I’ve been wanting to address this for a while, and for some reason, listening to NIN’s “Piggy” made me want to do it now. Ah, memories of dancing to it when a good friend came to see me perform… and having her be the only person doubled over laughing as I lipsynched the opening lines.
I don’t even know where to start. Seriously. It’s such a befuddling issue to wrap your head around, when the general goddamn public thinks that you and your friends are somehow too fucking stupid to realize that we’re being degraded, that some of the most amazing, strong and intelligent women I know would let themselves be degraded……because we’re not too stupid to realize when something is degrading. Because we wouldn’t let ourselves BE degraded.
People just have this horrible picture in their heads of what the industry is, due to media, tv, movies, horror stories, etc… but these things are KNOWN to not be reliable sources of information when it comes to representing marginalized groups or people. Just like women (and men) in the sex industry, sex workers, are being painted with the exact same brush… that they need to be “saved”, that the need for their source of income must be abolished for their own good, that they should not be doing the job they do… the job most of them CHOOSE to do.
Yeah, that’s right. BWAAAAM mind blown, some people CHOOSE to work in the sex industry. I know, right? The media would have us believe that the only people that work in the sex industry are somehow fucked up beyond knowing what’s good for them, and that they need to be saved from the harmful choices they’ve made.
Those who know me well, KNOW I don’t take shit. You really think I’d allow myself to be degraded? You think I’d stand for it? Lie down and take it? And if the industry was such a cesspool of degradation and shame, do you really fucking think I’d have been in it for almost five years?
See, and this is why it’s difficult to write about it, because it just leads to a curse filled rant of self-righteous indignation. I’m offended by the very idea that some people out there think I’d subject myself to degradation. There are times when being a waitress is more degrading than taking my clothes off for money. Because when some entitled jumped up bitch or asshole is treating me poorly in the restaurant, I CAN’T do or say the things I could do or say when I was on stage. Let me put it this way, when people thought they could treat me like I am less because of the fact that I was a dancer these were some of my responses (some are responses by bar staff as well);
– talking down to them to the point where they left the club
– doing the Steve Austin “hhhwhaaat???”
– inciting other members of the audience to make fun of them with me
– getting them thrown out by the bouncer
– the DJ proclaiming on the mic that if they don’t stop harrassing me, they’d be thrown out immediately
– making allusions to the miniscule nature of their manhood (using hand gestures)
– ignoring their part of the stage entirely, giving the respectful ones The Show and more of it
– threatening a bar owner with legal action
– making a bar manager leave his own bar
That’s the thing. I wasn’t powerless, far from. Sure, some situations arose that were indeed offensive and kind of horrible, but I could address them, deal with them, and laugh about them later. I often wonder how different things would be if the stigma wasn’t there, if more places were like The Fox at the Red Lion in Victoria, where the bar staff, the manager, the front desk people, EVERYONE respected the dancers and treated us as we are… fellow human beings. The attitude of bar staff towards the dancers is actually the thing that some places needed to work on more than that of the customers.
I’m sure if the stereotypes and negative attitudes in media and television, in popular culture, in fucking Family Guy (she’s a stripper, she was already dead inside…. uh… seriously? Fuck you, Seth McFarlane.) weren’t what they are, things would be different.
I would never have had to roll myself up in my blanket for the last couple minutes of a show due to some guy pelting me with change if the bloody bar staff were paying attention. If we had more legal recourse, bar owners wouldn’t get away with charging us for their SOCAN/KAPAC fees. If we were seen as fully human, a bar owner wouldn’t dream of telling us how to do our shows, or how much of our bits to show.
It’s just that with attitudes as they are, people will try and take advantage of it. Just like people like Pickton took advantage of sex workers… because committing a crime against a sex worker isn’t treated as seriously as a crime against someone with a different profession. Just like shouting insults at a dancer is somehow different than shouting insults at a woman you see on the street. Though with the latter, the outcome tends to be the same. You either get physical or verbal ramifications.
The thing that bugs me the most I guess is just that these attitudes don’t seem to be changing fast enough for my liking. We’re trying, we’re all trying, but gods, work with us, people!
Haven’t we outgrown the foolish notion that what a person does for a living defines their worth as a human being? Well, we fucking well should. It’s beyond time. I can’t wait for the day when “I can’t believe a WAITRESS would talk to me like that” is never uttered by a single person EVER. When no such charge in a court of law as “unlawful confinement of a prostitute” exists… only “unlawful confinement”. I want that day to be soon, so we can all be happier and safer.