Rack City. Freak No More. Magic. I Luv Dem Stripperz. To get a glimpse of strip club culture its as easy as listening to a few hit singles, looking up a couple music videos, or scrolling through your favorite rappers Instagram. The term “Stripper” can evoke different thoughts for different people. It’s a term and lifestyle that is both romanticized and scorned simultaneously.
Although, Black strippers are often criticized for their line of work, they inevitably carry strip club and Black culture on their backs. The marriage between hip-hop and the strip club dates back decades. Rappers would push DJ’s to play their records in the strip club because, let’s be honest, if you can get beautiful women to twerk to your song, it’s a hit. In today’s new era of hip hop, rappers walk into strip clubs and spend tens of thousands of dollars to upkeep and image and persona for themselves. An estimated $3 million dollars was spent at Quality Control Music’s Stripper Bowl Party in Atlanta, Ga in February 2019.
It’s no secret that stripping an provide much financial freedom to those that choose this job. But why is it that the same women that are the spines of strip club and black culture, deciding who is hot or not, have their voices silenced, problems ignored, and are being put on the sidelines of the new wave stripper unionization movement?
The answer is simple. It’s because no one cares. More specifically, no one gives a damn about the adversities that Black strippers face. Many people look down upon these women and see them as being just “hoes” and don’t even believe that their line of work isn’t even a “real” job. But being ignored by Black men and silenced by White feminist strippers is much more than just a Black stripper problem. It’s a Black Woman issue.
A recent article in the New York Times titled “Strippers Are Doing It For Themselves” highlights a recent push of stripper unionization to cease unfair working conditions and defective business practices that many clubs across the country partake in. Throughout the entire article there are about three paragraphs that shed a dim light a small amount of issues that Black strippers face. Extreme house fees. Sexual Harassment. Representation.
While 80% of rape cases are reported by White women, for every one Black woman that reports that she was raped, fifteen will not. The theory of consent is not very popular among men in Black strip clubs. Many of these men feel entitle to the women that work there solely based on the fact that they are spending money on them. Much of the sexual harassment and assaults that occur in these clubs goes unheard of because dancers don’t want to loose money and fear retaliation from the club itself. Club owners do not want to be associated with anything or anyone that will tarnish the image of their club, and have no problem making it extremely difficult for certain girls to make money in their clubs or flat out firing them.
In many clubs strippers are inaccurately classified as independent contractors while being expected to follow an extensive amount of rules and regulations, while having to deal with outrageous house fees, provide mandatory tips to housemom’s, DJ’s, doormen, etc., facing discrimination and colorist hiring practices, among countless other unethical practices that clubs commit against strippers.
In 2017, stripper Gizelle Marie of New York City brought the NYC Stripper Strike to the forefront to expose the issues that dancers in urban clubs, including having tips blatantly swiped of the stage by bartenders during their dance sets.
But just because the issues are just now becoming somewhat mainstream does not mean they haven’t been occurring for years. Being passed from one generation of strippers to the next.
A recent Supreme Court ruling in the state of California changed how people are classified as independent contractors making a shift to classifying people as employees. This ruling effected dancers by allowing clubs to be able to pay strippers what they choose while still charging customers $30+ for lap dances, $300+ for VIP dances, and $1000+ for champagne rooms, and although the issue is unjust to all dancers, it mainly effects White gentlemen clubs, and White strippers.
Therefore, to say that women are unionizing to fight decades of exploitation makes no sense when you are making White women the face of stripper unionization, while not shedding light on the exploitation Black strippers have faced for decades, and, overall, it coincidently aligns perfectly with White feminism which has a well known history of erasing not only the struggles of Black women, but all women of color, from their movement. When in fact, Black are the ones creating the image of the strip club industry, while concurrently carrying the industry on their backs.
The only representation that black strippers have in media, besides the representation they’ve created themselves, is the glamorization of a lifestyle that does not truly exist. The exploitation that Black strippers truly face is constantly swept under the rug while the lifestyle that is portrayed by society, and black culture in particular, is smoke and mirrors.
So the next time you joke about dropping out of college or quitting your day job to become a stripper, think twice. Because there are many strippers that have Masters, PhD’s, run successful businesses, and are overall boss ass bitches.
Black strippers are being stripped of their rights and silenced by club owners, White feminists, and, sadly, the exact same culture that they so heavily influence.
Dear White Stripper (and all the strippers that are doing it for themselves),
Although our struggles may sometimes cross paths, our issues will never be parallel. Sadly, that’s the way this society was set to be. Wether we’re shaking our asses half naked or sitting in a cubical for 8 hours a day. In order for real change to occur that will benefit all of our stripper sisters stop belittling and erasing the voices of Black strippers, transgender strippers, and all minority strippers alike.
A Black Stripper
“Strippers Are Doing It For Themselves”