It seemed our schedule changed a little just about everyday. We’d go to bed with a list of the following day’s activities, and we’d wake up the next morning with an email or text message or voicemail that left us with no choice but to alter our plans. We had a few unexpected days between interviews, so we set out on a mission to capture the voices of Missoula patrons—in particular, their views of exotic dancers pursuing careers outside of dancing. We managed to talk to a number of people. They all agreed that dancers should be entitled to the same rights as any other person; that they should be treated equally and fairly when applying for jobs they’d be qualified for. It wasn’t surprising. But we decided to try and challenge this view by sending Kacie out on a job-hunting mission—as Karly, a former exotic dancer.
We found five Missoula businesses hiring for different positions—housekeeping at two hotels, a barista at a coffee shop, a waitress at a casino and an assistant at a law office. “Karly” entered each business, introduced herself and asked for an application. But in her introduction, she made it clear that she was a former exotic dancer and wanted to be sure that wouldn’t be a problem. They all said her past as a dancer wasn’t an issue, but in each instance, “Karly” felt uncomfortable. The expressions on the faces of the people she spoke with was enough to leave her feeling vulnerable and exposed, and her comment after we all sat down later for lunch was that she couldn’t imagine what it would be like if she really was a dancer trying to find work. Although Kacie was pretending to be “Karly”, she was nevertheless hurt by the experience.
“Karly” returned two of the applications—one for housekeeping and the waitressing job at the casino. The law office wanted a resume, and the other two required online applications. Neither the hotel nor the casino called her in for an interview. This isn’t necessarily a result of being a former dancer—we can’t prove that. It could have been that she didn’t have the qualifications. More than not being called in, though, Kacie felt the embarrassment real dancers might experience. She received the funny looks. She was overcome with the same sense of defeat a current or former dancer might know at being rejected by nothing more than a frown or a pair of wide eyes or a stifled laugh.