The strippers were not showing so much as a well-turned ankle when they gathered in front of the state capitol Sunday.
They were there to protest, not to strut their stuff, and it was so cold that they were all bundled up.
Featured speaker was none other than Stormy Daniels, who also found the weather more conducive to shivering than shimmying. She had come home to support demands for the repeal of a new law raising the minimum age for strippers in joints where alcohol is served.
Since booze is the constant companion of burlesque, henceforth, ecdysiasts, to borrow H.L. Mencken’s term, are largely barred from gainful employment until they are 21. In that line of work, an 18 or 19-year-old may well be in her prime, and no doubt many a promising and lucrative career is on hold now that a federal appeals court panel in New Orleans has rejected a challenge to the law. When the law first went into effect in 2016, a lot of girls complained their income would drop dramatically, and three of them filed suit.
Stormy Daniels joined strippers and club workers in a call to repeal a Louisiana law that prevents women between 18 and 20 years old from danc…
Daniels on Sunday up and declared the law unconstitutional, and generally a porn merchant taking legal issue with big-shot jurists might regard as impudent, if not dismissed as a ditz. But on this occasion, Daniels was following in the footsteps of District Judge Carl Barbier, who in 2016 enjoined enforcement of the law as unconstitutional. His ruling was later upheld by a federal appeals court panel.
The law was approved only when the appellate judges had second thoughts and decided that Barbier and they had goofed in concluding that the law was insufficiently specific about how much of the female breast and buttocks the legislature intended to shield from the public gaze. The answer, the state maintained throughout the litigation, was the whole shebang, and the panel, on reflection, decided that was kinda obvious.
She was born in Baton Rouge and is now famous worldwide as a potentially decisive force in national politics.
The panel also noted that “breast” and “buttocks” are “commonly understood anatomical terms,” although you will hear somewhat earthier synonyms around, say, Bourbon Street.
The law, according to the strippers, is also sexist, and it is true that no state law forbids males to dance topless until they are 21. But it is the female form that the market prefers and this is one area where equal treatment cannot be rationally demanded. The other constitutional argument — that the law denied the girls their First Amendment right to artistic expression — got nowhere either, the courts pointing out that females under the age of 21 can still strip down to bikinis where alcohol is served and much further where it isn’t. The girls, though, would rather have the money that comes from gyrating in G-strings and pasties for a convivial crowd.
Daniels suggested Sunday that the law may well defeat its advertised purpose, which is to keep young females safe from the human traffickers who hang around Louisiana’s seamier nightspots. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit alleged that wasn’t the true motive anyway, and that the law was a paternalistic attempt to impose moral constraints on them. It is true that some legislators opined that, instead of stripping, the girls should go to church, but the courts decided that did not undermine the law’s rationale.
Daniels, however, disputed that rationale when taking up the cause of “these women who work this very legal occupation.” In fact, it is legal no more, which is why the protest was staged. Still, it may be true that the loss of strippers’ wages will leave girls “unable to support their children, unable to make tuition payments.” Then, she added ominously, they could be forced to make money “in other ways.”
That apparent implication was that stripping is better than prostitution, although Daniels is hardly in a position to decry sex for money.
The legal travails of Michael Cohen, who admitted paying Daniels $135,000 in hush money, has kept her name in the headlines, and her appearance on behalf of the strippers has brought handy publicity too. When she counts her blessings, President Donald Trump and the Louisiana legislature will be high on the list.
Email James Gill at Gill1407@bellsouth.net.