I am fairly new to this world of feminist analysis. I have always believed in equality between men and women and I have always been incredibly grateful to those who went before me so that I could go to university, earn a good salary, buy my own house, wear trousers, play sport, etc etc. But I am new to world of scrutiny, and figuring out where I stand on certain topics when it comes to women’s place in society*.
One such topic that has always baffled me is the world of strip clubs. On one side, it is blatant objectification, robbing women of any sense of personhood, with men seeing them merely as sparkly (or oily) objects twirling around a pole, with no interest in their personality, their history, their hopes… the things that make them human and differentiate them from the tables they pile their dollars on. Surely there has to be something wrong with that.
On the other side is the fact that for most female strippers (though I haven’t done any quantitative analysis on this), their job is their choice. No one is forcing them up there, in fact for some, it is something they enjoy. A friend of mine took up stripping once, albeit temporarily for one or two shifts, because she wanted the validation and to feel sexy. I can only assume since she quit so early, that is not what she received, though I’m sure others might. And certainly, they have the opportunity to make good money. Shouldn’t I be excited about this? Women, a career, earning money in a job they choose, perhaps even financial independence – it’s everything feminism fought for!
Except that it’s not. I have a theory, and this is very fluid so it might be different week to week, that the reason there are so many female strippers (in comparison to male strippers), is not because women are not ‘visual’. I, and many other women included, love the male body. Arms, backs, chest, butts, penises… it’s all great! I might not necessarily want to see a man sliding up and down a pole to the pussycat dolls, but the appreciation of the male form is just as strong as it is for men of females. The reason there is a market for female strippers and not for male strippers is because of the balance of power in society.
Regardless of the choices available to me as a young woman in Australia, there are still gross inequalities between men and women. Women still earn around 80 cents for every dollar that men earn over a lifetime. Male university graduates earn $5,000 more than women first year out. We hold 8 per cent of board directorships and 10 per cent of executive management positions. We still carry the burden of around two thirds of unpaid work and caring duties. Nearly one in five of us will experience sexual assault, one in three will experience some kind of family or domestic violence in our lifetimes. This is just in a forward thinking nation like Australia, let alone the third world where women are denied health care, education or careers. Men still hold the power.
And reducing a person to a mere object, whether they agree to it or not, seems to be a simple extension of that power. We are not comfortable seeing men as submissive to women – in work they ‘should’ earn more, in sport they ‘should’ perform better, in crises they ‘should’ be stronger. Perhaps the women that take jobs as strippers are those that accept the power distribution in society. “Women are seen as less valuable than men and I can use this to my advantage.” It makes being objectified an achievement – something that should concern both men and women alike.
I don’t mean to cast judgement on strippers, or those who watch them. Im simply perplexed by why there are so many more women than men in the profession.I don’t buy the idea that it is a result of market forces where women simply don’t enjoy seeing naked men. Ideas?