Meet Sarah Tressler. By day, she writes about Houston society for the Houston Chronicle. It’s not the most fascinating job, but a great place to start for a journalist trying to make her way through the decaying body of an industry that still hasn’t managed to come up with a model that supports their costs in this time of the open web.
Once deadlines are met, assuming she’s not teaching writing as an adjunct professor at University of Houston, Tressler packs it up and heads to her other gig — at any of a handful strip clubs in Houston. Unsurprisingly, this job is the one that inspires the bulk of her writing. Over the years she’s been active on the web, Tressler has created an engaging community of both civilians and other strippers across various social media platforms, all of whom devour her blog, which is filled with stories of her experiences.
Having more than one job is not an easy act to manage, but Tressler managed fine — until the Chronicle‘s competitor, the Houston Press decided to assassinate her in a post on their Hairballs blog.
Houston Press writer Richard Connelly unceremoniously outs Tressler as a writer, adjunct professor and stripper, suggesting that she’s only doing what she’s doing because she wants a book deal and a movie made about her life. “It’s all pretty much what you’d expect,” he says. “Writing in the style that really, really wants to be described as ‘fearless’ and ‘intelligent’ and ‘funny’ and ‘sexy.’”
He goes on to quote an unnamed source at the Chronicle who says people at the paper are furious because Tressler never tried hard enough to hide the fact she’s a dancer, coming around the office wearing designer garb no journalist could ever hope to afford on such meager salaries, and because they know — they just know — she’s going to use them for fodder for a book.
Buried deep into the story is a quote from an actual named source who says Tressler is a highly competent freelancer — but the props she gets for her work are summarily dismissed in favor of an excerpt from one of her blog posts, where Tressler describes how uncomfortable it is when men at the club want her to play with their nipples.
In response to comments calling out the Houston Press for slut-shaming, Connelly tries to wash his hands of responsibility, assuring everyone he’s just trying to give a feelow journo some professional advice. He writes:
I don’t get the”slut shaming” charge. If you want to be a stripper, fine. If you want to write for a very conservative, uptight paper — covering the very powerful, very conservative and straitlaced people the paper so desperately works to keep happy and unruffled — fine. If you want to combine the two, it’s interesting, to say the least.
The implication here is that if you want to be a stripper, you can only be a stripper. Strippers are not allowed to be anything else — now or ever given how many people lose their jobs when adult history pasts come back to haunt them. But there is more here: the suggestion that sharing one’s personal narrative is a call for attention is something leveled against women all the time — especially those who write about anything relating to sex or the sex industry. It’s a silencing tactic to prevent sex workers — and, quite often, women in general — from sharing their realities. In the guise of offering “advice” Connelly is actually telling Tressler to shut up.
He seems to think it’s hypocritical for a woman who is in the sex industry to report on a conservative community, but the real hypocrisy is his. He’s accusing a woman who has found a way to make her career choices work for her of being an attention whore who only wants a book deal and a movie and doesn’t care who she uses for fodder, when he’s the one who has turned her into fodder.
And now, according to Gawker, Tressler has been fired from her job at the Chronicle. Way to go, Connelly. We hope the page views were worth it.