“Live Nude Girls Unite”, a documentary following the plight of a group of women workers at the Lusty Lady strip club in San Francisco to unionize their work, was a concept that I had to go into with an open mind. As a feminist, I have always felt frustrated by the chauvinism and male-pleasing objective to the work, but on the other hand I am accepting of the individual choices of women despite my own intolerance and discomfort with the idea. Part of being a feminist, I believe, is not putting value on women for the choices they make or for the way they choose to use their body.
The way women choose to use their body, whether it is in sex work or casual day-to-day terms, is constantly critiqued and valued, with various inequitable implications based primarily on race. Many of the racial labels given to women sex workers, such as the hyper-sexual Black or Latina, the exotic brunette or the marketable American blonde, increases my feminist frustrations in addition to my anti-racism frustrations, making it that much harder for me to support the work, much less legitimize is it through unions. Needless to say, my feelings towards sex work are a blend of mixed-emotions, though generally of dissatisfaction and irritation.
But, like I said, I went into this documentary with an open mind in the face of my prude-ness and lack of enthusiasm for sex work. I found myself going back and forth throughout the documentary, confused that talented, sharp, witty, independent women chose to exploit their bodies and sexuality over using their intellect, but if I claim myself to be a feminist and choose to respect their choices, I cannot help but support their right to have fair and adequate working conditions. The privileges that come with a union are not just the protection of worker rights but of basic human rights regardless of personal ethics or what we as an individual or as a society perceive as right or wrong. It exceeds race, class, gender or any other social-construction we can create.