I want to talk about the intricacies of navigating this patriarchal world as a woman, and as a radical feminist. Or something like that. I thought my first blog post would be about something different, a concise and well-written argument about pornography or male violence or another major radfem issue, but this is what came and it’s a lot closer to home for me, and maybe that’s not such a bad way to start.<br>
First, I have a confession to make. For the last six years, I have been a gogo* dancer in Las Vegas. Some might say that makes me a terrible radical feminist, but honestly, I really loved it and I think it turned out to be what really helped me come to a radical feminist consciousness. Now I’m sure some of you (if there is anybody even reading this at all lol) are wondering how that can be. And yes, I know the very idea of gogo dancing pretty much goes against everything that I believe in and would like to think that I stand for, and that it reinforces the idea that women exist to sexually entertain and service men, and also upholds ridiculous and pretty fucking oppressive beauty standards (seriously, I had to confirm every night to my boss that I wore fake tanner, false lashes, and had full glamazon make up and hair, not to mention I had to shave practically everything!). BUT. See, there’s a side to gogo dancing that NO ONE sees. The sisterhood, the friendships. The female-only space; one of the few female-only spaces I’ve gotten to experience as an adult. As radfems, I’m sure you can appreciate how much that space meant to me (now the only woman-only space I have is my bedroom). Nothing with a penis was allowed beyond the dressing room door, you see. And our breaks were for thirty minutes, every thirty minutes (so 30 onstage, 30 off, all night). With most nights being a 6-hour shift, I spent 3 hours of my work night in the dressing room, chatting and laughing and hanging out with all the other dancers. And I know people probably looked at us and assumed we were vapid, shallow, and bitchy, but these are some of the most awesome women I’ve ever met. Some were professional dancers like myself, some were teachers, mothers, models, one was even an engineer. I even met the only other feminist in Las Vegas there (if that’s not true, it feels like it). And we all supported each other, no one put anyone else down, everyone was friends. We might not know everyone really, really well, but there was a hundred girls in the company and we all had each other’s backs when it mattered. It was the safest space. I’ve literally carried on whole conversations with the other women in the room totally butt-ass nekkid; can’t ask for a more comfortable and safe space than that. The bonds I’ve formed with some of the amazing women I’ve met at work will hopefully last a lifetime, and definitely not be dampened by this move to California. It was almost a feminist space without trying to be; there’s something about women-only space that is just magickal. I didn’t even realize I was missing close female relationships in my life until one night hanging out with one of the dancers after work outside our favorite sushi place at 4am and realizing she was the first woman I had been close to in about a year and a half. It was also where I perfected my “I-don’t-give-two-shits-what-you-think” attitude that goes so well with radical feminism (you can bet that when you’re dancing half naked on a box in Las Vegas, EVERYONE is going to have an opinion and you need to develop a pretty thick skin).<br>
Now, in my defense, I came to a radfem consciousness long after I started gogo dancing (although I’ve always been a bit radical :)). And I probably would have never started had I become a radical feminist first. But like I said up there, gogo dancing was instrumental to my understanding to a lot of the concepts and I just don’t think I would have come to it anywhere near as quickly if I wasn’t working in adult entertainment and didn’t have the real-life experience of how deep-seated and quite disgusting some men’s misogyny can be. This quote from tumblr blogger RadicalMayhem says it a bit better than I can:<br>
“My understanding of radical feminism is inextricable from my time in the sex industry… confronted daily with men who buy sex, you see misogyny for what it is.”<br>
I have never been prostituted myself, but that didn’t stop men from confusing my sexualized dance moves with sexual availability, and they were usually quite disgusting about it.
But even with all the negative aspects (I’ve even had two stalkers at one point!), and even with all those negatives becoming glaringly apparent after my awakening, I still didn’t walk away until pretty much forced to by this move, because the community we created made it worth it.
So to trace our steps back up to the first paragraph through this meandering train of thought, its hard being a woman in a patriarchy. It’s even harder being a radical feminist; everyone, including ourselves, is criticizing all our choices is they don’t seem “feminist” enough. But I’m here to tell you, it’s okay. It’s okay that maybe every single decision you make doesn’t Smash the Patriarchy! We live in and are of this world, we can’t make perfectly feminist choices all the time and maintain any semblance of sanity. It would be too hard. We all decide which concessions we will make to male supremacy in order to live comfortably and with some dignity. Maybe you wear make-up to work, maybe you like rap with lyrics that are derogatory towards women, maybe you shave (I don’t :). My girlfriend and I used to get into debates about my feminism because she didn’t understand how I could reconcile my job with my beliefs, that everything I talked about was wrong or somehow off because of the nature of my work. That my words were just ideas in my head, and that ideas didn’t affect change. But I think she’s wrong. Words and ideas, they changed my whole life. It was reading the brilliant words and ideas of radfem women online and in print that prompted a totally radical and all-consuming change in consciousness so complete that it literally transformed the way I see everything. EVERYTHING. Anyone who has read any Mary Daly will know what I’m talking about, it was like finally stepping into the Background and seeing the Foreground that was layered over everything, distorting it so you couldn’t see its true form. But since them, a curtain has been lifted and the Truth shines so bright now. Sometimes it’s a really ugly, distressing or terrifying Truth, but at least it’s real. So let’s stop holding ourselves to ridiculous standards, as long as we are faithful to our beliefs when it really matters. And here’s a Truth, just in case you haven’t come into the Background with me yet: Sometimes we have to take female-only space where we can get it, and sometimes that space is a gogo dressing room in a bright and busy casino in Sin City.<br>
*gogo dancers are not exotic dancers/strippers. Having been raised in Vegas I am definitely not judging, just saying there IS a difference. Strippers have to put up with A LOT more crap than I ever did, and I felt like I dealt with a lot.<br>
**also, if anyone knows how to format this so there are breaks in between the paragraphs, I would love to know. I hope its still readable like this.