COLUMN: 'Magic Mike' brings to light gender stereotypes in stripping
“Magic Mike,” a film about a group of male strippers, is set to open in theaters this weekend.
While female stripping is depicted frequently in various movies and TV shows, there has been little representation of male stripping in the media — until now.
The trailers of the film seem to present stripping as a beneficial and fun job for young men to have. In the trailers for “Magic Mike,” the men are often surrounded by screaming women who seem to have lost their minds at the sight of a half-naked man.
But in comparison to movies that feature female stripping, what message does this fun-loving male stripper atmosphere convey about gender stereotypes in our society?
Female stripping has been portrayed many different ways in the past. Take one of the most famous examples: “Flashdance.”
“Flashdance” follows Alex Owens, an exotic dancer who dreams of being accepted to a ballet school. Alex is not a stripper by the strictest sense of the term. However, when she discovers her friend Jeanie has begun work as a “dancer” at a nude club, Alex storms into the club and takes Jeanie away.
Jeanie is seen embarrassed and crying about her decision to become a stripper. It is portrayed as her last resort.
Sometimes stripping is portrayed as a glamorous and illustrious industry. However, more often (as in “Flashdance”), it’s depicted as a last resort.
“Magic Mike” seems to be a lighthearted movie. A comedy.
If this film were about women stripping, would it really seem like such a happy and fun industry and would people be as excited and giddy about the release of such a film?
The sexualization of females angers a lot of women, but no one seems particularly upset about treating the men in “Magic Mike” as sexual objects.
Perhaps this is because this film is one of the first of its kind and male stripping facilities are rare. Or, it might be that this movie will show these men as people with desires and dreams who just happen to strip in order to make money.
Film production companies are starting to realize movies marketed towards women can be profitable. However, it is still worth pondering what a film like this says about our society.
The real world of stripping is not as glamorous or as fun as this film and others would have it appear. “Magic Mike” is loosely based on the life of its star, Channing Tatum. Tatum spent time working as a stripper before he became an actor and has said he did not always particularly enjoy it.
The film also brings up questions about how men and women react to strippers. Men do not have a wide-spread opinion about male strippers. Many just laugh and shrug at the subject matter of the upcoming film. Oh the other hand, women feel animosity or disgust toward female strippers.
The two industries are certainly different because of the ways our society view the sexuality of each gender. Because women’s sexuality is often scrutinized more closely than men’s, the way they are viewed for stripping or even for watching male strippers is less acceptable within society than for men.
“Magic Mike” might bring about an era in film and television where men begin to become more sexualized. But this does not end gender stereotypes, nor is it necessarily an improvement.
It is important to acknowledge that all humans are innately sexual beings. In this respect, perhaps a glance into the world of male stripping is a step forward for our society.
However, it is equally important to ensure that all people are respected as equal human beings and not solely reduced to sexual objects.
Sarah Wilson is an English literature senior.
Mariah Webb is a film and media studies sophomore.