Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Can I Be Pro-Free Expression Without Being Pro-Lap Dance?

The answer to that question shouldn’t be hard, but for some folks in the lefty blogosphere, it’s apparently a poser. If you haven’t been keeping up, the Ohio Legislature is considering a set of regulations on strip clubs (or gentlemen’s clubs or adult entertainment venues or insert your favorite euphemism here.) Most contentious are regulations on the hours of operation and a requirement that strippers remain six feet from patrons.

The proposals are championed by the proudly wingnutty professional prude Phil Burress and his Ohio chapter of Citizens for Community Values. CCV has threatened to take this proposed legislation, The Community Protection Act, to voters if the legislature doesn’t pass it. (CCV was also a driving force behind the Ohio Defense of Marriage. They seem to think I need a lot of defending.)

I understand opposing anything CCV is for. My knee jerks in that direction as well. But lap dances are not a progressive cause. Strip clubs are not a good to be protected, they are part of the price we pay to live in a free society. When people are granted freedoms, some will use those freedoms unwisely, and the rest of us have to put up with a certain amount of crap as a result. Strip clubs are included among that crap. Progressives shouldn’t be defending a business based on the commodification of women.

Nonetheless, many of the posts against the bill have gone beyond the expected arguments about freedom of expression or home rule. In addition to all that, they’ve taken on the cause of the strip club industry as an economic development issue. Yes, strip joints provide jobs. So do meth labs. Or factories that dump mercury in rivers. Or open air markets for grenade launchers. Our libertarian friends are fond of saying that the price of one government program is the price of all of them. Well, the price of one brain-dead economic argument for bad behavior is the price of all of them.

And now Progress Ohio is hosting a press conference for a bunch of strippers d/b/a Dancers for Democracy. Does this embrace of "democracy" mean that they want to put the bill on the ballot and live with the results? I don't think so either. But high-profile liberal blogs are high-fiving over it.

As my daughters grow up and make their way through the world, they will have to deal with men whose view of women has been shaped by the existence, and for some the patronage, of strip joints. I’m not happy about that. I accept it, because allowing free expression includes allowing people to abuse it. But I’m not happy about it. And I certainly don’t celebrate it.

The issue is about freedom – the freedom of individuals to express themselves and the freedom of localities to defend their communities as they see fit. If the bill is amended to be more consistent with constitutional rights or if a court strikes it down, I will be happy with that. But I’ll not fight for more stripping than is constitutionally necessary.

15 comments:

Jill said...

You are so awesome - thanks for writing this great post. I know EXACTLY how you feel. And the answer is YES.

Eric said...

Sigh. Here is how I feel about it if it's worth anything. The post was in jest. I never really did advocate having strippers at the Progress Ohio offices. That was just a setup for the punchline of the press conference. Badump Bump.

Jokes. Eric likes his jokes. To be honest I couldn't stop giggling for about 2 hours after that PR hit the wires. No way in hell I don't post on that, but wouldn't call it high fiving necessarily. An observation maybe.

I've got two daughters as well. Trust me when I say a large goal is keeping them away from the pole. I've been to strip clubs many times in my 20s (rock band debauchery). Only twice in my 30s (both bachelor parties). The places generally make me feel uncomfortable really. Odd. Not so much that female nudity is a problem ;-). Maybe it's that I've experienced both a deep connection along with physical attraction and much prefer that to what you get there. And the drinks! Expeeeensive!

Your post is a deeper look and as expected a bit higher brow that some of us other lib blogs (you know, the frat boys as Jill calls us). I tend to shy away from the big get to know me posts...like to save that for, uh - actually getting to know me.

But I appreciate your thoughts and views on women. I live with a feminist who has changed a ton of my views. Generally made me a better person and continues to do so. Interestingly, she found the post and presser kinda funny too...

Daniel Jack Williamson said...

Unfortunately, SB 16, the bill supposedly intended to reign in the strip clubs is actually counterproductive. Communities that already have an effective enforcement strategy will likely have their local ordinances pre-empted by this more "restrictive" state legislation (courts will be thrust into ruling which, the state statue or the local ordinance, is more restrictive), thus forcing the local law enforcement agencies to figure out how to redeploy to meet the demands of the new state mandate. From the conservative side, no one is arguing that strip clubs are a form of economic development, but there are far too many conservative knee jerks that think that any restriction is a good restriction that will result in upholding family values, so they form an opinion of SB 16 based on hype rather than a thorough reading of the bill. Ordinarily, a conservative would think that most governing should occur at the local level, but there is a disturbing trend among "conservatives" these days to seek "big government" solutions at state and federal levels for local neighborhood concerns.

I agree with your disapproval of the male chauvinist degradation of women so prevalent in our society. Though our nation still has a far way to go in cleaning up its act in that regard, I think our nation is actually further ahead of the curve than any other nation on the globe.

cali dem said...

Bravo!

Sandy Theis said...

From Sandy Theis: Spokeswoman for Dancers for Democracy:

The Progress Ohio event was not intended as a defense of lap dances (which are already illegal in Ohio) but as a condemnation of those who wish to trample on free speech.

Unpopular speech needs and deserves the protections of the Constitution as much, if not more so, than it did when the Framers protected it in the Bill of Rights.

This bill is unconstitutional and unnecessary. It is the latest endeavor by a group of Cincinnati zealots who have a history of promoting policies that hurt the state's business climate, poison its political discourse and often times, undermine its constitution.

Adult businesses in Ohio employ about 10,000 people and generate more than $250 million for the state's economy. This bill would put many of them out of business.

Many of the women here today had compelling stories to tell. Many are single moms who dance because it allows them to pay the bills and see the kids -- then go to work when the children are in bed.

Some are college students who are paying their way through school, and some simply like to dance. They are not defensive about their line of work or they would not have showed up today. They are surprised by the stereotypes so many still have about their profession.

I encourage you to get to know some of them. They are inspirational young women.

As to your comments about the ballot issue, if CCV wants to put this on the ballot, I think they should pay the freight. I'm offended that my tax dollars are being used to distract legislators from the real problems that need to be addressed.

If it qualifies for the ballot, I am committed to fighting the good fight because the only remedy for bad speech is more speech.

I'll personally invite you to our next press conference.

Anonymous said...

They are working, not sucking on welfare, many putting themselfs through college. degradeing, not to most, we laugh at that...the moneys to good. Those that can do, those that can't, complain...Get over it, your one of the same staes wanting to leagalize and regulate the "illegal" drug trade. Like anything else undesired by the "moral(sic) majority" of a community, overbearing laws just serve to drive it undergound.

matt r. said...

what will our reaction be when groups like CCV go after alcohol consumption or rated R movies? does every vice or perceived social ill have to be put through some ridiculuous voter litmus test? the answer is no. you can make a pitch for home rule, or economic development or other reasons why this is insane. in the end we have to draw a line in the dirt and say enough is enough. hasn't anyone read "what's the matter with kansas"?

Pho said...

Sorry to everyone to be away. I had some other things to take care of and kept expecting to get to this sooner.

Eric:

I get that you were making a joke and generally I'm all about bringing the funny. I felt Ohio libs needed to be a little more nuanced in looking at the issue. A range of posts, including the joke posts from you and Jerid, kind of get in the way of seriously questioning where a lot of the progressive community was going with the issue, so you got a mention. I didn't think you had long planned to bring strippers into PO any more than I thought Jerid was bringing the 'za.

DJW:

Excellent as always. Between you and I we've nicely outlined the perils of knee-jerk partisanship.

To anyone who thinks I'm all for SB 16, re-read the post. I certainly think it goes too far and is probably unconstitutional. But strip joints aren't OK and it has to be OK to say they aren't OK. OK?

Pho said...

Sandy:

First off, interesting to see your new gig. Expect some serious guff from RAB when they get wind.

I don't see anything in either the bill or in the current revised code suggesting that lap dances are currently illegal. Certainly one idea behind six feet is to prevent those lapdances where there is supposedly no contact. Anyway, I'm not going into the "When is a lap dance a lap dance" debate.

If you invite me and I can make it, I'll go. C-bus is a bit of a journey for someone doing this as an obsessive hobby, though. As for meeting strippers, I've ticked that off my life list already. You can't prosecute street crime for any length of time without strippers as victim/witnesses showing up on your docket.

angelina said...

As a militant pragmatist who used to strip,it was a positive path used as a stepping stone rather than a tombstone. Just like all walks of life there exist people who are victims and people who choose not to be. To me, there was nothing more exploitive and degrading than living in abject poverty. Stripping helped me out of that. But its funny...I often get blasted for honestly expressing the great reality of my life in adult entertainment. It was never stripping that made me feel less than whole...it was being left emotionally unsupported and ridiculed by people who thought the job was sleazy...and therefore assumed I must be too. My stripping was NOT an unwise decision. It was a calculated move which served as the impetus for home ownership, a college degree, and great credit. Yes, we have women in our clubs whose heads you could not dent with a wrecking ball when it comes to the exercise of common sense...and those are usually the ones we all see on Jerry Springer. However, just as society operates, we also have ladies in our industry who hold portfolios that would make Merrill Lynch jealous! Rather than placing these women under the CCV's burqua clause...I do believe a better way exists by forming "Operation Education" that gives all Ohioans an opportunity to learn about finance, taxes, banking, credit, and investing if they choose. I learned from the vice president of economic development and finance at 5/3 bank.(SHE used to come in the club)about how to set up an LLC to pay taxes on the money I earned so I could create great credit and reap three times the wealth by collecting assets. Knowledge does empower and I see "Dancers for Democracy" giving a voice to these young ladies who sometimes think they do not have one. Now that to me...is progress and democracy befitting of PROGRESS OHIO.

Pho said...

Angelina:

First off, thanks for the thoughtful and honest comment. I'm glad someone from PO decided to visit here instead of just trashing me there.

My concern about strip clubs is less about the women working their than the men who patronize them. The messages our society sends is important. The message our society sends to girls today is that they can be successful and they can be smart, but they must be sexual at all times. Strip club culture is a big component of that message.

I'm lucky to never have been in the situation you found yourself in. I can't say the decision you made was wrong, but at the same time I can't say that this business is OK. To channel George Will of all people, I can hardly question the morality of someone who makes a living by polluting our rivers and say nothing about people who make a living polluting our culture.

Though for what it's worth I have a problem with people who patronize the clubs far more than I have a problem with the dancers.

Caroline (anilorac6carolina@gmail.com) said...

I don't understand how strip clubs are "Not OK". Why not? I understand how someone might not want their daughter to grow up and work in one, but you probably wouldn't want her to work at a truck stop waiting tables for 2.13/hr either.

I wouldn't go so far as to call most dancers "inspiring" but I also wouldn't say I've met my goal of meeting strippers since they're on one end or the other of so much crime. To assume that those women represent most dancers is rather ignorant.

If you'd like to meet or speak with a dancer I'd be happy to oblige, as I live in Akron.

Pho said...

Caroline:

I should have mentioned in my response to Sandy that I've met strippers and found them to be generally agreeable people and still am not impressed with strip clubs. Sandy seemed to be saying that if I met the women she is working with and found that they are not skanks, I might change my mind. In fact I have met women in your line of work and found that they are not skanks and still believe what I do.

As to why, see above.

All that said, I've always tried to sit down with anyone who wants a f2f, so I'll drop you a line. It will be an interesting conversation explaining this to my wife, though.

Jill said...

Scott - just read your very good point on PO re: knowingly (sorry I didn't catch that myself) and I was checking out your previous posts re: the home rule issue. I haven't seen where maybe you mention this, but then I'm not sure you have so here's the question:

The Ohio GA passed and enacted a law that went into effect in August 2006 that let municipalities make the rules and enforce them. My objection to SB16 is grounded, to some extent, in that fact. Do you have an opinion on that particular aspect? Thanks.

Pho said...

Jill:

Yes, I think the authority granted last year raises two issues. First, it puts the onus on the proponents of the legislation to demonstrate that a state law in necessary which they have not done. Second, the law is yet another attempt to whittle away local authority on the sole justification that locals may not do what CCV wants them to.