This is a serious article of journalism from Salon.com. This is the world we live in.
There’s a bit to unpack in this tuft of fluff. Written by Susan Elizabeth Shephard who is described as a “writer in Austin, TX, covering strip clubs and other topics.” Shephard wrote this piece – I guess – to poo poo other outlets that wrote that Lindsay Mills was a stripper because she’s a professional pole dancer.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Personally, I wish that the article would be about what a non-issue Mills is the conversation about the NSA information leak but this is the world live in. What made my eyes roll the hardest about this article is how Shepard tries to explain the difference between a pole dancer and a stripper.
It appears unlikely to my trained eye that Mills was a stripper, or, if she was, remained one for long. Her YouTube videos show a graceful and strong pole dancer, but most of her routines are performed barefoot, and she uses certain transitions that are definitely more like traditional dance than the exotic variety. – Susan Elizabeth Shepard
You see you can tell if a person is a sex worker by looking at them. Regular sex workers aren’t graceful , strong and wear heels at all times, even in our own homes. As someone who has been both a traditional dancer (ballet, modern, lyrical, African) and worked as a stripper exotic dancer I can’t help but feel like the entire basis of this article is to try to humanize Mills by not making her one of those strippers. God forbid this woman is a *gasp* common STRIPPER!
Now Shepard could have written an article talking about the emergence of Pole Dancing as a competitive sport outside of adult entertainment but she barely touches on this and instead wants to project some anecdotal knowledge about relationships between ‘smart strippers” and their ‘drop out techie’ Romeos.
I’m not sure how many hours she spent over Mils’ blog posts and YouTube videos, but that’s a lot of speculation from small slivers of this woman’s life. If one wants to be hacky they can always take a pretty face and imprint it with a persona of your own invention. Shepard admits that she’s projecting on Mills, “So, thinking of the brainy and dreamy outsiders I’ve known, my instinctive reaction to the details of Mills’ existence is to feel sympathetic and protective.”
Okay… but why does your sympathy have to come with downplaying the talent and contribution of sex workers. She can’t even talk about strippers in a positive light without a modifier. Strippers with techie boyfriends are the “smart” ones, regular strippers – fuck those hos. I don’t want to feel like I’m picking on this writer but , seriously? In her bio it says that her beat is strip clubs.
Before I started writing this I was afraid that perhaps I was also projecting emotions unfairly, but my annoyance at this is valid. It’s not the same disdain that I have for non sex work pole dancers who throw shade at strippers but its close. Here is a journalist whose job it is to cover strippers and when tasked with humanizing a woman who pole dances thinks the best way to do so it to make sure people know she’s NOT A STRIPPER or at the very least only dabbled. I’m not saying that she should spread misinformation but there’s away that goes about clarifying without further stigmatizing an already criminalized group.
If you don’t understand the sometimes rift between pole dancer and strippers here’s an analogy. You are part of a culture that produces a very hard to produce dish. Now people in your culture obviously have varying degrees of how well they can make the dish, some don’t do it at all but its your culture’s dish. Now someone from outside of your culture, that has historically looked down on you and many aspects of your culture including what you eat suddenly takes interests in your dish. They start making it, then they start selling it and suddenly they don’t want to associate the dish with your culture because they are ELEVATING it. Did I also mention that they have no issue saying they make the dish so much better than anyone from your culture, they changed some spices to class it up. they continue to look down on you while enjoying something that they used to justify the disdain they still have for you.
That’s how I feel, when a pole dancer or someone who admires pole dance is dismissive of strippers. You took our art then spit in our faces.