Sent by striptease artist, Edie in October 2011
I spoke at a ‘debate’ on Tuesday called Lap-dancing – a choice or exploitation?
It was sparked by the current Nil Policy consultation in Tower Hamlets but billed as a general debate. The stated aim of the organisers is to close down every SEV in the UK and for stripping to be banned completely as it is in Iceland. (These were the words of Kat Banyard and Object) A few of them mentioned ‘that big one on the corner in Hackney’. I think they mean Browns and I think they are pretty pissed off they didn’t mange to shut it down last year. BEWARE, they will try again.
Well, after being told it was an invitation only, women only, private event; it turned into a very public, very mixed and absolutely not private event. People taking photos and filming – something I hope does not come back to haunt me.
Here’s a run down of the speakers and what was said:
Beatrix Campbell - feminist and communist (is what it said on the program)
She set the tone for the evening with high drama and sensationalism. She ad libed her speech. I will paraphrase her so you can get the general idea but do be sure to read this to yourself with a lot of drama, pity, mournful emotion and dramatic pauses.
“Can you imagine what it’s like?! Our young women….. surrounded by men……. having to take off……..ALL their clothes……… (big dramatic pause as see looks around at the audience, hoping her words are having the desired effect). “Being the only person in the room…… NAKED….. whilst the others remain clothed!!!”
Please note that because about 70% of the women in the were in burkas or niqabs, this did have the desired effect.
She then went on to tackle the subject that dancing is empowering, again with full drama and mournful emotion.
“People say……..Lap-dancing……is empowering! Can you believe that?!?! So I could be empowered by it?!?! ……. Me?!…… with my old and skinny body?!?! …… Are they really saying ….. I could be empowered?!?!”
I thought ‘no love you wouldn’t get any shifts but you could do Burlesque successfully if you had an ounce of imagination.’
Kat Banyard and Object – this lot are the hardcore prohibitionists and a BIG problem.
Kat Banyard ran the ‘you can buy a woman like you can buy a cappuccino’ line which I was prepared for in my speech with – ‘You do not buy me, you pay for my performance. I am a performer.’
They obsessed about women even though there are male strip pubs and said the areas around strip venues were no-go areas for women. She talked about ‘choice’ but isn’t that what they want to take away from us?
She also touched on the stage fees issue. That fees are too high and there are too many girls on shift causing standards to slip and ‘extras’ to be offered. I’ve always been lucky enough to work at good places but we all know that this is an issue in our industry and the prohibitionists will continue to use this a a reason to ban dancing.
They get themselves all worked up. They are like the shouting, accusing children of Salem. Destroying the lives of adults with accusations. I want to send them all a copy of The Crucible by Arthur Miller!
It will be really hard to get them to listen. They have built there entire career on stripper bashing so there’s too much at stake. They have businesses, websites, book deals and funding all dedicated to pushing the idea that stripping is wrong. They make a parasitic living out of us. They can not afford to be wrong or budge an inch in their hardline stance because it will invalidate their career and earning potential.
I think she was just someone from ‘the community’ who spoke a lot about being a mother and protecting the children. All quite irrelevant seeing as it’s the Adult industry that they were supposed to be discussing.
Me – Stripper
I was conscious when writing my speech (attached) to check all my facts, not use inflammatory language and back myself up with studies and statistics. However no one else did this. They were quite happy with vitriol, willful misinformation and blatant lies. I asked them to introduce me as a stripper because technically lap-dancing is not allowed. Lap-dancing involves contact and all SEVs are supposed to have a no touching policy.
I realised later that I should have kept my speech quite simple as I was talking to an audience of mainly simpletons. Unfortunately there was only me with five minutes to put the other side of the argument in a three hour witch trial, …. er ……. I mean ‘debate’. It was a general overview but I now realise it’s just important to repeat key messages again and again to them. Such as:
‘I chose to dance’ ‘No one forced me’. ‘I enjoy my job.’ ‘I am well looked after’. ‘I am a performer not a prostitute.’ ‘It does not lead to an increase in rape’.
Finer points such as freedom in general, if my freedom is taken form me you will be next etc… The concept of living in a liberal democracy, artistic freedom, freedom of expression etc were just not being received. I also asked, what about Bethnal Green Working Man’s Club with it’s Burlesque nights? It is stripping after all. Will this also be closed down? How about BJs gay bar that has male strippers, yes men dancing for men. Will this also be closed? My questions were not answered.
Kat Banyard called me and Caomihe propagandists! Haha!
Jennifer Hayashi Danns – ex-dancer and author of Stripped – the bare reality of lap-dancing.
She is intelligent and articulate but very anti-stripping. She had worked in a lap-dance club in Liverpool to put herself through university. It made me think, ‘Well you paid for your degree, you’re alright, but is no one else allowed to do that?’ It seems quite unfair.
She related a story from her book about a dancer, who also did all the other things like music video shoots etc, that went from tragedy to tragedy. The two main points of the story were that the dancer had been shot and at some point had gone to a party with some other girls, got off her head and then woke up having sex with someone. Neither of these things happened at work, they happened else where, but she got the effect she wanted. The crowd only heard ’shooting’ and ‘rape’ in association with lap-dancing and all their prejudices were confirmed.
She said the dancer didn’t go to the police because she knew she wouldn’t get help. She knew the stripper stigma would prevent them for taking her case seriously. In my opinion this is a reason against the nil policy and further criminalization. It just reinforces the divisive and spiteful view about women being ‘good’ or ‘fallen’. Meaning that those women who are ‘bad’ don’t deserve help.
She ended with the rallying cry ‘There is no place in our society for lap-dancing!’ There was wild applause.
Eileen Short form CAPE (Communities Against People Exploitation)
Apparently she’s offended by people pulling up in big black cars outside of Metropolis. Huh?! If she is offended by cars she needs to go and live in the woods.
Anyway, the jist of her argument was that the SEV venues caused a lot of noise and disturbance. Why she specifically thinks strip clubs are more prone to this than any other club, I don’t know.
She also did a lot of the ‘poor girls, who are drawn into working in these terrible places, we must help them! routine. With a lot of drama, lamenting and wailing. (Some of these people deserve an Oscar!) She assumes everyone was forced into dancing even though I made sure to say in my speech I had CHOSEN to dance.
We spoke to her afterwards and pointed out that other bars and clubs cause more problems with noise and drunkenness than strip venues. This only served to make her complain about how the whole of Shoreditch and Hoxton were so unpleasant and people were drunk everywhere. She was utterly ridiculous. One of the stupidest speakers there.
Phillipa Boardman – Church of England female priest
I was sitting next to her and she kept turning to me and smiling sweetly. She said things like, ‘It’s so interesting to meet someone like you’ and ‘I never looked at it like that’. My impression of her is that she is well meaning but really had no clue.
She spoke about Jesus and how he loved everyone. How he had accepted women in his group, which in those days was unheard of, so Jesus supported women’s rights. What about my right to choose? What about me and my friends being free to do the job we want to?
She also spoke about the ‘dignity of children’ and dignity in general. Again, it’s the Adult industry, what do children have to do with it? Children don’t go into their parents room and watch them have sex and nor should they go and watch strippers. Parents have sex – that’s how families happen – and it’s kept from children. Erotic dancing happens in SEVs – and righty it’s kept from children. Yes crazy people … sex exists.
Safia Jama – Somali Integration Team
This woman was intelligent and dynamic but very devout. She was fully veiled and spoke as ‘a mother and community organiser’ about the plight of the poor dancers. She ran the ‘dancers are victims of wicked men’ story with a passion.
Dilwara Begum – ‘writer’
This one is as mad as a hatter! As daft as a brush! She ramble incoherently around so many subjects. She was totally unaware of how much she contradicted herself and totally stupid! I was looking at her biog of ‘writer’ and thought ‘yeah right! The only thing this woman writes is the weekly shopping list.’ I may be a stripper , but next to her, I am an intellectual giant!
She babbled around SEVs, the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, class war, corruption in business, unemployment, rape, family break-up, divorce, human trafficking etc. At one point I held my breath as she rambled on about the government cuts; ‘OMG!’ I thought, ‘This woman, with the IQ of a fruit fly, is now going to try and tackle the subjects of global finance and the sovereign debt crisis! Please NO!’ Fortunately, Rania Khan, the organiser and chair asked her to leave the stage.
She said lap-dancing was a violation of human rights and girls were forced into this work. She could not comprehend how anyone could choose it. She said it was exploitation of poor unemployed girls and all the governments fault as they were not providing enough jobs.
She ended with the rallying cry, ‘our boys and girls are not for sale!!!’ People cheered but hello people, unless you’ve won the lottery or come from riches we are all for sale. We trade our services and labour for wages. It’s how it works. A complete dumb ass!
Ruhan Ali - TELCO
I got the impression that she was intelligent and well meaning, just naive. She was one of the many who said, ‘Oh I never even knew there were these places in Tower Hamlets!’
She described her work with schools and colleges and said there was no place for the sex industry in our society. She said there are nine churches and five mosques and none of them want this to go on.
Well tough, religion is going to have to co-exist side by side with the liberal secular majority. I would not petition to have churches or mosques closed down. I would not go to them, and I don’t feel comfortable with them, but I would respect the freedom of choice of others if they wish to do that.
Rachel Saunders – Labour Councillor
I found this speaker to be one of the worst. As an elected representative she needs to understand the subjects she has decided to speak about. She directly accused stripping of leading to increases in rape and causing human trafficking. There were no caveats and nothing ‘allegedly’ about her sweeping statements, none of the usual cautionary language that politicians use to cover themselves. I found her astoundingly irresponsible, as an elected official, to be telling blatant lies.
Warning – it is tempting to contact her and put her right but she is a sensationalist and drama queen. If she is contacted she will scream, ‘The sex industry is harassing me!’ She will use it to imply that she is brave and her stance is heroic. It is better to get the Labour party to discipline her for defamation and irresponsible conduct.
Caoimhe tried to catch her out on the rape issue at the end during the rather chaotic Q&A session. She avoided the subject and would not answer questions directly. The simple reason for this is that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I made sure when I wrote a feedback email to the organisers the next day, to tell them full stripping only began in the 80s, has rape only existed since the 80s?
Recommended reading for her is Folk Devils and Moral Panics by Stanley Cohen!
Sarah Castro MBE
This final woman was intelligent, worldly wise and sane. (Thankfully!) She was a friend of Rania’s and hadn’t really thought about lap-dancing being a problem or had given much time to the subject. She also commented on the low profile of the clubs.
She thanked all the speakers excluding me!
She basically said she didn’t agree on banning anything.
There was so much ignorance in the room and willful misinformation peddled by the speakers. One thing I found really offensive is that these people suppose that they can tell me what I can and can’t do with my life. I would never dream of interfering in their lives as much as they feel they can with me. I just wouldn’t waste my time or be so presumptuous.
Another thing I briefly attempted with one of the women that chatted to me afterwards, was the whole Burka issue. I watched a Kat Banyard interview where she was asked how she felt about the Burka as a feminist. She skipped around the subject dodging the question and then said, ‘the problem is, is that women’s bodies are being used as a battleground.’ Well isn’t that what she’s doing with strippers? So I tried to talk about how my choice to dance, is the flip side of the same coin, as your choice to wear the burka. It’s all about external authorities trying to control what you do as a woman. I wouldn’t wear a burka but would never support any law banning an item of clothing. That’s because it’s about freedom and once you start banning one thing, where does it end? It was impossible to get them to see that the issues were related and about freedom.
Another scary thing about all of this is that the Coalition are pushing a localism agenda. If this is the caliber of our local representatives then we are all in trouble! From what I gather from the Hackney campaign is that there is no right of appeal once the Nil Policy has been passed. This is very scary as the fanatics will win and the people just getting on with things will find themselves out of work. At least when things are decided at national level there are educated advisers and therefore more chance of sanity. (No guarantee though).
Well we knew the panel was heavily bias and calling it a ‘debate’ was laughable. Debates are supposed to have opposers and proposers and a balance of arguments. There was none of this. If I made only one person change their mind then it was worth it!
Unfortunately these people are not going to go away and will keep on pursuing their goal of shutting down all SEVs in the UK. They are bullies have to be stood up too because if one borough falls the rest will too. I guarantee if they ban dancing in Tower Hamlets, the prohibitionist will try again in Hackney.