Monday, November 29, 2010

Masculinity and Clubs

I went to a club last Friday and talked about it on Feminist Agenda Radio tonight, and Heather mentioned that I should post about it. (DUH! Why didn't I think of that?) Anyway, I had an opportunity to help a friend out who is a locally established body painter at a club on Church Street and had an interesting time. I tried to translate some things we learned in class to this experience and made a few connections with masculinity, so here goes.

It was Friday night at 8:00 when we arrived and as soon as we got there, half of the models got sent to hair and the other half to us for full body paint so we got to work right away. 12 bodies in 4 hours. We set up downstairs in the women's restroom and immediately filled the whole area with all of our equipment. Originally I was "assisting" here and there, cleaning things and making sure the models were prepped, but as time became limited, I ended up airbrushing entire bodies in freehand designs in Mondrian-esque shapes mixed with loads of glitter. It was really great, because I got to observe some talented individuals and learn some useful techniques to add to my skillset (plus it beats the monotony of wedding makeups I've been doing all month). I noticed a lot of the female models were not shy about taking their clothes off and have been airbrushed before. Even the ones who had never done this seemed to feel at ease, and though it made our jobs a lot easier, I was surprised that they had guts to stand there topless unabashed by anyone looking or throwing any commentary their way. I mean, I've worked on nude models, but it was usually in the sanctity of a studio or home, and at most around three or four people. Maybe it was their thing? Who knows. I later found out that all the models were found off Craigslist, and none of them were getting compensated, so I was convinced that these women did it for the art and were not scared to show their bodies off in front of random people.

Mind you, the club was closed, but once 10:00 hit, the doors opened and we continued to work until the very end. The women's bathroom had to remain open because of ventilation, so people who walked by or needed to use the restroom could see what was going on inside. Various women walked in and were fascinated by everything, asking what was going on, and I politely responded that it was for a show featuring swimsuits made by local designers. They were fairly intrigued and very responsive in a positive way and complimented all of us on our work which was nice. The guys on the other hand were a different story. Up until this point I had my artistic hat on but it slowly turned into an "equality" hat (which is fairly new and hasn't been worn yet, since I just started taking Women's Studies this semester). Here's a little of what I heard:

"You're one lucky guy to be painting all those girls, could I have a try?!?"

"What kind of paint are you using and do they need help taking any of that off tonight?!?"

"Need any help?"

"What is that you're using, KOHL!?!" (I loved this the most because he tried to relate)

I can somewhat understand how the female patrons were forced to say something here and there because it was a space that they needed to be in, being that three guys were in there painting nude bodies, but the uninvited comments from the gawking men at the bar bothered me a bit. I was concerned about the girls and asked the one I was finishing if she was ok and wanted to move to a different area. She replied "Hey, if they want a show let's give it to them", and did a "Maxim-type" pose as a guy snapped his camera phone. I was confused and offended--mostly because rude/drunk people annoy me--but shouldn't this girl be offended too?

Once all the models were done, we were asked to go up to the VIP area to watch and enjoy the show. Since it was a favor, the coordinator for the event gave us free drinks all night along with a couple bottles and our own table. I don't drink anymore but it was a very kind gesture, and by this time it was almost midnight so I was ready to go. We stayed a few more minutes and once they lined up the crowd roared and migrated to the stage. The DJ announced the designers and one by one each girl walked up and did a little "runway" walk showing off our work. I definitely felt proud but kept thinking about those comments from before. Normally I'm the type who shrugs things off and labels anyone as ignorant but I couldn't let it go. I scoped out the audience for the "male reactions" and of course I wasn't surprised at their attentiveness to the flesh onstage. Why was I aware of this behavior and didn't think much of the objectification of women? Did I always shrug things off because it was easier? This reminded me of the movie we watched about the misogyny and homophobia at the Daytona Beach event.

So once it was over I left. I got home, took a shower and remembered why I disliked clubs in the first place. The End.

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