Click! A College Grad Strips on Bourbon Street

I was dancing in a G-string and pasties when I first realized I was a feminist. Backtrack: I was a young woman experimenting with the boundaries of freedom. It was the sexual revolution, the time after Roe v. Wade and before AIDS, and there was enormous confusion about what it meant to be free.

I met a lover with whom I discovered mutually gratifying sex. We took off in a potato-chip truck on a journey to the southern U.S. and on to California. I was sure I’d be back in the East Coast within weeks. I have never gone back, except to visit.

On our way out west, my lover and I landed broke in the Big Easy–New Orleans. So I was intrigued walking down Bourbon Street to see this sign outside a club: HIRING EXOTIC DANCERS.

I was exotic; I hadn’t shaved anything on my body in three years. I had dark, curly hair, almond eyes and a distinctly “ethnic” appearance. I had been in dance class since I was little. This must be the job for me.

The owner hired me, told me to shave everything but my head, gave me a ratty, red peignoir set and filthy, red high heels and told me where to purchase my own pasties and G-string. I was a little concerned. Still, I shaved: legs, underarms, pubic area. It was itchy, but I needed money.

It soon dawned on me that the job was not going to involve my Martha Graham training. I had to quickly get my peignoir off and hop around on the narrow bar. This was annoying, but not the real problem. The revolution broke out inside me between dancing chores, when I was forced to serve drinks to the customers.

One poor schnook assumed that any stripper was available to service him.

HE: “I’ll have a bourbon, and a piece of what you got under them pasties.”

ME: “Hey asshole, I’m not a whore, I’m a college graduate!”

HE: “Well shit howdy! You sure look like you’re for sale.”

ME: “Did you even go to college?”

HE: “Yeah, I went to U-FUCK-ME!”

I was still screaming that I was a Brandeis graduate as I was fired. My eight-hour career as a Bourbon Street stripper was over.

Today, I write documentaries about the Taliban and about untested rape kits in the U.S. I write plays that pose complex questions about where women (and men) are in 2011.

There are women who have led me past despair at the world’s treatment of half the population. And there are women who I find mean, venal, self-hating. We are after all, people. And I am, after all, a feminist. Proud. Unstoppable. Clear about my path. Bourbon Street is still with me after all these years.

This post is a part of a week-long blog carnival in honor of Feminist Coming Out Day.

Photo of Bourbon Street sign from Wikimedia Commons

About

I believe that I was born a feminist. This has guided my life choices and led me to be an artist/cultural worker (look up Cultural Revolution for the definition of "cultural worker") for decades. I have been an actor, dancer, and cabaret writer. For the last 15 years, I have been a playwright, and I have been writing video documentaries for the Feminist Majority for (OMG) twelve years or so. My partner, Lorraine Sheinberg and I develop documentaries on subjects ranging from women's reproductive rights to the struggle to stop international and domestic violence against women. My plays have been produced in Cuba, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. I have always written strong roles for women, and their relationships to the world and to whatever subject the play was focused on. The balance of the documentaries, which often tell brutal truths, with my plays, which are usually comedic, allows me to keep writing and advocating for women to be seen as whole human beings. On a lighter note, I was the only person to ever teach tap dancing at the Institute for the Study of Bertolt Brecht (true story)! My efforts to bring accessible art to a broad based audience are at the core of all of my work. And yes, there will be more about my tap dancing to Marxist texts in my upcoming blogs. Also, watch for the newly created web series: "VAGINA/DIALOGUES" based on my ms blogs!