Filmmaker Hima B. shows the stage fees required at a particular strip club
by Jarrah Hodge
Imagine you have a totally legal job as – say – a waiter/waitress or maybe a taxi driver. You’re expected to make tips and you look forward to that. You actually usually do pretty well. So one day, your boss at the restaurant or taxi company says he’s noticed you’re doing so well that you will have to pay him an amount – say $75 – out of your tips by the end of each shift. If you don’t, you’re going to get suspended or fired. That would be unfair and illegal under employment standards laws.
Yet that is exactly what happens to many strippers working legally in American strip clubs, except they aren’t even offered any sort of guaranteed minimum wage. They have to pay these “stage fees” to go to work. That’s why Hima B, herself a former stripper out of San Francisco, set out to make License to Pimp. License to Pimp will be a feature documentary about the choices that three San Francisco strippers make as their employers engage in illegal labor practices.
The film chronicles the choices of three strippers who adapt to, fight, or quit the industry:
Lola - a Latina immigrant who struggles to remain a lap-dancer while working alongside co-workers who prostitute in order to pay management their stage fees.
Daisy - a whistle-blower who lobbies city and state agencies and demands they enforce labor laws to protect strippers’ working rights.
Mariko - quits working in the strip clubs & works as an out-call stripper for an escort agency only to discover that they engage in similar labor practices.
Some other super sketchy labour practices Hima found some clubs engage in include requiring strippers to tip other staff (DJ, Managers, etc.), charging locker fees and booking fees, mandatory uniform purchases, and making dancers purchase in-club merchandise with their own money to re-sell to customers. Read more
The government in Iceland recently passed a law making it illegal for any businesses to profit from the nudity of employees. This law will effectively lead to the closing down of the sex industry in the country.
The response to this law within Iceland, as well as internationally has been extremely positive. Iceland is being hailed as the most feminist and ‘female friendly’ country on the planet.
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Iceland’s Prime Minister
I strongly disagree. The assumption made with this law is that women (both the strippers and those in the general society) will be both better off and protected from harm in the absence of a sex industry. This bill just reeks of maternalism – I use this term instead of paternalism because women dominate the government in Iceland. The Prime Minister is female and almost 50% of the seats in government are held by women.
Can some tell me what happened to free choice? Are we denying that there are women who voluntarily enter the sex industry? For many women stripping is a form of livelihood and a means to expand options and life choices. So, with this ban, what happens to these women? What are their options? In all this talk about women and feminism – no one seems to be addressing these questions.
Miley Cyrus uses a stripper pole as a prop
It is no secret that sex workers are stigmatized worldwide. They are viewed as the ‘worst of the worst’ and this is not justified. Sex work is not the only profession where women use their bodies to make money – look at models or popular music entertainers. Is there going to be a ban for these industries as well? In addition, while there is no doubt that the sex industry can be dangerous, I believe this argument is better used in support of increased monitoring, regulation and protection in the industry – not in favour of a ban.
Quite frankly, I have a hard time viewing this government action which denies women agency and destroys an important livelihood as feminist or female friendly.