I have some seriously mixed feelings about Candy Girl. Basically, it’s the memoir of a middle-class white woman who falls in love with someone over the internet, and moves in with him. Sadly, he lives in Minneapolis, which is incredibly boring. She ends up falling into stripping, almost as though she’s looking for something to do. It’s very lackadaisical, and at times a bit problematic. Cody’s got a BA (I think) in media/cultural studies, and this very much read like a text written by an overtly edgy cultural studies person. It’s hard for me to parse out why that made me so uncomfortable. I think it’s in part because I feel very strongly that it’s problematic to go all hipster Gorillas in the Mist observational when you’re dealing with people. It’s that pesky commitment to careful academic work thing I am so very into — if you’re gonna write about a group, and you’re going to be a participant-observer-chronicler, watch your tone! It’s only courteous to avoid condescending to the people who will be such a huge part of your work.
Anyways, Cody keeps highlighting that everyone who knows that she’s stripping and working a day-job think she’s nuts, for doing it when she doesn’t have to. She does go into some really neat power dynamics, some of the class/economic issues that go on between strippers, clients, and club owners, and at times it’s really, really funny. Buuut I dunno. It made me think a LOT of The Stripper’s Guide to Looking Great Naked, a guide to… looking great naked… that got a lot of mileage out of the “titillating” nature of its subject, while simultaneously reinforcing a lot of negative attitudes towards women and their bodies. Like Stripper’s Guide, Candy Girl didn’t topple any paradigms or destabilize any notions of class or gender — the likely strippers remained a safe, blank unknown, while our girl Cody bounced around, introducing us to “their” world.
Ultimately, I really wished Cody had cut down the first half of the book, and really developed her last chapter, where she started to talk about her childhood and her family. That discussion, which touched on issues of whiteness and class, had the potential to get really interesting. I can see why she didn’t do more with it — I guess publishers assume that readers interested in strippers want to hear more about pasties than about childhood neuroses — but it’s unfortunate that that aspect of her analysis was treated so briefly.
I’d read it again, but I’m glad I got it from the library. It wasn’t a keeper.*
*The Stripper’s Guide totally was, though. As soon as I get enough black lights and some hand-eye coordination, I will be taking my act to Vegas.