In light of the recent controversy over Mark London’s proposed Showgirl Galleria and the Grand Rapids City Commission’s decision to pursue an ordinance regulating strip clubs, it is worth listening to a radio interview with the WHISPER Action group on strip clubs and the way in which they function in society. During the wide-ranging discussion a group of women (some of whom are former strippers) share valuable insights into strip clubs, examining both what actually goes on within the clubs—descriptions of the “work” being done, the reactions of men, and physical abuse—as well as the so-called “secondary effects” of strip clubs with regard to how they reinforce the values of the patriarchy. For many of the women participating in the discussion, the reality of stripping is that it reinforces the notion that men are superior to women and hold power over them, with a former stripper describing the “incredible amount of power” that is required for a man to be able to direct a woman to do what ever he wants for a dollar bill. This male power and privilege also functions in making men’s attendance at strip clubs “socially acceptable” because it is men that have the power to define acceptable behavior and that it is men—in the form of club owners and bartenders—that make most of the money. The interview also looks at how women are recruited into stripping and the role that the media and economic conditions play in the decisions as well as the frequency of physical and mental abuse and the way that language is used to create a level of acceptability that would not otherwise exist, with “stripping” changed to “dancing” and “strip clubs” changed to “adult entertainment” in popular discourse. Lastly, the discussion examines whether or not women involved in stripping are economically exploited and the question of whether or not a few women making a lot of money changes the objective conditions of other women involved in the industry.
In addition, the interview draws connections between participation in strip clubs and the recruitment into pornography and prostitution. Another interview with the group discusses pornography and examines much of the feminist debate around pornography, including the notion of “feminist porn” (which they argue is a small amount of the industry and that it is designed to mimic traditional pornography), the question of who benefits from pornography and the need to challenge men profiting from it, and their contention that pornography, prostitution, and strip clubs are a system of sexualized violence. There are also two worthwhile interviews on prostitution and recruitment into prostitution.
The interviews provide important contextual information that could be used during the public hearing that the City Commission will hold on its resolution regulating strip clubs. The public hearing is scheduled for the City Commission’s March 21 meeting at City Hall in downtown Grand Rapids. The meeting begins at 7:00pm.