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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5 Discussion to this post

  1. The Redhead says:

    Having seen you perform, I can safely say that you are not a stripper-ish performer. Quite the contrary, you project the innocence of Bettie Page who naively posed in high end fetish clothing.

    For people to generalize burlesque as stripping makes two assumptions. One, that stripping itself cannot be empowering at times. And two, that you're not simply performing burlesque because YOU want to.

    I don't think burlesque and stripping should be be compared, to be honest. Cheesecake and raunch are two entirely separate things, and the way you are perceived has everything to do with the image you project. And you, my dear, do not project STRIPPER.

    You are a feminist, and an intelligent, informed woman. You own your own desires and impulses. If you feel empowered putting on a show and twirling your tassles on stage, then DO IT! Perform because you want to, and camp it up as much as you want.

    And anyone who disapproves or makes you feel like less of a feminist for doing so can go to hell.

    Jes sayin'

  2. Isn't feminism about having the freedom to do what you want, and disregard the sometimes-male patriarchal view of what is, and isn't acceptable?

  3. Retro Chick says:

    To start, exactly what almostwitty.com said!

    I had an almost identical argument to this in the pub with 2 male “friends” of mine who started spewing what were, quite frankly, disgustingly sexist views.

    I think if you can't tell the difference between stripping and burlesque you've probably never actually seen a real burlesque performance. My favourite performances are always those that include wit and comic elements, rather than those that are merely “retro style stripping”

    I would love to get involved in Burlesque performance, but I have neither the confidence or the talent!

  4. WendyB says:

    I agree with Almost Witty now. I used to be more uptight. But now I'm older, wiser and feel more empowered and therefore more free. The dictionary definition of feminism is the theory of economic, political and social equality of the sexes. I don't see anything in that besides freedom to choose.

  5. Quinn says:

    As a male outsider, I have to say that in my observation, women love to be beautiful and to parade to, to be seen and appreciated, just as men do at times, wether through “showing off” through such meaningless skills as playing pool well, or other wise. Men, when it has been fashionably allowed, have been very fond of getting around in skin tight clothing while baring huge amounts of flesh… (ala glam rockers or Robert plant, or greek guys in general for that matter… or even D'angelo!? )

    Women though have all these beautiful curvy bits that guys don't have… (I could be biased), I don't think its fair to say that the traditionally feminine power to hypnotise with physicality is entirely down to ” male patriarchal domination ” … possibly quite the opposite in fact…..

    Just my two cents.

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