The Feminist Strip Club

Labor issues faced by strip club entertainers—such as wage theft, discrimination, and sexual harassment—are regularly covered in mainstream press, yet entertainers’ perspectives are notably absent from these conversations. Monica Sheets sought to address this discrepancy by convening The Feminist Strip Club, where erotic dancers could discuss their working conditions, consult with labor researchers from the University of Minnesota, and develop programming to bring these discussions back to the public.

This programming took several forms. Cohort members spoke to University classes about labor issues including workplace discrimination, and they partnered with Workday Minnesota to publish a series of original articles about their experiences as workers. This writing also appeared in hard copy in Issue 1 of The GRIND, a 24-page, full-color, self-published zine with articles, photos, personal essays, and entertainers’ responses to online strip club reviews.

The VIP Room, an interactive performance staged at the University’s Weisman Art Museum, recreated a strip club VIP room, inviting participants to speak directly with dancers to better understand the working conditions they navigate. This experience was capped off by participants enacting the process of tipping out to management and club employees at the end of the night.

A panel discussion in June 2019 featured dancers, labor activists, and researchers in conversation about how Minneapolis has historically sought to control erotic spaces through regulation as well as newly proposed revisions to the City’s adult entertainment ordinance that had been developed with dancer input.

Group members also had a vocal presence at Minneapolis City Council hearings on the ordinance, which will improve workplace conditions for dancers. The ordinance passed unanimously on August 23, 2019.