The #NYCStripperStrike is a movement organized by strippers across the five boroughs to combat racial discrimination and unequal wage distribution in clubs. Sophia Larigakis talks to Gizelle Marie (pictured), a dancer at the forefront of the movement, about some of the big issues at stake.
Questions of labor, compensation, representation and discrimination are just as vital and complex in the world of strip clubs as they are in other industries. Because of pervasive stigma, however, it can be a lot harder to address and approach issues that affect strippers in their place of work than in other businesses. In late October, the hashtag #NYCStripperStrike was trending on social media as a group of strippers came together to fight discrimination and unequal wage distribution in clubs in New York City. #NYCStripperStrike has become a platform for dancers to share their very real concerns, and a larger movement set on changing working conditions for the better.
While there’s not an actual strike in action at this point – strippers are not yet walking out of work – the movement has successfully sought to raise awareness on two major issues. The first is unequal wage distribution and treatment between strippers and bartenders—basically, bartenders at strip clubs are increasingly social media personalities who, unlike strippers, don’t have to pay house fees to the clubs and have been accused of taking money intended for strippers. The second major issue #NYCStripperStrike hopes to highlight is the pervasive discrimination against black women (especially darker-skinned black women) in the industry. At the helm of the movement is 29-year-old Gizelle Marie, a dancer based in the Bronx. Below, Gizelle provides a glimpse into the concerns and goals of the movement.
Image by Andrea Roussos
- Sophia: How did the decision to start the #NYCStripperStrike movement come about?
Gizelle: This movement initiated through the constant grievances of my own and others. Which flooded over to social media where it gained traction.
I think what you’re doing is really brave. What kinds of consequences are you risking by going on strike, in addition to losing work?
My personal life has now been under attack. Defamation of character, threats to my well being. It’s been taking time to adjust to how fast things have changed just for speaking up.
How does the discrimination you face at work manifest, for the most part? Is it primarily exclusion, like not getting booked for specific high-paying gigs, or something else?
Discrimination causes a blockade that keeps the entertainer away from the customer even at times when the customer actually requests that entertainer. This influences bookings or the ability to get gigs because access is being hindered by what the promotional/management staff feels is what the customer wants.
Image by @jacqthestripper
Do you think discrimination against black women is more common (or overt) in a strip club context than in other kinds of workplaces, or does the discrimination you are facing just look different than it might in, say, an office or a restaurant?
We all deal with discrimination in every job. Discrimination of any kind is discrimination.
How does being an independent contractor inhibit your rights as an employee of your workplace? Does it mean the employers get away with more than they would if you were a direct employee?
Absolutely, as independents we lack protection or a voice from a collective. It’s easier for our voices to be silenced as we don’t have the advantage as an employee. We have no guarantees.
Sophia Larigakis is a Canadian writer living in New York City, and an editor at Slutever.