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Apr—How to Be a Woman (2016) > Did anyone else really dislike her take on stripping?

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message 1: by Timothy (last edited Apr 28, 2016 10:54AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Timothy Knutson Let's be clear. I am loving the book. Even the stuff that I disagree with her on I can at least find funny, and its not offending me. Until she got to talking about strippers.And its not just her, there are a lot of feminists, especially older feminists who like to shame strippers. Here's why I don't like it: feminism to me stems from an idea that we as women are free to do what we want to do, and make our own choices, especially when it comes to our own bodies and employment. So why do a lot of feminists claim that they support women's rights to choose what they want to do with their own bodies, and then trash women doing just that?
Moran literally say "get off the pole, you're making us look bad", and that is something I completely disagree with. These are women using their bodies as they choose to make an income. Why do we say that women should do with their bodies whatever they want, and then promptly tell them that they are doing it wrong and we know know better?
I might be biased. I live in a city with more strip clubs than anywhere else, and know multiple strippers, who love their jobs and make good money from it. I'm wondering if this bias is maybe why I hated that chapter, and also wonder if why one else feels the same way.


message 2: by Marina (last edited Apr 28, 2016 11:22AM) (new)

Marina | 314 comments Yeah, I sure find that very problematic even aside from describing burlesque as "campy, tranny, fetish".
As for the financial aspect, I really liked this post: http://emersoncane.tumblr.com/post/13...
This shouldn't be considered "crazy money". It should be perfectly normal to afford basic things.

also, "girls, you're letting us down" is exactly one of the examples of where the book ceases to be a mere memoir and opens itself up for criticism in terms of feminist theory.

I've not read the book and my view is mostly based on this review. https://feministtexicanreads.wordpres... It discusses this chapter a lot.


message 3: by Marina (new)

Marina | 314 comments I assumed that this was exactly what some people meant when they said "I didn't always agree with her but the book is great overall". But being able to dismiss this like that is a privilege.


Timothy Knutson Marina wrote: "Yeah, I sure find that very problematic even aside from describing burlesque as "campy, tranny, fetish".
As for the financial aspect, I really liked this post: http://emersoncane.tumblr.com/post/13..."

Wait, you haven't actually read the book? You should. Even though I took issue with somethings, there were parts that I really loved and were laughing out loud at. She has some great thoughts on porn (which confused me even more at the stripper chapter, she's okay with porn stars but not strippers?), and some hilarious stuff on relationships and becoming a woman.
And yes, being able to dismiss the couple of pages or phrases I didn't like might be a privilege, but I don't think we should throw out everything someone says because you disagree with one thing. Thats seems like a terrible way to actually have a conversation, and, at least in my opinion, slows down progress.


message 5: by Marina (new)

Marina | 314 comments Thanks, but no thanks :) I have enough on my reading list. I'm sure I don't need her help in becoming a woman ;)


message 6: by dbemg (new)

dbemg | 1 comments I feel like this argument gets made a lot- that feminist criticism of the sex industry is sort of prudish and old-fashioned and that it comes from a place of wanting to shame the sex workers themselves. But I don't think that's always the case.

I can't speak for Caitlin Moran, but the problem I have with the sex industry is an economic problem rather than a moral one. For the most part it's an industry where men sell women to other men: the woman whose labour is generating the profit only ever gets to see a fraction of it. Like in a typical strip club the owners will see the majority of the profit. The managers, the DJ, even the bar staff probably go home with more money at the end of the night, and 9 times out of 10 they'll all be blokes.

I expect there are some women who do find stripping empowering, lucrative etc. and who make a completely free and autonomous decision to work in that industry, but I also think that there are also lots of women for whom that isn't the case. If women became strippers just because they love taking their clothes off then you'd certainly see a massive difference in the type of people who end up working in that industry.

I guess what I mean is that there are some legitimate problems with the way the sex industry operates, but I'm not sure that "get off the pole, you're making us look bad" is the best summation of them (sorry Caitlin Moran!)


Jodie Sheen (jodie1989) | 8 comments My understanding was that she wasn't trashing strippers generally just the ones that do it because they feel they have to. She seemed to be encouraging people to do it because they want to and no other reason.


Lisy (littlered_readingbooks) Crucet (lisycrucet) | 4 comments dbemg wrote: "I feel like this argument gets made a lot- that feminist criticism of the sex industry is sort of prudish and old-fashioned and that it comes from a place of wanting to shame the sex workers themse..."

You make such a great point.

I do not have an issue with women using their bodies and their sexuality to make a living. But is our society that is male driven and sexualized also driving these women to use their bodies? If we did not value a woman's looks so much then women wouldn't need to use their sexuality to make money in the first place.

Forgive me if I do not make sense, I am trying to express myself but may not be doing so correctly. Also, I am new to this group and would love opinions on this. To be honest, I have not read this book yet but the topic interested me.


message 9: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah Faltesek | 17 comments I found her comments about Burlesque to be indicative of someone who has never actually SEEN it, or who has only seen a cheap, amateur attempt that was basically a strip tease with a better costume.
My friend and former roommate is a burlesque dancer, and the artistry that goes into these performances is incredible; singing, dancing, or even using paint to turn oneself into a re-creation of a famous work of art. I've seen people using puppets, doing the whole number behind a sheet with colored lights, and women taking demeaning tropes and turning them on their heads to the surprise and often discomfort of some of the audience.
But more importantly, feminism is about choice. We are constantly surrounded by men trying to shame us, tell us who or what we should be and do. Let's not do that to each other. There is no *right* kind of feminist.


Timothy Knutson I might have not read the section the way she intended it to be read, and if that's the case, sorry to her. But it's not just her. I like what you said about the economic side, I mean stripping rates hasn't increased since the 70s, and have completely ignored inflation. There is definitely a huge stigma against strippers though, and I see a lot of it coming from other women. Including women who claim to be feminist. Mothers claiming their daughters can be anything they want except strippers. So much violence towards them in the workplace. Almost 80% of strippers report getting physically abused by a customer. I don't get how such a huge market exists when people are so nasty about it, including the people pouring money in. You would think if they hated strippers so much they wouldn't go to clubs.


Michelle What I really don't understand is how she finds being a professional stripper is terrible, yet porn is ok. She seems to analyse porn from the viewers side and totally misses out any research into how porn stars are treated, or forced into the job. Just like strippers, as she says, don't wake up in the morning excited about what they do, so do porn stars (I'm sure).

(Btw Sara, Catlyn admires burlesque as an art form. It's the 8 hour stripping shifts and professional strippes' levels of depression etc that she disagrees with)


Angela (travelingkarma) I don't like the fact that women need to make money doing either. As a mom of an almost teen, I don't want these to be options for her and I would be very upset if she felt she needed to choose those professions. I would be a complete failure as a mother.

What I don't agree with Catlyn is that pole dancing classes are ok when pole dancing is not. It seems it is the same as high heels. are we pole dancing "for fun" really? is it fun pretending to be a stripper?


message 13: by Finnella (new)

Finnella Flanagan | 6 comments Angela wrote: "...What I don't agree with Catlyn is that pole dancing classes are ok when pole dancing is not. ..."

I thought her thoughts on this made no sense. I don't see how pretending to be a stripper is somehow ok but actually being a stripper isn't.

I've had several friends who were strippers. I believe it was their right to choose this line of work. Economics drove a lot of it, which is a separate discussion. Caitlyn seemed blissfully ignorant of why women might choose this line of work. Should they make less money by doing something more respectable? I knew one young woman who took a financial hit to become a secretary because of the stigma. Another friend did find it empowering though money still played a big part in her decision.

The "you're making us look bad" statement made me pretty angry. So we should have freedoms and make choices about our bodies, but only if other people find them socially acceptable? Several chapters of this book left me cold, but this one made me the most angry.

I also thought her take on burlesque shows was odd. One of her reasons for approving of burlesque is because gays thought it was good entertainment but wouldn't be caught dead in a strip club. I wasn't aware that I needed gays (or anyone else) to tell me what good entertainment was.


message 14: by Marina (new)

Marina | 314 comments Yeah, I don't remember where I saw it, maybe in a review, but the person said the distinctions are a bit pointless. It all depends on the specific club. Some burlesque events are shady, some strippers are better shielded from harrassment than others. If she's not even done this herself, she's really just guessing and - as usual - generalizing.

I was also disappointed by her mention of Latin being useless ;) People say the same things about women's studies or literature, so wtf. If I were a historian I'd be double annoyed, given her dismissal of women's history.


Jennifer Seyfried (moojen) | 3 comments I think I have an unusual take on this subject because I frequent the local strip club with my husband. We know most of the dancers and the rest of the staff and consider some of them friends. My husband says the club is like a museum and the girls are the art. He buys them drinks and expects nothing but some conversation. He treats them like human beings, not objects. We would never judge a woman for choosing to dance for a living, but rather judge the patriarchal society that puts them in that position and then stigmatizes them rather than the men who drive the whole system. Perhaps if Caitlin also had some conversations with strippers and got to know them and treated them like human beings instead of objects, instead of behaving like a typical man in a strip club or just being judgmental, this would have been a more interesting chapter and more worthy of the rest of the book, which I thought was pretty brilliant throughout.

Personally I don't see anything wrong with using your natural gifts to make a living, whether you're dancing on Broadway or in a strip club doesn't make a difference to me. I actually admire the athleticism and skill some strippers exhibit on that pole. It's like the Cirque du Soleil when it's really good! I don't see how it's any worse than making a living being a Victoria's Secret underwear model. There's no talent involved in that, just the ability to look "sexy."


message 16: by nil (new)

nil (nilnil) The biggest problem that I have when having discussions like this is that generally there tends to be a massive erasure of relevant voices--namely sex workers of all varieties. A starting place that I recommend is a frequently fun and informative blog written by sex workers called Tits and Sass (bonus points always in my book for puns): http://titsandsass.com

I find Moran's position to be very contradictory on this issue, as many have pointed out. This was only exacerbated when I listened to her interview on the Daine Rehm show. It was so strange to have two separate perspectives (reading her work and listening to her speak) that simultaneously was delightful and entertaining and frustrating and maddening. Ultimately I don't think that this book was very relatable. Caitlin Moran fails to thoughtfully cover intersectionality, and I personally feel that this is another example of mainstream feminism failing in acknowledging this. Just my personal opinion though. :)


Evelia | 89 comments This was one of the least favorite parts of the book for me. I was confused since I did not understand what her point was.


message 18: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 82 comments Really reminded me of that one Inside Amy Schumer sketch. Why is it "empowering" and "fitness" for women with disposable income to take classes and do burlesque and pole dance for fun, but if they do it for money they're disrespecting themselves? Very classist.
https://youtu.be/gTFIdV9pPeU


message 19: by Tim (new)

Tim All I'm going to say is that so far I've read 0 feminist articles or blogs against sex work (of any sort), that have made any reference to any actual sex workers and what they think.


message 20: by Marina (new)

Marina | 314 comments I know a former trafficking victim that's firmly against any sex work. The argument is similar to the "I regret my abortion" kind. However one good point is that free choice vs forcing is generally presented as a binary, when there's a huge sliding scale. It can feel like a free choice at the time and only be processed properly in hindsight.


message 21: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth | 5 comments The issue that I think people need to understand in regards to stripping or being a stripper is that usually it's born out of negative choice. Technically, choosing to strip is a choice in that you have to apply for it and you're not physically or in any way visibly bound to do it for the rest of your life. However, when many women to choose this as their profession it is because they have others relying on them -and they are relying on themselves as well- to stay on or above the poverty line. Sometimes stripping or selling ones body seems like the only way to stay afloat. Not to mention that there is also the argument that for regular visitors of their local strip clubs, the idea that "a body is a body is a body" becomes the norm and women are freer to express themselves without having to be harassed when more people have that mind set.


Timothy Knutson Yes, it can be born out of a negative choice, but so are a lot of jobs. Retail, serving, construction, etc. And yet working selling clothes is trashed a lot less than stripping, even though stripping can often offer the most income from those jobs. Maybe old school feminist, instead of lecturing women who choose to sell their bodies, should spend more time focusing on why women who don't want to need to and leaving women who want to alone. Multiple jobs include some version of selling your body, if that's the pain that comes from standing on your feet all day in a shitty retail job, or destroyed your body by sitting in a computer chair all day. We use our bodies as needed for the job we have, sometimes in truly self destructive ways, and it shouldn't matter how much clothing is on it unless someone is forcing us to take it off. Only then should it be an issue.


message 23: by Ross (new)

Ross | 1444 comments I have regarded stripping in some ways as the male equivalent to boxing (I know that is outmoded but as an analogy it still works) has a way for people from poorer backgrounds to make it to some sort of life outside the menial drudgery.

I know how that sounds but I myself came from what the now loving call "sink estates" I can see where the exploitation can come from but still a women's body is her own and is she uses it to get ahead in the world has it is now do we who have been luckily enough not to need to have a right to judge?

This may come across wrong coming from a man but I hope the intent is clear.


Noina (noisynoina) | 27 comments I agree with Timothy and the others who think that saying "get off the pole, you're making us look bad" to a girl because she is a stripper is completely insane. First of all, I don't see why strippers should make the women of this planet look bad. It's not essentially a shameful job ! And I truly believe that there are girls who enjoy stripping... MAYBE it is because it pays better than say bartending (just saying this hypothetically) but some people very probably just like the job, and rightly so !
My brother once did a news report about a "sex fest" that took place in my town in Switzerland. There were all kinds of people, among them strippers, and also a couple he interviewed that did sex shows : they basically made love on a stage in front of people. And they liked it ! They could have done something else.
I completely agree with Ross : judging women who use their body to earn money (or as you put it "to get ahead in the world") is not our job.
The real problem is that it remains a job very stigmatized, marginalized, when it should not. It should be a FREE choice, not an survival choice.
I don't know if I managed to make myself clear.

Love & respect one another is all I'm trying to say, really :)


message 25: by Lakshmi (new)

Lakshmi (bookloner) | 3 comments I am all for "choice"and about it is an individual's prerogative to do what they want with their body. However, there are consequences that society at large faces both with pornography broadly and stripping as part of that. And the trouble comes with what it communicates - the underlying concept that women's bodies (since they are the majority of the work force) are available at a price.

While, there could be 'wise' individuals who believe they can stay above this indoctrination, I would hazard that most individuals cannot or even choose not to. Men spending evenings where every additional payment means they can get any act done are not necessarily going to be easy to convince that women are not commodities.

Or young boys - how can you convince them that women are not commodities when every fantasy (whether palatable or not) can be lived online or offline at a price and they see this at impressionable ages.


message 26: by Ross (new)

Ross | 1444 comments The key element is if the individuals involved make a choice or are co-hearse (forgive the spelling my dyslexia as playing up) we actually need strippers male and female to give there input to the debate or if Catlin could expand, for all we know she might have thought the stripper was making her feel self-conscious with her idealised body type (hope that comes across right I am newly formed feminists).


message 27: by Lakshmi (new)

Lakshmi (bookloner) | 3 comments I agree with what you say - that given there are both male and women are stripping, there is a commoditisation of BOTH bodies. However, there are a few points
- women are the majority of the work force in the industry and already face challenges of equality. So this compounds the problem at a whole new level. Men are fewer in this space (gay porn being different with a strong case there for the commoditisation)
- overall, men are likely to access porn at a much younger age and therefore with higher susceptibility to the message
- while women in western world watch and consume porn, fact is in most other parts of the world, they would NOT. Internet access is strictly limited to males and in an patriarchal societies, it not only re-enforces the power structure but also makes it harder for the women there to effect change. Lets not forget that over 70% of the women still live outside of environments that espouse equality with little legal, social or policing support.


message 28: by Tim (last edited May 30, 2016 09:25AM) (new)

Tim Laksmi, you make a fair point. Sex work today has lots of issues, particularly pornography. However, I think a lot of mainstream feminists are wrong. Lots of "radfems" would have you believe that sex work cannot exist in a feminist society and so far I haven't come across one of them who actually refered me to a sex worker's opinion about, or about anything really. Clear case of a lack of intersectionality, I call it. Then again, the liberal side of feminism that has come about in recent years (and become the center of lots of attention) with the Clinton campaign, they seem to completely fetishise this idea of choice, without really analysing why said choice is made. One thing I can at least agree upon with "radfems" is when they say many sex workers do the work they do due to financial pressure. Obviously, I think that is horrid and I don't think the "liberal branch" will ever come with a proper solution for it, considering their defense of capitalism (which is ultimately the underlining cause of most if not all cases of poverty).

So, my opinion on the matter is to respect sex workers of all sorts, and to plead for proper empowerment for them, as opposed to making it this "rescue mission" that the "radfems" have made it out to be. What I mean by empowerment is by acknowledging them as workers and by pleading for workers' self-management (not that the order in which you do them matters that much; just do both at the same time) because I think it is the most dignified way for any workplace to be run. Basically: empower them and empower all workers while you're at it (or vice versa; again, just do both).

One important step in the process of empowering them is by not looking down on the work that they do in any way. This is absolutely vital! If you consider them all to be criminals or victims, you'll get nowhere. If you have either of those views, I suggest re-thinking your stances on sex in general.

EDIT: *Lakshmi. my bad :d


message 29: by Lakshmi (new)

Lakshmi (bookloner) | 3 comments @Tim. Agreed. That is the first step, the empowerment. The next is actually the education of the general populace that this is a profession as any other and should be treated as such. There are heart breaking statistics in developing countries where prostitution often literally becomes a hereditary profession because the offspring have no shot at normal society. Girls are ostracized for their mother's profession, have to live only in the areas where their mothers work, exposing them to significantly higher levels of sexual violence.

And the education is not only of men. Women have themselves bought into the patriarchal mindset, often being even even more vehemently discriminating of prostitutes (women) than even men are.

Agree that most sex workers are in the profession either voluntarily for financial reasons, involuntarily because of power reasons. That is what describes the majority. Unfortunately, the few that make the choice beyond financial reasons garner a far bigger mindshare than their actual share of the populace warrants.


message 30: by Tim (new)

Tim Lakshmi wrote: "@Tim. Agreed. That is the first step, the empowerment. The next is actually the education of the general populace that this is a profession as any other and should be treated as such. There are hea..."

That is true, particularly the last sentence. Anyway, one thing I always feel like a lot of politicians (and I mean a LOT) need to be told at least once is that, historically, NO attempt at criminalising sex work has ever worked out well in any way, shape, or form, unless having increased prison populations is somehow to be considered a beneficial thing for society.


Tabitha Carver | 3 comments I am just now getting around to reading this book I've had two copies of, and I do love it. However, I completely agree, I honestly had a hard time carrying on with the book after. Reading through that chapter I was like...wait is she serious? She's extremely judgmental and on some aspects I understand where she's coming from. But as you said, feminism stems from women being equal. This includes women doing whatever they want to do, such as stripping. It shouldn't be frowned upon especially by other women. I did however notice she stated how she is okay with it and agrees with it as long as it's what women want to do and feel safe and secure doing it. All in all I totally agree, the chapter made me uneasy and view her slightly differently.


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