Cabarets: The View

 

 

Last week I had a nice long rant about how Belarus because of its structures, society and history was by no way ready for ‘feminist’ groups like FEMEN and PUSSY RIOT. In other words, for the ‘Western’ inspired ideas of feminism.

They have their place but there is also a time for everything. One of the biggest goals of these groups is a value key to today’s post: #EMPOWERMENT.

Empowerment-the giving of power for a specific purpose/action. The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.

Please note the ‘giving’ bit in the definition. It immediately points to figure/presence/gang leader who has enough privilege, power and authority of his own to share with a lesser being. Be it an object of economic, social or political quality.

As a woman, I will state that we are not the power givers but the power seekers. We are free if we are given the freedom of the rein, mobile if we are given the space to move.

So that’s your little background now let’s get into today’s topic:  The Cabaret Girl in Cyprus or the ‘View’ ie the body putting on the moves on the stage. Look at that, I immediately call her a girl because I think of her as a victim, weak, in need of ‘empowerment’ from a guardian figure. It just felt wrong to call the worker a ‘woman’ though she is in in most cases around my age and older. I know I will be eating knuckle sandwiches (hopefully vegan) from the Booty Doctors from YourTango.com (who thinks men are the victims in the hands of hungry and poor dancers doing everything to get their clients drunk) but give me a minute to explain myself.

To acquaint yourself with the legal situation in Cyprus, please visit KISA’s report below and the article from EUBusiness:

http://kisa.org.cy/trafficking-in-persons-report-2016-cyprus/

http://www.eubusiness.com/news-eu/trafficking-cyprus.6k7

I will not discuss these in this post as I would like to concentrate not on the setting but on the girls and the societies they come from.

So repeat: Why is it that a woman who is legally an adult is immediately identified as almost lesser than she is, weaker, more vulnerable, by the job she is situated in?

We are all part of the view of somebody or other. You meet someone for the first time and you immediately judge them by what they wear, the colour of their skin, hair, eyes, nails, eyebrows etc. before anything comes out their mouth. Some jobs are based on creating a specific ‘view’ for their onlookers. Some obvious ones would be actors, models, dancers. Into this category, our cabaret strip-dancers fall.

Cyprus is a hot spot for tourists. The cliché of ‘sun, sea and sand’ are in the brochures of every beach hotel and online holiday rental portal.They call it a paradise, they compliment its beaches and they envy its 326 free days of free tanning.

I love my city where everything is so juxtaposed that you’ll be lucky if you don’t ever have to direct someone past ‘Barbie Doll’s Club’ to get to a Kid’s Toy Shop, and you actually act surprised if they don’t know where so-and-so strip club, by this-or-that Supermarket…you can call it colourful I guess. I have other words for it but I’ll just keep them to myself. Next week I’ll be covering the actual history and background to the cabarets on this tiny island in the Mediterranean because I really just want to focus on this ‘idea of Cyprus’, which is what most girls have in choosing this specific location as their ‘summer job’.

Enter ‘Jobs in Cyprus’ in vk.com and you are bound to come with adverts such as:

Irene

Numero 1. Stereotype of the exotic paradise Cyprus is supposed to stand for? Check. Realistic picture of where the employee will work? Nope.

Numero 2. Description of duties? Nada

Numero 3. Do the girls even have to speak English? Nooooo…

Confused Reader: Wait….so they don’t actually know where they are going, what the are supposed to do…how are they going to communicate?

Logic: You mean to say people will actually care what they have on their minds, their needs, wants, how they actually hate Jack Black’s Post Shave Cream.

Confused Reader: But…

Logic: Exactly. No.

Dear ‘neo-feminists’ how can you tell me these girls are not ‘objectified’ when they are actually being bought, collected as utensils? Maybe it is just me but this resonates a little too closely to the Middle Passage/Slave Trade of Africans during the mid-17th century where individual slaves were purposely chosen from different families/tribes so they would not be able to communicate amongst the other slaves on the plantations to organise rebellions or strikes against the master.

By not being able to speak the language (English in the very least), there is less chance the girls will be able to relate their problems with her fellow ‘colleagues’, not give consent (a refusal that is fully understood) or complain to the authorities. I won’t say it is intentional, I have no concrete evidence, but even its unintentional ignorance merely reflects the attitude ‘agents’ and ‘owners’ have towards their ‘girls’. They are there to perform, not speak. Not to be ‘people’ but images/bodies/silent items.

I spent my Saturday going through posts on this forum where girls are using the Internet to get a little bit of a better picture of what to expect coming to work in a Cypriot club:

https://www.infotrud.com/forum/cyprus-f52/topic10-10.html

Couple of quotes so you can get the picture (translated of course):

‘In the morning you have to have a medical checkup…cell room…You can’t say no to sex without a condom…First time around the boss will shout then beat you up. ‘ (Саша 2011)

‘If you don’t cause problems the owner won’t beat you up…’ (melissaapo, 2012)

‘I’m now sitting here and waiting to fly home…She sold me…modern day slavery…So, girls,  don’t go there for the beach, to find your ass some adventure, and not only adventures but also all types of Sexually transmitted diseases. I hate myself for coming here, I’ll go home to get myself cleaned up from all these illnesses.’ (sadness, 2014) https://www.infotrud.com/forum/cyprus-f52/topic10-10.html

And it goes on into a heated conflict on what is the ‘truth’ of the circumstances working in so-and-so night club and comparing it to other clubs on the island. It all came down to: it’s your choice. Go and we wish you luck that you don’t turn out to be one of these stories:

http://cyprus-mail.com/2016/06/01/former-cabaret-worker-sues-civil-case-opening-thursday/

http://www.rudnikov.com/article.php?ELEMENT_ID=18784

But these girls are desperate enough to take the risk usually not because they have failed somehow in their own community (didn’t work hard enough, weren’t raised correctly, have no morals) but because their society has failed them. I am less concerned with the fact that there exist such human beings who are ready to sell others for a profit, knowing full well into what circumstances these girls are being carted off to, than worrying that there are no individuals in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine who are not supporting the young women of their communities to not become victims in the Cypriot papers. Where is the government’s help to financially and emotionally support these girls to survive, to gain power either through formal or social education. Why do the men and women sitting there in power allow adverts such as these, where girls are supposed to become just fixed objects, not mobile and growing persons:

RsFh3uXSUEs

How privileged am I that even on the worst days, when money was really scarce, I never had to put myself into that sort of danger? How privileged am I that I have a community in terms of my family and friends who provide me with something to fall back on, to whom I am a view and a voice? How privileged am I that I can sit and discuss these girls, cabarets and the whole shambang as an outsider to the industry?

Feminists of today are in a war between over the woman’s body (should it be seen, how it should be seen, how much flesh should be made available to the public). There are huge debates on the Internet whether strippers are ‘neo-feminists‘, empowering women to feel comfortable and confident in their bodies. See here and here, especially the comment section. I personally am not completely convinced that a woman’s body is being liberated by taking as its model the overly sexualised media culture as the system to rate its success. On the other hand, more conservative feminists argue against ‘exploiting’ the body in danger of its entering the forefront of the stage, instead of the privileged brains. I would argue, that such a view is trying to do a Descartes slice of the body and mind, and not fully acknowledging the role of the image in our society.We do not live in a vacuum but in a world that, despite our best efforts to fight, still remains dark.

My personal input in regards to this topic is the need of a change of perception. Feminist issues are not just about cleaning the wounds of victims, but forming a community of education and psychological, social and financial support where women can make informed choices as to what to do with their bodies and future. Because EMPOWERMENT is achieved by gaining power and growth from those in the privileged position and, as representatives of the Feminist Movement, we must seek to share the most crucial element of power: KNOWLEDGE.

 

Cover image credit to Jake Guild from Flickr.com.

 

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2 thoughts on “Cabarets: The View

  1. Are “strippers” a single category? I wonder if there isn’t as big a divide between the destroyed/objectified body of a woman held as a sexual slave in a virtual brothel, and that of a confident, economically independent woman working as a burlesque dancer as a second profession/hobby, as there is between the trafficked agricultural labourer working sixteen hours under threat of beatings, and the landowning stockbroker who grows his own organic vegetables at a weekend? In other words, isn’t the capitalist context more important than the essentialising of a category of work?

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    1. ‘Are “strippers” a single category?’ I would argue yes and no. There is a sort of revolution happening now where women are finding an outlet/confidence booster through ‘burlesque’ performances or stripper ‘art’, I guess I would call it. Or, according to Paulina Sygulska, it is a trust building exercise among colleagues and friends by exposing yourself fully to the outside eye. In this case, one assumes these women are going into the business of ‘strippers’ through a choice and even desire to do so. But the question remains why she has this ‘desire’, almost desperate ‘need’? Is she not being influenced by the ‘fleshy’ culture of today, the enticing images from perfume adverts in magazines and billboards, music videos etc. ? I feel this ‘hobby’ is merely an attempt to escape from being a ‘nobody’ (Fuller, 2006) by mimicking the way celebrities gain attention. The point of these ‘stripping’ performances is to be looked at and the success of your career is rated by the attention you gain. The women in cabaret who have been victims of sex trade are victimised because of the gaze of the onlookers turns into something violent. They are immediately classified as ‘victims’ because of the abuse they are forced under. But the women who ‘independently’ choose to go into the profession may also be victim to a society that will only give its attention to certain types of images. If an individual’s self-esteem is based solely on another person’s gaze, this becomes problematic. Maybe I am wrong and these latter women care less for the gaze or cultural pressure than the ‘liberation’ of the clothed body.

      In regards to the capitalist context. Yes, I agree that there are numerous factors that fight against grouping all those involved in the profession and the capitalist factor does play an important role. If anything, it minimises the availability of choice to those in the lower classes and almost forces them to become the ‘donkeys’ of our communities, without the need of whips.

      I am not so sure I completely agree with your comparison of an objectified body as ‘destroyed’ though. I believe they are two different states.

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