Example Of Antithesis, Ethos And Juxtaposition In My Strip Club

June 22, 2022 by Essay Writer

In “My Strip Club,” Denise Duhamel utilizes antithesis, ethos, and juxtaposition to raise questions about the depths of our society’s systematic objectification of women. On the page, Duhamel’s poem is tiny and narrow, perhaps a comment on how society likes its women, but it also packs a punch by employing the antithesis of the typical setting and events that would occur at a strip club. Instead of women taking off their clothes, Duhamel has women putting their clothing on. 

The girls start out in overalls “then slowly pull on/gloves, ski masks/and hiking boots.” Not only are the girls getting dressed instead of undressed, the type of clothing Duhamel chooses is bulky winter clothing to suggest that nobody should be getting hot, to use a sexual euphemism, in her strip club. Instead, this is a chilling event. The gloves and ski masks also hide and misshape the women’s bodies to completely mock the concept of objectification while raising the question of whether any man would attend such a strip club where hardly an inch of skin will be seen at all. This seemingly unfathomable scenario is part of Duhamel’s clever use of ethos. She forces the reader to embrace this antithetical strip club by humoring us with the absurd imagery. 

By finding the circumstances comical the reader has to inherently question the entire purpose of a strip club. She provides typical strip club motifs to play on our systemic and conditioned inclinations, and then she flips them which sets up a window from which we, as readers, question our basic ethics and values. For example, the music slows, but then the strippers get their tongues stuck to the pole because it is so cold. Instead of unzipping, “they zip up parkas.” In her final coup, “A big spender / can take one of my girls/ into a back room/ where he can clamp/her snowshoes.” These last lines of the poem have all the sounds characteristic of a strip club with the men being both the purchaser, “spender” and the possessor, “my girls,” of the women. Even the word “clamp” has a slightly rough and sexual tone enhanced by the line break that lets the reader fill in the imagery with something more ominous and predictable. Duhamel is twisting the language that our society is familiar with, language that disempowers and objectifies women, to create a back room where all the men get to do is help the woman strap on some snowshoes. 

Our language and our tendencies to “clamp” women into certain gender roles is juxtaposed, or put next to, the absurd prospect of a woman in a winter wear to send a chill up our spine, both literally and figuratively. The poem insinuates just how easy it is to keep dressing up women to suit a system rigged to appeal to the male gaze and male domination. With a simple turn of the imagination she’s stripped, at least for a moment, the language of its power to stereotype and commodity women. 

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