About a decade ago conducted interviews with over 40 topless dancers in seven Gentlemen’s Clubs in a major metropolitan city in the Southwest with a population of approximately one million people. The research focused on how the dancers managed the stigma of their deviant occupation. It was found that while the dancers used a variety of stigma management techniques, for analytical purposes they could be collapsed within two “umbrella categories”: dividing the social world (Goffman 1963); and rationalization and neutralization (Sykes and Matza 1957).
This study replicates that study a decade later. The research for this current study was conducted at five gentlemen’s clubs, three of which were included in the earlier study, and two additional clubs that were currently considered the most exclusive gentlemen’s clubs in the city. He outcome of the study were generally quite consistent with those a decade earlier. Topless dancers still managed the stigma of their deviant occupation by dividing their social worlds and using traditional techniques of neutralization to rationalize their behavior.
Additionally, they found that they relied heavily on cognitive and emotive dissonance to reduce the emotional strain of the work and to alternately embrace their role as dancer and distance themselves from it as the situation seemed to dictate. In this paper I will be explaining three different questions on the interactionist perspective and Conflict perspective. The interactionist perspective views society as the product of countless encounters between human beings in everyday social activity.
A question interaction theorist might ask would be: Why do individuals do the things that they do? On the other hand, the conflict perspective focuses on competition and conflict between social groups and the change of those results. Some questions a conflict theorist might ask are: How do other categories of people attempt to improve their social position? How is society divided? The rest of this paper will show how the article answers the 3 different questions. Why do individuals do the things they do?
In the article, this question was answered by the many topless dancers interviewed. Some claim it’s all about the money that is made while doing this. You can make more money doing this part time then you would, working fulltime in another job. It’s easy money and if you have the face and the body why not using it to get paid. Many reasons have been cited as to why woman become topless dancers; however the overriding motivation is to make money. The more attractive the dancer, the more business she generates.
Therefore beauty and sexuality act as the currency in the profession. “One night a friend of mine who worked in one of the clubs invited me to come watch her dance. I went and had a few drinks and watched. She kept trying to get me up on stage, but I wouldn’t do it. That night she made over $500! I thought, ‘wait a minute, I have to work my butt off to make $500, then with takes and everything… and I’ve got a better body than her… this is crazy. ’ Danced the next night and made $400 and didn’t even know what I was doing.
At first I kept my job and started dancing three times a week. Before long, I was making a lot more dancing then selling houses. I quit the real estate job and have been dancing ever since. ” (Topless Dancer, p. 304) There are no job prerequisites to become an exotic dancer. Formal training is minimal. Dancers learn a set of rules, such as: never leave money unattended: never leave the club with a customer; and never refuse a table dance, things like that. As long as she can “sell” herself, she is capable of becoming a topless dancer.
How do other categories of people attempt to improve their social position? In this case, topless dancers work hard to be able to support themselves and their love ones. Some females claimed that the reason for choosing this alternative route is to be able to pay for school, take care of their children, or even just to make enough money to be happy. “I’m not proud of what I do but I do it for my daughter. I figure if I can make enough money doing this and raise her right, she won’t ever have o stoop to doing the same thing. ” (Topless Dancer, p. 07) These dancers may feel ashamed about what they do to get their money but they are making enough of it to improve their social position. Many lie about being topless dancers. Instead they call themselves entertainers. This would be an appropriate term for them as well, since they pretty much are entertaining men. How is society divided? Goffman (1963) indicated that information control was one of the most effective methods for managing stigma and suggested that one of the most practical ways to control information was to divide the social world.
This involves establishing a small group with which the discrediting information is shared, while keeping it hidden from the rest of the world. Dividing the social world also creates a strong sense of in-group alignments and cohesion that contributes to dancers identifying with one another and working to help conceal their stigmatizing occupational identities in other social arenas. Some dancers would tell one parent and that parent would look out for her and make sure the other parent won’t find out, since the occupation is a shameful one.
They would give themselves another name for what they do. Instead of calling themselves strippers they would call themselves entertainers, or they would just say they are waitresses or students. Some keep it from their parents because they are afraid of what they would say and how they would react. Most of the dancers indicated that they divide their social worlds in order to held hide their deviant occupation, most were quick to point out that they did not see anything wrong with what they were doing.
Many of them used some of the techniques of neutralization outlined by Sykes and Matza (1957). In conclusion, to manage stigma, dancers used many of the same techniques of information control, dividing the social world, and neutralization that they used a decade ago (especially denial of injury, condemnation of the condemners, and appeal to higher loyalties0. Additionally, dancers used cognitive and emotive dissonance to reduce the emotional strain of their work and to ameliorate the discrepancies between their attitudes about topless dancing, the customers, and the clubs, and their behaviors.
Finally it was discovered that dancers employed cognitive and emotive dissonance to separate their dancer personas from their personal “selves”. While arguing that there was nothing wrong with that they do, most of the dancers indicated that it took heavy emotional toll on their personal and social lives, especially in their ability to maintain self-esteem and develop meaningful relationships with other people especially other men.