Male Privilege And Objectification In Magic Mike
By Alex Cranz
In 2000 in North Texas you had to be 18 to enter a strip club featuring female dancers and 21 to enter a strip club featuring male dancers. I didn’t actually want to really GO to a strip club because people flopping their bits about in my face and smelling of coconut oil just doesn’t do it for me, but I was hella incensed that I could go watch ladies grind into dudes but couldn’t watch a dude thrust his junk into a woman’s face.
More incensed were my friends in high school who went to a club to celebrate a girl’s birthday and were turned away. “Go see some chicks” the bouncer told them. Only this was pre-Katy Perry and TATU so girls/women watching female exotic dancers was just pretty gay and all of the high schoolers turned away were pretty straight.
Watching Magic Mike though? Man I get why you would need to be 21 for a show like that. As we’ve established, my knowledge of the exotic dancing industry is limited to romance novels, Showgirls and The Sopranos. I may know where every dance club in the Dallas/Fort Worth area is but I’ve never had a desire to go into one.
From my limited knowledge it’s pretty safe to say that when women dance it is for the pleasure of the audience. She is a tool to arouse their libido. She does not exist as a human being but as an object and the industry around her is designed to reinforce that concept. A male exotic dancer is meant to be objectified as well, but here’s a key difference in how they’re portrayed versus how every female exotic dancer ever has been portrayed. When a male dancer is on that stage? He is in control. He owns the room. The women sway to his beat. He chooses who to dance with and he manipulates her.
Steven Soderbergh puts you into the shoes of these dancers. Gives you a glimpse at precisely what is so intoxicating about their careers. He lets you in on their sense of power (while also exploring the malaise that such a lifestyle can engender and creating a film that trolled every audience hoping for some softcore Showgirls for ladies).
When a woman dances on film there’s always this sense of danger. As if at any moment things will shift. The crowd will turn and she could find herself molested, or worse, raped. None of that fear exists for these male dancers. It’s as Mike alludes to in the film, you get free sex, loads of money and the adoration of two hundred women every night? What’s not to love for a straight dude?
The theater I saw Magic Mike in reinforced that. It’s one of those fancy ones where you can have a few drinks and a hamburger while you watch your film and the audience was full of women celebrating birthdays and preparing for marriage. Exactly one server was male and the women behind me spent the thirty minutes before the film started hitting on him. Drunkenly demanding he dance, strip, or give them a kiss.
While I was thoroughly uncomfortable and maybe a little fearful that an impromptu striptease was about to go down directly behind my head the server ate it up. He loved the attention (and probably the tips) and even went and found another good-looking male server to come in and chat up the women. Someone remarked that it was sexual harassment.
“Not if he likes it,” she slurred.
And yeah, he did seem to like it, if the big grin and the “y’all ladies ready?” was anything to go by.
The film and the theater were both exemplifying that idea of male privilege we love to talk about. Sure you’re going to run into some guys who are upset about the objectification of men in the film, but they’re missing the key difference between these men and female exotic dancers. These guys maintain their power while they dance. They hold onto the privilege that has been afforded them and actually use it when interacting with their audience. They control the room. The women? The women just dance.