Cultural Events

Strippers Are Doing It for Themselves

Around 10 most nights, Nikeisah Newton hops into her car for a 10-minute drive into downtown Portland, Ore., so that she can deliver healthy meals that include ingredients like massaged kale to strippers working the evening shift. “One of the best forms of activism is feeding people,” Ms. Newton said. Her company is called Meals 4 Six Inch Heels, and it’s intended to support a community that she feels has been shunned and taken advantage of for too long.

Ms. Newton, whose ex-girlfriend is a former stripper, has joined a wave of dancers and their allies across the nation who are fighting to reform labor practices; put an end to sexual harassment and discrimination in their workplaces; and stifle the stigma around what they believe is as legitimate a profession as any.

Members of this movement are sharing their experiences with the public through podcasts, books and visual arts; using technology to spread information about their industry; and protesting injustices in the streets. They are also finding ways to care for each other, with meal-delivery services, yoga classes, book clubs, clothing lines with slogans of solidarity, financial planning lessons and comedy workshops.

When you use the word “platform” now in the stripping community, it’s as likely to refer to social media as shoes. At V-Live in Los Angeles, guests are encouraged to use their phones to take videos and photos of the dancers. On a recent evening, a photographer circled the dancers, taking images that they could later buy to use on their Instagram accounts.

The water-cooler conversations in the 1980s and ’90s, with the mainstream movies “Flashdance,” “Showgirls” and “Striptease,” may be coming back, as strippers return to the big screen in September with “Hustlers,” about dancers who steal money from their rich customers.

The film features the celebrities Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo and Constance Wu. Cardi B, a megastar, takes pride in and has spoken positively about her experiences with stripping. Beyoncé’s best-selling album, “Lemonade,” has a song called “6 Inch” about working as a stripper. Magic City and other clubs in Atlanta are well known among hip-hop fans as places where musicians test out new songs.

And across America, the face of stripping, and its audience, is changing. No longer the domain solely of finance bros and the like unwinding after hours, strip clubs these days are also frequented by couples and friends.

“Our audiences in the last 10 years, specific to my home club, have become more diverse, younger, more gender broad,” said Elle Stanger, 32, who has worked as a stripper for a decade and lives in Portland. “It’s not just middle-aged white men anymore.”