Feminism vs. Burlesque

My love affair with burlesque is like a rollercoaster. Some days that’s a good thing and it’s like Nemesis – really exciting with plenty of ups and downs, but the highs are so great that they compensate for the lows. On other days it’s like Oblivion – it has the potential to make me feel quite queasy and I simply want to see the back of it. Today I have once again started to wonder if my burlesque hobby is compatible with my feminist views. Someone I met on Twitter and invited into my burlesque world on Facebook said that:

Burlesque is interesting cause it makes it ‘ok’ for women to undress and people to watch under some ‘artistic’ guise …but basically it’s posh stripping that draws the line before ‘non posh’ stripping does. (badly explained, sorry).

Badly explained or not, some people do think of burlesque as posh stripping and an awful lot of acts are essentially only that. I have had fun getting to grips with the basics, putting together routines and performing on stage, but now I’m thinking I really have to try to move onto the next level with my burlesque or ditch it all together.

I have found that planning routines, costumes and shows has given me a sense of empowerment, and has made me feel more confident than I would usually. However, burlesque performances themselves are not empowering as it’s simply light entertainment. More importantly, what is the point if people other than my friends view what I do simply as stripping? I’m not a stripper. I don’t do it for sexual reasons and I definitely don’t want to perform for an audience who thinks I’m up for a shag purely because I’ve removed some items of clothing on stage.

Think what you want of me when you know me but, until then, please don’t assume anything. I really feel that I need to make my future routines less ‘strippy’ and more comical/theatrical or I simply won’t feel comfortable with it. Now that I’ve got over the initial performance ‘high’ that burlesque provides, I’d like to make what I do a bit more… well, me. Let’s see how the next two shows go and I’ll report back.

UPDATE: I have now written in more detail about burlesque and feminism over on BitchBuzz – Is Burlesque Just About Glittertits and Sex?

Images of The Rebel Rebels and Miss Lolly Pops by Jon Topper (with frames and text added by me… not sure if I like it).

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