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Neon Girls: A Stripper's Education in Protest and Power

af Jennifer Worley

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
502521,183 (4)1
Biography & Autobiography. Sociology. Women's Studies. Nonfiction. HTML:

A riveting true story of a young woman's days stripping in grunge-era San Francisco where a radical group of dancers banded together to unionize and run the club on their own terms.
When graduate student Jenny Worley needed a fast way to earn more money, she found herself at the door of the Lusty Lady Theater in San Francisco, auditioning on a stage surrounded by mirrors, in platform heels, and not much else. So began Jenny's career as a stripper strutting the peepshow stage as her alter-ego "Polly" alongside women called Octopussy and Amnesia. But this wasn't your run-of-the-mill strip clubit was a peepshow populated by free-thinking women who talked feminist theory and swapped radical zines like lipstick.

As management's discriminatory practices and the rise of hidden cameras stir up tension among the dancers, Jenny rallies them to demand change. Together, they organize the first strippers' union in the world and risk it all to take over the club and run it as a co-operative. Refusing to be treated as sex objects or disposable labor, they become instead the rulers of their kingdom. Jenny's elation over the Lusty Lady's revolution is tempered by her evolving understanding of the toll dancing has taken on her. When she finally hangs up her heels for good to finish her Ph.D., neither Jenny nor San Francisco are the samebut she and the cadre of wild, beautiful, brave women who run the Lusty Lady come out on top despite it all.

A first-hand account as only an insider could tell it, Neon Girls paints a vivid picture of a bygone San Francisco and a fiercely feminist world within the sex industry, asking sharp questions about what keeps women from fighting for their rights, who benefits from capitalizing on desire, and how we can change entrenched systems of power.

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The now defunct Lusty Lady was a San Francisco institution in its day—a rather seedy peep show whose poles were worked by a group of women—many of them feminist lesbians—who in the mid '90s decided to band together against exploitative work conditions, unionised, and eventually banded together to run the place as a co-op. Jennifer Worley, who worked at the Lusty Lady in the '90s and early '00s while a financially struggling grad student, has produced a book which is both a highly readable memoir and a reflection on feminism and worker exploitation, one which is candid and sometimes serious but never po-faced or jargony.

True, Worley had the scope to dive more into the history of sex workers' rights—we learn occasional titbits, such as the fact that the famous burlesque artist Gypsy Rose Lee was also a union organizer, but little more than that. Worley doesn't proffer any big takeaway lessons, nor does she seem to have gone back and interviewed any of her former co-workers about their thoughts or memories. This is one woman's take on her experiences, and at times I would have liked a little more of a rounded view. Still, definitely worth reading if you're interested in feminism or labour history. ( )
  siriaeve | Mar 4, 2021 |
This book is a good hard look at a specific group of workers the general populace tends to look down upon (to put it mildly). I’ll be honest, the demand for people in these types of positions will more than likely NEVER cease. I honestly cannot applaud Jennifer more for all she accomplished during her nearly ten years as a stripper all the while going to school in hopes to finally achieve her Ph. D. Reading a different angle of the sex industry than my first plunge into it (How to Make Love Like a Pornstar: A Cautionary Tale by Jenna Jameson) was no less enlightening.

"It was wearing, though, having to assert, again and again, my own humanity, to prove myself a person dozens or scores of times each shift. It sometimes seemed as if all the large and small degradations of existing while female in this world had been simmered and reduced to a thick, too strong, too sour elixir that fed us in a steady drip, drip, drip."

How is it so easy for society to deem others beneath them, dismiss them as unintelligent, and exploit them for personal/business gain? The ladies employed by the Lusty in Jennifer’s history are a brilliant reminder as bright as neon itself that society should really know better about stuffing people into conveniently labeled boxes. I found the dynamics of the Lusty versus Chez Paree interesting – I’ll admit that all I’ve ever heard about are businesses like Chez Paree where the women have little to no control.

"I hated the idea that men I didn’t know or trust now had records of the work I did, that they could carry Polly, naked and unawares, from the safe refuge that had birthed and nurtured her, into that other world where I had to live my life. Would others meet her out there? My professors, students, college friends, people back home? Polly was mine, and she belonged in here, not out there."

Neon Girls: A Stripper’s Education in Protest and Power did an amazing job at highlighting the industry for both sides of the coin – exploitation, and empowerment. I highly recommend to readers who find memoirs/autobiographies, sexuality, history of the sex industry, protests, reform, and feminism interesting topics. I would like to thank Harper Perennial and Jennifer Worley for this eye-opening book – the courage and relationships of the women recounted in this book is truly something special. ( )
  thereviewbooth | Oct 2, 2020 |
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Biography & Autobiography. Sociology. Women's Studies. Nonfiction. HTML:

A riveting true story of a young woman's days stripping in grunge-era San Francisco where a radical group of dancers banded together to unionize and run the club on their own terms.
When graduate student Jenny Worley needed a fast way to earn more money, she found herself at the door of the Lusty Lady Theater in San Francisco, auditioning on a stage surrounded by mirrors, in platform heels, and not much else. So began Jenny's career as a stripper strutting the peepshow stage as her alter-ego "Polly" alongside women called Octopussy and Amnesia. But this wasn't your run-of-the-mill strip clubit was a peepshow populated by free-thinking women who talked feminist theory and swapped radical zines like lipstick.

As management's discriminatory practices and the rise of hidden cameras stir up tension among the dancers, Jenny rallies them to demand change. Together, they organize the first strippers' union in the world and risk it all to take over the club and run it as a co-operative. Refusing to be treated as sex objects or disposable labor, they become instead the rulers of their kingdom. Jenny's elation over the Lusty Lady's revolution is tempered by her evolving understanding of the toll dancing has taken on her. When she finally hangs up her heels for good to finish her Ph.D., neither Jenny nor San Francisco are the samebut she and the cadre of wild, beautiful, brave women who run the Lusty Lady come out on top despite it all.

A first-hand account as only an insider could tell it, Neon Girls paints a vivid picture of a bygone San Francisco and a fiercely feminist world within the sex industry, asking sharp questions about what keeps women from fighting for their rights, who benefits from capitalizing on desire, and how we can change entrenched systems of power.

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