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    Sunday, August 19, 2018-6:18:00A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

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BC’s Tales of the Pacific: Funeral strippers

HAVE you ever been to a funeral that featured strippers? You may have never heard of this practice, or you may be thinking it is rare. Actually, in Taiwan and China it is common. What is more, it is growing so popular as to be a problem.

In the United States, just as in Micronesia, there are many customs associated with funerals. People are expected to give speeches, express their sorrow in various ways, and honor the dead person with shows of respect and gratitude.

BC CookBC Cook

In Chinese custom, the reputation of the deceased is reflected in the size of the group that gathers for the funeral. The larger the crowd, the greater the man. There is pressure, therefore, to draw as large a crowd as possible, as if to say, “See how great he was! Five thousand people attended his funeral. He was powerful and important.” Further, the mood of a Chinese funeral is more festive than perhaps we are used to.

For years the Chinese have used various attractions to lure in mourners/partiers. From games to movies and songs, funeral attendees experience all manner of trappings to enhance both the size and the liveliness of the gathering. In recent years there has been a marked increase in the use of gambling and female strippers to enhance crowd size. Why?

There are a few theories about the use of strippers at funerals. A dispassionate academic has argued that it is a celebration of fertility, which stands in opposition to the death just experienced. Just as one life is lost and mourned, so another life is created through sexual reproduction and celebrated. Death and life, loss and gain, defeat and victory.

That may be so, but most people think the strippers have nothing to do with anything as noble as fertility rituals. Many see it as crass commercialism and exploitation. Sex draws people, and the more people that attend a funeral, the greater the bragging rights for the family of the deceased.

One recent funeral featured 50 strippers, each standing on top of a Cadillac Escalade. They drove through the middle of the city, dancing lewdly and inviting pedestrians to follow them. By the time they reached the funeral home they were almost completely naked and the crowd, numbering many thousands, was an absolute mob. The loud music, drinking and dancing went on for days and by all accounts the family, including the widow, was very pleased with how everything went.

Not everyone is pleased with the increase in funeral strippers. The communist government in China keeps a wary eye on this trend, noting with concern that it is primarily of Taiwanese origin and is filtering to the mainland. As you know, anything Taiwanese is automatically disliked by the Chinese government on the mainland. Will they take steps to curb the strippers? It seems they already are.

Will funeral strippers spread to Micronesia? I would not expect to see it in Garapan any time soon. Islanders take a different approach to celebrating the life of the deceased, doing so in ways that show honor and respect. However, the size of the Chinese community on Saipan is growing. Don’t be too surprised if you pass a Toyota Hilux with a stripper in the back. She may be headed to a funeral.  

BC Cook, PhD lived on Saipan and has taught history for 20 years. He travels the Pacific but currently resides on the mainland U.S.