Misguidedly protesting the Paramount
By Ashley Pitt, Contributor
“Strip clubs are nothing like movies present them,” says Lemondrop, a dancer at the Paramount. “It’s something you need to experience first-hand.” Her words are fitting, as the Paramount Gentlemen’s Club was being protested by Dr. Charles Best Secondary School’s Social Justice class on January 19th in Uptown New Westminster. The students—most of whom are not yet 18, and cannot enter the no alcohol, adult establishment—hadn’t even contacted the club they were protesting.
The students handed out leaflets with broad generalizations and sensationalist claims on them, like, “100% of [strippers] reported: physical abuse… sexual abuse… verbal harassment… [and] pressure to prostitute themselves…” How were these students or their teacher, Ken Ipe, able to make such claims without contacting anyone in the industry? When asked by CTV News if he had contacted the club, Ipe said, “No, but we did research them.” The research he refers to is Stripclubs According to Strippers: Exposing Workplace Sexual Violence, by Kelly Holsopple, 1998. Holsopple, a former dancer, quoting a 1994 study by Hearn, says, “…violence against women is identified as physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, and representational, but all violence from men against women should be understood as sexual violence.” With such a hardline stance, no wonder 100% of respondents said they’d been abused! If you surveyed 18 women—the size of Holsopple’s sample—outside a Safeway, I bet you could replicate these results.
This isn’t to say that violence against women isn’t a very real and serious issue. If you go online and read about things like the gang rape of a young woman in New Delhi, or the high profile, local Missing Women’s Inquiry, you’ll quickly see that violence against women is no laughing matter. But it is the very seriousness of the issue that makes it such a heavy charge to lay on a long-standing, legitimate business with no prior record of disturbances or issues. The criteria Holsopple uses to define violence is a very wide net.
I can’t help but wonder how that definition would read if you were to replace “women” with “men,” and vice versa, then read it over. Now what? Are women incapable of abusing men that way? It feels like we’re seeing the same message over and over again. Women are weak. We need protection from men and from ourselves. It’s insulting and demeaning, and how does it make men feel? Shameful and deviant for simply enjoying something so natural as the female form in a safe place. I wonder about the damage we’re doing to men, accusing them of sexual violence when they enter a strip club. It’s a bit like telling a 13-year-old boy that a kitten dies every time he touches himself.
I asked the dancers their opinions of their choice of occupation and the responses were overwhelmingly positive. “I’ve gained a lot of confidence working here,” says Lemondrop. “I was faking it before and now I believe it.”
Another dancer, Vanity, says that the no alcohol status of the Paramount makes for a good vibe. And that, “The owner is understanding and always offers support… We’re simply dancing and we enjoy it. We’re not forced into it. It’s work but it’s fun.”
“It doesn’t feel tedious. Dancing is a whole lot better than working retail. I feel a lot more confident. You can’t generalize us. Everyone has their own story,” says another dancer. Interesting: these women don’t sound like the unwitting damsels in distress that Ipe and his students would have you believe. Maybe they should have used current research and practiced critical thinking skills before launching a highly-publicized campaign against people who didn’t ask for saving and who are working within the law… or maybe, they should have simply called the club.
Images from Ashley Pitt