Dear Stripper/SWorker Community,
This is for you, for us. If you don’t know yet, the popular shoe company, Pleasers, had recently changed a category of stripper shoes to the name “Pole Dance Fitness Shoes.” We were greatly saddened and hurt by this choice. They have since changed it back and have been apologizing. But I’m not satisfied. Below is my letter to them that was sent today, November 18, 2020 at 4:50pm PST.
I have been a loyal customer since 2002. My first stripper shoes were Pleasers, and every pair after that for my entire career. There wasn’t anything comparable for the longest time. I used to head to Hollywood Blvd and Wilcox where the stripper shoe stores were. My Spearmint Rhino Entertainer of the Year photo on the wall behind the cashier. Never have I ever purchased any other brand of stripper shoe. Several years into my stripping career, I had a pair of 8 inch platform heels tattooed on the sides of my neck. These shoes represented so much to me… stomping on the patriarchy, for one. I felt rebellious and strong. I felt taller and powerful, sexy and smooth. I would brag to everyone about how wearing these shoes while walking around stadium sized strip clubs in Las Vegas for eight hours was more comfortable than a civilian shoe. I would take stripper heels over any other shoe any time.
Here is some background on who I am and why I’m writing to you…
First off to give some background on myself. I’m the original owner and founder of United Pole Artists, a pole dance media company. One that strived to bring pole dancers and strippers together. I was a leader of a movement called EveryBody Visible, created shortly after Instagram started banning pole dancers and strippers. Deleting us, blocking us and denying us the algorithms that are available to others. Trying to erase us. I’m a union coordinator for Soldiers of Pole, a stripper labor movement. I spend countless unpaid hours working for this underserved community. I’d like to ask you, do you know about any of these projects? Do you know about the Stripper Strikes across the country led by our BIPOC community members? Have you donated to any of them?
At the height of my dancing career, in December of 2018, I was hit by a car while driving my motor scooter. That car’s bumper mutilated my foot. It hit the back of the scooter where my foot was resting and crushed all five of my toes and the ball of my foot on impact. It was all pancaked together and an immediate amputation. Needless to say, I lost the most important part of the foot. The part that made it possible to wear my stripper heels. The first thing I asked my doctor when he came to deliver me the news was “But can I wear my stripper heels again?” He said yes and I was relieved. I thought, “No big deal. I can still wear the shoes eventually, I can still walk. I’ll be fine.” Ask anyone who knows me, this did not slow me down. Four months later, I was squeezing my half foot into 6 inch black ankle boots, adding my thong underwear and airplane pillow memory foam into the toe of the shoe so I could have a cushion. It hurt like hell to be honest, but it didn’t matter, I was in my shoes again.
Cut to a year and a half later, my half foot construct was breaking down. Doctors told me it was time to have another surgery. They wanted to continue to save my half foot, but I thought ahead to the future. How long would it take to heal? (Another 4-6 months) Would it even work? (maybe not) With this new surgery, can I fit in the heels again? (50/50 chance the answer is no) The idea of not being able to wear my stripper heels again was devastating. I had a decision to make and spent two weeks contemplating opting to cut off the half foot, my ankle and part of my shin bone. There were other reasons to opt in for this surgery, like if this one doesn’t work I have to do more surgeries. The idea they were pitching to me was to cut off a layer of my muscle and an entire layer of skin that would lay on top of the foot’s end and form and stitch it to the end of my half foot. This would have been to create padding around the end of my bones, as the issue was, the bones had pushed through what muscle was left over from the accident. They were too close to the surface of my skin, so he thought, let’s add extra padding by doing a muscle graft. Then he said the following, which led to the defining moment of making my decision. “If you get the muscle graft it could grow (the muscle itself could expand like all of our muscles on the body does) and it would be hard to fit into certain types of shoes.”
My doctor knew me, he knew from day one that that was a concern of mine. After he said that, my mind was made up. On May 29, 2020, I went into the hospital to have part of my leg amputated. I was thrilled. Someday, I can wear the shoes again and, with a custom prosthetic, I can go back to 8 inches and open toes, which are my favorite.
Then, it came to my attention that Pleasers, like everyone else, are doing very little to support my community. My huge heart broke into pieces. Not only doing very little, but blatantly disrespecting the very people who built your brand. I heard your apology, but I’m writing to tell you, it’s not enough. We want more.
In my years of sex industry work, I have been watching strippers get erased from social media, get exploited to the max in the clubs experiencing the most extreme wage theft in more recent years. I watched as the government specifically wrote us out of the SBA plan, I hear violent and dehumanizing jokes at our expense while we are the inspiration for hip hop music, for style, fashion and empowerment. And over these years, most of us have never come to you to ask you for anything. For me personally, you seemed untouchable. Especially after your sales model changed and you went mostly wholesale. Meanwhile, the shoes are what made us who we are in a way and WE are most definitely who made YOU who you are.
You say you spoke to the pole dance community about this, but did you speak to sex workers? Because if you spoke to sex workers that represent and speak on social justice, then you would have gotten proper advice. While I appreciate your swift attention to this, I find it’s not enough. I’ve spent the last three days walking around my house, shaking my head and saying out loud to whoever is listening, “Et tu, Brute?!” (For reference, this is what Caesar said to his number one best friend, confidant, and supporter named Brutus, who stabbed him in the back and watched him die while standing shoulder to shoulder with the other people that conspired against him) With so many things against us, so many people wanting to “separate themselves from strippers due to stigma” (eyeroll, so much to unpack there), with corporations and the government doing everything in their power to silence us, at least we had companies that put us first, or so we thought. This was a punch in the gut. I truly hope you understand the damage you’ve done here. We can’t stop talking about it. For you, this will not go away overnight. I have some suggestions for you that I hope you will take.
- Donate to sex worker organizations
- Soldiers of Pole
- Stripper Strike PDX
- Stilettos Inc
- Black Sex Worker Collective
- There are more, the list goes on and on…
- Do an interview on Yes, A Stripper Podcast
- This is my podcast that tons of strippers and sex workers listen to. I’ve arranged to have at least one POC woman to have a conversation with you. It’s imperative that you speak to people who represent the BIPOC communities, as they are one of the most marginalized folx among us.
- Feature sex workers/strippers on your social media accounts
- We do not get visibility due to the stigma attached to us
- Please choose BIPOC and/or Trans people. They are the most shadowbanned among us and would benefit the most from being visible on your platform
- Check out @therealizziepop – an Indigenous amputee stripper who gave me the inspiration to have a special foot custom made so I can wear stripper heels again, just like her. #MyHero
- As Cacique Nova Caine suggested, add more BIPOC and people with diverse abilities on your home page.
- Everything up front is skinny, abled and white
- Sponsor sex workers/strippers
- We do not get sponsored for shows or events
- Other corporations are afraid to sponsor us because they don’t want to be associated with sex workers.
- You are in a position to do so. You have the money and the connection to sex workers.
- Let me be clear, YOU Pleasers are in the number one best position to sponsor our shows that need more attention. YOU are the corporation that can change that for us.
- List of online strip clubs (listed below can be found on IG)
If you spoke to the stripper community and paid even the slightest attention to what we are dealing with you would know how much of a struggle it’s been. We are out of work due to Covid. The clubs that have opened have almost doubled their house fees. We have been gentrified out of OnlyFans, as celebrities have now appropriated our culture. We have been, for years, at the effect of some pole dancers wanting to “clean up” the history of pole dance by claiming that Indian and Chinese men created pole dancing. We are continuously stomped out of social media by puritanical companies. Then, we have you, the shoes we walk in, the identifier of who and what we represent, who we run with, who we support and love, jump in on that erasure. It may seem silly to you, but think of it this way. What if a ballet shoe company changed what they called ballet shoes? What if a tap dance shoe company changed what they called tap dance shoes?
I heard your apology, that erasure was not your intention. But like I said, we need more now. I’m looking for you to engage in conversation with us. Show your faces. I’m looking for you to find out how you, a leader in fashion in our industry, can support the people who have spent thousands, THOUSANDS of dollars on your brand. If you can’t step up the plate, I don’t think I can ever buy a Pleaser pair of shoes again. Please make this right. We need more allies and that “Pole Dance Fitness Shoe” thing made us all feel a lot more lonely in this fight. I’d like to finish with a phrase from a song that I’ve been listening to every day lately. “There be no shelter here. The frontline is everywhere.” ~ Rage Against the Machine. These words have never rung so true for us. You have greatly disappointed so many strippers. We never expected to have to fight for the damn shoes that identify us. In case you have been wondering why we’re so upset, I’ve just laid it out for you, as have my stripper siblings. Now, what will you do with this information? The cultural appropriation has to stop. We are asking that you join us in this mentality. We are asking you to do better in a time that is calling for everyone to do better. But not just for the time we are in now, but because it’s the right thing to do. Step up, Pleasers. Stand tall like your tallest 10 inch heels, rise up the occasion and do what’s best for the community that has never asked you for anything. Well, we’re asking now since you’ve made it clear you are willing to listen to your customers. We are your OG customers… What will you do for us?