Feminist stripper

A feminist stripper is a professional exotic dancer who does not conform to the stereotypes associated with exotic dancers, and instead identifies positively with the identity of stripper. Feminist strippers are sex-positive feminists who view their profession as a choice and a career field. Feminist strippers interact with their profession in a positive manner and view it as a female centric form of power. They receive this sense of power by asserting their autonomy and by making informed decisions in regards to the regulation of their bodies.[1][2][3]

The autonomy used by feminist strippers is seen through their ability to choose who they perform for, when they will perform, and how long it will last. They chose which types of performances they will perform. According to Meyer's "since one must exercise control over one's life to be autonomous, autonomy is something that a person accomplishes, not something that happens to persons. But freedom is precisely a combination of self-creation and what happens to you”.[4] There is liberation in the free expression of their sexuality. Becoming a stripper can give a "curious kind of control over those who watched".[5] Roberta Perkin's work with sex workers [location] showed that sex workers "exerted a significant amount of control over their working lives, felt empowered by their work and most were not arrested or subjected to violence." [6]


Feminist strippers find benefits from their work, including but not limited to, the ability to create their own hours, and work on a pay scale that is a direct reflection of their skills and talents. Feminist strippers receive a sense of empowerment from performing for an audience on stage. Feminist strippers exercise their freedom of sexuality, that is their freedom to choose how to use their bodies in interaction with their environment, through their performances, and this freedom contributes to a feeling of power and control. The amount of pay received can place strippers in an economic position of superiority over women in other occupations.[7]


Being a stripper subjects these women to criticism from many sides. They are commonly perceived negatively by society and by working in their field are subjected to surveillance, arrest, detention, forced venereal disease testing, extortion, violence and rejection from family and friends. The type of work and the place of work can hamper or make impossible negotiation of workplace benefits such as sick leave, disability leave, or pension plans.[7]

Occupational health issues remain a concern in a stripper's work. Stripping is a physically demanding job, and strippers later in life can experience physical pain and injury.

Strippers face the hardship of defending their work as legitimate work, and defending their justification of using their bodies for money.[8]

Safety is another point of concern and caution in a stripper's work place. Bouncers and other employees can ensure that the workers are kept out of harm's way at all times. However, unwanted touching, derogatory language, and sexist comments can all occur without protection from bouncers. This possibly unsafe and often uncomfortable environment contributes to a state of constant awareness within strip clubs.[9]

The many different employees within strip clubs all contribute to a club's social structure and ultimately hierarchy. The job itself is overseen and controlled by the other workers within the club. "Absolute control by male club managers and bosses... tends to reproduce in the crudest possible way the structure of patriarchal power and female dependence" (buying power).. Strippers must negotiate with men within a stigmatized, male-controlled profession. Because they are generally paid in cash, strippers must negotiate with and share their earnings with booking agents, and pay fines to club owners for infractions such as showing up late or skipping a gig.[7]

Representation in media and popular culture

The mainstream media has perpetuated the virgin/whore dichotomy to a point of a selfless identity for the everyday woman whose career is stripping. The movies Striptease and Showgirls have brought to life a few sides of the stripper that is now seen as typical. She is either portrayed as a home-wrecking, unintelligent, thief, or she is a mother doing what needs to be done to put food on the table for her child. These mainstream stereotypes fail to portray the woman who takes pleasure in her job and the woman who chooses to have this job. The idea of the good stripper and the bad stripper are perpetuated though mainstream media. A good stripper hates her job and the bad stripper enjoys it.[10]

"As an illustration, consider the situation of a young dancer who decides to undergo breast augmentation to increase her income per evening. After the surgery, she receives more attention, compliments, and money. Consequently, our hypothetical dancer feels more confident and powerful approaching men and soliciting dances, supporting the analysis of the sex radical feminists in her individual life. Simultaneously, from a radical feminist perspective (structural level), she is participating in and perpetuating an institutionalized beauty myth that reinforces women's subordinate status by rendering their value dependent on the approval of men."[6]


There are many debates surrounding the justification of viewing stripping as a feminist action. Many feminists find stripping to violate human rights and dignity, saying that stripping, and sexual exploitation will be the "end of feminism." This criticism is supported by societal views of women who engage in sexual acts for money, and the social stigmas associated with sex acts. Social stigmas surrounding stripping such as gang affiliation, drug use, STDs, and prostitution contribute to the criticism of women who become exotic dancers.[11]


Feminists and non feminists alike can view stripping as exploitation of the female body, "the act of stripping overvalues physical perfection and abstracts the sexual qualities of the female body, it places voyeuristic men in the position of judges and arbiters of the female face." [5] However, feminist strippers find the use of their body as a potential tool, to be sexually, psychologically, and emotionally empowering. Feminist strippers argue that they receive positive reinforcement while performing, and this reinforcement perpetuates their self empowerment. A main argument of feminism is the exploitation of the female body by the dominant group, i.e. males, is a main concern that perpetuates the domination of females because of their body. Many find problems with self-identified feminist strippers, because of this argument.[12]

When I read some of the stuff written by so-called "feminist allies" it feels like they are fighting over bodies. Some of them say they are "pro-prostitution," as if it could be that easy. Then there are the others who say that prostitution is evil because it contributes to violence against women. ... It's like prostitutes are just these bodies who are somehow connected to something bad and evil or something good and on the cutting edge of revolution. They just turn us into symbols.
Interview, Chapkis 1997, 211[6]

Noted feminist strippers

Sheila Hageman is a noted author whose memoir, Stripping Down, explores her time spent working as a stripper and how that time of her life contributed to her feelings about stripping, and what it means to be a feminist.[13][14]

Annie Sprinkle is a former stripper, pornographic actress, and author.[15][16]

Diablo Cody, former stripper, author, screenwriter, producer and director.[17][18][19]

Jacq the Stripper, a Canadian writer, comedian, stripper and illustrator, and the author of The Beaver Show, the feminist tale of an aspiring stripper and mega-babe.



  1. Distiller, Natasha (2001). "Advocating for the Right to Sell Sex". Agenda. 47: 35–42. JSTOR 4066451.
  2. http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/29/living/antonia-crane-stripper-essay/index.html?hpt=hp_c3
  3. Sanders, Teela; Hardy, Kate (2014). "Speaking Back - the feminist and class politics of stripping". Flexible Workers Labour, Regulation and the Political Economy of the Stripping Industry. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. ISBN 9781317755333.
  4. Brison, Susan J. (2006). "Contentious Freedom: Sex Work and Social Construction". Hypatia. 21 (4): 192–200. doi:10.1111/j.1527-2001.2006.tb01136.x. JSTOR 4640030.
  5. 1 2 Kesller-Haris, Alice (1985). "Selling Sex, Buying Power? [ Review of the book Naked is the Best Disguise: My Life as a Stripper]". The Women's Review of Books. 5 (12). JSTOR 4019640.
  6. 1 2 3 Rupp, Leila J. (2007). "Mobius Stripping [Review of the book Inside the Lives of Exotic Dancers". The Women's Review of Book. 1 (24): 18–19. JSTOR 4024698.
  7. 1 2 3 Ross, Becki (2000). "Bumping and Grinding on the Line: Making Nudity Pay". Labour/Le Travail (46): 221–250. JSTOR 25149100.
  8. Rickard, Wendy (2001). "Been There, Seen It, Done It, I've Got the T-shirt: British Sex Workers Reflect on Jobs, Hopes, the Future and Retirement". Feminist Review (67): 111–132. JSTOR 1395535.
  9. Price, Kim (2008). "Keeping the Dancers in Check: The Gendered Organization of Stripping Work in the Lions Den". Gender and Society. 22 (3): 367–389. doi:10.1177/0891243208316518. JSTOR 27821650.
  10. Bott, Esther (2006). "Pole Position: Migrant British Women Producing "Selves" through Lap Dancing Work". Feminist Review (83): 23–41.
  11. Overall, Christine (1992). "What's Wrong with Prostitution? Evaluating Sex Work". Signs. 17 (4): 705–724. doi:10.1086/494761. JSTOR 3174532.
  12. Trautner, Mary Nell (2005). "Doing Gender, Doing Class: The Performance of Sexuality in Exotic Dance Clubs". Gender and Society. 19 (6): 771–788. doi:10.1177/0891243205277253. JSTOR 27640850.
  13. Hageman, Sheila (2012). Stripping down : a memoir. Seattle, Wash: Pink Fish Press. ISBN 9780615584973.
  14. "Sheila Hageman: Why Stripping Can Be A Feminist Act". The Huffington Post. 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
  15. Sprinkle, Annie; Cody, Gabrielle H. (2006). Hardcore from the Heart: The Pleasures, Profits And Politics of Sex in Performance. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-8264-9069-8.
  16. "BRICK presents...Annie Sprinkle "My Life as a Feminist Porn Activist, Radical Sex Educator and Ecosexual"". The Sounds News. 2012-04-16. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
  17. Grussendorf, Christina; Laighton, Jill (2002). "Stripping as a System of Prostitution". Off Our Backs. 32 (2): 34–40. JSTOR 20837510.
  18. "Diablo Cody IS a Feminist". Womenandhollywood.com. 2009-09-13. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
  19. "Chatting With Diablo Cody About Film, Feminism, and the Right to Be Mediocre". Bust.com. 2013-01-30. Retrieved 2013-06-18.
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