“Oh yeah, I like SF a lot, but yeah, you know, there’s a lot of gay people there.”
What? Did he just say that? In here? In Portland? I didn’t know what to say in response.
“Oh and I have this friend- BUT I’M NOT GAY OR ANYTHING-and blah blah blah…”
Is having a friend of the same sex a sign that you might be gay? Wtf? Again, I didn’t know what to say. So I said nothing.
Working in a strip club has been a problematic place for me to interrupt oppression. I don’t think I am particularly good at interrupting people’s oppressive language anyway (although I like to think I can and do- I often don’t), but the weird power dynamics within strip clubs makes it even more difficult for me. If I interrupt a customer, it’s quite possible I will offend them and they will no longer give me money.
On the other hand, having this experience showed me a different way of thinking about this power dynamic.
At first, I had been really annoyed with this particular customer because he said he was going to buy a private dance from me, and then chose the younger dancer instead. I was irritated.
[And then I read this article while I waiting at the DJ booth, and it helped me a lot. Thank you J for emailing it to me!]
But, when that first line came out of his mouth a little while later, my reaction was: Thank god you didn’t want a lap dance from me. I don’t want to give a dance to a homophobe.
And then, reality struck: Because he did end up asking for a dance. And I gave him one.
It’s complicated, this life-work-oppression-privilege-power thing. I like to think I have all of the answers in my head. But my own behaviors obviously don’t always match up.
I found this fabulous handout developed at Portland State on interrupting oppressive language. Here are some suggestions it includes for speaking up:
“A. Ask clarifying questions.
B. Speak from personal experience.
C. Use statistics or facts.
D. Use humor when applicable.
E. Make/include positive or validating comments when interrupting.
F. Use “I statements” and don’t accuse or attack.
G. Give an invitation to dialogue.
H. Be non-judgmental.”
I’ll work on it.