I expose my 7-year-old daughter to as many things as I possibly can. We go to the Museum of African Diaspora together, and she has already been to several readings and open-mics. The girl paints, creates music, plays soccer, and loves math. Like all good fathers I try to be as supportive as possible. Even though her mother and I split several years ago I have always been a consistent presence in my little girl’s life. This is mostly because of my love for her and my strong desire for her to one day be a successful woman but it is also driven by an uncontrollable fear. I want my daughter to be talented and I want my daughter to be artistic but I do not want my daughter to become a stripper.
Over the past decade no institution –besides the penitentiary—has come to symbolize the failure of African-American father’s more than the strip club. Stripping is big business in every American city but it is even more lucrative in the Southern United States where a disproportionate amount of blacks either reside or send their children to Historically Black Colleges and Universities to be educated. There is a whole subgenre of hip-hop music made specifically for strippers to dance to; Pop Lock and Drop It, Rock her Hips, Shake it Like a Salt Shaker, Back That Thang Up, and a dozen other booty worshipping songs that cause me to quickly change the dial every time my daughter is in the back seat. “But I like that song Daddy,” she often says. “Well I don’t,” I tell her. At least not with her in the car I don’t.
The role of the stripper in society has been reinvented in the modern-era which adds a whole different dimension to my worst parenting nightmare. No longer is the stripper’s pole reserved for the neglected, tragically beautiful, young lady who grew up in foster care. Instead there is a huge cross-section of sisters who find themselves flinging their bodies from the stainless steel sphere and landing in a perfect split. There are graduate students, daughters of the bourgeoisie, former high-school athletes, and aspiring entrepreneurs all collectively making it clap for crisp new bills. Alas stripping has become a completely socially acceptable profession.
Not that I have anything against these women. I honestly believe that it takes a tremendous amount of swagger for these ladies to dance naked in front of total strangers as if they were dancing alone in front of a mirror. So many women have extreme insecurities about their bodies that it is somewhat refreshing to see females shake it with pride. My only issue is that I am scared that the incessant stream of black women dancing half-naked in music videos, and on billboards, in magazines, and in low-budget hip-hop movies, will force a whole generation of girls to think that is their only option in life.
No longer will young African-American females want to win gold medals like Dominique Dawes and Gail Devers. They won’t know that they can go to outer-space like Dr. Mae Jamison or make millions of dollars by starting their own business like Madam C.J. Walker. Instead they will think the only way they can get rich is by catching a hand full of bills thrown to them by some drunken rapper who was gracious enough to “make it rain” all over their once sacred bodies.
Needless to say I do not want that for my little girl. I want her to defy societal expectations and choose her own path. I want her to be socially outgoing yet ferociously independent. I want her to be proud of her culture while at the same time being aware that her people need her help. The last thing I want to do is fail like so many other black men.
Sometimes I close my eyes and I am haunted by the fact that every stripper had a daddy once. It is oh so troubling.