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"When we consider that women are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should treat our children as property to be disposed of as we see fit." Elizabeth Cady Stanton



Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Importing Strippers to Canada

I recently tweeted a news article from the HuffPo (originally released by the CBC I believe) on a Canadian policy change which does not allow foreign sex trade workers to renew their visa's. You can read the article here. The article was posted on Facebook by a friend of mine, a self-proclaimed pro-choice feminist, and it bothered me enough that I haven't been able to stop thinking about it.

The first thing that struck me about this article was the lack of information and analysis. I just read over the article now, and they recently changed it to include an "opposing view" - some sound bites from the Anti-Human Trafficking Action Group of Windsor, which are carefully quoted to imply that the girls in question in  this article are not in danger for exploitation. Beyond that, there is no inclusion of statistics or studies done on the psychological and physical well-being of exotic dancers, specifically exotic dancers brought in from other countries. This does a serious injustice to women who are involved in the sex industry, as it implies that all foreign dancers in Canada are living good lives, making good money, and are not being exploited by their employers. I can only suspect that this is far from the truth.

The second thing that I think people should focus on when reading this article is where the reporters are getting their information. Rob Katzman, the Director of the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada, is extensively quoted and his words are implicitly assumed to be true in the article.

For instance:

""there is not one bit of empirical data that there is exploitation going on in our industry," especially not at his two clubs.

In 2011, Katzman had 170 women dancing in his clubs and 30 of them were temporary foreign workers. The women came from Poland, Iceland, England, Estonia, and Germany. All have proper paperwork and credentials, he said. All are aware of their rights, Katzman claimed.

"They know the law as well as we do," he said. "Believe me, they complain if the soap dispenser is near empty." [...]

"They aren't the type of ladies who want to do anything but obey the laws," Katzman said. [...]

"We want girls who come from nice families," he insisted. "We just don't have enough Canadian gals to fill the positions." [...]

"The adult industry has no intention to recruit in high schools. That's not the way we do business ... I think [the Toronto strip club owner claiming he would recruit high school students] was a demonstration of his frustration of the situation.""

The article completely ignores the fact that he has a financial stake in the situation. The readers are supposed to take for granted that what he says is true. And the assumption is that stripping itself is not a demeaning and exploitative job - which is a question that anyone considering the safety and psychological well-being of sex workers should at least think hard about.

So we have the Director of the Adult Entertainment Association of Canada extensively quoted in the article. We have the article set up so that his words are implicitly assumed to be a true and accurate representation of the exotic dancer industry in Canada. Do we also hear from the girls themselves?

Sort of.

One exotic dancer from Iceland is quoted, but she is quoted on the condition of anonymity, and no other girls are discussed or quoted. This leads me to believe that the reporters indeed only spoke to one of the 30 foreign workers employed in Katzman's clubs. Hardly a decent representation, especially when the only girl willing to speak in an interview demands to not be named. And especially when this sole girl is speaking on behalf of her employer, who is the focus of this news article.

I have to say that this is a very one-sided news article on the Adult Entertainment Industry's recruitment of foreign "gals".

The worst part of the article?

"One Icelandic dancer, who spoke to CBC Windsor on the condition of anonymity, said she owned two businesses back home. But when the economy went south, she headed to Canada to become a dancer.

"That's why I became a stripper," she said. "We're making good money. We're not stripping for alcohol or drugs.""

What is the implication here?

First, that these women are desperate for money and so became strippers. Hardly a note in favor of the recruitment of foreign workers for exotic dancing.

Second, that in an economic downturn, a woman in dire straights can always just take her clothes off to make some money.

Why is the article satisfied that women must turn to stripping to make a living? Why does the article imply that making money by dancing in strip clubs is a "good" thing as long as it is "good money" and the women come from "nice families" and are not spending their money on things that we deem inappropriate? How is this a satisfactory set of circumstances for women's rights and equality?

One thing is for certain, it is definitely a satisfactory set of circumstances for Katzman.

Well, it was. Until July 4th, when it became illegal for any employer to hire a temporary foreign worker linked to the sex trade. Now he'll have to find Canadian women (who aren't in school) to work for him, which apparently is hard to do.

I wonder why?

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