Famous for being helmsman Hikaru Sulu of the USS Enterprise in the original Star Trek series, actor and author George Takei is America’s clever gay grandfather. Takei currently plays to an audience of thousands via social media and is known for quotable and insightful Facebook and Twitter posts on everything from politics to gender issues to cute animal macros. On April 2nd, George alienated a decent amount of his followers when he posted this meme.
As a mother, wife, and child, I was annoyed and almost a little hurt.
My 54-year-old mother sat nearby, her eyes deep in her Catherine Crier book. We had stayed up late despite her return flight being early in the morning. I was rubbing my wrists in anxiousness, set back from the laptop when she glanced over. I turned the screen toward her.
“Who posted that?”
“Yeah. He posts a lot of stuff, but nothing like this usually.”
“Mom, how does that make you feel? That society says you’re a failure? That I’m a failure?”
A very long pause.
“Well, it doesn’t make me feel good.”
I felt betrayed by this usually whimsical stranger. And clearly, I wasn’t alone. Despite being “liked” over 39,000 times and shared ten thousand times as well, there was plenty of dissent; about 4,150 comments within the first 24 hours.
“oh no, George. I’m appalled and offended that you posted this. I have been a stripper for five years, and my parents are the best, most loving and committed and caring people. pole dancing is an art form, a skill, and is an extremely difficult one to master at that. I’m disappointed you would subscribe to this stereotype.” —Nikki Rose
“Please take this down. It is tasteless, ignorant, and judgmental. I am shocked that someone who advocates for acceptance, tolerance, and equality would post something that completely shames and insults sex workers.” —Holli Byrd
“Parents have been accused of BAD Parenting for their child being GAY, George. This post is NOT Cool!! Nothing Wrong with Stripping. It’s more Honest than working on Wall Street and stealing peoples money!!” —Actress Kisa
“It’s a joke that perpetuates negative stereotypes. I imagine you wouldn’t respond positively to jokes about how homosexuals are immoral.” — Kitschy de Coeur
And they go on.
Shortly after, George issued this “apology:” “My aim was to encourage parents to do a better job teaching young girls to value themselves and aim higher.”
To which Aja Frost, a particularly sassy dancer from Portland, Oregon responded:
You can’t post something racist, homophobic or sexist and then when people respond negatively, be like “Oh well I posted this as a commentary on how our society blahblahblah.”
No. It was a bad, sexist, whorephobic and slut-shaming joke. The punchline is that no woman with a good childhood could possibly grow up to earn money by taking her clothes off. And him claiming that strippers are “using their bodies rather than their minds” shows how few sex workers he’s ever spoken to. At least a quarter of those I work with (myself included) have a college degree, which is higher than the national average. Being a stripper takes a LOT more than dancing and looking pretty.
I don’t understand this statement. Firstly, a joke that says ‘Strippers come from fucked up homes” isn’t “encouraging” or “educational” or whatever fake noble intention he’s going to throw behind this after the fact. Secondly, if a woman was working in a fast food restaurant for measly minimum wage, would he make this joke about her? Or are women who utilize their sexuality for their job the only ones deserving to be laughed at? Why not make this joke about fashion models? Surely they’re only using their bodies for their job. Is it more respectable to be a wage slave in a system that puts your value around $7/hour OR to be a woman who makes her own schedule, sets her own price, can refuse customers who are disrespectful, and goes home with hundreds of dollars for a few hours of (admittedly hard) work? What exactly is the hierarchy here according to George Takei? I’m genuinely curious what women are expected to “aim higher” for when we earn less than men in 98% of all jobs (sex work being one of the few exceptions).
In summary, FUCK YOU, George Takei, and fuck your fake apology.
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Later, rereading some of the comments, I noticed that many of his supporters kept telling the offended to “take a joke.” Since I will wager that most of these people are not strippers, it would be like me telling a black person to relax if he saw someone painted in blackface, or to tell a gay man that he should relax when I refer to something as “gay.” Even people close to the industry, such as DJs or bar owners, should spare themselves the energy of encouraging me to care less. Because they will never be in my shoes, or I in theirs. I’ll not speculate at what life is like for an elderly, gay, Asian-American actor either, but George certainly had no problem assuming that my upbringing was bad.
At this point I will state that being homosexual or of African descent is not a choice, such as the choice to dance for a living, but using the denigration of any group of human beings as a form of amusement does nothing positive for any person.
Leave it to a silly internet meme to put me in a bad mood. As a stripper, I’d like to be able to exist for one day without being subjected to insults to my work. And being in opposition to this form of expression is not about proving my own worth, because I’ve never doubted my worth for a second. But I hope that fancy George Takei realizes that so many of his supporters—geeks, queens, gays, and “whores”—are also people who love their children, and maybe even their own parents.