Book Club: Bare

This month's book is Bare: The Naked Truth about Stripping, by Elisabeth Eaves.

First of all, I was a little skeptical about this book, because I don't think I really condone the idea of public stripping, plus I sort of think that people who say it's a feminist job are full of it.

Then, too, as a rule I don't condone adultery, and I think men who frequent strip clubs are probably more likely to stray, even if they say they are "just looking." Why aren't they satisfied with "just looking" at home? Is the fact that they are sneaking peeks at other women outside the home indicative of a problem with the marriage/relationship?

I think that, as a single woman, I am probably going to have a different perspective than some of the others in my book club who are married. I know, because I've observed it in myself, that when it comes to the topic of marriage, I see things in terms of black and white.

At this point, when I have not yet found someone on whom I am willing to bestow the awesome privilege of marrying me, I feel like this: If my husband looks at another woman, I will smack him, sort of like aversion therapy. If my husband considers having an affair with another woman, I will sterilize him. And if my husband actually does have an affair, and I find out about it, I will divorce him, take all his money and property, and then kill him. It's only fair.

I know that I am the voice of inexperience. Maybe someday I will change my mind about marriage in general and about one man in particular. Until that time, I cling happily to my inflexible opinions.

So ... the book.

Eaves begins by talking about how, as a child, she was always happier when she was naked. This is, I think, a cop out. Aren't all children happier when they don't have to wear clothes? I myself ran around in as few clothes as possible until I started school, and then they made me wear stuff. I think sometimes clothing represents being bound to convention, and when you are a kid, you sort of don't understand that there are certain rules everyone expects you to follow, and no one tells you WHY you have to wear clothes, just that you have to.

There is a lot of talk about double standards, when considering society's expectations regarding the sexuality of men and women. I hate that a woman who has a lot of sexual partners is a slut, while a man with the same experience is a hero. THIS IS NOT A NEW ARGUMENT. It does not serve to convince me that if a woman is mad about double standards, she should take control of her sexuality and make men pay to see her flaunt it.

Eaves started "dancing" (not stripping, because she started the show naked) as a way to get money. And I understand that it's a lucrative business, the flesh trade, but I still don't know that I would be comfortable telling someone they ought to get into it. Like, did your mom ever say to you, "You can be anything you want to be, even a stripper!"?

Furthermore, Eades herself alludes to the fact that she and the other women are providing a service, almost enabling an addiction when they allow men to look at them. Isn't that the same thing as a dealer offering crack to an addict? Because I understand there's pretty good money in that, too. If your job at the grocery store doesn't work out, maybe you could sell drugs to make rent.

The whole book is pretty graphic, in terms of what the dancers do and what their audience does. While I was educated (I guess) about what goes on at a strip club, or why some of the women involved in stripping get into it and how they feel about themselves, the book still left me cold in a lot of ways.

For one thing, dancing had a drastic effect on Eaves' relationships, whether familial, platonic, or romantic. She had to be guarded, sometimes, with people because she didn't know how they would react when they found out about her job. I don't know that she ever told her family how she was earning money. Sometimes her romantic relationships suffered because her boyfriends were either not supportive of her job or were super-interested but not in a good way. I don't know if I could commit to that amount of secrecy; it must have been a tremendous burden.

The book is not just about Eaves' experience as a stripper; she also talks about some of the women she danced with, and who became her friends. Sometimes the women used dancing as a means to an end, a way to get out of debt or start a business. Sometimes the women used dancing as a crutch, as in, "If this new thing doesn't work out, I can always go back to stripping."

The whole idea just bothers me: I have never bought into the idea that the women who pose in Playboy or who offer themselves up only as sex objects are the true feminists. Like, do waitresses at Hooters really think that they are empowering themselves by wearing short shorts and belly shirts? What are they empowering themselves to do, exactly? As far as I can see, the answer is this: to sell more chicken wings. Is that what feminism has come to? Selling more product?

Furthermore, I think a stripper is probably some men's idealized version of a woman; she shows them everything they want to see, but she doesn't talk or make any demands of the audience. She's there; you can look if you want, but you don't have to. She's grateful for the money you give her and she doesn't hold her hand (or anything else) out to you. She doesn't ask you to mow to the lawn or make sure you pay the electric bill. If you don't like her, there's always someone else to take her place.

That is just not realistic, and it does, in some cases, really hurt the man's relationship with his wife or girlfriend, because she DOESN'T fulfill that same dream role; she's GOING to share her opinions and her thoughts and she's going to have expectations and she's not just going to shut up and take off her shirt when you want her to.

When I meet a man, obviously the first thing I am going to focus on is his appearance. That's just a given, and it's true of everybody. However, my opinion of his appearance may change once I get to know him. Sometimes a man that I initially think is good-looking may be rude or mean or just plain dumb, and all of a sudden he's not so cute anymore. On the other hand, I've known men who--once I talked to them and discovered their senses of humor or their depths of knowledge--became better looking out of nowhere.

A stripper doesn't have that advantage, because she is nothing more than a thing; she could be a hologram or a painting--those aren't necessarily expected to speak either. Maybe she is a jerk; maybe she's the kind of person who could be your best friend, but you wouldn't know because all you care about is how she LOOKS.

I've heard many times before that men are, by nature, visual creatures, that they can't help but be stimulated by what they see. That's probably true; not being a man, I can't speak with any authority on that subject. But I sometimes think that that argument, too, is a cop out. Like, "Honey, I couldn't help it; you know how men are!"

But you know what? I am, by nature, a yeller; I also get impatient a lot, I hold grudges, and I might call you some bad names if you make me mad. But when that happens, I don't say, "Oh, you know how I am!" I have to take some sort of responsibilty for my actions, and if I don't want to get to a place where I am saying some really harsh things, I sometimes have to physically take myself out of a situation. That is why I don't go to Hooters, because I will surely get up on a table and lecture about"A Room of One's Own" or the Seneca Falls Declaration or "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman." And I would definitely be yelling, and many many people would be feeling the sharp edge of my tongue (not like that, perv).

Feminism is not an idea based in nudity. Why don't people get that? Did our foremothers really fight so hard for our freedoms so that we could subject ourselves to the leering gazes of horny men? Far from freeing themselves from societal norms, strippers just help men to refuse to consider women as HUMAN BEINGS.

One hundred--even fifty--years ago, women were seen as commodities, something to hold onto until they'd outlived their usefulness. They had no voices, no rights, and no hope. They were no more than objects. How is their lot different from the stripper's? Who is paid to fulfill a man's fantasies and then go away? Whose name is incidental, whose mind is unnecessary, whose voice is unwanted?

After her last dance, Eaves says, "Stripping reinforces the stereotype of women that came to bother me the most: that they can be bought. ... She creates the idea that a woman's appearance, behavior, and sexuality are for sale."

I am against that idea. It gives men the notion that other women are also going to be for sale, and you know what? I can't be bought. You don't have that much money.

No comments:


Made by Lena