By Jason Menard
Remember the old story about the boy who cried wolf? Unfortunately, it seems some have forgotten the fable’s message and, through their overreaction, may be putting women at real risk in the future.
There are actual, serious instances of exploitation out there that demand our attention – we don’t need to be wasting our time with a Kid Rock concert.
There’s been a bit of a hullabaloo regarding the fact that the John Labatt Centre posted a note on its Facebook page and Twitter feed, announcing that four women were needed to dance in the rocker’s London, ON show. The chosen four would be paid $200 for the gig and dance on-stage for a couple of songs. They would have to wear a bikini, short shorts, and a tank top – cowboy boots optional. The winners would be picked out tonight at Cowboys Ranch.
And, on cue, Megan Walker, the executive director of the London Abused Women’s Centre, accused the JLC of “pimping out” dancers to Kid Rock, adding that while other musicians will pull a fan on the stage, they don’t tell them what to wear. Instead, the arena should have hired professional dancers, she argues.
Forgive me if I fail to see the exploitation here – or how it’s OK for a professional dancer to subject his or herself to exploitation. And, what some may see as exploitation, I see as personal choice.
I’m not a Kid Rock fan, but I’m pretty sure I know what I’m going to get at his concert. When I think of what dancers will be on stage, I don’t expect a bunch of Sandra Day O’Connors walking around in judicial robes. I’m expecting skimpy clothes, raunchy moves, and likely an implant here and there.
If I know that, I can only assume that the women who are interested in this opportunity are aware as well. The parameters of the costume have been neatly outlined and there’s no surprise. These women are making an informed choice – and I fail to see what’s exploitative about that.
Men like to look at pretty women; women like to look at handsome men. There’s nothing wrong with that. Guys like checking out girls in bikinis, girls aren’t exactly off-put by a ripped guy without his shirt on. That’s not exploitation – that’s life. You can say that men and women shouldn’t enjoy seeing each other in various form of undress. You can say it, but it’ll never happen.
It’s not an all-or-nothing thing either: we can appreciate beauty and brains. And most people can appreciate beauty, or enjoy arousal and titillation, without making that an excuse for degradation, violence, and abuse. We can enjoy sex, buy a vibrator, or watch porn with a consenting partner with the goal of mutual, shared pleasure – not a hidden agenda for a power struggle. And if you don’t like it, don’t look, don’t go to a sex shop, don’t turn on the TV.
And, it goes without saying, don’t go to a damn Kid Rock show.
This is not the first time Walker’s waded into these types of waters. Her “well-I’ve-never-actually-been-inside” protest of the sex show, her “even-though-the-slut-walk-is-so-named-to-take-back-the-word-from-an-idiot-cop-I-still-don’t-like-it” complaint, and this misguided claim of exploitation show a pattern that’s extremely dangerous.
She’s making a mockery of a very serious issue. And the worst thing an advocate against exploitation can do is drown the issue in irrelevance.
These women are not being dragged up on stage, forced to strip down before everyone, and compelled to dance against their will. They are being given the choice. And isn’t that what we should be advocating – the right for everyone to choose how and what they do with our bodies and our lives?
The women who are forced into prostitution and stripping because of addiction or circumstance – those are women who are being exploited. Women who are beaten and abused by their partners – they are being exploited. There are women who are drugged and raped by so-called friends, then so fear the social stigma that they refuse to speak out – they are being exploited. They deserve Walker’s attention, they deserve the focus. And they deserve a community that’s not going to roll its eyes every time their spokeswoman stands up, undermined by a collective “what now?” attitude.
Despite the old media adage, not all attention is good attention – after all, ask the boy who cried wolf how it worked out. So when a woman’s cry for real help gets drowned out by this inanity, I hope these misguided campaigns against pseudo-exploitation will be a comfort to a woman who suffered against her will – and certainly not by her own choice.