You know what really cocks me off? Other than hippies, drum ‘n’ bass and Brick Lane, that is. Burlesque. What the fuck is that all about? My sources tell me we’re in the midst of a burlesque revival. Where did it start? I don’t know. I wasn’t paying attention. But if goth-gobbling knicker hanger Dita von Teese was the germ of the tumour, the first annual London Burlesque Festival seems to represent its unqualified metastasization.
Don’t get me wrong. They’re probably a really nice bunch of guys (and gals, though it’s worth noting that their head honcho is a bloke) but ever since they formalized the miasmic coagulation of what had once been a pretty disparate, minority interest scene, the rest of us have had nothing but titty tassels thrust in our faces. This is not a good thing.
Burlesque is not in any way empowering. It does not give women the freedom to reclaim their bodies. Get this: you cannot be a feminist if you objectify your own body. If you’re up on a stage screaming ‘look at me’ you are not empowered, you are desperate — at best for attention, at worst, acceptance. Don’t try and tell me you’re a performer, or an entertainer, or even a dancer. You’re a stripper. Deal with it.
The reclamation of burlesque as an innocent exploration of feminine sexuality is a fantasy dreamed up by a post-feminist collective consciousness that has sublimated the pornographic urge of the male psyche into the supposed ‘empowerment’ of dominance via sexual means. Yet objectification it remains.
Girls on stage, think about it for a minute. Do you think anyone would want to see you get ‘em out if you were old, ugly, or morbidly obese?
The world of burlesque is more inclusive than the sex industry. It has a few professionals and a hell of a lot of amateurs. You don’t need to be a pneumatic blonde or be willing to have a German shit on your chest to do it. Yes, women of varying shapes and sizes can perform, but is there anything more depressing than the stubby, slightly overweight one at the end parading around in stockings and suspenders like a closet tranny in front of a Travelodge mirror? The facts are inescapable. This sort of performance is predicated on the objectification of the female body. The fact the power dynamic has shifted away from the audience and towards the performer changes nothing. Burlesque demeans women.
Case in point, the hideous little troll I overheard down my local boozer last week telling two men about how she was a burlesque dancer, explaining (in some detail) her act. The poor thing would have looked vile even in a burlap sack if I had a paper bag over my head. Yet she seemed sensible, articulate and personable — valuable qualities in any person, let alone a potential partner. Why, then, did she feel the need to get up on the stage and do the tassel routine (always with the fucking tassels, don’t you people do anything else?). She, too, had bought into the great con that self-esteem comes not from a contentment with our own appearance (and personality) but from the approbation of others. It’s a tragedy that the way she chose to make herself feel better sets the cause of women’s liberation back every time she disrobes on stage.
Spreading out from our glorious capital city like an unacknowledged fart gently wafting through the room, burlesque has become big business, spawning regular club nights and a host of ‘professionals’ offering lessons in ‘the art of tease’ country-wide. Ultimately, it is a lie. I’m no feminist. I’m a man. I like seeing women take their clothes off. But why women would want to do this for peer acceptance is frankly baffling. We are all of us sexual beings. But do we need to get up on the stage to prove it?
So go on, girls. Flaunt that funky stuff. Does it make you feel big? Does it make up for being teased or shy or geeky in school? Fuck the lot of you. If you want to argue about it you’ll find me down the Clerkenwell Titty Bar, watching girls demean themselves for loose change. At least it’s honest. Who are you people trying to kid?