The Guelph Mercury, 4/29/2009
Oh heavens! There were women taking their clothes off, you say? In a community centre, no less?
My, oh my. Let me catch my breath.
So let me get this straight. For 40 years or so, the Erin District Lions Club has held a private fundraiser that has raised tens of thousands of dollars for projects around Erin, and for medical research for diabetes, breast cancer, and the blind.
The annual Elimination Dinner is one of their most popular events, sells out regularly and features food, standup comics and, umm, strippers.
It’s that last part that caused a commotion recently. This week, the fundraiser was killed off after protests by two sisters, Mary Traversy, 20, and Sarah Traversy, 22.
Their complaints garnered plenty of news coverage, and the Lions’ international leadership stepped in and put the kibosh to the whole thing. The Traversy sisters claimed they tried to attend the event, but a Lions Club member old enough to be their grandfather wouldn’t let them in.
Headline: Crusty old men refuse entry to sisters planning to liberate semi-naked women.
But Mary Traversy and her sister never intended to take part in the fundraiser — they wanted the event to be stopped: “When I heard about it, I thought it was vulgar,” Traversy told a reporter after the incident. “I think it’s absolutely backwards and ridiculous.”
Being turned away was the best thing that could happen to them. The young women could say their rights were being trampled, though one suspects they never really wanted to see the strippers in the first place.
So ends a fundraiser that has been running for decades, drawing crowds that might not normally shell out for other Lions Club fundraisers, or otherwise contribute to fighting breast cancer or similarly worthwhile causes.
The dinner was never a secret. Town officials were long aware of the fundraiser and said the Lions Club broke no laws. A proper liquor licence was always obtained for the event, and there are no bylaws that restrict the use of strippers at a town-owned facility.
The Erin Lions didn’t invent ogling for charity. Groups across Ontario and North America have long used naughty nights out — using male or female strippers for male or female audiences — to raise money for good causes.
Oh, the objectification of people’s bodies — just like those poor firefighters who strip down for fundraising calendars, or teachers who show off their pecs to help fight cancer.
It’s not clear what was really at the heart of this Elimination Dinner protest. Was it that such an event was being held in a public space, in a room partially paid for by the Lions themselves?
One of the sisters pointed out that the community centre is attached to a nursery school and a high school, as if the presence of Saturday night stripping would somehow soil occupants of the entire building when they came back on Monday. Or was it simply that women were stripping? If that’s the case, there are far worse offenders than members of the Erin Lions Club, who at least give their proceeds back to the community.
If stripping is what really offends the Traversy sisters and their supporters, they have their work cut out for them. What of all the rowdy bachelor parties, the shady strip clubs that give nothing back to their towns, or the countless peep shows that do no measurable public good?
In our extreme sensitivity to anything that offends us, some of us may have lost sight of the good done by the Erin Lions, despite their old-fashioned ideas.
Stripping is not family-friendly. That goes without saying. But does it warrant such a shocked condemnation? So there were strippers. So what?