Burlesque dancing...?

(195 Posts)
whatdoesittake48 Mon 21-Oct-13 08:19:17

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I have signed up to do one of these courses. But I am already torn about what this means as a feminist.

I like the idea of doing something out of my comfort zone and having fun while doing it. But I am anti-porn, see striptease as demeaning for women and do not think that women should be expected to perform for men....

Unless it is their husband/partner and they absolutely are keen themselves.

My husband is very keen for me to give this a go - but in no way did he push the idea. I searched it out. What does this say about my principles and am I over thinking this.

I hate all this empowerment bullshit - stripping for men is not about empowerment. But is it different when it is for the man you love. Isn't that just carrying on the image that men love to see women doing this kind of thing. Do the men think their wives look powerful and sexy or do they think she is doing something for me because I am the "special" one and more important.

Aaargh! I really want to do this because I think it will be a great female bonding thing - but not sure if I want to bring it home to my husband. I will feel deeply uncomfortable with the idea of putting on a show...

Oh the lamp post woman took off raincoat and dress to pole dance in hot pants and bra. To be fair you can't pole dance in a dress: clothes make you fall off! You need bare skin to grip.

The tango they did was incredibly sexy. I thought the whole thing was fab. I wish I could remember the name of the group who put it on.

No, the fire eater was in sequinned bikini but obviously clothes would catch fire! She had lots of tattoos and was bald. The acrobats were in unitards.

BuffytheAnyAppleFucker Thu 24-Oct-13 15:55:59

That does sound pretty cool. And no corsets or stockings?

Really interesting thread.
I haven't been to burlesque show for years but the last one I went to was v good, the acts included

A woman dressed in Puritan gear (think Miller: The Crucifix) coming on to ''The Stripper' music ( m.youtube.com/watch?v=twOUAUKurFw&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DtwOUAUKurFw) and gleefully removing her mob cap, apron, rolling up her sleeves and then flashing an ankle in a thick boot and wool sock.

A ballet routine with a woman in a raincoat and heels and black dress looking bored dancing mechanically round a lamp post, then dancing with a series of acrobatic pole tricks up and down the lamp post (pole dancing) whilst a man watched from shadows, then he offered her cash, she refused, they switch to fast tango, he offers more and more money, she eventually sells him the lamp post, he dances round it, fade to spotlight with him hanging upside down on pole, flowers thrown and wild applause from stage left.

A woman in blood stained nightie runs about screaming, writhing on floor in abandonment,then opens coffin, stakes a male vampire, takes off his clothes and puts them on herself, then pas de deux as he dies.

Followed by some fire eating and hoops/silks acrobatics and a comedy routine by a drag artist.

It didn't feel at all oppressive; it was thought provoking and entertaining.

freyasnow Thu 24-Oct-13 12:31:54

There is a very widely held belief in society that the main way women feel sexy is by dressing up in tiny bits of underwear that accentuate particularly female body parts and then displaying them to other people (even if only their partner). It is a common trope that a woman would feel sexier and more liberated if she did this, and if she only loosened up a bit and bought some lingerie, she would feel sexy. There is an idea being presented on this thread that women aren't allowed to be sexual in public and burlesque is some sort of answer to this.

The issue then is that while a performative sexuality is authentic for some women, it is not for the majority of women. That doesn't mean the majority of women are less sexual in general, less sexual in public or less body positive. It just means their sexuality is different. For some women, being more sexual in public would actually mean looking at attractive men more, commenting on men's appearance, having men be very amiable and pleasing to them as individuals. Although I wouldn't personally go so far as to expect large numbers of men to take up stripping with other men while wearing vintage clothes and then come home to a. discuss it with me, b. do it as an actual public performance or c. act it out at home (pleasing, subserviant and homoerotic as the idea may well be), because there is a line you don't cross unless you are being very explicit that this is a consensual dynamic of objectification and subordination. The idea that you can pass off somebody doing something that is about others looking at their body in a context that they claim makes them feel somewhat uncomfortable and is about them 'pushing their boundaries' and they're debating it with their partner clearly has strong submissive elements. If lots of men were talking about doing this for no financial reward, it would absolutely be seen as such.

So my issues with it are:

1. Be honest that this is an activity that traditionally puts women in a subordinate role. Particularly be honest if you are then asking others to make judgements about it, because being judged, feeling shamed, feeling you are doing something wrong, naughty etc are part of the appeal of doing subordinate things for many people, and making others feel that way is part of sexuality for others (and I think we should be honest about that (not saying this is the OP, but certainly true of some posters in these kind of discussions).

2. Don't reinforce women's social, political and economic enforced subordination as somehow 'natural' by making out that this subordination is something women would enjoy and how most of them would express their sexuality if they would only push their boundaries. If you want to do it, that's fine, but don't project it on to women as a group or make generalisations about what a sexy woman is like.

3. Stop pushing it into increasingly public spaces. Burlesque dancers are not an oppressed minority. The idea that women's sexiness is about showing off their bodies in bits of lace is already the established norm. I'd rather my kids were not pushed into more exposure to this idea, so that they can develop their own more nuanced ideas about life. If it turns out that kind of act is appealing to them, that is their choice, but this really feels like pressure to conform to a norm.

4. The focus on the breasts (nipple tassels, swinging breasts around in a supposedly comical way) is very objectifying because there is already a very strong influence in society that women's breasts are primarily sexual and somehow a joke or an invitation. This is particularly irritating to me as a woman with large breasts which are simply part of my body and not primarily a sex aid for others to look at. If this isn't all about objectifying women's bodies in particular, why don't you attach tassels or bit of jewellery to your elbows and swing those around?

That being said, people who want to do it should do it, in a safe space with like minded individuals. I am sure it is a great way of making friends, and I don't like badminton either. If burlesque and badminton were the only two options for a hobby, I might well find burlesque the least terrible of the two.

BuffytheAnyAppleFucker Thu 24-Oct-13 11:47:38

Sounds like we've got ourselves several worthwhile research questions there!

AutumnMadness Thu 24-Oct-13 11:44:09

Buffy, I am asking the same question, but only in reverse - what can undressing/nakedness on stage express? I don't know if the positive phrasing makes it any different.

So far, this thread came up with two major points:

1. Empowerment for women of "non-model" shapes. I get that to an extent. Being sexual and sexually desirable can be positive. For instance, sexual body confidence is important in intimate relationships. However, our social environment conditions our self-understanding, and women whose bodies do not conform to the "ideal" have very few cultural references that they can use to support their sense of worth. So I think that public sexual nudity can actually help such women. I don't think we can neatly separate the private from the public and say that it's perfectly easy for "non-model" women to have positive private sexuality alongside total public sexual invisibility. HOWEVER: How quickly do these noble undertakings are sabotaged by patriarchy? How quickly can a supportive gathering of women turn into a spectacle for leering men? How quickly do the switches flick in the brains from "this body is gloriously beautiful" to "I wouldn't mind bending her over"?

2. Women's takeover of their own bodies. In our present culture, public naked women are pretty much all sex objects, in a negative degrading way that takes the dignity away from the women. Can we change it? Can we carve out/create an understanding of public naked women outside patriarchy? This to me is very attractive but also seems near impossible. Parallels can be drawn with "Slut Walk". Or Femen. But Femen are just plain stupid in my opinion.

Personally, I would also like to look towards historical use of women's naked bodies in art (I don't want to say "nudes" as this makes women sound like inanimate objects). Was Titian for instance just porn for the rich, or was there something else? There are parallels here with the thread we had about the Warwick rowing team calendar.

I am asking more questions here than answering. But it is bloody hard to think outside patriarchy.

BuffytheAnyAppleFucker Thu 24-Oct-13 10:26:30

I don't think I phrased my question very well.

What I mean is that women can perform in supportive environments. They can dance, be funny, do whatever. In costumes that they don't remove.

What is the significance of removing clothes? And how does that differ from the significance of removing clothes in stripping?

BuffytheAnyAppleFucker Thu 24-Oct-13 10:25:00

I am interested to know why women can't express themselves, be witty, make points etc, and use their body in performances to do this without taking off their clothes.

I am not opposed to public nudity itself, I am wondering what the removal of clothes element adds to the burlesque argument? I wonder this genuinely, not as a way to try and trip up pro burlesque posters.

coffeespoons Thu 24-Oct-13 10:13:44

All I know is when I used to go it was a majority woman space which had the same atmosphere as many woman-focussed 'safe spaces' do, like the women's centres and feminist places I have been to. Where I didn't hear judgement, criticism or objectifying comments on women's bodies. It was OK to look how you looked and your body wasn't what was important. Where I saw women be creative and intelligent and people appreciating women as people rather than objects. There were routines that made me think and often made feminist points. There was occasional nudity but often less than you might see down the pub. A lot less sexism than down the pub, too. It was kind of political dancing and it was open to everyone. It was completely different to burlesque now and completely different to stripping. It was generally an expression of subversive femme ideas and was part of the queer scene.

FloraFoxForAnyFucker Wed 23-Oct-13 22:55:19

coffeespoons I'd be interested in your take on how it is empowering.

TheDoctrineOfAnyFucker Wed 23-Oct-13 22:49:41

Sure, pp, I'm not re-arguing that point with you, just putting the posts quoted into the context that I think they were meant ie critical of burlesque not of fat women.

perplexedpirate Wed 23-Oct-13 22:46:33

The differences between burlesque and stripping have been pointed out time and again on this thread, so there's no point me repeating it all.
It's like comparing baking a fairy cake and a loaf, some similarities and cross over clearly, but ultimately a very different end 'product' (please note use of inverted commas).
It's like saying 'fairy cakes! Ha, they're just loaves for twats'.

TheDoctrineOfAnyFucker Wed 23-Oct-13 22:40:37

True. But I don't think either of those posts were about castigating women for being fat but, just as Grennie said, if the subversive thing about burlesque is supposedly that it's for different kinds of body shapes, that's just a sop to the fact that it's really no different to stripping.

perplexedpirate Wed 23-Oct-13 22:37:47

And 'you know all the cliches, right?' was immediately followed by 'in this case I believe them'.

TheDoctrineOfAnyFucker Wed 23-Oct-13 22:37:39

Coffeespoons, I think most posters are agreeing with this bit:

At some point it became a bit more mainstream. I stopped going because it was suddenly weird and objectifying and full of leery men and no creative storylines and women I knew didn't want to be part of it any more.

TheDoctrineOfAnyFucker Wed 23-Oct-13 22:34:48

ScaryFucker's quote was immediately followed by 'you know all the cliches, right'.

perplexedpirate Wed 23-Oct-13 22:30:16

Bunnylebowski, comment 8.
'Burlesque is stripping for fat middle-class goths'.

perplexedpirate Wed 23-Oct-13 22:27:43

ScaryFucker, comment no 6.
'Burlesque is stripping for fat birds, you know that, right?'.
hmm

TheDoctrineOfSpike Wed 23-Oct-13 22:05:20

Who has described it as that on this thread, coffeespoons?

Grennie Wed 23-Oct-13 20:43:19

Not having a go at woman for being fat at all. But that seems to be the only "subversive" thing about burlesque i.e. that women are of different shapes, sizes, wearing glasses, etc.

And when you say empowering, what power are the performers getting from performing?

coffeespoons Wed 23-Oct-13 20:40:52

And all you lot describing burlesque as 'stripping for fat birds' should take a look at yourselves! How is having a go at women for being fat feminism?

coffeespoons Wed 23-Oct-13 20:38:52

When burlesque was first revived around near me a good few years back now it was bloody awesome. I went to see it, was never brave enough to do it. It was mostly women, feminist women too, all body types/sizes, creative storylines etc, non-leery but supportive audience of mostly women.

At some point it became a bit more mainstream. I stopped going because it was suddenly weird and objectifying and full of leery men and no creative storylines and women I knew didn't want to be part of it any more.

It's even more mainstream now.

Burlesque can be empowering, but I'd say a lot depends on whether it has the right kind of atmosphere and the right kind of audience. When it was just a group of us radicals in a back room it sure was.

perplexedpirate Wed 23-Oct-13 19:44:36

Female actor I mean!!
wink

perplexedpirate Wed 23-Oct-13 19:44:10

To clarify: I didn't invoke the 'spirit of the sisterhood' (kicks pentangle under the sofa).
I said it wasn't in the 'spirit of the sisterhood' to call a group of women childish and offensive names because they like dancing dressed in peculiar outfits.
I was referring to the posters who we're saying burlesque dancers were fat, goth, nerdy etc.
Fortunately, the rest of this discussion has been mostly well-reasoned and interesting.
I'll still dance though. And be a feminist.

For the sake of argument, would an actress playing a burlesque dancer still be regarded as making an unfeminist choice?

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