As a women’s studies professor, LGBT adviser and a respected author in sociology, Siobhan Brooks-King has certainly been deemed one of Temple’s true triple threats. King earned her bachelor’s degree in women’s studies from San Francisco State University and received a Ph.D. in sociology from New School University.
Brooks is also author of “Unequal Desires: Race and Erotic Capital in the Stripping Industry.” Her book delves into the racial and social hierarchy in strip clubs and reveals fascinating primary research regarding black and Latina women in the industry.
At Temple, Brooks serves as adviser of not only the women’s studies major but of the LGBT minor as well. In her third year at Temple, Brooks has certainly contributed to both the women’s studies and LGBT departments with her role as adviser.
“With a B.A. in women’s studies and my research dealing with women’s studies, I have found a nice home in the department,” Brooks-King said.
The Temple News: What did you do before you came to Temple?
Siobhan Brooks-King: Before Temple, I was actually in a small town in Wisconsin called Appleton and I was completing my dissertation at Lawrence University, a liberal arts college in Appleton. Prior to that I was at UC Santa Barbra — I’m originally a Californian — so from there I went to the Midwest then I slowly inched myself toward the East Coast.
TTN: How did you end up at Temple?
SBK: I was looking for an urban school. I used to teach at [State University of New York] in New York City and I was sort of looking for another urban environment where the population is diverse, where students have different backgrounds and different classes, so I saw the position for Temple and applied and I was really excited when I got it. So I feel like, in a way, I’m returning to a home of sorts, being here at Temple.
TTN: What is your role here at Temple?
SBK: Here at Temple, I am the adviser for both the LGBT and women’s studies programs. Well LGBT, as many people know, is a minor on its own, but at the same time an extension of the women’s studies programs. So I am the undergraduate advisor for both, and also my research deals with LGBT issues. Basically, I serve as a liaison between the students and the department…I am the go-to person for people asking about events, I am sort of the voice of the students and I also work with the Queer Student Union.
TTN: What are your thoughts on Temple since you’ve been here?
SBK: I love Temple. I love the enthusiasm of the students, I love their dedication to their education, a lot of the students here…they work, they’re students, they’re juggling all these different identities and I love what they bring to the classroom.
I learn a lot from my students as they learn from me. I love the fact that it’s an urban campus and I love the fact that I meet students from all over. At first I thought I would be meeting students primarily from the New York and Philadelphia region, but I’ve met students as far back as from my home state, California, [people] who also chose to come to Temple because they wanted something different, for the diversity here…it’s been a real privilege for me to be here at Temple.
TTN: Can you tell me a little bit about your book?
SBK: The book is called “Unequal Desires: Race and Erotic Capital in the Stripping Industry.” It came out two years ago from SUNY press. The premise of that book is the following: I looked at three strip clubs — one in the Bronx, one in Manhattan and a lesbian strip club in Oakland. And what I did was [extend] a theory that was coined by sociologist Pierre Bourdieu. [That theory is called] social capital, which is basically a way people move up the capitalist ladder. So for example, you could be poor but if you are placed in a private school, you are learning middle-class ways and it’s easier for you to climb up. I wanted to look at race as a form of social capital by itself. So what I did was I looked at racial stratification between black and Latina women who were strippers. The only qualification was their bodies and how they looked. I coined the term “racialized erotic capital” because what I found in the study was basically that mixed race women of color, women of color who were not black, women of color who were thin and fit that [idealize beauty] moved up in the hierarchy of stripping. And I also noticed that in the lesbian club, those ideals translated in an all-women space, an all-black women space. So basically, darker skinned blacks and Latinas worked in clubs where there were very low expectations of their services. Men would come in and get angry when the women would [refuse] their money for a lap dance — men would want to touch them without paying them. Men felt entitled to do that and would try to bargain down the women. [I found that] the stereotypes about black and Latina women being on welfare ironically translated into the clubs.
TTN: What are your thoughts on National Coming Out Week?
SBK: I am so excited about it. I am going to be on a panel for round table discussions held on Wednesday. I think the queer students really deserve, first of all, the visibility. That’s one thing as the adviser that I am trying to push just a little bit more, is the visibility of the minor and just of queer issues on campus. I’m also excited [about] the discussions that we are planning on having particularly in our political climate with gay marriage and [other] gay and lesbian topics that are circulating in the White House and also on the ground level. We’ll be examining what these changes mean for the LGBT community, as well as with other political issues, and basically where LGBT issues fit into all that. So I’m really excited about National Coming Out Week.
Nickee Plasken can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.