This letter was sent to the Birmingham Mail and Post on 26/5/13. In lieu of them publishing, we have decided to post our letter here for public viewing.
An open letter from Birmingham Fems
26th May 2013
We would like to voice our concern over the feature on 12th May about a ”gentlemen’s” club in Birmingham, which will be holding a Ladies’ Night. In raising these concerns, we do not wish to devalue the choices made by the women working at or attending this event, and others like it around the country. However, we would like to express an alternative view on the event and on the phenomenon of lap dancing clubs aimed and marketing at women.
We take particular issue with the marketing of the ‘Chica Bonita’ event which is being sold as ‘female empowerment’, coinciding with Birmingham Pride. We feel this is a cynical appropriation of the values at the heart of the Pride movement and at the heart of feminist calls for gender equality.
Rather than challenging inequality or celebrating female sexuality, ‘Chica Bonita’ simply strengthens the idea that women are, and should aspire to be, nothing more than mute objects. This event is, in our view, an attempt to encourage women to buy into the sex industry as customers in addition to being involved as workers, thereby increasing the revenue for club owners and further embedding lap dancing as a legitimate form of entertainment for all. Strip clubs work on the basis that women are valued only for their bodies, and typically, only if their bodies conform to certain standards of beauty. This is a sad message to send to young men and women of all sexualities, trying negotiate their way into adulthood. It also damages strides made to ensure women’s voices, views and contributions to society are as valued as men’s. This is not empowerment; this is the clever use of misleading language to obscure the ferocious hunger for growth that the sex industry possesses.
Events like this also embed society’s over-emphasis on sexuality in the gay community, so that women at these events are objectified and stereotyped twice, firstly as women and secondly as gay women. The name of the event itself also further serves to support racial stereotyping of women of colour as hyper-sexualised and therefore creates an additional level of objectification.
This event has been touted as a providing a relaxing and welcoming environment for women who do not want to be “surrounded by loud music and loud people”. However, the marketing presents a ‘gentleman’s club’ model, which we can not see as positive for women as it mirrors the sexist, dehumanising nature of traditional strip clubs. In response to ‘Chica Bonita’ achieving female empowerment, we ask the question: ‘should ‘female empowerment’ rest upon the objectification and oppression of women?’ We think not.
This letter is supported by Women’s Networking Hub, and was created by a collaborative group of members.