The Grit beneath the Glitter: Tales from the Real Las Vegas

By Hal K. Rothman; Mike Davis | Go to book overview

“She Works Hard for Her Money”
A Reassessment of Las Vegas Women
Workers, 1945–1985
JOANNE L. GOODWIN

When I received my first academic position at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, I thought the fates were having a little fun with me. I am a feminist. History is most interesting to me when interpreted with a gender analysis. My familiarity with Las Vegas amounted to a brief glimpse years earlier while on a cross-country trip. Unlike the millions of visitors, who flocked to the city to experience its constructed fantasies, I preferred the tangible beauty of the area's high deserts and canyons to the amusements of “Glitter Gulch. In fact, as a young progressive adult in the 1970s, the images of the city presented through the media ran counter to my views on social justice and equal opportunity. To be specific, I found the tourism industry's use of the female body to promote the city's economy an obstacle in the path to women's equality. I found the “job opportunities” of sex work, which I perceived to be the main lucrative occupation for women in Las Vegas at the time, degrading and hardly a choice. As I packed my things to move, I wondered how a feminist would fare in “sin city.

Twenty years later, not only had I changed but so had Las Vegas. Gambling and tourism still provide the economic base for this rapidly growing metropolitan area, but gambling is no longer unique to this desert town. Communities across the country now seek to enhance their local economies through gambling and entertainment tourism. The organization of the gambling industry also changed. Corporations bought out many of the individually owned properties and the pooled interests

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