portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting oregon & cascadia

gender & sexuality | neighborhood news

Boycott Union Jack's

My first attempt to post this was deleted, and I really hope it's not deleted again. It is something happening in your own neighborhoods, and something that shouldn't be ignored or marginalized when women lose their jobs and those who read this website are responsible for supporting those businesses that oppress women.
Normally I wouldn't suggest boycotting a strip club on an indymedia site, because the overlap between clientele of many strip clubs and Portland Indymedia users isn't always so obvious. It would seem pointless to talk about on a site like this. However, over the past few months that I worked at Union Jack's, I encountered an array of members of the "radical" community walk through the doors of this tiny club on Burnside. I don't know if it has anything to do with it's location in relation to Red and Black and the Vegan Mini Mall, but I just kept seeing people from those worlds. It was shocking to me to see so many people I wouldn't expect come to Union Jack's. Recently I was given an ultimatum via text message by the club owner, who rarely shows his face, watches the club through closed circuit camera, and pretends to be in the Russian mafia. Since I do not shave my genitalia bald like a child's, I have often faced bullying, belittlement and abuse from coworkers in the industry, usually from other dancers who have internalized misogyny so much that they are unable to understand why I have a bush. While customers have occasionally done the same to me, and contrary to what my coworkers wish, I usually do very well in the industry and am a top earner in clubs that I work. I had been at Union Jack's since October, earning more money than a lot of workers there. A few months ago, I spoke with the boss about a particular dancer who was saying negative things about my pubic hair to customers. I was upset, and while he made no effort to stop the situation that I was aware of, he also had no objections to my pubic hair at the time. However, I continued to face harassment by coworkers. One staff member named Yanis, an old man who I have seem smoke pot with dancers who he likes to put his hands on, always had the habit of staring at my pubic region whenever he passed me, in a way that made me uncomfortable. One of the bartenders, Carlos, never called me by my name, and instead chose to refer to me as "mucho pelo" anywhere from twenty to thirty times per night. Sometimes he would walk by me as I was talking to customers, just to say "mucho pelo." After a month or so of this going on, I made it clear to him that I didn't want him to call me "mucho pelo." For a while he stopped calling me this, but as a result of my asking him to stop, he also stopped helping me behind the bar when I needed a cup of coffee or a glass of water. I would sometimes stand for ten minutes before getting any help, because the only way that he would get me anything that I needed is if I allowed him to call me "mucho pelo." He eventually began calling me by that term again. Then, last week, I received a series of text messages from the owner of Union Jack's, Ilya Adamidov ( http://www.wweek.com/portland/article-1674-snitch_slapped.html). The first text message read:

"Rami is about 2 suspend u 4 not shaving.. If u want 2 keep your shifts,the bush has 2 go back 2 .1947."

"1947 is the last year a bush was seen by general public. Just make it comperable 2 what dancers there or any serios club have. Normally they shave it off and keep a small line above. I cant believe iam having 2 talk about this."

"I dont look at bush. Its not my thing."

Since I wanted to keep my shifts, I lied to him and told him that I trimmed my pubic hair after receiving the texts. I decided to not take my bottoms off anymore, even though I prefer to, because it was the only way to avoid losing my job and not have to shave my genitalia. While dancers in Oregon are considered independent contractors and have to pay the owner of the club a nightly fee, the owner of the club is still able to dictate certain things about those who pay to work in the club, such as pubic hair. I was feeling very upset and exploited, having dealt with harassment from dancers and male staff at Union Jack's for so long about the way I choose to maintain my body, and then receiving those text messages. On my last evening of work, I sat down at a table with a few yuppie couples. They asked me how I was. I told them in detail about what happened, and told them that I felt exploited. The alpha male of the group said to me, while pointing at the woman he was sitting next to, "This is her first time at a strip club, and you're really blowing it for her." One female from the group was talking about how she got a lap dance from a hair dresser who talked about her hair for the whole song. As a joke, I said to them, "If you get a lap dance from me, I can talk to you about a different kind of hair that I have, and I'll bet it would be a whole lot more intellectually stimulating than talking about being a hair dresser." These yuppies became very angry with me. One of the males of the group began yelling at me, telling me that I am no better than a hair dresser, and that it is wrong of me to say a hair dresser is less than me. While that wasn't exactly what I said, I could see that this group was becoming very angry with me. One of the females asked me why I was there if I felt so exploited. I said to them, "Well to hustle upper middle class pieces of shit of course." This made them even angrier, at which point one of them got up to tell the bouncer they wanted me to leave them alone. I got up and left them alone. I watched as another one of them went to tell the bartender about me. About an hour later, with no further dialogue between myself and their group, my manager arrived. I watched as one of them got up to complain to my manager about me. I wasn't sure exactly what the complaint was, but I was called into the owner's office shortly after that. The owner had me sit in his office while he told me that I was not being exploited, and that he can't have me talking in such a way to customers when he has to sell liquor in order to make a living. I said that I understood, and was allowed to go back upstairs. For the next few hours, I proceeded to make over five hundred dollars, while simultaneously informing all of my customers that I would not be returning to the club ever again, giving them a detailed account of the issues surrounding my personal decision of pubic hair. While on stage, several of the dancers who regularly bully me stood to one side while I danced without taking my bottoms off. While dancing, I watched as they stared at my crotch, trying to decipher whether or not I still had pubic hair. I left without paying my fifty dollar house fee at the end of the night. Later, I asked the owner one more time over text message if I could keep my shifts without having to shave. He sent me this text message:

"Bush has 2 b way shorter then it is or Rami will take u off weekends. And I relly hope i dont have 2 talk about bush, or any other kind of landscaping again."

As stated before, I'm not sure why I have seen so many people from "radical" circles at Union Jack's. I suppose they might be drawn to the popular aesthetic of tattoos, black clothing and rock music that Union Jack's promotes, or perhaps they feel that they are entering a subversive environment that is more female-friendly than other strip clubs. Maybe the pseudo-intellectualism of Union Jack's fools people into believing, like teenagers shopping at Hot Topic in an attempt to be rebellious, that they are supporting a business with integrity.

And, if my personal story isn't enough to deter you from entering the club, perhaps one regular named Kyle will. Kyle frequents Union Jack's on weekdays anywhere between seven and nine. Kyle is a young blonde haired man, and can be identified by his swastika and neo-nazi imagery tattoos and jewelry, his boots with white laces, and if you ask him what the images mean, he will quietly tell you all about his white nationalist ideology. I realized what he was about, about a week before I quit. I attempted to talk to both the bartender and DJ about his imagery and beliefs he shares with anyone who asks, as he sits around drinking and flirting with strippers who give him lots of free attention. Neither of the staff members I talked to expressed objection to his being there, since they said he wasn't causing any problems. When one dancer overheard my attempts at getting him removed from the club, she told him about it, and this only intensified the coldness and bullying that I experienced from others at the club.