Dismantling sexist culture, one irrelevant strip-club sign at a time
I drive by Dandy Dan's every day on my way home and the sign out front sometimes catches my eye -- and not just because it has that weird, glamour-shot image of an interesting-looking woman above the marquee. It's the message on the marquee that often grabs my attention. Last year, it had a spring-themed greeting: "The early bird catches the stripper." Or during the Stock Show, it beckoned with "Welcome Stockmen," complete with a taxidermied bull tied to the sign pole.
Thanks for the approval, Dandy Dan's.
Lately, the sign for the strip club just says, "Your wife said its okay." I immediately noticed this because the message was grammatically incorrect (or maybe the apostrophe just fell off). But as I continued to pass it day after day, I started to wonder: Who is this wife and what needs to be okay? More important, who is this sign really for?
As a person born in 1980, I find that I straddle that awkward line between being a true Gen-Xer or a Millennial. I have friends planted firmly in each generational camp, and see that regardless of their age, marriage just isn't happening: I probably have the same number of friends in their early twenties as friends in their late thirties who aren't married. And it's not just the fellow suspended adolescents I surround myself with who choose to be legally unattached: As of 2011, less than half of U.S. adults were married.
So the permission-giving sign at Dandy Dan's seems especially behind the times -- I mean, do people really get married to people they don't like that much these days? For the people I know who are married, "approval" from a partner regarding a visit to a strip joint seems like an archaic notion. The last time I went to a strip club, it was with my significant other.
Does the imaginary wife who gives her husband permission to go to the nudie bar even exist anymore? Not that I know of. If Dandy Dan's were a bit more aware/progressive, it could be cashing in on a whole new generation of customers, ones who don't have wives, or if they did, understand that those wives might want to go to a strip club, too. In fact, the only people I know in real life who are actual regulars at Dandy Dan's are single women in their early twenties, party animals who have no problem spending their hard-earned money on said partying -- and they would seem to be dream strip-club patrons.
Marketing to them instead of this leftover notion of a miserable Al Bundy-type who needs permission to leave the house would probably do the business a lot of good. But then again, I really don't know much about the strip-club business -- Dandy Dan's might be doing just fine.
I'm not one to judge a gentleman's club's business model -- after all, I'm the kind of person who has an existential crisis when I walk into a strip club. My last visit to a nudie bar had me mentally battling between the Andrea Dworkin school of feminism and the Kathleen Hanna school of feminism, and to this day I still don't know how I feel about these establishments. All I know is, the sign seems out of place in 2014, even as a joke.
But that's also because in 2014, old-school jokes of this nature are only funny to me when they the script has been flipped. Like last week, when a woman upset the lame-bro-work-out-T-shirt paradigm (see: any dude wearing Tapout brand anything or a shirt that says "loading muscles... please wait") that usually infilitrates the gym I go to by wandering past my treadmill wearing a tee that said "I love lesbians."
For the record, there are probably many awesome, socially aware companies that make this type of apparel today. But not so long ago, that kind of humor was under the ownership of misogynists, relegated to one of the many dirty corners of a Spencer's Gifts. I mean, even long before "I love lesbians" was printed on a shirt by a corporate company and marketed to straight dudes who supposedly think lesbianism is "hot," the sexist juggernauts "Coed Naked" and "Big Johnson" franchises owned the misogynistic T-shirt game.
But we feminists have been appropriating this kind of misogyny for a long time; there's nothing new about a woman sporting a shirt that may or may not be directly related to her own orientation. Still, the idea that the shirt probably existed with the original intent of tapping into the joke/reality of some weird male fantasy that lesbians are interested in a heterosexual male makes it an even cooler statement -- whether she meant to make it or not.
Instead of being confused by the Dandy Dan's strip-club sign promising that the little woman said it was okay, maybe I should just accept that to some, this kind of outdated humor is actually funny. But to me, "Your wife said it's okay" is about as culturally relevant as if the sign said "Your mom goes to college." But even then, I find a decade-old Napoleon Dynamite reference more humorous than the idea that, as an adult, you can't walk into a fucking strip club of your own free will.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a No Ma'am Meeting to attend.
Be my voyeur (or better yet, let me stalk you) on Twitter: @cocodavies