Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mommy Vixen / Mother and Stripper

Mother and Stripper
May 2001

First and Foremost, I am a Mother.

And although it is true that I am also a stripper, my child comes first and my job, not even second. Or does it? And I think therein lies the conflict. With barely enough time to nurture my relationship with my spouse, what little time I do spend cherishing my daughter, very little time to sleep, tan, exercise or buy groceries or go down to the lobby to get the mail, it seems that this “job”, which undoubtedly takes up the lion’s share of my time, becomes the unconscious “priority”.

Consider this dilemma: (I heard this story from a dancer about a dancer and I can’t remember either of their names, so if this is you, I’d love to find out your reaction to this article.) A woman is working at the Drake. The Drake has very strict rules about calling in sick or walking out on a shift. There are no exceptions. So this woman calls home to check on her child(ren) and finds out that he/she is very sick. When she explains to the bar that they should find a replacement for her because she must go home to take care of her child, she is told that if she leaves, she will not be paid for any of the work she has already done. This is the part where I assume that she is working because she needs the money to support her family, which is the reason most of us work, right? Let’s say she has rent coming up or a payment on a loan that is already late, or she’s getting low on groceries, needs gas in her car… What should she do? Should she give instructions to the sitter on how to deal with the illness, what to watch for, and a number to call in case of emergency? Or, should she forget the money and rush home to her child who is in desperate need of her? How will she pay for medicine if she has no money? How could she even consider staying at work when her baby needs her? What would you do if it were you, then how would you explain your decision, either way, to those who would condemn you?

And there’s that. The condemnation that is prevalent when a mother is a stripper.

How do you admit to your mother-in-law that you are stripping to contribute to the family income? Or your own mother, for that matter. How does your husband feel when those around you condemn him for not earning enough for you to stay home? Or pity him because he has to deal with the mother-of-his-child getting naked in front of other men? Do we live in shame? Not care what they think? Stop going to church? Lie about what we’re doing? Or worse, hate what we’re doing?

Should I explain our rationale? Why do I strip? Well, I strip because I can take a week off whenever I want. I strip because I can make more money than I can waitressing or doing daycare. I strip because I like performing and being my own boss (at least in theory). I strip because that’s what I know how to do. I strip because I get to spend time with other women when I am at work. I strip because I am empowered by being able to contribute a substantial amount of income to the running of this household. I strip so that I can buy my daughter nice things and afford to buy gifts for weddings and housewarming parties. I strip because if I quit stripping, then need money really fast, all I have to do is make one phone call and I’ll be working in the next few days or week. I strip because even if the whole world makes me feel like a bad mother for stripping, when I’m on stage doing what the whole world condemns me for doing, I just don’t feel like what I’m doing is wrong.

To combat at least some of this conflict, I choose to work part-time. I work nights or days or just do contests and Sundays. That way I have more time to spend with my daughter. That way, my daughter has more time to spend with me. I also lie to my family about my job. They think I am waitressing, or cleaning houses or some shit like that. And when I have a full week or two off, it all seems quite worth it. I haven’t run into a problem where I have to leave work to be with my sick child so I don’t know how I will handle it when it happens. My common-law husband has mixed feelings about it. He also liked it when I had a whole week or two off. He also liked it that we could both have some semblance of a comfortable life due to the little bit of time I did spend working.

Being a mother who strips is different from being a mother who drinks. I can tell the woman I meet in the park with her child that I’m going out to have a few drinks tonight, would she like to join me? But I wouldn’t dare tell her that I’m going to work as a stripper. She might not let her child play with mine. Or she might try to avoid me when we, again, run into each other at the park. Deeply and to the core, I am not ashamed of what I do. But to protect my child, to protect my heart and to protect my home, I keep it a secret. I know a woman whose ex-husband has a very wealthy family who used their money and power to take her children away. Their biggest weapon? She is a stripper. Can that happen to me? When my neighbors call social services on me because I smoked pot outside of my house, will they take my child away? And if they do, will it be because I smoked a joint outside of the house, at the end of the day, after my daughter was in bed? Or will they do it because I am a stripper with a “drug problem”? Does the fact that my daughter is the most important thing in my life and I do everything I can to make sure she is healthy and happy even matter if I am a stripper?

I don’t have the answers.

But I’ll tell you what I do have.

When I go to work, I am less likely to be sexually harassed and more likely to be in the position of doing the harassing. When I go to the bank, I feel empowered to demand to be treated respectfully and given special incentives because my bills are paid every month and lots of money goes through my account. As a mother who strips, I do not work all the time, but if there is a need for money, I earn it and I am not going into worse and worse debt like many of my non-dancer girlfriends. That is not to say that I am not in debt. Getting pregnant and staying at home for the first year with my daughter ensured that my debts would sky-rocket and minimum payments keep me in good standing so that I don’t work more than I absolutely have to. But that’s a matter of priorities. If I worked full-time, say 2 or 3 long shifts every month, with my husband’s net income of $2000/month, we would have our debts paid off in no time. But that would be at the sacrifice of being with my daughter. Since I love being with my daughter, the choice is obvious, as it is with most dancers with kids. I don’t work that much.

Another thing I have is confidence. Men in the world do not intimidate me. And I feel sorry for the women in the world who don’t realize their power. Before I was a dancer, I felt insignificant when I walked into a bank or had a suit-and-tie-guy look down his nose at me. That affliction no longer ails me. I feel stronger and stand up for myself more since I became a stripper.

And now that I’m a mother, I stand up for myself more as a stripper. I don’t work if I don’t want to, even if they try to bully me into it by bumping me out of gigs or threatening to do so. And the other dancers who talk condescendingly to me don’t faze me. This is not a popularity contest; I am here to earn a living. My family depends upon me for it.

So what am I?

First and foremost, I am a Mother. I love my child, like all mothers. I pay my bills, like most mothers. I try not to be away from my kids too much, like most mothers. I smoke pot after my daughter goes to bed, like some mothers. I earn a living as a stripper, like some mothers.

I am a woman with legal employment, out there “shaking my money-maker” like many women have since the beginning of time. In Europe, stripping is not that shameful an existence and much more widely accepted. Why, in this land of “tolerance”, should I feel compelled to behave as if I am ashamed of what I do?

Well, I am not ashamed. And I will continue to strip until I choose for my own reasons to stop. And when my daughter is old enough to understand what stripping is all about, I will deal with her honestly. I won’t encourage her to become a stripper because I don’t want her to experience the stigma associated with it. But I will accept her whatever she does. Straight or lesbian. Cop or killer. Success or failure. Doctor or stripper.

Because first and foremost, she is, and will always be, my daughter.

See also Class Mom and A Letter to My Daughter
for more on being a stripper mom.


Anonymous said...

I've dated three strippers in my lifetime, and I am currently partially supporting a platonic stripper friend.

She and her child rents a room in my house for free in exchange for help around the house, like cooking every once in a while, so I can eat something other than top ramen.

What drew me to her was her fierce and indescribable attachment to her child, and her utter devotion. She would do almost ANYTHING for the child, which easily includes stripping on a nighly basis.

A mother will always be a mother.

Anonymous said...

What about values? This stripper's daughter will learn that money, above all else, is the most important thing in this world: more important than self respect, more important than what is right, and that its ok to sell your body to get it. Women who work as strippers obviously rely on their bodies... isn't this woman more than just a body? She should realize that she is teaching her daughter that women are ultimately worth nothing more than her breasts and her ass, because to her customers, that is all she is. This stripper might be able to give her daughter material things by working as a stripper, but this is not a parents only responsibility, or even the most important. Parents have to RAISE children, teach them right and wrong. What is right is not necessarily rewarded financially in our society, but that still doesn't make it right. When her daughter wants to be a stripper when she is grown, what will this woman say them? There are just some things a woman should not do for money. I don't think strippers are any more devoted to their children as any other mother, so lets stop glamorizing them.

Gentle Giant said...

You say you have values? Judgmental is a nice value for your kids to acquire? I prefer to see the mothers I support as someone with devotion and persistence. None the less, how is it a woman's fault that a man does not view her more than a body. I view my friends (strippers) in the club as a brain to pick and get ideas from and to help me out. I do not call them a strip club, I call them Gentleman's Clubs because when I enter I am on my up most behavior and I go there for conversation and to admire an exotic art.

To deny that I'm there to enjoy a beautiful lady or two would be ignorant, as well. It is after all in the mind of the beholder of what you see someone else as. Just because you can not get past your own perversion enough to enjoy someone with less then modest clothes on does not mean that they are not humans that earn respect. First rule I learned as of being a gentleman is that all men and women are consider equal until they prove otherwise.

Maybe as a man that views himself as a gentleman, I am pushing ideas around that makes me look something I am not. If I am, I'd like to be told so, as a gentle(wo)man would let another gentle(wo)man know the truth.

Annie Temple said...

Hi Gentle Giant - thank you for your very sweet and supportive post about exotic dancers. I have to say that the idea that strippers are "objectified" just doesn't fly with me. It's just a theory, afterall, and one that was developed and perpetuated by man-hating, anti-sex, morally-misguided feminists. I didn't feel like a piece of meat when I was dancing. Some men/boys were vulgar and horrible - of course! - but I think that came out of the idea that sex is bad and women who show themselves are somehow less. Those elitist attitudes of being better than someone because they are a sex worker is what has made a lot of people, including men, to treat sex industry workers horribly. Even to murder them and get away with it. It is attitudes like the one of the anonymous poster above that perpetuates violence and abuse towards sex workers. Not the other way around. As you obviously realize, dancers offer something special and wonderful. It should be valued by our society the love that is offered by sex industry workers, not condemned. xoxoxo

Sascha Sexiana said...

very well said, Annie.

i'd think that teaching a child the 'moral value' of being ashamed of her body and her sexuality would be worse than teaching her that she can be comfortable in her own skin, feel empowered as a woman, and embrace the fact that we are ALL sexual beings and need not feel embarrassed about it. this out-dated idea that women can not be sexual beings is truly getting on my nerves. i will not be ashamed just because extremist feminists think the only power in sex is the power of withholding it.

value above all else is more important? did this guy even READ the article? Annie clearly stated that she could make more money and they could've already paid off all their debt, IF she had sacrificed her time with her daughter in order to work full-time.

and they say strippers can't read. hah.

danielle said...

I was wondering if anyone who is comfortable (a mother who has works/worked in the sex industry) would like to answer a few questions (privately respond via email) for my Women Studies Thesis at Cal State San Marcos, this would be great!

Please email me if interested! It would greatly help!

My name is Dani by the way, you can put "Mommy Vixen Questions" as subject ;)

amber lyn Wynton said...

My mom worked as a stripper our whole lives.. She had five children, and I know she did what she had to to make sure we were cared for.. I love my mom, I have all the respect in the world for her.. I think she is a very smart, and very strong minded individual!!! I think being a stripper and being a mom makes kids better.. For example it taught my older brother to hate that business. it made him hate the way men think.It caused him to think different and become someone better.Its because he saw the other side of it.. He is the sweetest man I know, and all of us older kids have so much respect appose too my two younger siblings. They weren't raised by a mom who stripped. They were raised by a mom who worked online. Those kids are oblivious very disrespectful, and very insecure. I love them to death but they have a lot of problems. I am pregnant now and am thinking about becoming a stripper. Only because my boyfriend works at blockbuster,and that's obviously not gonna support us. I want us to get a place so we aren't stuck at his parents house forever! I wanna be successful in my own right! So, Annie I think your doing the best you can do! If you like what you do then so be it.. I love dancing and if you can made tons of money dancing and loving it then I don't see what the harm is!

Take care much luck to you and your family!

Amber Wynton

Annie Temple said...

Thanks Amber! And good luck with your pregnancy and future finances. xo