Annemarie is the magazines editor and regular columnist for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Annemarie Quill: Strippers deserve respect

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FEMALE FORM: "Despite the so-called advances of diversity and equality in the workplace, some males can't see past tits, legs and bums."
FEMALE FORM: "Despite the so-called advances of diversity and equality in the workplace, some males can't see past tits, legs and bums."

'Flexible hours ... friendly staff ... good wages ... lovely work environment." I was proofreading a job advert for the paper.

"Sounds like a great job", I told my boss. "I might apply."

It was for a stripper.

He thought I was joking. I was - in the sense I am happy in the profession I am in, so not looking to change.

But for those who choose stripping as a job, whether it be a short-term money maker or longer-term career, I see absolutely nothing wrong in that, provided it is their choice to do so.

I paid my way through university working full time six nights a week as a waitress. We had to wear short skirts or shorts, white shirts and a tie.

I think they were going for the school girl look. The tips were not that great. Often we got ogled. Sometimes punters were rude.

Still, it paid for my Oxford degree so I can't complain.

After graduating I arrived in London big-eyed, in unfashionable shoes, determined to break into journalism. I had worked on Cherwell - the Oxford University newspaper - on the "woman's page", as that's the only break I could get.

Would that get me in the door at Fleet Street? No.

In the first interview I had with a magazine editor, she suggested I should change my shoes.

Other editors told me to go and get some good contacts and learn a speciality. So I started work in a strip club.

It was very posh in Mayfair - men had to wear a suit or black tie to get in.

The money was great. I didn't strip but have the utmost respect for girls that did. It was the 90s and the city was booming.

Most of the clients were brought in by city traders to entertain. I can thank these city boys for teaching me everything about leveraged finance, mortgage backed bonds and credit default swaps over bottles of Veuve Clicquot and Cristal.

One suggested I read the book about the city - Liar's Poker, by a Wall St bonds salesman turned author.

John Key once cited it as his favourite book. I got great contacts and great shoes.

Some time later I landed a job as capital markets reporter in a financial magazine writing about billion-dollar loans, private equity and credit derivatives.

Some years after that I landed on the media team at Salomon Smith Barney. The same bank featured in Liar's Poker. Living the dream.

Now I have been a journalist for about 18 years.

Yesterday I covered a fundraising lunch for Breast Cancer. Guest speaker was Lauren Roche, a doctor who used to be a stripper and a prostitute before she went to med school.

The lunch was attended by many high-profile men and women in our community. Am I or the doctor, Lauren, any more or less worthy or reputable in a community than anyone in that room? I don't think so.

But in the eyes of the Chiefs' boss, our characters and "standing in the community" is questionable.

A furore broke out this week after Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs hired a stripper for an end-of-season party.

For me, the issue is not that they hired a stripper - if they were willing to pay for her services and she was willing to strip, then fair deal.

However, when the stripper, Scarlette, told media that the players involved were touching her despite being warned not to, it is the response of the team's boss, Andrew Flexman, which was astounding. He responded, in my view, putting a slur on the woman's character saying: "You have got to remember this is one person's accusation and her standing in the community and culpability is not beyond reproach."

A stripper should have no less standing in the community than any other profession - a doctor, taxi driver, shop assistant, wedding celebrant.

If a man is morally OK with paying for it, then it is hypocritical to go cutting down a woman who does it.

It is not just men who disrespect those working in the entertainment or sex professions.

As well as Flexman, a spokeswoman for the Chiefs' major sponsor seemingly came down on the side of "the boys".

Gallagher Group corporate services executive Margaret Comer said she was "reluctant to say that the boys were out of line" when the stripper accused men of touching her, telling Fairfax: "If a woman takes her clothes off and walks around in a group of men, what are we supposed to do if one of them tries to touch her?"

In my opinion, she might as well have said "She was asking for it". How appropriate that Gallagher is described on its website as involved in the "manufacture and marketing of animal management".

For Comer, in my opinion, seems to relegate men to animals in that they cannot control themselves in front of a stripper. She has since apologised. But someone of "her standing in the community" should not be so bigoted.

Let us remember that this is a business transaction freely entered into by both parties. If touching was not part of the service, then the men had absolutely no right to touch her.

There are strippers who allow touching but this comes at a price. From what this stripper said, she did not allow touching and asked them not to. They had no more right to touch her than if she was a waitress, a shop assistant or the corporate services executive of a large company.

Touching somebody sexually without their consent is sexual assault, whether they have their clothes on or off. Or whether they were blind drunk, as in the tragic murder of India Chipchase in the UK.

A prostitute who is selling sexual services has a right to not be raped against her will, the same rights as the mother of a man who pays for prostitutes.

Disrespecting those who work in the sex profession shows a deep-seated misogyny at play in our society in which some men think it's OK to pay for sex (and it is if the business transaction is freely entered into by both parties), but disrespect a woman's choice to offer this service.

The big irony for me is when it is other women looking down on strippers or prostitutes.

If they look around in their own profession, the sexism and misogyny is still there.

Men still ogle women's boobs, put down opinionated women, exclude them from the "boys' club" in many professions. There is a gender pay gap in New Zealand and poor support of working mothers.

There are not enough women on boards or as chief executives. There are, in my opinion, dinosaur male attitudes like that of Kiwi Kevin Roberts, boss of advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi, who said in an interview that "gender bias in the advertising industry does not exist".

In a curiously symbolic statement he said many women did not have a "vertical ambition" and instead had only a "circular ambition to be happy".

Despite the so-called advances of diversity and equality in the workplace, some males can't see past tits, legs and bums.

When men are misogynists, it doesn't matter whether you are a social worker or a stripper, you still risk abuse, disrespect and disregard.

Your talents are overlooked because at the end of the day you are just a sex object.

It is tiring.

Sometimes I think it would be so much easier, and more honest, to whip off my top for a job. Or lay down on my back and get paid for it.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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