You’ve Got Problems: George Takei

by Elle on April 9, 2013 · 28 comments

in This Time, It's Personal, You're Not Funny

150463_637864889576301_2061639033_nFamous 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?”

“George Takei.”

“The actor?”

“Yeah. He posts a lot of stuff, but nothing like this usually.”

“Weird.”

“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 Frosta 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.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Wendy April 9, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I don’t know who that is, but he sounds like a piece of shit misogynist who doesn’t understand women and fears their sexuality. No surprises there.

Part of me wants it to stay taboo though. Can you imagine how many more girls would flood the clubs if nobody was apprehensive to it? Think of all those hot girls with boyfriends telling them not to dance, and all those eighteen year olds who live at home with conservative parents. Think of what would happen if all of the beautiful grocery store workers realized they made shit wages and had no social qualms about stripping. We would have to compete with ALL of them! I don’t want to do that! However, I fucking hate misogynists and hope this George person gets punched in the face for being so fucking stupid.

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BP April 9, 2013 at 10:10 pm

I didn’t strip because I had bad parents – I stripped because I had POOR parents. Not the same thing, at all.

I see this type of joke in so many forms – like Chris Rock’s bit about “keeping your daughter off the pole.” Gross – daughters have their own bodies and minds beyond a father’s governance, for one thing.

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DC April 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm

So if the caption read “Without POOR parents, there’d be few good strippers”, that would be OK?

No, I didn’t think so.

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BP April 13, 2013 at 3:17 am

Well it’s a good thing I didn’t say that.

I was just sharing my individual experience and how the caption clashed with it. Not sure how this got lost in translation. Obviously if it said “poor parents” it would still be deeply offensive on multiple levels, and even more hurtful for me personally.

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Sheldon April 9, 2013 at 10:40 pm

This is just crazy – Takei, you are not OK.

He was the Guest of Honor at a Star Trek Mini-con in New York City in the 1970s run by my friend Len Katz. We took George – after the convention was over – to a strip club in Times Square, where he enjoyed the undulations of a fairly athletic and exotic stripper named Patia Von Sternberg(sp?), who put out lit cigarettes between her legs. Katz’s assistant, Conn Quinn, told me he wasn’t there to have sex with her, since he was gay.

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Matt "PappaSmurf" April 10, 2013 at 12:40 am

Great response. I couldn’t agree more.

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M Megan April 10, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Ugh…that is incredibly annoying. There is that stereotype, that every stripper snorts crack, has five kids and no education. There are definitely some strippers that perpetuate that stereotype. However, I applaud them for working and supporting their children instead of sitting at home collecting assistance checks and utilizing Medicaid. I think percentage of college graduates varies by region. I work day shift at my club and of the forty of us that rotate through, only four have any higher than a high school education, myself included. If an area is more economically depressed, it is more likely the dancers will have lower levels of education.

I have a master’s degree and I used stripping to pay for it. I have no regrets at all. One of the other dancers is getting her master’s in psychology so she can go on to get a PhD. You can’t paint everyone in a profession with a single brush stroke. It’s offensive that people assume all strippers are the aforementioned stereotype. I actually had a customer grab my arms one time and try to find track marks. Needless to say, he didn’t get a dance with me.

It all boils down to the fact that some men don’t like women having control of our sexuality because it gives them less power. Other women are like sheep and don’t realize that they are assisting in repressing women as a whole by going along with the slutshaming.

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rebecca zuniga April 10, 2013 at 3:18 pm
oliveseraphim April 10, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Not long ago he posted a picture a picture of a woman falling over in a snowstorm with a cask of beer outside a car with a driver sitting inside with the caption “best wife ever” and excused it by saying, “you don’t know she was married to a man!” errr. After that, this doesn’t surprise me to be honest. I guess it’s too much to ask for men not to be misogynist let alone whorephobic.

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eddiejc1 April 13, 2013 at 12:30 am

How’s this for a retort—“Thank God there are still parents who raise narcisstic psychpaths—otberwise there would be no actors in television.”

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eddiejc1 April 13, 2013 at 12:33 am

I don’t know any strollers, but I will bet over 90% of them have better parents than Lindsay Lohan.

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Wendy April 13, 2013 at 10:18 pm

This seems kind of unrelated, but when Britney Spears and her sister started having babies, the popular thing to do was criticize their mother for being a bad parents because her daughters had children and happened to be a little younger than some mothers, and Britney had some problems, as many people have problems, starting out as a first time mom. Britney particularly had some problems because of her unusual paparazzi attention and fame. I feel that a lot of people criticized the Spears family and parenting not only for this, but because Britney was open and comfortable expressing and talking about her sexuality. Nothing was wrong with any of that, and I don’t think the Spears mother seemed like a bad mom. Britney had some issues with fame, and a sane reaction to the fucked up media is to go a little bonkers. Does anybody else see the analogy here between criticizing Britney’s mom and criticizing the parents of strippers, or am I just rambling?

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Matthew April 15, 2013 at 4:24 am

Maybe a little rambling, Wendy, but not *too* bad ;) For the most part though I do agree – parenting is tough and anyone will have troubles. Any one of us whose under the scrutiny of the public eye could look like a lunatic and poor parent in any given moment when taken by a still of a camera in that instance.

Like Belle’s original post, I find it frustrating George would post something like this, rather unapologetically, when he’s typically much more open and accepting.

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Matthew April 15, 2013 at 4:26 am

Ugh, typo (on my new tablet I’m trying to figure out) – Elle, not “Belle.” Sorry, missy :)

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Wendy April 15, 2013 at 5:01 pm

I don’t go on tits and sass to talk to men.

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Caty Simon Caty Simon April 15, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Except for sex worker men, right?

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Wendy April 16, 2013 at 3:13 am

Correct.

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Matthew April 16, 2013 at 12:55 pm

Wait.. sexism? Wasn’t expecting to find a double standard here. I’m a bit disappointed.

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Cate April 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm

I’m really disappointed by the response to Matthew. While it wasn’t the kindest thing to call Wendy’s response rambling, the fact that he was agreeing is awesome!
I think a lot of times we forget that there’s a big difference between men who are accepting of sex workers because it’s socially acceptable for them to be and actual allies. Let’s cultivate the allies, people!

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Matthew April 19, 2013 at 1:31 am

Thank you, Cate. I would also like to apologize to Wendy. I meant my saying she was rambling a bit to be teasing, and it didn’t occur to me it may have been offensive. Emotion truly doesn’t convey well through text. Again, I apologize, and thanks for the support. I’m certainly an ally.

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Wendy April 19, 2013 at 11:24 am

Well, I don’t want to talk to a fucking man when that is what I do at work. Furthermore, accusing a member of a marginalized oppressed group of “reverse-sexism” or “reverse-racism” only shows one’s ignorance. Men will often feel they should be welcome anywhere and everywhere that women are, and disrespect their need to keep away from their oppressor. So you can go fuck yourself, Matthew, and perhaps you would find good company in a misogynistic group called “Men’s Rights Activists.” Don’t fuck with me, and don’t fucking talk to me.

I <3 Misandry!

Cate, I don't care about your disappointment that I was not welcoming to Matthew. I care about my desire to speak with other sex workers without having to speak to men who are not sex workers.

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Matthew April 19, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Fair enough.

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R. April 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm

So the assumption here is that everyone else’s priorities ought to revolve around one person’s lifestyle choices? That’s absurd. No one person’s preferences supersede everyone else’s rights. This is a public website, not a sex-workers-only forum. If titsandsass were a private site, then anger over an intrusion would be entirely justified, but it’s publicly accessible, so that anger is not justified. Wendy, you’re entitled to your opinion, but are not entitled to beat other people over the head with it. In any case, advocating a position of hatred is exactly the opposite of anything helpful to the cause of eliminating misogyny. Hate begets hate.

Matthew – You have just as much right to be here as anyone else. Just don’t be condescending anymore – nobody has time for that. Coming to any site requires a certain amount of respect for the other users, which I didn’t see in that first post, or in the one meant to be an apology.

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Gypsy May 23, 2013 at 10:32 am

Wow, @Wendy : Double standards, Hon. Men SHOULD be allowed anywhere women are. We should be allowed anywhere men are. Thats equality. I’d truly accept and applaud any male, female or person, sex worker or not, who found their way to this website and expanded their world view by reading the articles. Open discussion and seeing SWs as people (and intelligent people, at that) can only be helpful in making us more accepted in society.

Also – So you speak to men at work but refuse to talk to them outside of work? That must get extremely tricky.

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A Different Matthew April 20, 2013 at 5:17 am

Wendy,

Admittedly, I am not a sex worker, and as my name may suggest; I am a man. It is truly moving to have read this article – perhaps for reasons I cannot fully explain – it did make a great impression on me. The service of this piece seems to lie less in affirming the understandable reaction of anger or disappointment shared amongst sex workers and their families… and deeper in the realm of nurturing understanding in those who are ignorant. Those who had perhaps not considered the judgement and dehumanization associated with some occupations, and how pervasively the message is persistently reinforced.

I don’t mean to step on your toes, as there are certainly situations and places women and men value their mutual privacy. This sort of article – published with a public forum for discussion – seems like a place where understanding could be fostered in conversation which sets aside the old stories of oppressor and oppressed; and allows a dialog that embraces a new story in its unfolding.

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Kevin April 22, 2013 at 12:54 pm

I want to preface this comment by apologizing for any and all participation I have played (consciously or not) in the perpetuation of stereotypes toward sex workers and oppression of any sex/gender. This article has made me realize how judgmental I have been throughout my life toward the sex industry as a whole, and how much work I have to do to open my heart in that specific regard. I do not mean this as a shallow and hyperbolic recitation of “what I’m supposed to say”, but rather as a way for me to take personal responsibility for the misogynist/chauvinistic culture I am a part of (and trying to transform). [funny side note: "Peace, Love and Understanding" by Elvis Costello played on the radio as I type this]

I was directed to this article from realitysandwich.com – pointing out that the internet is a wide open place. Also that it is almost impossible (dare I say irresponsible) to restrict great content like this to a specific audience, especially considering reading it has transformed my perspective of sex workers. The power of language and communication to transform culture and society cannot be understated.

Everyone is capable of sexism. While the sexism of those who oppress and marginalize is quite obviously much more powerful, dangerous, and perpetuating of stereotypes and oppression – being a member of an oppressed or marginalized group does not remove the possibility or presence of sexism, racism, genderism, etc..

To be honest, I find it quite hypocritical to chastise someone for misogyny (quite rightly, I would agree) only to immediately turn around and espouse misandry as something great. There is a big difference between institutionalized sexism and individualized sexism. To immediately marginalize someone’s opinion due to their sex/gender/race/whatever is going directly against the goals of understanding and egalitarianism which are our only hope as a society/species, and goals this site seems to value. If this site wants to challenge and correct “public opinion” and cultural misinformation with regards to sex workers, the commenters cannot afford to tell people off simply due to their sex or profession, as women can be just as ignorant and offensive as men. If we aren’t all in this together, we are going to make a much more difficult time for ourselves as a family of life.

Sorry for rambling, and if you read this far, thank you! I look forward to any correction or clarification of my assumptions.

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Olivia August 26, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I am frankly disgusted by your (Wendy’s) response to Matthew and he bothered to actually respond to your message on here yet you felt it was ok to tell him to fuck off and express contempt towards him purely based on his biological sex!? You have no idea who this person is. I thought he was really nice and friendly in his replies and you exhibited such aggression. It’s people like you who make sex workers look bad. It just makes you look like a total man-hater, presumably because of your job considering you said you already have to talk to men at work in a negative tone, not really helping your cause here. It’s incredibly ironic that you want a safe place to be open about your choices without judgement and stigma yet you are so quick to be nasty to a stranger purely based on him being male! You are exhibiting the exact same kind of discrimination George Takei did when he made a dig at strippers when he, being gay, should automatically be hyper-vigilant about minority groups, shame, and blame. Being abusive towards other people on this forum means this is not at all a safe place. If you want a place to talk to ONLY sex workers then it’s your job to find it.

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