On Being a Wife, a Whore and a Feminist on National Equal Pay Day

I wrote this blog post as a married woman. It was the beginning of my personal exploration within the context of feminist critique. It was at a time when I was trying on the role of being a wife. It wasn’t soon after I posted this my husband and I went our separate ways. I  understand that in challenging the patriarchy, and speaking my truth, I challenge more than just myself. It isn’t always a welcome endeavor. But it is a risk I have to take.

“In this dirty minded world, you are either someone’s wife or someone’s whore.” -John Irving, The world according to Garp. As women, we are born into an unequal world. There is a deep disproportion that permeates our current world. A gap which has been closing slowly in the last hundred years but it is still felt in a myriad of ways. Today, on the official presidential proclamation equal pay day, I would like to write about Feminism, a topic I have been thinking a lot about lately.

I remember a few years ago before I had a real concept of what feminism was a friend said to me, “You are a feminist right?” I was really annoyed and responded by saying something along the lines of, “Gender inequality exists in both men and women and until men can go through a transformation and have a manist movement I don’t want to associate with the angry feminist stereotype that alienates and angers men.” I felt really strongly that it was the men that needed the transformation and that women we already liberated.I believed I knew better than most women the ‘under belly of man’ because I had spent 13 or so years seducing and consoling men in an attempt to goad them into liking me enough to give me their money.

My views on feminism are definitely changing as I become more educated but I still believe wholeheartedly in a need for men to empower themselves and educate themselves on issues of equality. I see now the extreme importance of feminism in all its waves and the necessity of educating young woman in the movement so that we as women are able to keep and expand upon the rights we have fought so hard to gain. My early education on male/female dynamics was at strip clubs, which are one part casino–darkly making wagers on sexual conduct; one part therapy–hours spent endlessly talking with lonely downtrodden men about their problems fears and desires; and one part carnal three ring circus on stilts. They say it takes 10,000 hours to master anything and after 13 years I was sure I was pretty close to mastering the needs and wants of men. What does this have to do with feminism? I hardly knew and until I met my husband I didn’t realize by making the choice for all those years to not settle down and not get married, I was in a sense, making the choice to be someone’s whore. Because isn’t a “Dancer” just being paid to grind out the desires of men, a whore for a song, or a few songs. But the word whore never bothered me. I certainly believed I was a sexually liberated modern woman who could make her money doing whatever she needed to do to not be someone’s wife. But what the fuck? I mean is that really true, that there are only two choices? Someones whore or someones wife?

Well maybe not, let’s look for a minute at the other options of making it in this society. Being born privileged so that one does not have to think about how to make money, being born poor yet able to navigate the education system enough to rise out of poverty, accepting the fate of the working class taking low wage jobs such as waitress, retail, fast food, house cleaning, etc, or accepting government assistance and squeaking out an impoverished existence. There is not a lot out there. Trust me I know. I was born into a working class family who didn’t go to college. The women in my family were all someone’s wife. My grandma, a stay a home mom, raised my Mom and Aunt while my grandfather worked multiple jobs to support  the family. My mother as a teen got pregnant with me and decided to bring me into the world alone after my father abandoned us when she was pregnant. She remarried a man who supported the family with his wage working at a prison and, unable to deal with his own mental health problems and the budding adolescence of my teenage self, kicked me out when I was only 15.

As I get older I realize my story is not new or unique or really all that special. Although I carried a chip on my shoulder about it for years. 1 in 3 children are raised without a father. Women left alone to trudge along in poverty, working and raising children for wages unequal to that of men. Because of my fate as a teenage runaway, I felt I was forced to become a whore. Sure I had a world of choices but after couch surfing for years, squeaking by on a waitress wage and being totally disillusioned by the school system in which I was abused and bullied by the classes and fellow students, I dropped out. So I started dancing at 17. It was liberating to make a living wage after being stuck in the McDonald’s and Perkins of the world. How else can a young woman make a wage in which she can be independently wealthy? I realize now that was an illusion, that everything has a price  but at the time I justified my choices because how many years of my life had I spent the walking target and object of sexual desire? At least at the club I was getting paid. Women from the time they grow the first hint of breasts are cat called and and oogled from any passerby driving down the street. Grown men pull over and ask if you want a ride, adolescent boys ask for digits, you are whistled at, ass slapped, followed. It is a constant barrage of hands and eyes, tongues and hey babys.

This is true for all women but especially for a woman that, by societies standards, is considered pretty. Throw in uneducated, fatherless, abused  and poor and you have a world of confusion, pain and struggle. The brothels, streets, and strip clubs are filled with these women, forced by a class and gender war to pave their way in any way they can. Many women who don’t initially choose sex work choose marriage for protection or financial support only to find themselves in the hands of abusers. These same women often have children and in a world of little resources for us, especially if you are poor or a minority, we find ourselves stuck and trapped. And like me end up in strip clubs selling our sexuality for a way to support  ourselves and ultimately our children and at least make a decent wage. It is no wonder so many woman choose to sell sex. Young, pretty, under educated, constantly pressured about their sexuality, vulnerable. Women struggle to find childcare. We struggle to find jobs at a decent wage or we struggle to find work at all. Sex is bought and sold as a commodity in most towns on most of this planet and men are willing to pay for it. It becomes a question of survival. How to survive the constant onslaught of pressure. In this way I question if women’s choices are really a choice but decision based on necessity due to a world of limited options.  Even Jesus had a whore in his life and granted her some sort of absolution as if prostitution was a choice she gladly made, which is what they would have you believe in their churches and stories. A man once again saving the woman from her wicked ways.001 Its been a few years since I have seen the inside of a strip club and I am thankful every day that I was saved by my man’s privileged resources. I don’t have to strip any more. I am no longer at the mercy of my body and fading youth to feed and house my children. But really, it fucking sucks that it has to be that way. Maybe I was just not smart enough to figure it out any other way. Maybe I was not lucky enough, privileged enough, white enough? Someone told me once all women make concessions for their own safety. I am a wife now and for the first time in my life I feel safe. Thank god, I was going crazy out there in the front lines of the sex war. As a veteran I struggle with identity and autonomy. My saving grace is my husband who is more than just a bit of a feminist too. Things aren’t perfect but they are better and we are learning together how to navigate the murky waters of gender equality.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ks4meg42aYA

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