There had been a time in my life where every single time I saw a stripper being portrayed on television, she was usually a blonde bimbo with severe daddy issues and no sense of direction in life. Most of the time, she was ditzy and had silicone breasts for a brain and most likely carried a venereal disease. At such a young age, I was super impressionable and so was my perception of the taboo issues in society that we are taught are black and white with no in between. Honestly, two instances changed my mind immediately. Cardi B’s rise to fame and Stormy Daniels being treated like a moron because she does porn.
Before Cardi B, I did not know what I felt about stripping because of a subconscious, preconceived notion I had about it as a whole. All I understood was that stripping is a dead end job for women while men can do the same profession and get away with it, and that fact bothered me. However, stripping as a whole was a foreign concept. I never even knew who Cardi B was until she became a hit, but her claim to fame from the public was that she was a stripper who documented her life with humor and succeeded.
By the way Cardi talks, you would think that she lacks intelligence; throw a stripper label on top, and most people would laugh at her rather than see who she is. After viewing her rants about taxes and other social/political issues in America that unintelligent people just cannot talk about, it became clear to me that this is a very smart woman unjustly viewed as other because of her past. Immediately, the shame that came with being a stripper to her name dissolved as did my subconscious viewpoint on the profession. With that dissolution came a fresh perspective on how we view women in sex work, and how wrong we can be sometimes without even realizing it.
Fast forward to Stormy Daniels and that whole situation with the celebrity in chief. I will be the first to admit that when she first came to the public’s attention, it was hard for me to take her seriously based upon my pre-instilled beliefs about sex work. This time, it was not until I saw Stormy on the view that I got the point. She had been speaking about the situation at hand and mentioned how people treat her like she is “stupid” because she does porn, when in fact her career should not imply her intelligence. With that came another harsh awakening on how misogyny really plays a major part in our society.
Now, I am not a third wave feminist in which I am a militant who only wants to bash the patriarchy and every man insight, especially because I am a man without an authentic female perspective. However, it does not take a monkey to realize the lack of balance with standards placed on women and men in society. Women are often viewed as “having a gal’s night” at a bachelor party when a man in a fireman’s suit comes in to show his six pack, and that is harmless enteraintment. After the night ends, the man goes back to his normal life, unlabeled as a degenerate for stripping while the bride-to-be gets married with memories of her best “party of a lifetime”.
However, you meet a young girl who simply has no resources around her and she strips to get by until she has enough money to go to school and pursue a sustainable career, and that makes her sleazy? It just does not make any sense to me at all.
In fact, I view sex work as probably one of the most feminist jobs a woman can do. You want to know why? Because she is choosing to do what she wants with her body in the eyes of a society that tries to govern that. Men are free to do as they please because there is not nearly as much stigma attached to being a male pornstar or stripper, but women constantly face harsh judgement that can be truly isolating and harmful to their well-being. Whether people want to admit it or not, we live in a male dominated society, and the proof is in the pudding when female sex workers are shamed while male sex workers usually get away with it easier.
If women want so much control over their bodies when it comes to abortion, then the women who choose to be strippers and porn stars should also be celebrated as feminist icons. Whether they enjoy the profession or not, they are giving a huge middle finger to the rest of society that says you cannot show off your breasts for money because that’s just “not what ladies do”. If sex work is that shameful, then the stigma should be applied just as harshly to men. If we all truly believe in equality, then let us all be held to the same standards of expectations of behavior and lifestyle.
To Cardi B, I praise you for giving a face of intelligence and success to the stereotype that comes with stripping. Same goes for Stormy Daniels and every mother out there who does sex work to support their family. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but at least they gave a finger and said “my body, my way”. Kudos to you and all the rest of the woman struggling to make ends meet while working this profession and to the ones who simply enjoy it. Women who strip are not solely strippers as much as men dressed like firemen for parties are not actual firemen. Let’s get it together, America.