The Provocateur: ‘#Metoo has destroyed my femaledominated industry’
Former dancer and entrepreneur Emma-jayne Tyler, 39, says women are the real casualties now that events are too afraid to hire female models
another week, another group of women needlessly losing their jobs as a result of knee-jerk reactions to #Metoo. The latest victims? Female models who pose next to art at Sotheby’s and Christie’s. For years, they made a living out of being attractive women helping to sell a product, in exactly the same way that any fashion model does. But last week, both auction houses declared they were getting rid of art girls to ensure they were ‘moving with the times’.
They follow hot on the heels of many other industries: Formula One, which got rid of grid girls in January as they were ‘at odds with modern day societal norms’ and darts, which ditched walk-on girls. Many businesses have banned the use of female models, hostesses and performers since Weinstein, #Metoo and the Presidents Club scandal in January, after revelations that hired hostesses were groped and harassed at the men-only fundraiser.
But the real casualties from all this are the women. Lots of female performers now find themselves out of work, many of whom were happy and secure in their jobs before. The world of entertainment and dance is female-dominated and unprecedented damage has now been done. Isn’t feminism about giving women the right to choose to do what they love? That choice has been stripped from them.
I’m director of The Vegas Show Girls and we supply professionally trained dancers and show girls for events around the world. We house one of the UK’S largest selection of costumes and provide entertainment for events such as Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing On Ice. Our dancers mainly perform choreographed shows, but we also offer meet-and-greet services and work at charity events where dancers are instrumental in helping to raise funds.
Female guests are as eager as men to have their photo taken with our show girls. They comment on their stunning costumes and how beautiful they look. But it’s a worrying time for a business like mine. Clients are scared of booking female dancers for fear of being accused of sexism. We’ve noticed a significant downturn in business as a direct result of the recent scandals. I get emails from clients on a weekly basis saying they want to cancel bookings due to the negative press, and we can forget about taking on any new clients.
I trained as a professional dancer before setting up the business 12 years ago. There are thousands of girls who follow this path – many of whom are in dance college as we speak. I worry they’ll be graduating into a forgotten industry. I’m also eight months pregnant and living in fear of the death of this trade, which I’ve worked so hard to build up. In all my years as a professional dancer and running my business, I have never worked at an event where I have felt threatened or put my dancers into a situation where they should feel unsafe or vulnerable. We do it because of our love and passion for our jobs – this industry should be celebrated and not sexualised.
If any of our women are ever in an uncomfortable situation they’re told to report it straight away and we wouldn’t hesitate to pull dancers from an event if it seemed unsafe. It’s hard not to notice outrageous double standards too – on last week’s final of Britain’s Got Talent, the show featured a performance from the new West End cast of Magic Mike, which saw more than 20 male dancers strip down to their trousers on prime-time television.
Why are men allowed to carry on performing while it’s turning into a dying art form for women? The demand for equal pay and the fight for female empowerment feel contradictory when people are calling for women in my industry to lose their jobs. Just like men and women in fashion or modelling, their looks aid their careers. Our girls are professional performers whose looks also play a big part in the roles they take – that’s the entertainment industry.
If a woman wants to use her skills and beauty for her career, that’s her choice and I see that as empowering. If we continue like this, that choice will be taken away from us all. I hope people realise it’s OK to book female performers, staff, models and hostesses for events. You are not causing offence. We need to stop penalising women in these industries while men carry on unscathed.