As I continually explore woman’s issues and look for ways in which my art and my life can be spent promoting healthier images and outlooks of women I am constantly looking into reasons and root causes for existing unhealthy attitudes towards women.
I so often find that one of the biggest fingers that gets pointed is at strip clubs.
I grew up in a fairly small town. There were a couple of strip clubs nearby. I knew a few girls growing up who worked in them. These girls weren’t prostitutes, they probably weren’t forced or coerced into doing what they did. It was a high paying though albeit somewhat slimy way to make money. Most of them didn’t have any love for it but enjoyed the money it brought in. Many were using it to pay for college or launch some other career.
The security was good and the no touching rules strictly enforced. I am not naive enough to say there weren’t incidents or there weren’t things going on there such as prostitution but from the girls I knew it certainly didn’t seem the norm.
It didn’t seem like a place where men were going to look at women as objects. It seemed like a place where the guys would go once in a while to drink with buddy’s and be around beautiful women. The dancers talked with us in between shifts and they danced. It was all harmless or so I thought, everyone went home after. Perhaps this was totally naive on my part or perhaps things were really a little different there.
Where men objectifying women there? Undoubtedly, but it didn’t seem the majority. Was I? I don’t think so. I think even at that young of an age my turn on’s were more romantic, intellectual, artistic and less object centric. Perhaps that’s the reason for my outlook on these places at the time as ‘not so bad’. Maybe I just wasn’t really seeing what was going on. Maybe I had an idealized and romanticized vision of these places, as I did the women that worked in them. I certainly wasn’t there enough to analyze them in depth, maybe once a year if that or even less.
I can’t say I’ve been to very many strip clubs in New York City. By the time I moved here I think my views of women were already growing more and more respectful. Makeup, and high heels were quickly becoming turn off’s and sexuality was becoming something more intimate and interpersonal. What these places had to offer became less and less appealing to me.
In the 90’s with the exception of a few, mayor Juliani pushed most of the strip clubs out of Manhattan. Many landed in Long Island City Queens. Just blocks from where my art studio is currently located. I have not been in any of these nor do I have any desire to. I have seen prostitution in the area (though it is cleaning up significantly) . I know the effect strip clubs have. I know they are also a far cry from the strip clubs I grew up around in small town CT.
Its a bit difficult and challenging for me to be the guy who would speak out against such things. Having grown up with such a ‘its harmless guy fun’ view of these places. Many of my male friends who are good guys might still attend strip clubs. I’m very liberal and don’t want to be the conservative guy putting the kabosh on someone’s harmless fun.
Unfortunately its not ‘harmless fun’ Its pretty undeniable strip clubs are a place where men go to objectify women. I stand firmly against the objectification of women. Strip clubs are places that foster prostitution which in turn supports the trafficking of women and young girls. I stand firmly against these things as well. The women that work at strip clubs are not objects, they are daughters, sisters, mothers, friends and most importantly they are people.
Ok so if I speak out against strip clubs am I a hypocrite? I paint nude women. Whats the difference?
Well you could say its a fine line but I really don’t think so though. I don’t think any of my work is sexual in nature and for any and all criticisms I have taken, I have to say except for people who view any nudity as always sexual I have never heard of my work refereed to as such. I don’t think my work objectifies or supports the objectification of women. I certainly don’t look at my models as ‘objects’ as a matter of fact I go out of my way not to.
So with hope for future generations of young men that will not grow up frequenting strip clubs and fostering attitudes of objectification, I speak out against strip clubs, I join the finger pointing and begin the effort to address these institutions and the attitudes they help to promote.