Why I’m Celebrating Strippers This Women’s History Month

Women’s History Month, for me, involves the women I work with, who are constantly asked what our real names are (but we’ll never tell you).

Truth be told, I don’t pay much attention to any of the hashtag international or national days. National Kissing Day (April 13), National Boyfriend Day (October 3rd), National Girlfriend Day (August 1), National Puppy Day (March 23) – none of these do much for me. (Except, okay, probably I will celebrate National Puppy Day).

Women’s History Month was similar to me for a long time – a nice gesture, but nothing I planned my life around or registered for more than a day or two. Most of the reading and learning I do has to do with women’s history by default. I’ve always been interested in women’s stories. I even did my own investigation outside of history classes when I was in school– seeking out stories from women is second nature to me. My parents also raised me to focus on women’s stories, both fictional and true. They knew, on some level, that it would be important for me to see myself – my potential, my path toward accomplishment – reflected in the stories around me that might not show up in class. I was even named after a famous woman in science who my dad really looked up to. My stripper name is also taken from a famous woman, Janis Joplin, who once said, “Onstage I make love to 25,000 different people, then I go home alone” – a quote that is central to my stripper persona. “Janis” reflects how I use my sexuality and erotic expression to connect with others, to invite them into a fantasy and create intimacy…and then go home belonging entirely to myself, alone and whole.

The longer I dance, though, the more I realize that Women’s History Month isn’t just about the women we read about, or even the rare female historical figure who gets her face emblazoned on a coin. It’s about bringing to the center and celebrating those who have historically been ignored. This month, it’s important for me to remember that, and to look at and celebrate my community. Women’s History Month for me now is about the brave women in the articles I’m reading for my thesis, who outed themselves as sex workers to claim our space in academia, despite the stigma. It’s for sex worker artists like those featured in the zines by All Sex Workers Go To Heaven, and historians like Kaytlin Bailey, the host of the Old Pro Podcast. It’s for sex worker writers as recent as Charlotte Shane and as well-known and beloved as Maya Angelou. It’s for organizers like Gizelle Marie and Ceyenne Doroshow; and innovative entrepreneurs like The Dancers’ Resource, who all use their skills and stories to make our community safer, more vibrant, and more powerful.

Most importantly, Women’s History Month, for me, involves the women I work with, who are constantly asked what our real names are (but we’ll never tell you). They’re the moms working nights in eight-inch heels to support their daughters when the grown ass men in their lives let them down. They’re the party girls who just wanna save up to take another trip to Miami, because why should the world be on our shoulders all the time? They’re the students who, like me, work whatever nights we can spare in order to pay to work the hundreds of hours of unpaid labor each year at our internships. They’re the performers who performed femininity a little too hard at work, and now our genders feel a little itchy to us in our daily lives, and we don’t really know how to talk about it, but that’s okay. They’re the artists who go from dancing to nannying to painstakingly laboring away when they finally get home, burning the candle at both ends and in the middle in order to create their art.

I’ve never felt particularly connected to Women’s History Month, because all year long I am fascinated by women’s history, which to me is not just history, but present and future too. It’s the only history I want to learn. Prioritizing these narratives, the narratives of the so-called Other, for my entire life sometimes seems like a small act of rebellion, but it’s the rebellion that comes most naturally to me. No, I won’t commit to memory the name of yet another dead white guy, in either politics, or philosophy, or even psychology, my chosen field, because I’m simply not interested in spending any more time seeing the world through their eyes. Every day is International Women’s Day, every month is Women’s History Month, because that is the world I believe in, and that is the world I create for myself.

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