women to pursue that.

    Both women and men often enjoy having children. That situation is best with two parents in the home, for the children (multiple studies on this) and for the parents in terms of distribution of labor. Marriage can operate to help and not hurt women in an egalitarian context, so it is better to work to optimize the context rather than to deal with a superficial fix that is ultimately going to harm women.

  47. octogalore says:

    oops — to be accurate, I should have qualified appropriately and said *most* women *in the US* are not forced to marry.

  48. Ann Valentine says:

    Not legally forced to marry, but I don’t know a single unmarried woman who is not impoverished. Marriages in which women are the so-called breadwinners are rare, as rare as women bread winners are. I disagree that the nuclear family is a healthy model. But we don’t have any other alternatives to study since Europeans conquered most of the world.

  49. Ann Valentine says:

    I feel that a large impetus for men to discriminate against women in pay and promotion and basic job welfare is because of their perceived need to pay for, as in own, a woman in marriage. And therefore, if a woman makes less money because of this discrimination, part of her paycheck goes to unskilled women who marry. And that’s not a merit based system.

  50. Ann Valentine says:

    Marriage should be what it is, a lifestyle choice, instead of an economic imperative for the majority of women. If marriage were outlawed, for instance, as an institution corrupt to Capitalism and the American Dream (which I believe it is both), then discrimination against women would be self evident, instead of private and unseen, and in the house. It would be out on the street. Impoverished women would line the street, because it’s true that a single unmarried woman has to work two full time jobs just to make what a man with hers or even less of a skillset makes.

  51. octogalore says:

    “It would be out on the street. Impoverished women would line the street”

    And that would then result in the generous patriarchs fixing the problem? Highly doubtful.

  52. Adrienne in CA says:

    Not legally forced to marry, but I don’t know a single unmarried woman who is not impoverished.

    Is this hyperbole to make your point, or are you serious? Not a single one?

    I feel so atypical. My two best friends are spinsters. These ladies, who’ve never even lived with a man for any length of time, are 50/60-ish. Not rich, by any means, but they’re home owners and live a good life. They’re not gay. They like to date men, but they’ve not found the right one, and they’re not willing to compromise.

    I realize, of course, that single women with children are far more likely to be impoverished, and that women as a class make less for the same work than men do. There’s also the issue of race that leaves fewer options for some than others. But it seems to me that it goes too far to assert unequivocally that single women cannot make their way economically without a man. If that’s the reason that women are getting married, because they believe that, they’re being tricked.

    Now if you want to qualify about women who come from already impoverished backgrounds, and/or lack education, or more recently are suffering the effects of this crappy economy…

    Not all women need men. Not even the ones who already have them.

    *****A