Women's Equality Party covertly filmed strippers to protest legal clubs

UVW members, including a growing number of strippers, are appalled by the latest tactic of the Women’s Equality Party (WEP) in their misguided campaign to abolish strip clubs for the imagined benefit of the women involved. In Sheffield and Manchester, men hired by the WEP covertly filmed nude and semi-nude dancers in legal strip clubs.

In their self-appointed mission to ‘save’ dancers, the WEP continues to put women’s livelihoods at risk, while ignoring the explicit wishes of the women involved. As a feminist trade union, UVW is extremely alarmed by this practice. We will be seeking legal remedies for our members, and offer solidarity to all dancers affected by this harmful behaviour.

Filming people undercover, without explicit and direct consent and in clear violation of their right to privacy, is not just immoral — it is unlawful. Sharing what could amount to ‘revenge porn’ of naked women, obtained with the explicit aim to undermine and harm them, constitutes harassment and misuse of private information under UK law.

We demand that the WEP and its collaborators destroy immediately all footage obtained illegally inside clubs and apologise to the dancers. Dancers have made it clear that they don’t need rescuing, They need a dignified workplace where they can earn a living to support themselves and their families.

Women choose to work in strip clubs for the same reasons people choose a wide variety of jobs: funding university studies, family needs, a disability and a scarcity of other work options. All of them are working because they need to make a living under increasingly difficult conditions — extortionate housing costs, inaccessible and inadequate benefits, lack of childcare and falling wages in other industries.

Amnesty International and the World Health Organisation have repeatedly declared that workers in the sex industry are best served by laws and policies that seek to maintain their employment rights and involve them in meaningful participation in any discussion of law and policy that affects their lives and safety.

We demand that the WEP cease its campaign of harassment and intimidation against dancers in Sheffield, Manchester and elsewhere. If they want to help women, they should campaign against austerity measures and poverty wages. Reducing women’s job options is active harm to their livelihoods. If they want to help dancers working in clubs, they are welcome to join UVW’s unionising efforts, listen to women and support them on their own terms.

Workers are best placed to advocate for their own rights and safety at work, and dancers across the UK are organising to ensure that protections from harassment, intimidation and exploitation are in place. UVW is currently seeking recognition in a number of clubs in order to represent our workers’ collective interests.

For further information about the sex work campaign please contact Shiri Shalmy — shiri@uvwunion.org.uk or call 07929 252724

The WEP say they want to ‘rescue’ us from sexual exploitation, but the tactics they used are similar to the gendered sexual violence many women, including me, experience regularly. I'm devastated to be facing these feelings of violation and vulnerability again, this time at the hands of so-called feminists. Our naked bodies are being used as political tools by the WEP, while our real hopes, desires and needs are treated as irrelevant. H.W., Dancer at Sheffield Spearmint Rhino

I’m appalled that these groups are saying they are trying to help us when all they are doing is publicly shaming and humiliating us, which is detrimental to our mental health. I love my job, and it’s helped to fund me through uni and get onto the property ladder at a young age, please do not let these people take our home away from us. Ella, Dancer, Sheffield

I’ve had other jobs but returned to stripping as it gave me the flexibility and funds I needed to finish my degree. Without it, I would still be doing low paid jobs I hated and would have had no time to do the things I like and help others. Stripping enables my colleagues to care for children and elderly parents - do the WEP want to take this way from them? In my club all the workers and the managers are predominantly women, I feel listened to and respected. The fear of being filmed without my consent, to be used against me, is what’s degrading and violating! Steph, Dancer, Manchester

Contrary to the opinions of WEP, sexual liberation plays a huge role in empowering women. Stripping has taught me to love myself, to value my consent and to expect to be compensated when subjected to the male gaze. The power exchange in society is dictated by whether a woman chooses to utilize and profit from her body or whether she adheres to the conventional belief that she should only expose and express herself in private. To me, the latter is far more objectifying. This is why stripping is such a crucial drive in the feminist movement and should not be overlooked. Celia, Dancer, Sheffield

Where the licenses of SEVs are denied or revoked, as well as exposing women to poverty through unemployment, those who wish to continue to work as dancers, but are unable to find work in SEVs, may have no alternative but to seek work in unregulated spaces of erotic dance, increasing their risk of experiencing further exploitation. There is evidence to suggest that those working in unregulated spaces of erotic dance are exposed to more risks, including non-payment of labour, and increased incidents of sexual and physical violence. Dr Rachela Colosi, Programme Leader for Sociology, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lincoln