Friday, February 18, 2011

Discipline, or Pun-ish?

This evening, I'm reading some of my reflections on my career as a stripper at an event that's meant for scholars to share what they do in their creative/less academic moments. For me, there's no greater gulf than the one between my stripping and schooling. Grad school for me has often been alienating; I sometimes feel my brown skin and less-than-academic pedigree sticks me out like a sore, subaltern thumb. While I've found some buddies along the way, in general I feel that the grad school experience has been depoliticizing at times, or maybe pseudo-politicizing. In other words, a whole lot of sitting around and reading about stuff, and not so much interrogating how we - right there in the left-leaning academic department - are perpetuating, encouraging, even relying upon the oppressions we critique in our dissertations and panel presentations.

This will be the first time I go in front of an audience of people - many of them peers, some of them "superiors" - and talk about my work. At first, I wanted to talk about race and intersectional issues around dancing; I realized pretty quickly that it felt like pandering to the thirst for Third World Feminist knowledge that I anticipated my audience to hope to hear. (I thought they might expect some high-brow theoretical, overtly political reflections on sex work, race, and gender.) So I scrapped that, and instead I'm going for the raunchy humor - stories about gross customers, good customers, loyal customers, customers with funny nicknames, etc. Yeah, I'm sort of worried about the raunch factor. It's sort of giving a middle finger to all those Foucauldian ideas about how sex should be talked about, right? I mean, no one has a problem with Elizabeth Bernstein teaching a class on sex work politics, or with critiquing the law that has cast "unnatural" sex acts by prostitutes in Louisiana into the same category as pedophilia.

But, why then, do I perceive a greater anxiety emerging when an actual sex worker - not only incidentally a brown woman - talks about boners and grinding and bikini waxes. Is it in my head?