Lap Dancing: The Guardian Fails Again

Stripper
Tut tut tut tut tut...

As I’ve reported previously, the high-end, high-quality journalism of the Guardian has an achilles heel: sexuality. Whenever this mysterious subject raises its head, the Guardian seems to feel that it must respond with a mix of straight-laced puritanism and British schoolboy-type giggling.

I’ve reported about the attacks on London strip clubs, and the people who work in them, by a bizarre mix of anti-sex “feminist” groups, including Object, and religious fundamentalists. My recent podcast featured interviews with strippers who are fighting against these attacks. If such an attack on unionised workers took place in any other industry, the Guardian would take a serious journalistic approach. But these unionised workers take their clothes off for a living; and Guardian editorial policy in such matters requires a mix of “Ooh Matron!” and “Tut tut, your nipples must be covered at all times!”

So imagine my (lack of) surprise when the recent publication of a report by two  British academics into the British lap-dancing industry was met with the usual lack of seriousness in a comment piece by Victoria Coren entitled We must hone our lap-dancing skills. It’s about strippers, and strippers aren’t real people (at least, none of the Guardian’s Oxbridge-educated journalists know any), so we can all have a laugh at these working class women who undress for a living.

The writers of the original report, Dr Kate Hardy and Dr Teela Sanders of Leeds University, have responded with a letter to the Guardian, which they shared with MoronWatch:

Dear Sir,

 Victoria Coren’s ‘wry’ look at our research on labour conditions and mainstreaming of the lap dancing industry is lazy, Chinese whispers journalism in which the author has simply lifted an already poorly reported story from another news source.

Satire aside (I’m sure Coren is au fait with Aristotle’s theory of humour), the piece not only denigrates the women who work in lap dancing clubs as deserving subjects for sneering and ridicule, but also denigrates sociological and academic knowledge production itself.

We did not meet in a lap dancing club and ‘shriek’ (just to throw in a little more misogyny). Funding for the project was awarded to Dr Sanders from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), a highly esteemed and regarded funding body, in a close competition with many applications judged by a lengthy process of peer review.

We are not worried about the quality of lap dancing for consumers, but the safety, well-being and quality of the working lives of the women who work in the clubs. Our research actually charts the rise in exploitation that women have faced in lap dancing clubs since the beginning of the crisis, which employers have enabled through a process of deskilling and therefore opening up of the labour market. Victoria Coren would know this if she had done anything resembling her homework.

Dr Kate Hardy (Lecturer in Work and Employment) and Dr Teela Sanders (Reader in Sociology)

Whether the Guardian will either publish the letter or allow the researchers a full right to respond is currently unknown, although based on recent history, I’m not hugely optimistic.

4 thoughts on “Lap Dancing: The Guardian Fails Again”

  1. Of course the guardian will do their usually if you not a Kat Banyard feminista your opinion doesn’t count approach. After the advert… sorry I mean article written and published on line yesterday by Kat Banyard on the new CEO of Object and the deletion by the moderators of anything that was a bit too honest the Guardian/Observer has clearly put the rights of a few individuals over the rights of anyone who doesn’t agree with them. And considering the previous excellent research by Hardy and Saunders I am upset but not surprised by this attitude of Coren.

  2. I’m generally disappointed with how the Guardian approaches these matters.

    The problem with how it approaches feminism is that it by and large pays terrible, terrible writers – Bindel, Burchill and Ellen spring to mind. They’re a prime example of people who could not help wreck feminism any more. I’m at least vaguely pleased that they’ve published an article which might be terrible, but which isn’t as profoundly unhelpful as the toss which the writers I’ve mentioned do. It’s just a bit of a misfire.

    As an aside, this isn’t the first time Coren has utterly failed to do her homework. She did it just last week, as it happens. She’s just not very good at properly researching and presenting facts. As it happens, she came up with a particularly bad corker just last week on the topic of Liam Stacey:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/08/victoria-coren-liam-stacey-tweets

    It’s pretty clear that she hasn’t even bothered to look up what he was charged with or what the offence actually entails. She’s rightly raked over the coals for it in the comments. It actually makes me quite irritated that people can get these high-paying columns despite, well, not really being in the know about an awful lot of things.

    Coren’s problem is that her tone veers towards the vaguely biting and knowing, but she often shows herself up as not really understanding what she’s talking about. It’s a shame as she can actually be quite witty when she’s on form, but she should perhaps stick to what she knows.

  3. It’s notable that Polly Toynbee is no longer listed as patron of Object on their website: perhaps their constant ‘advertorials’ within the Guardian’s pages, and the relative lack of success of their campaigns in the face of even semi-organised opposition (not to mention the exposure of some of their ethically and legally dubious tactics), have finally become an embarassment to her.

  4. Oh hold, I stand corrected: she’s still there, albeit listed under a different section. I guess it’s hard to teach an old dinosaur new tricks after all…

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