WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media, AND…

Stephen Colbert applauds next feminist role model: “The Susan B. Anthony of Pole Dancing”

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

July 18th, 2007

What’s the best thing about working from home? Stephen Colbert is my lunch break. Just finished watching my DVR’d Colbert Report of Monday’s show, and came across a gem of a segment on Johnna Mink, the “Susan B. Anthony of pole dancing.”

In response to an Arizona Daily Star article headlined, “Pay discrimination against women endures,” Stephen set up the piece this way:

“I’m gonna say it. I think women should have the same rights as men. Yes. In fact, I was voted least misogynistic by my men’s only country club. But there are shocking statistics out there showing that discrimination still exists. Did you know that even today, women sill get paid only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes? (Note to self: hire more women.) But folks, some women aren’t waiting around for a man to open the door to the equality car. One such woman… is Johhna Mink, who is empowering women and making a difference…”

Cut to pole dancing instructor Mink talking about how she is a “role model for other women” because “if feminism is about being empowered, definitely this is a form of feminism” — her comments coming as voiceovers over B-roll of her spread-eagled, spandex-ed bod spinning around a stripper pole as suburban housewives hanker to try out their new exotic dance techniques.

Gotta love the so-apt send-up this segment gives to the constant stream of corporate news coverage that packages old-school sexual exploitation in new-school rhetoric about feminist empowerment (for today’s example, see Ann’s post on Feministing about a New Yorker article in which the owner of a bikini-babes-serve-you-meat restaurant calls his Hooters-esque knockoff “feminist”).

What I love about this spoof is the humor and hypocrisy wrested from classic Colbert let-them-hang-themselves-with-their-own-rope interviews. There’s the pole dance student who in one breath tells the camera, “I think some of the things that classic feminists fought for would be like women’s rights to vote, equal pay rights,” and then in the very next breath says that “pole dancing is better than classical feminism in every way possible.” (”The spins” are “the most empowering,” she adds.) There’s the manager of Larry Flynt’s Hustler strip club denouncing feminism but praises Mink for “putting the feminine back in feminism” (while a thong-wearing woman spreads ‘em behind him). And, of course, there’s Rich Marino, the husband of one of Mink’s students, who sums it all up for us with his enlightened insight that, “When I think of feminism I think of hairy, butch, nasty lesbians,” but that “it’s great that people think pole dancing is feminist because it make us look like pigs for watching it.”

No wonder Alison Piepmeier, director of women’s and gender studies at the College of Charleston and coauthor of the anthology Catching a Wave: Reclaiming Feminism for the 21st Century (which, FYI, includes my essay on the media-concocted “False Feminist Death Syndrome”) loves “The Colbert Report” enough to create the fan site “Feminists For Colbert,” complete with pictures of Charleston feminists — and their pets — in Colbert-worshiping tees!

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