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In this week in “wait, seriously?” a Louisiana lawmaker has proposed weight and age limits for strippers to keep them youthful and thin.
At Wednesday’s legislative session, Republican Rep. Kenny Havard proposed an amendment to a new law that seeks to raise the minimum age for dancers entering the stripping industry from 18 to 21. The new age-minimum law was being debated at the statehouse that day.
“In keeping the, I guess, the spirit alive of, uh, trimming the fat,” said Havard at the podium, “I have put an age limit on it of no more than 28 years of age and shall be no more than 160 pounds.”
Immediately after announcing his amendment proposal, Rep. Nancy Landry, also a Republican, leapt to the mic and asked: “Representative Havard, are you saying that women who are over 28 or over a certain weight are not fit to be dancers or strippers?”
During a chorus of “ooooohs” reminiscent of a middle school playground fight, Rep. Havard replied: “No, ma’am, I’m just worried about their health and I wouldn’t want them to hurt one another.”
During most of the debate—which somehow actually happened in a serious legislative session—lawmakers were heard either laughing or booing. Landry called the amendment “offensive,” and Havard offered to “pull it, Miss Landry” on the spot.
But female lawmakers weren’t amused by what Havard later said was “a joke.” Several told Louisiana’s Advocate newspaper that the outrageous faux-mendment was typical of the kind of old boy’s club sexism they face in the House chambers on a regular basis. Many noted that the original bill being debated would raise the age of stripping in an effort to curb sex trafficking—a subject that no one finds amusing.
The bill that inspired Rep. Havard’s weight and age limit amendment bans establishments from employing “anyone under the age of 21 to work, perform, or dance while clothed in a manner so as to expose the genitals, pubic hair, anus, vulva, or female breast nipples below the areola in the licensed premises.” Senate Bill 191, introduced by Sen. Ronnie Johns, passed 96-0, and aims to curb sex trafficking by barring teens from working in strip clubs.
“We’re here representing 40,000 people back home, and half of them are women,” Rep. Landry told the Advocate. “They’re mothers, daughters, sisters, and we’re here representing the state as the face of Louisiana to some extent…I just don’t think it’s appropriate.”
Rep. Julie Stokes, also a Republican, told the newspaper that she’s tired of regularly encountering shameless misogyny at the statehouse.
“I’ve been told at least three times since this regular session started, by different people in different places, that women should be barefoot and pregnant,” Stokes told the Advocate. “By male legislators.”
A chorus of women legislators weighed in, saying they endure comments about their clothing and other topics not typically faced by male legislators. In Louisiana, women make up only 16 of the 105 state representatives and only six of the state’s 39 senators.
House legislators weren’t the only ones who scoffed at the weight and age limit for strippers. The Daily Dot reached out to comedian, dancer, and author Jacq the Stripper for comment, who offered a blunt response: “What a piece of shit proposal and what a piece of shit man to have any kind of power.”
“Havard probably got hustled by a 30-year-old stripper and wants all the women who are actually experienced in their field to be banished from the club,” Jacq the Stripper told the Daily Dot. “You know, so he can feel safe swaddled in the inexperience of a rookie stripper, and not have to make too many trips to the ATM.”
Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.