The hashtag, which has been standing strong since October, shows the magnitude of sexual violence in the workplace, and calls out perpetrators like Harvey Weinstein and Larry Nassar.
But the #MeToo movement barely scratches the surface of workplace injustice. It’s time to look at the economic exploitation of women’s bodies.
Let’s start with Cardi B. If you know anything about her, you know she’s a former stripper.
“I’m a hoe, I’m a stripper hoe, I’m about this shmoney,” she said in a viral Instagram video.
She wasn’t always proud of her hustle. In a 2016 interview, she said she felt shameful at her first day on the job.
“I’m degrading my mom, I’m degrading my dad, like I’m showing my whole body and everybody’s looking at you,” she said.
Cardi was kicked out of her parents’ home at 18. Forced to live with her abusive boyfriend, she was too poor to eat. But once she started stripping, she got a place of her own.
“A lot of people make it so negative but like [stripping] really saved me,” she said.
Soon after, Cardi rose to Instagram and Vine celebrity status, known for her Spanish accent, New York slang and blunt commentary on money and men. Her notoriety led to a role on Love and Hip-Hop: New York.
Now, the 25-year-old is a two-time Grammy-nominated rap sensation, who claims four of Billboard’s Top 10 Hits.
Cardi B’s story is a rule-breaking take on the American dream; a woman of color and sex worker catapults herself from rags to riches. But for too many strip club dancers, financial stability is just that— a dream.
It’s hard to find information on strippers’ income, but one dancer reports that she takes home $2,398-$4,402 monthly; Glassdoor.com estimates $1,000-$2,000 each month.
So, a stripper’s income could hover around $12,060, the 2017 federal poverty level for individuals; and could be far below $41,027, the 2016 federal median income for single female heads of household.
In stark contrast, Eric Langan, CEO of Rick’s Cabaret, a corporation of 14 U.S. strip clubs, is worth $55 million. The corporation reports $135 million in annual revenue, and a 35% profit margin. Similarly, the top thirty clubs in the States are valued between $700 million and $1 billion.
Club owners consider dancers “self-employed,” so they don’t have employer-provided benefits or protections. Dancers might pay clubs a fee, and share their income with bouncers and DJs. Plus, they spend on makeup, tans, waxes and manicures to maintain their professional appearance. Like anyone else, dancers also pay taxes and buy health insurance.
The vast inequality between female strippers, who may live close to poverty, and (mostly male) strip club owners, who profit millions at their expense, is maddening.
So let’s not allow our solidarity to start and end with Hollywood stars and Olympic gymnasts.
Our sisters in the strip club are struggling to eat.