Strippers in suburbia

When the hook from this classic Ol’ Dirty Bastard song started playing and Roxy Roller unenthusiastically chewed gum and pranced around the dance floor topless, I noticed that the row of bruises across her lower back were the same hue as her purple thong.

This is when I knew that my first visit to a strip club would be sadly disappointing.

I found myself at Lipstixx Exotic Nightclub, the strip club near campus which formerly housed Monty’s Bar One. Having recently opened, there is much contention from area residents, who are opposed to having a strip bar in their neighbourhood. Admittedly, the location of this club does deviate from traditional strip club territory. This also makes plausible the rumour that Lipstixx will be turned into a sports bar once the new stadium opens.

I wanted to see for myself what the big deal was. Do strip clubs attract clientele that Fort Richmond residents would find undesirable? Do strip clubs, on principle, degrade women? Or are strippers empowered women using their bodies to make money?

Let me set the scene. Refusing to do anything remotely technical or even slightly artistic with the two poles on the dance floor, Roxy Roller was instead intent on taking sips from her drink in the corner, chatting with the patrons sitting along “sniffers’ row” and downing a complimentary shot from a generous — or sympathetic — admirer. Suburban housewives taking pole dancing classes at their local community centre would have easily surpassed Roxy Roller’s pole dancing repertoire.

Judging from the handful of men in the bar, the clientele consisted of average dudes with sunglasses on the back of their heads and earrings, a guy with a ponytail and numerous moustached men. One of my companions thought she spotted someone wearing a shark tooth necklace, but it was a false alarm. There was also a guy there in a business suit. Pretty average Fort Garryians if you ask me. No, it doesn’t appear as though this selection of clientele were very extraordinary. Ponytail guy was even gracious enough to smoke my buddy up.

As for the strippers, Roxy Roller was followed by Fiona. Fiona’s Aerosmith inspired set was much more skillful and artistic. She wore white boots that surpassed her knees and performed gravity defying moves on the pole as CNN played on the bar’s big screen TVs, announcing the breaking news that the last U.S. convoy was leaving Iraq. That is indeed momentous news, but it is the detached and glazed look in Fiona’s eyes that still haunt me.

No, these women were not the empowered business women I had hoped to encounter at Lipstixx. Instead, they appeared objectified and even a bit vulnerable. Discussing the events of the evening after Fiona’s set, another one of my companions echoed our collective sense of disappointment by stating “At least we have Nickelback,” as “How You Remind Me” played in the background.

Perhaps strip clubs like this really represent a microcosm in which we can see the misogyny of our capitalist society on a closer and smaller scale. And when these realities leave urban centers and migrate into suburbia, it is a little too close for comfort for many people, even if the local community centre down the block is offering pole dancing lessons as a fitness class.

Noreen Mae Ritsema is the Features Editor at the Manitoban.