Iceland’s Strip Club Ban: Maternalism in Action

by | March 28, 2010
filed under Feminism, Politics

by E. Cain

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.

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