Saturday, April 07, 2007

Girls Gone Wild: The Scoop.

OK, so here's the good, the bad, and the ugly about this whole thing.

I found out last Tuesday, via Dakota Women, that a local club, the Lava Lounge (the same place that brought Warrant here - insert eyeroll), had invited Girls Gone Wild to help kick off their Wednesday night Ladies' Nite.

Now - I am on principle against the sort of "hot body" contests that bars usually hold. The reason for this is that I think they're sad. I think that women often (but not always) enter them because they desperately need to be affirmed. I suspect that women with a lot of self-esteem and with a lot going on in their lives have better things to do on a Tuesday night than strut around for a bunch of drunk, not-so-good-looking (only important because they still get to impose ideals of beauty on women) boys and men. I also don't like beauty pageant type events, though I will say that the environment of the overall bar culture disturbs me far more than does the activity. And I'll add that, given the sorts of bars that hold these events, and the harassing behavior I've experienced there myself - in part, I feel, as a result of the way such events encourage male patrons to view female patrons as meat - I do think that such events make for a generally hostile environment for women.

So far, I've sounded like an anti-sex work feminist, though I don't count myself in that category. Context is everything. I could see, for example, events like this becoming less hostile in a variety of settings and incarnations, like the "best lingerie" contest I saw in the early '90s in which women were competing against a very beautiful drag queen.

Anyway. I've never protested these kinds of events because, whatever I may think about the reasons behind some of the women's consenting, the fact is that they are freely consenting and that they are usually coming with friends to the bar and hanging out with friends during the night. They know what to expect from the bar scene, and there are bouncers and cops around should their services be needed. This doesn't mean there is no risk of rape or assault - that risk is always there. But as these things go, events like this are fairly tame and the rules are generally understood.

What's different about GGW is that they manipulate women by getting them drunk and by taking them, one at a time, onto the tour bus. Once there, without their friends to support them, they can be intimidated and coerced into the soft porn we see advertised on cable. They can also be raped. If they are drunk or underage - both happen regularly - they cannot legally consent, anyway. And all of this has happened on the tour buses. I won't go into the details of why Joe Francis is the Devil, but you can easily find this out for yourself. Clearly, GGW is different. GGW poses a danger to women. And, further, Joe Francis and his cronies get rich off of their films, while the women who are filmed get t-shirts or caps.

And so I did everything I could to stop them from coming here. I had the advantage of knowing that, in the past, communities had been successful in convincing bars not to bring GGW to town. So, I sent out a mass email with the above links, urging everyone to call the Lava Lounge and tell the owner what GGW was really about and asking him to cancel the event.

(I was surprised, by the way, to find that not only the owner, not only the city officials, but many of the individuals on my email distribution list had no idea what GGW was beyond an organization that filmed women taking off their shirts. This is not ok. Adults should be educated about popular culture and not assume it's a "kid thing" that we don't have to know about.)

I also called the Lava Lounge. Then I called City Hall. I emailed council members. I talked to the Mayor's Chief of Staff. I called the Dean of Students at my school. I lectured my students about the difference between GGW and the average wet t-shirt contest. I emailed the press with links to the GGW exposes.

I was feeling pretty good about this effort: I knew that others were also making phone calls, and I also knew that people would likely have a strong reaction once they read the links I'd sent. But the next day, there was an interesting shift in the "movement." My original email had been forwarded, and I ended up on a distribution list of some religious folks. Here is a portion of an email call to action I received:
I am more than willing to go to the Lava and pray. The event apparently does not start until 9:00. An effective method maybe to emulate the red LIFE tape we use at the abortion clinics, only use blue tape and write the word "PURE " Silent prayer meetings versus vocal protests have a lot more power in this type of confrontational situation…I know I can rally the Bound4Life intercessors who have been praying at Planned Parenthood all winter; anything over 25 degrees is balmy to them and they will probably enjoy a change of scenery.

I believe that when men, especially, come to events like this and act in prayer and purity, it is extremely powerful against the forces of darkness. I personally believe this is important enough for churches to consider ending their functions this evening in time to get over to the Lava and pray before 9:00.

When we stand as Bound4Life outside Planned Parenthood with red tape on our mouths with the word LIFE ; we are holding a prayer meeting, not a protest. The enemy does not know what to do with this, because the tape on our mouths prevents us from entering into verbal jousting, and we are appealing to Heaven for the young women and their children in the abortion clinic. In the same way if we hold a silent prayer gathering at the Lava, it will cause the kingdoms to collide in the heavenlies, but will afford us protection on earth because we will not be drawn into a carnal battle of words.

There are a couple of problems with this response, aside from the obvious issue that it is based on a belief system that most people do not share. First, it is oblivious to the fact that many of those already acting to oppose this event were pro-choice, and that such a response would completely alienate them - in other words, this is not an example of a coalition effort. Second, I find it disturbing that this response was based on an affirmation of women's so-called "purity" and not on a refusal to allow women to be assaulted and raped. And third, I find it distressing that the word "enemy" is used in the way it is, as if we are not dealing with people with whom we can enter into dialogue but rather with instruments of evil.

This kind of response isn't surprising: it's a standard Christian Right response to the sex industry. But what I wanted to focus on in preventing GGW from coming was the danger of rape and assault and the manipulation of consent. I did not want to have anything to do with a reaction that would judge women who might want to participate - or any women who worked in the sex industry - as impure or immoral. I didn't want to focus on the women at all but rather on GGW as an industry. And I certainly didn't want to paint the bar owner as immoral or evil, particularly when he hadn't yet had much time to consider the information we had only just given him.

By the end of that day, as it happens, I got the news that the Lava Lounge owner had decided to cancel the event due to community concerns. This is significant for a few reasons. First, it should remind us that it's possible to change people's minds through conversation - even rational, respectful dialogue. I don't know what kind of interactions he had with, say, the religious community (who were further concerned that this event was happening during Holy Week) or with city officials (who were concerned that the bar is located next to a daycare (that would be closed during the event - I was not concerned about either of these issues). But I do know that he heard from some of us in the feminist community that this could place women in danger. He also heard that he'd be liable for rape if it occurred on his property.

Second, the fact that we, random activists with no special political power, were able to help influence this outcome means that we have more power than we think we do to make things happen. We didn't just call and email and protest: we got the event cancelled.

Third, while I don't know how much I personally had to do with this, I feel like the steps I took are at the least one model for how to organize quickly, a model that anyone can use: 1) disseminate information about the problem and a solution to everyone in your immediate circle; 2) make your own complaint to the controlling party; 3) contact relevant officials; 4) contact the press; 5) contact any other authorities who might have power to help or who represent the target group (e.g., college officials, etc.); 6) once the situation has been resolved favorably, use the same steps to thank the controlling party.

And fourth - I'm glad it never got to the point of a public protest. Had that happened, though, I'd like to think that some of us could have launched our own protest by installing ourselves inside the club as advocates and insisting on the right to accompany every woman who wanted to bare her breasts into the bus.

Way to go, Sioux Falls!

UPDATE: Thanks to Pandagon, some good "how-to" information for those trying to keep GGW away.

Also, dig this quote from Indiana activist, Liz Ladd, about GGW: "Porn is a business and its workers should be contracted while they're sober and paid with money, not T-shirts, hats and underwear." YES!!!

13 comments:

BRi said...

YAY!!

Thank you so much, btw, for emailing me all the info. I was completely oblivious that GGW was even going to be in town. And after reading *Female Chauvinist Pigs* and being apalled by late-night television advertisements for the franchise, I'm glad I got the info to email the Lava Lounge and blog about it. So...thanks!! :)

Also, I think the "call to prayer" from the religious list is...frightening. You're right about it alienating the prochoice folks--blue "purity" tape? References to anti-choice rally activities? Ahhh! That's not my idea of a protest against GGW. Like you, I felt that it was very much about ensuring the safety of the women at the bar. Actually, I was at work that night until 9 pm, and I called up my friendly VOX co-presidents, and was like, "Should we go over there? Should we?!" It was a tough call. We agreed on no 'DOWN WITH GGW!' signs (although my inner dialouge was much more profane!). But we thought it would be important to be there, just incase--several more pairs of sober eyes looking out for women who may not be in the proper mindset to consent (and with drinks for the ladies at just $1.50, I would imagine there would have been quite a bit of heavy alcohol consumption). I was so happy it got cancelled. I was just sick about it. It's not about being anti-sex work, it's not about being tied in blue tape and professing "purity" against unseen "evils", but it's about safety!!

I think I came to that realization sometime around...two semesters ago! Thank you, Wendy Chapkis!

Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for all your work. I hope to see you around one of these days, and enjoy your break!

P.S. The internship is going GREAT!
Bri
http://www.xanga.com/backporchpages

Danielle's Daily life said...

I appreciate this post on so many levels, even though girls gone wild is not something I would ever fight to stop.

Linda said...

Great job!!! Kudos to you and to all those who had a hand in stopping the event.

HUGE kudos to the bar owner for being a rational human being.

belledame222 said...

I believe that when men, especially, come to events like this and act in prayer and purity, it is extremely powerful against the forces of darkness. I personally believe this is important enough for churches to consider ending their functions this evening in time to get over to the Lava and pray before 9:00.

When we stand as Bound4Life outside Planned Parenthood with red tape on our mouths with the word LIFE ; we are holding a prayer meeting, not a protest. The enemy does not know what to do with this, because the tape on our mouths prevents us from entering into verbal jousting, and we are appealing to Heaven


my wordies.

Linda said...

Oh - anyone know how to get the "Tour Schedule" for these creeps?

plain(s)feminist said...

Linda -
According to their MySpace page:

Apr 10 2007 9:00P
Pontiac, MI @ Tiki Bob's
Apr 11 2007 9:00P
Chicopee, MA @ Maximum Capacity
Apr 11 2007 9:00P
Windsor Ontario Canada @ Voodoo Nightclub
Apr 12 2007 9:00P
Madison, WI @ State Street Brats
Apr 13 2007 9:00P
Maryville, MO @ The Pub
Apr 13 2007 9:00P
Washington, DC @ Rhino
Apr 14 2007 9:00P
Sauget, IL @ OZ Night Club
Apr 14 2007 9:00P
Mechanicsburg, PA @ West Shore Hardware Bar
Apr 17 2007 9:00P
Ontario, OH @ The Whiskey Ranch
Apr 18 2007 9:00P
Massillon, OH @ The Whiskey Ranch
Apr 18 2007 9:00P
Minneapolis, MN @ Sgt Prestons
Apr 19 2007 9:00P
Elyria, OH @ The Whiskey Ranch
Apr 20 2007 9:00P
Blacksburg, VA @ OGE CHIS
Apr 21 2007 9:00P
Greenville, NC @ Club Aqua

Also, here's a link with info about another town that prevented GGW from coming in - the link to the newspaper article doesn't work, but the one to the MySpace page of the anti-GGW activists does:
http://pandagon.net/2007/01/29/in-our-troubled-times-a-shining-moment-of-victory/

Cassandra Says said...

Kudos to you! GGW is all about tricking women into things that they would never do willingly with the aid of copious quantities of booze. That's the whole point.
I know a woman who's on one of the videos. She was 19 at the time, and was so drunk that she didn't even remember doing it until she saw the video. I'm sure she probably signed a release,but I am unconvinced that legal documents signed after 10 martinis should be considered binding.
Thanks for articulating the difference between this kind of crap and porn that's made with all parties consenting...you know, while they're still sober?

Stuff Daddy said...

Good Job! Joe Francis is a sick, nasty man, a thin veneer away from Andrew Luster and I wish upon him a similar fate. Unfortunately, he prays on a ripe culture of bizarre false empowerment porn. I would love to see a covert "Gorilla Girls" type of attack on him in documentary form, exposing him and his crew.

I do think that a bar tour is a sign that his time is almost up.

Trinity said...

"I know a woman who's on one of the videos. She was 19 at the time, and was so drunk that she didn't even remember doing it until she saw the video"

Horrible!

Cassandra Says said...

Trin - It gets better. She was sitting in a room full of her college buddies when she saw it. They all started looking at he funny. Even when she started crying the response was still "how cuold you have done that?".
Sometimes I have a hard time not believing that the majority of the human race have no compassion at all.

plain(s)feminist said...

I am unconvinced that legal documents signed after 10 martinis should be considered binding.

That's exactly it. I really don't get why that's holding up in court. Maybe they're signing the things before they get blasted, and simply doing more than they planned, but there's a problem here. If it's rape if she's drunk, even if she consented before, then why the hell is this shit ok?!

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