Last Saturday, I went to a play. It was, and I wish I could be more charitable, really pretty awful. It did, however, give me the platform to indulge in what very likely is the bitchiest bundle of prose I've yet committed to .doc and which was published today on one of my favorite blogs, Tits and Sass. The play in question, Stripper Lesbians (or possibly Lesbian Strippers, I can never remember), raised my ire not merely for its unabashed sloppy writing but also its lack of fundamental knowledge about strippers and stripping. Here's a choice morsel of my T&S post for you:
I also had difficulty following the logic of this play. To wit: Aisha is both a stripper and, as DJ reads from Evan’s thesis, “unemployed.” DJ himself is actually unemployed, although he does audition for Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night using a monologue taken from Our Bodies, Ourselves, and appears to live with Evan post-breakup under her good graces and on the money that she earns as a stripper, despite the fact that she was a finalist in “Glamour’s College Student of the Year” for her article that “Mak[es] Anti-Sex Trafficking Sexy,” which was taken from the thesis she wrote while working at Wildlands, a strip club that does not appear to dabble in sex trafficking but has attracted the interest of Playboy, which wants Aisha to pose, to which Evan is opposed to because it’s anti-feminist, which they discuss in a scene that takes place after one showing on-stage discourse that culls equally from a Gender Studies 101 syllabus and any episode of South Park featuring Cartman’s mom’s scheisse films (suffice to say that Judith Butler, Simone de Beauvoir, spanking and German accents make cameos). Oh, Aisha is also a cellist. She plays not for money but because it’s her “passion.”
However, I suspect my greatest antipathy to Stripper Lesbians came not so much from the kind of sense it made—which was none—and more from the fact that it didn’t seem as if anyone connected with this show had ever been inside a strip club, much less talked to an actual stripper.
You can go here to read the rest.
I found it an interesting exercise writing about a play, especially one this rife with issues. This play held a deep-fried King Rat of problems, really, and its dusting of condescension only made it more perplexing. In short, I had to make some really hard decisions.
For example, I had to cut any discussion of the moment when DJ, the ex-boyfriend and thus token heterosexual male, auditions for Long Day's Journey Into Night by reciting a passage from feminist bible Our Bodies, Ourselves. On the surface, it's a joke that works. It's a funny conceit for anyone--male or female--to give a monologue gleaned from Our Bodies, Ourselves, and the surface concept that someone would do it to get a role in Eugene O'Neill's quintessential American drama of addiction is even funnier.
The passage that Stripper Lesbians playwright Kate Foster chose for the script is one centering on sex-workers. It is, in fact, this:
Some feminists have been critical of prostitutes for reinforcing sex-role stereotypes, by allowing themselves to be sex objects or for participating in the sex industry… and contributing to violence against women, as some see sex work as a form of violence in and of itself. Others insist that it is a legitimate way for women to earn money from men. As one prostitute said, "It's my body; why shouldn't I be the one to decide how I should use it?" In the words of an ex-prostitute: “I've worked in straight jobs where I've felt more like I was prostituting my being than in prostitution. I had less control over my life, and the powerlessness wasn't even up front. People didn't see me as selling myself, but with the minimum wage so little and my boss so insulting, I felt like I was selling my soul.”
Again, it could work dramatically. DJ, the former boyfriend, is angry. He is angry not only that his girlfriend has become a lesbian but that now that his girlfriend is now a stripper she is no longer his girlfriend. His anger permeates the play, driving the dramatic action, such as it is. So, ok. I can see the logic for why this is the excerpt.
It could work, but for the way that the actor performs the monologue, and the way he performs it is this: he puts on his very best crack-ho voice, slouching in the corner, pretending to smoke a cigarette, like he'd just walked off a street corner.
Because, you know, prostitutes are funny. As are strippers. And, I guess, lesbians.
There's this thing that The Atlantic and The New York Times do when they write about sexytime sexy sex, and it's kind of like my mom's face when she talks about my former strip job or my fake boobs. It's this pursing of the lips that liberals do that shows their genteel distaste for certain kinds of sex. Look around you, and you'll see the liberal in the corner clucking over the perverts. It's a thing, and it's in this play, and it's in Tina Fey, and it's in major media, and it's all about us.
This play was steeped in righteous condescension, but because the underlying message is "See? Strippers (and lesbians) are just like us!" the play gets off the hook--and the audience can feel validated as they laugh along.
I'm not suggesting that there's not anything funny about strippers, stripping or strip clubs. There is. Lots. I'm also not suggesting that it's not a place for parody. It is. Boy howdy, is it ever. I'm just suggesting that there's laughing at us strippers and there's laughing with us. And that we're smart enough to know the difference.