Men's Studies

As I may or may not have mentioned, I’m a grad student in a women’s studies program. When I attended my first sex work conference (and subsequently became a stripper), I remember a particularly interesting encounter with another stripper/researcher who warned me to be careful that I not “hide behind the research.” Driven by other accounts of stripper/researchers who had customers say, “oh, you’re just doing this for the research” (Katharine Frank, G-Strings and Sympathy 13), I refuse to hide my researcher status from inquiring customers. So when I mention I’m a grad student in women’s studies, I usually get a response like, “Well sweetie, I’ve been studying women for over 30 years, whaddaya wanna know?” or, “You’re already a woman. Why do you need to study them?” while at first these jokes were annoying, I got used to them—I literally hear versions of these statements several times a week. They might be belittling, but they’re not overly offensive. And besides, it’s really hard to offend me. Well, the other night, someone completed that seemingly insurmountable task. Ahem:

I was on the third stage, twirling around a pole for dollar bills, when I apparently caught the eye of a distinguished looking gentleman with an extremely kind face. He approached me, tipped me, and I told him I’d come “bother him” after I was done with my stage rotation. Temporarily ignoring the advances of a VERY hot couple by stage six, I went and sat down on Steve’s lap instead. (sometimes these decisions can be difficult—when you get tipped by 10 different people, who do you approach first? You make the wrong call, waste 10 minutes talking with someone who doesn’t pan out, and your other leads are either busy with someone else, or have vanished altogether. It can be stressful. Every stripper has her own strategy, and my internal dialogue went as follows: I see this couple in the club almost every Saturday night, but I’d never seen distinguished-looking-steve before. also, couples usually aren’t worth more than a few dances, and I’d already seen steve do at least five with a hot Russian babe while I was sitting with someone at an adjacent table earlier in the evening).

Steve starts asking me about myself: this is a good start. Sometimes guys don’t give a fuck who I am, where I come from, what I do when I’m not dancing for dollars, so it’s nice to be asked. I tell him I recently completed a master’s degree, and he asks me what my major was. I say “women’s studies” and he goes, “UGH.” I say, “What was THAT reaction?” and he rolls his eyes. I press on: “no seriously, you just had a very strong negative reaction to women’s studies. I’m really curious as to where that came from.” And he asks,in a very combative tone, “Is there a MEN'S studies?” (omg. Really?). I go, “Honey, the whole goddamned world is men’s studies. Women’s studies was invented because some people thought an alternate perspective was needed. Besides, the school won’t let us change it to gender studies. Also, we spend most of our time talking about race, class, ethnicity, orientation, disability, and all sorts of other categories that separate people and lead to discrimination. Women’s studies is really a misnomer.” Then he goes, “Well, do you think you deserve special treatment?” I scoff: “No.” He asks, “Do you feel victimized?” “No, and I resist that label whenever possible.”

At this point, I really want to bolt. This is clearly going nowhere profitable. But I think to myself, “Part of the reason you got into this business was to challenge people’s stereotypes about what constitutes a stripper, what constitutes a feminist. If you stomp off, he’s just going to chock you up as a bitchy feminazi, and that won’t do anyone any good, now will it?” and so I remain. And then, after insulting my entire field of study, he proceeds to launch into a truly offensive train of thought:

Steve: “So, do you have a doctor?”

Me: “Yes.”

Steve: “Are they black? White? Male? Female?”

Me: “She’s white.”

Steve: “Would you be opposed to having a black doctor?”

(Sweet baby jesus on a stick. Where the fuck is he going with this?)

Me: “Of course not.”

Steve: “What about if he was over 50?”

Me (ignoring the presumptive "he" in that last statement): “No. And what does that have to do with anything?”

Steve: “Well you know, up until about 30yrs ago they didn’t let blacks into medical school. So any black doctor over the age of 50 was given a free pass, and didn’t have to compete.”

Me: “So what? It’s not like they were automatically given a free pass through all their classes as well. They still had to do the work and get the grades.”

Steve: “I just think there should be an even playing field.”

Me: “But there’s not an even playing field, and there certainly wasn’t one back then. And you owe me a drink for that comment.”

Steve rolls his eyes, but complies. I know I’m not going to get any money out of him, and I feel I need to be compensated in some way for the time I just spent listening to his racist diatribe. I’ve had this affirmative action debate with other rich white men before, and I really can’t stand to hear someone who refuses to acknowledge their privilege rail about how “there should be an even playing field.” Of course you think there SHOULD be an even playing field, you rich white motherfucker, because for YOU, there always HAS BEEN. I have a dear friend who once made the mistake of bringing up a similar argument in my presence: “Well, I’ve not received jobs because they gave it to a black person instead.” I said, “So fucking what? How many jobs do you think you’ve gotten because you’re white? There’s no way to know, because that’s your reality. But people of color encounter hidden prejudices like that every day.”

To be clear, almost nothing pisses me off more than a rich white man talking about how he’s been discriminated against because of his skin color. Cry me a fucking river, asshole. You’ve been given EVERY opportunity in life, and just because our government decided that certain classes of people might need a helping hand doesn’t mean your life is any less cushy as a result. So what if you didn’t get that one job? You make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. So what if you have to pay a higher insurance premium to fund the healthcare of someone who doesn’t have a job? You can still afford a giant TV and fiber optic cable content, high speed internet, a gas guzzling truck, and bottled water delivered directly to the door that leads to your climate controlled home. You walk on a treadmill in your living room instead of walking to an hour long bus ride to work every day.

My point is this: privilege is often unacknowledged by those who possess it, and the privileges of whiteness are often as invisible as the category itself. And that, my friends, might be the most important thing I learned in grad school.


  1. I did not realize you were a grad student. As for Steve, that is what we refer to as an asshat in these parts.

  2. Your point is spot on. Thanks for this post.

  3. Men. Some of them can be quite frustrating.

  4. Two wrongs don't make. Justifying AA solely based on prior injustice doesn't work for me. Obviously if the goal is to rectify an existing injustice thats different because you are not only 1)when acknowledging that injustice, but 2) also trying to fix it. I don't think AA fixes the issues and injustices it supposed to so I don't like it.

    As for Steve it sounds like he is not open and can't see things from a perspective other than his own narrow perspective, BUT you should be aware that your perspective is only one of many perspectives also and not get made at people, just debate them if appropriate or if not appropriate, go talk to other people

  5. Oh my god yesyesyesyes. I'm so happy that I found your blog.

  6. philibusters,

    Yes, you are completely right. Also, I've got some beachfront property in Nebraska I'd like to sell you.

    This post was awesome darlin'. I am never more disgusted than when being told about all the epic privileges I get by being black woman. Systemic racism and oppression be damned! I can get bullshit jobs because I'm black! even playing field etc. Bollocks. Please just stop talking and pay me. I am a domina though, so I can gag my clients, you cannot, and for your ability to listen to this drivel I salute you.