How to Make a Slave and Other Essays

by Jerald Walker

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Strippers Summary and Analysis

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Walker was invited to a celebratory dinner with a couple of friends, Maria and John, who were also colleagues; they had recently received news that their son’s chemotherapy had been effective and that a bone marrow donor had been located. Another colleague had dropped by during their celebration but had gone home; unfortunately, she had forgotten a tote containing her students’ final exams. Walker retrieved the tote and promised to deliver the crucial papers to her. After much conversation, the restaurant was closing, but the group hadn’t yet finished their conversation. Placing free tickets on their table, their waitress suggested that they visit the nearby strip club to continue their time together.

Hesitant, Walker envisioned his wife’s response to his presence at such a venue. He then imagined the innate shame that would follow if his students spotted him there. Nevertheless, he agreed to join his friends, who were willing to give the strip club a chance.

Walker’s tote of final exams was inspected by the bouncer, whose face displayed great concern about the “trouble” this situation could cause. Walker reassured him that he was a professor and that these were thus legitimate possessions, and the group was granted entry to the club.

Making themselves comfortable at their table, Walker’s friends noted that the dancer wasn’t very talented. Walker was struck by her youth and wondered what had led her to perform on this stage. Was she doing it to pay for college? Had she made a series of poor choices? Did that assumption indicate his own patronization of her work?

Suddenly, a bouncer appeared at their table and yelled at Maria, demanding that she take her feet out of the chair. Shocked by his demeanor, Maria complied but insisted that he didn’t need to be such a “jerk.” They then watched as a new dancer appeared and proceeded to disinfect the pole before assuming her position there. This dancer was older, closer to middle age, and Walker was conflicted about how he should react. He was certain that this was not her “life’s ambition,” and he wanted to look away. These feelings were quickly replaced by guilt as he considered the “demoralizing” effects of being an entertainer who was ignored. He thus attempted to offer her some positive feedback without throwing cash on the stage and ultimately gave her a thumbs-up. Maria scoffed at this gesture, telling Walker it was “weird.” 

The bouncer reappeared, yelling again at Maria, who had unintentionally placed her feet in the chair again. When she apologized, the bouncer asked her if she was “stupid.” Incensed, Maria maintained that he couldn’t speak to her that way and that her husband would stop his rude behavior. Clearly drunk, Johnny staggered to his feet in her defense as the bouncer prodded him. As the bouncer asked Johnny what he planned to do about it, Johnny intently stared at him. Finally the tension was broken by the bouncer, who insisted that they had strict rules about patrons’ feet staying out of the chairs. The group left money for their drinks and exited the club. 

Outside, Maria asked, “What was that about?” Walker wasn’t sure which variable the pronoun referred to: The rudeness? The backing down? Johnny’s stare? His own decision to enter a strip club in the first place? He imagined telling his wife about this night, certain that she would ask him what he was thinking. Walker tried to end the evening on a positive note, telling his friends that he was happy about their son’s health news. As they parted, a voice from behind began calling...

(This entire section contains 781 words.)

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out, “Professor!” Filled with shame and certain that he was about to face one of his students, Walker was instead met by the bouncer, who was holding the tote of final exams, which Walker had accidentally left behind.

Analysis 

Walker faces his own preconceived judgments of others in an unlikely place of entertainment. Not one to frequent strip clubs, he begins psychoanalyzing the dancers, trying to determine the turn of events which led these women to a career deemed unsavory by societal standards. Finally, Walker stops his own dismissal of the young dancer’s work, considering that perhaps this has been her life’s ambition. His judgments reflect the quick assumptions that humans make about others, particularly about those who appear to exist outside the realms of their own understanding and circumstances. Walker’s honest appraisal of his own tendencies is quickly replaced by further judgments of the next dancer, indicating how difficult it can be to overcome the ingrained tendency to stereotype those we encounter.

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