The ladies I performed with in the new Mastodon video, “The Motherload,” were not all strippers, but I don’t think that matters much to the 800,000-plus viewers that watched the video in the first week. Though those of us who were strippers initially sat in cliques—the girls who knew each other from the same club or girls who had danced with each other in the past—we still exchanged pleasant glances. When the director came in and told us we’d be having a twerk dance battle with dancers we didn’t know, there was a momentary gasp.
This could get ugly.
But it didn’t. The stupid myths that women are naturally catty, and that exotic dancers are even more so, were not confirmed on set. In fact, we started off reserved with each other, but the first time one of the girls dropped a slamming split, we all knew that we were here to do our own individual things and were not each other’s competitors. The song rocked, we were having fun, we weren’t trying to out-hustle or throw shade.
Post-video, post-release, I looked for the responses of other strippers, other pole dancers, hell, even professional dancers. The silence was deafening. It is obvious why the pole dancers have said very little—many of the forums I belong to never gave the video a moment’s attention—there was no pole in the video! But there’s more to that. The twerking that happens in pole classes—twerking, booty claps, isolations—are seen as more high-brow than the fierceness we performed on set. There’s an accepted hierarchy placing hobbyist pole dancers at the top and strippers at the bottom, and their silence was a way of reaffirming that hierarchy.
Their cattiness is obvious in their silence. The myth of the catty woman is perpetuated from outside of the video, much like claims of racism and sexism. Most of my experience with other sex workers happens out of the office—I’m usually on cam or dancing solo on a party bus—but that didn’t stop me from immediately bonding with the other girls on set despite knowing they had long histories with each other I didn’t share. On set, we were all the same. On set, there was no hierarchy between the pole dancers, the strippers, the cheerleaders. And it wasn’t ugly, it was beautiful.