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What would you do when your son's at home?

Crying alone on the bedroom floor

And he's hungry

And the only way to feed him

Is to sleep with a man for a little bit of money?
—"What Would You Do?", by City High (actually about a prostitute, but the video features a stripper)

Your nasty husband has cheated on you and left. You're out of work, you've got a baby to feed and you're one missed rent payment from the street.

You realize that the boys at school really liked you. Maybe you could make some quick fast cash waiting tables-in a bikini. Or pole dancing.

Truth in Television, by the way. Usually leads to becoming a Hooker with a Heart of Gold, in which case see Son of a Whore. May also be used to give the Disposable Sex Worker a sympathetic backstory. Compare with Justified Criminal.

Examples of Single Mom Stripper include:


Anime and Manga

  • This trope proves to be a godsend for Godai, the male lead of Maison Ikkoku. The young man is trained in early childhood education and hoping to work in a elementary school, until he' laid off and the only work he can find is a strip joint. After a humiliating period as a street barker, things turn around when one of the dancers, who is a single mother who couldn't afford daycare, is forced to bring her toddler to work. In this situation Godai is ordered to take care of the child safely out of sight in the back, and does so well that the other dancers, predominately single mothers themselves, ask him to take care of their kids. Pretty soon Godai is running an excellent daycare centre at the strip joint and is deeply valued by the rest of the staff.
  • Yasuko Takasu, Ryuji's mom in Toradora! isn't a stripper, but using her sex-appeal while waiting tables and entertaining bar patrons is part of her job.
  • Mako Nakarai's mother in Bokurano is this. Unusually she was a prosititue before she had her daughter but genuinely loves her.


Comicbooks

  • Watchmen: In the flashbacks, Rorschach's mother is a single mom prostitute. Perhaps an Inverted Trope, in that she hates him because he inadvertently drives away business. The woman living in the next apartment from him in the present is also a prostitute, but successfully keeps her secret from her children. Rorschach doesn't kill her because her children are present.
    • And also because her efforts to hide what she does from them indicate that, unlike his own mother, the landlady cares enough about her children to protect them from the ugliness of her life.
  • In The DCU, Plastic Man's ex Angel. (Also, her son is absolutely not Plas'.)
  • Garth Ennis The Pro is a superhero parody where a woman in this trope gets given superpowers. She doesn't stop working as a prostitute since she is not a Rich Idiot With No Day Job.


Films -- Live-Action

  • Dangerous Beauty was about a 16th century woman who becomes a courtesan to support herself and her mother.
  • Vivica Fox's character in Independence Day. Unlike most examples however, she does it by choice (being in a long-term relationship with a well-to-do soldier Marine Corps aviator) and the film deserves credit for not making her any less sympathetic.
  • Note to cruel kids: Do not tease Michael Myers in the Halloween remake about how his mom is a pole dancer.
  • Arlene McKinney in Pay It Forward.
  • Demi Moore's character in Striptease, though she starts out not to support her daughter but to get money to appeal the custody decision against her.
    • Bet that really helped her case.
  • "Cassidy", Marissa Tomei's character in The Wrestler.
  • Heather Graham's character in The Hangover is both a single mom stripper and a single mom prostitute. She says that she works at a strip club as a way of meeting clients.

 Stu: "I married a whore!"

Alan: "How dare you, she's a nice lady!"

 I needed an organ transplant desperately

Geneco showed this single mom sympathy

This makeover came for a small added fee

Now I look smashing on live TV!


Literature

  • Sonya in Crime and Punishment is technically a prostitute but fits this trope because she is single and does it to provide for her family.
  • Central to the premise of Striptease, both the Carl Hiaasen book and the movie.
  • In Les Misérables Fantine is a woman who was a Star-Crossed Lovers but was abandoned, and needs to send money to care for her child. She tries to stay pure but is forced to quit her job after being falsely accused of prostitution. She does turns to prostitution afterwards, and is quickly arrested for that.
    • That's what happens in the musical, in the book she is fired for having lied about not having any children, as lying was the one thing the owner of the factory (aka Valjean) wouldn't tolerate. She is also not arrested for prostitution, but becomes ill from wearing a revealing dress outside in cold weather.
      • Actually, in neither case is she arrested for prostitution. She's arrested for attacking a john.
  • One of the "actresses" in the Dresden Files book Blood Rites, most of which happens in and around a porn studio (It Makes Sense in Context) is a single mom trying to feed her kids.
  • In The Dark Hunters and its spin-off Chronicles of Nick, Cherise Gautier (Nick's mother) had him at fifteen and works as a Bourbon St stripper, but is supposed to be just about the sweetest human being you could ever meet... until she's murdered and left for Nick to find.
  • The drifting mother in Chapter 8 of The Pale King.
  • Kayla Tarington in Volkonir mythos goes out of her way to defy this trope. She refuses to be a sex worker, or to be involved in drugs to keep herself and her daughter alive; even though most of her fellow homeless drifters are all too eager to resort to sex work and drug smuggling. That being said, she takes a lot of odd jobs; and has even assisted a few heists (but only if they don't involve guns or murder.) She also breaks into cabins to steal food and to stay warm in the winter time. She does wind up getting sent to prison at one point anyway...for breaking the nose of the man responsible for the death of her daughter (who was conceived in rape.)

Live-Action TV

  • Tiffy in The Unit worked at a Bikini Bar after separating from her husband. Unable to find a regular job due to a DUI conviction (she'd taken the rap for the Colonel's wife), she does state it's also about keeping her daughters in horse-riding lessons. The bar was shut down after a fire led to the police finding drugs.
  • Sharona posed for a Playboy magazine Expy in Monk in the past.
  • Miss Pasternak on Two and A Half Men.
  • Niki on Heroes. Technically, she's not single, but seeing as her husband escaped from jail and went on the run, she's pretty much on her own as far as raising Micah.
  • At least one of the strippers in the pilot episode of Millennium.
  • Hilda on Ugly Betty once ended up working at a Hooters analogue for this reason.
  • It's the back story for Catherine on CSI.
  • Happened once on Touched By an Angel.
  • Cassie on Guiding Light; did this to try to make enough money to get her daughter out of foster care. Cassie was later so Anvilicious about treating her past as an Old Shame you'd think she'd been a prostitute dealing cocaine to school children.
  • Bill's mom in Freaks and Geeks used to be this.
  • Frederico in Six Feet Under had an affair with a stripper who was a single mom. He didn't really have that much sex with her, as much as he just bought her lots of nice things she never asked for in the first place.
  • Starsky and Hutch: One of these is Starsky's love interest of the week in "The Las Vegas Strangler". Surprisingly, she makes it out of the episode alive.
  • Lieutenant Matthew Scott from Stargate Universe has an ex who turns out to be this.
  • Gillian Darmody on Boardwalk Empire.
  • A few victim-of-the-weeks in Criminal Minds are these. One uses it to attempt to garner pity (as expected, it doesn't work).
  • In the French version of Big Brother, it was revealed in the first season that one of the candidates, Loana, had such a background. She ended up winner of that season.


Music

  • The Kenny Chesney song "Dancin' for the Groceries" tells of a desperate single mother who resorts to stripping in order to make ends meet.
  • The subject of the Funkadelic song "Cosmic Slop".
  • What Would You Do?, the song that's used as the page quote
  • Savaged mercilessly in Bloodhound Gang's "A Lap Dance Is So Much Better When the Stripper is Crying"

 "I have to admit it was even more of a turn-on

when I found out she was doin' me to buy baby formula."

  • Cher's "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" is about the daughter of a tent show dancer (not a single mom; papa's a tent-preacher or snake-oil seller and would have protected his daughter if he'd known what was going on, and helps support his grandkid) who becomes a Single Mom dancer herself. Stripping may or may not be involved.
  • The Decemberists' "A Cautionary Tale" is about a mother who makes the rounds through the local sailors late at night to support her children, and advises said children to be grateful and eat the "collard greens" she bought with the money.


Music Videos

  • Metallica's video for "Turn The Page" features a Single Mom Stripper. And it just goes spiraling from there.
  • Madonna was one of these in one of her videos; at first, the little boy trying to get in to see her was sort of weird, before you realize it's her son.
    • Wait a minute. Her son was trying to watch her perform in a peep show in the "Open Your Heart" video? No, not weird at all. Actually, The Other Wiki offers that it was just a boy wandering through the area who gained entrance into the strip club and prompted her to escape from her life as a stripper.
      • Seems like the kid was just impatient to see his mother at the end of the day. Since they literally dance off into the night together, it's reasonable to imagine that family time is appreciated after the days she has.
  • In Juvenile's video for "Rodeo", the camera goes "behind the scenes" at a strip club. The dancers are all sympathetic, facing such issues as overdue bills, jealous boyfriends, schoolwork, breakups, crass treatment from patrons, and all that, but The Show Must Go On. One of the dancers has a baby with her backstage.


Theater

  • It was implied that Madea (Diary Of A Mad Black Woman, etc) might have been a single mom stripper at least once.
  • Fantine in Les Misérables turns to prostitution in order to raise money for her daughter, Cosette.


Webcomics

  • Danika, a minor character from Dominic Deegan. The "single Mom" part actually saves her life, because Celesto decides not to kill her when he finds out she has a daughter.
  • Karate Bears: This would be a Single Dad Stripper but i think it still applies


Western Animation

  • Parodied on American Dad, where Steve distracts some strippers by telling them their kid has gotten into their stash. Naturally, every one of them runs off.
    • And, in a later episode, Hayley herself had to do "some things" to pay for food when Stan went crazy for the 900th time.
    • And Hayley working as a strip club waitress (then as a stripper after her boss and a patron tell Hayley that being a stripper isn't exploitative) in "Stan Knows Best" after Stan takes her credit card and stops paying her way through community college
  • On Family Guy, Peter and his friends are trailing Lois to find out why she's acting suspicious, and Quagmire says "Maybe she's a prostitute! But only on the weekends, to pay for her mom's kidney dialysis... like in my fantasy... <awkward pause> You know, let's start again. Hi, I'm Quagmire!"
  • Mrs. Muntz, Nelson's mother, from The Simpsons, although she isn't very attractive. One episode featured Nelson's father returning, but he hasn't been mentioned since then and it is implied that the family still consists of Nelson and his mother.
    • Another episode had his mom getting cast as Lady Macbeth: "I don't have to take off my top... but I do anyway!"
    • The couch gag for "Beware My Cheating Bart" had a couch play the role of a single mom stripper.


Other

  • T-Shirt Hell, purveyor of offensive cotton outerwear, feature a shirt that says "I Support Single Moms" alongside a silhouette rather reminiscent of mudflap girls but dancing around a pole (pictured above).
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