Guest Post: On Stripping.

“A striptease is an erotic or exotic dance in which the performer gradually undresses, usually to music, either partly or completely, in a seductive and sexually suggestive manner.”Richard Wortley, A Pictorial History of Striptease (1976).

Well, I guess someone forgot to tell the one I saw that it was supposed to be a subtle gradation of undress.

But let’s back up: I am a feminist and proud of it. As a feminist, I am mature enough to recognise that women have control over their bodies and can do as they please with them. But, when asked recently to a friend’s birthday celebration culminating in seeing a stripper in a private hotel room, I must admit, it did not sit well with me.

For the week prior to “The Big Exposure”, as I like to call it, I debated between endorsing the empowerment of the stripper and condemning the voyeurism of myself and my friends. I tried to look at it from the point of view of a “lipstick feminist”, as Ariel Levy mentions in Female Chauvinist Pigs, who believes that stripping is empowering for women and that “putting on a show to attract men, e.g. through make-up, doing girl-on-girl physical contact, is not contrary to the goals of feminism.” Still, no matter how hard I tried to see it as empowering, I could see nothing empowering about gyrating up and down in front of men whose eyes were popping out of their sockets. I couldn’t help but feel that women who objectify their own bodies for others had no respect for themselves or other women. How could we possibly advance as respectable members of society when we are endorsing nude gymnastic moves in a spectator arena?

With all these things in mind, and a pit in my stomach, I went to the hotel room with my friends. I’d like to point out that the friend whose birthday it was is a lesbian. So, I guess we were in more progressive company. Not really.

The ratio was still bizarre: seven straight girls, three lesbians, five straight guys and one gay man. It was even. Only 50% of the crowd was supposed to be stereotypically aroused by this performance.

When she arrived, I was surprised to see her “manager”, a man in his forties wearing a tracksuit looking more like a swimming coach than an accomplice to a stripper. (What was I expecting, a pimp?) He proceeded to lay blankets and an ominous shower curtain over the carpet and plugged in the CD player. After blasting us with Lady Gaga, she arrived.

She wasn’t what I expected; tall, long black-dyed hair, a face like Layne Beachleybut with none of the talentcomplete with one grey tooth, tattoos all over and quite small breasts. I must admit, I was disappointed! I was picturing a Marilyn Monroe-esque bombshell, or at least a healthy, glowing Jennifer Hawkins type.

The complete lack of sex appeal of this particular stripper made it a lot easier to find stripping degrading. I wondered how conflicted I would have felt if I found her attractive; because, in my eyes, someone who is sexy and confident is also empowered.

There was no element of teasing, of gradually taking clothes off, as Wortley describes above. She walked in wearing a school-girl costume, with a skirt so short I could see her breakfast, and immediately bent over in front of the birthday girl. So much for the game.

From there it continued to be a sordid and debasing mixture of gyrating and splits with each layer of clothing being unceremoniously ripped off and thrown towards the manager who was “keeping an eye on us.”

I felt weird. I knew that my gaze (masculine) was objectifying her body (feminine) but, by the same token, I felt that I was being objectified by the manager’s gaze.

Once all clothing had been removed, it was time for interaction. I can tell you, there is nothing empowering about having whipped cream licked off of your breasts by a pair of lesbiansone at each breast!

A memorable act of horror occurred when one of the guys was whipped with his own belt… he very quickly stopped her and sat down again. It was interesting, as I guess everyone felt that it was okay for her to debase herself, as she’s “just a stripper” and therefore an object, but the festivities crossed the line when a man was forced to feel degraded and objectified by the gaze of his peers.

The culmination of the evening was when she proceeded to insert a man’s spectacles into her vagina… proving that she was nothing but a spectacle herself under the scrutiny of the male gaze. It almost felt like a (horror) movie moment to be discussed in a feminist studies lecture!

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote in The Vindication of the Rights of Women, the “public [male] fixation upon the female person [body] has entailed and sustained the subjection of women,” and I agree. If we didn’t live in a society that objectified women and perpetuated the notion that we are only sexy when playing to masculine fantasies, we wouldn’t be watching strippers in hotel rooms, or at all.

For me though, that’s the last time I say “whatever you want, it’s your birthday” to a friend!

Laura Money.

Jennifer Hawkins VS. Miranda Kerr.

Following on from last week’s post reflecting on Jennifer Hawkins’ nude cover for Marie Claire, I started thinking about the flak Hawkins received for it.

Why was Hawkins vilified for daring to bare her unairbrushed body, knowing full well the potential criticisms that could come with it? Just because she’s a hot model doesn’t make her any less qualified to comment on the body image debate.

Another prominent Australian model who gets her kit off, but at a far more frequent rate than Hawkins, is David Jones ambassador Miranda Kerr.

While Hawkins’ employer Myer may have come out on top in the wake of the David Jones sexual harassment case, Kerr seems to be the model who came out on top, continuing to bare her baby belly in all the publications.

Demi Moore, Christina Aguilera et al. have proved that the pregnant female is a creature of beauty; one that should be celebrated on all the glossies. The same is true for Kerr, whose bump has spent a great deal of time in the limelight: she announced her pregnancy in Spanish Vogue in September, paraded down the Balenciaga runway at five months along, and was the first pregnant cover model for Vogue Australia. In addition, she shunned Demi and Christina’s cover-ups and went completely starkers for W’s December issue.

Frankly, I’m a bit sick of Kerr, her baby bump and her bits. It seems you can’t open a magazine or blog post without seeing her naked body plastered all over it, even before she got knocked up. Sure, she’s nice to look at, but if you’ve seen her once, you’ve seen her a million times.

So why is it that Kerr can get her kit off every second week and be celebrated for it, while Jennifer Hawkins, who posed for Marie Claire for charity, and whose private bits we are yet to see, was chastised and her star somewhat faded since the incident?

Can someone answer that for me?

Related: One Year On: The Jennifer Hawkins/Marie Claire Scandal.

One Year On: The Jennifer Hawkins/Marie Claire Scandal.

 

Here are my thoughts on the topic in the form of a (edited) comment on  a since-deleted post on Girl with a Satchel:

“This really is a double-edged sword, huh? All magazines are a medium that can make you feel bad about yourself only if you let them, which I agree with 100%.

“I don’t believe the media is the ‘hypodermic’ needle we all heard about in media studies at school; turn off the TV or don’t buy the magazine if you believe they facilitate negative body image.

“However, my first thought when seeing the Jennifer Hawkins cover, was ‘oh, her thighs are obviously her problem area. There are a few shadows there and some discolouration’. HORRIBLE, I know, but it just goes to show that I, along with almost everyone out there, am a product of our perfectionist culture and our unrealistic expectations of women.

“Now, in reality, Hawkins looks AMAZINGher face is stunning, her chest and torso look toned and terrific, and if I had her thighs, all my problems would be solved (according to the hypodermic theory, at least). I don’t agree with all the negative comments out there regarding Hawkins as unrealistic and damaging to women’s self-esteem. Nor do I agree with those who say porn stars, strippers, prostitutes, bikini and lingerie models, supermodels, catalogue models, plus sized models, regular girls on the beach or in the club or on the street who are scantily dressed or ANY WOMAN who enjoys flaunting her best assets are victims of objectification by the media and the male species’ desire to view women as sexy playthings and nothing more.

“I regard myself as a feminist, however, and feel that if any woman is proud to show off their bodies, faces, brains, WHATEVER, then that’s empowering and I say to them, ‘you go girl!’.”

My feelings have stayed much the same as I look back on the controversy from a more enlightened perspective, having been reading a lot more and writing blog posts on such topics in the past nine months (I could have had a baby in that time!) that The Scarlett Woman has been out there in the blogosphere.

Satchel Girl Erica Bartle responded to my comments above, saying that “I don’t think any woman should be excluded from the body image debate on the grounds of her appearance,” even a “hot model” like Hawkins.

This sounds a lot like the arguments that were put forth at the “Feminism Has Failed” debate which I attended a few months ago, and have blogged quite often about here:

“Controversially, [Gaye] Alcorn referenced the Body Image Advisory Board and its chairwomen, the ‘gorgeous’ Mia Freedman, Sarah Murdoch and Kate Ellis, saying that of course they had beautiful women to front the campaign, because it wouldn’t have gotten any publicity with Plain Janes. Out of everything the affirmative team said, this was the only thing I took issue with. ‘Like, sorry those women happen to be genetically blessed, but they have as much right to talk about body image and beauty as a less fortunate-looking woman does. You can’t help the way you’re born,’ I said to my friend, who satirically replied, ‘Well, it’s about beauty, hello?!’ Gold.”

Another argument from the affirmative team harkens back to Bartle’s point: Hawkins “can’t be all things to all women”, just as “feminists can’t be accountable for all feminist issues at all times”.

Again, just because Hawkins looks the way she does doesn’t give the general public the right to criticise her for her decision to pose un-airbrushed for Marie Claire, nor does it give them the right to speak about her body as if she is somehow disconnected from it; as if a celebrity’s body becomes public property.

I’m not sure what the “publicity stunt” has done for body image in Australia one year on, much like the publication of Lizzie Miller’s plus-sized tummy in UK Glamour last year. Personally, though, Hawkins’ show of body love has ignited in me the courage to stand up for others who are objectified for their smaller size (just as I would for a larger person), and Miller’s pot belly instilled acceptance of my own.

Related: Has Feminism Failed?

Body Image: Skinny-Shaming VS. Fat-Shaming.

Elsewhere: [Girl with a Satchel] Girl Talk: Glamour Gives Good Belly.

[Let’s Drink Tea & Get Laid] The Lies That Link Us Together.