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Why The Burlesque Show is over

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Well, folks, the inevitable has finally happened: the Neo-Burlesque Movement is now fully mainstream.  This initially underground movement started in the early 1990’s with the founding of Dixie Evans’ Miss Exotic World pageant, and has been growing and growing to the point that now Burlesque is everywhere. Neo-Burlesque has finally crossed the mainstream threshold with the release of the movie Burlesque starring Christina Aguilera and Cher.  To complicate the situation, stripper-turned-burlesque instructor Jo Weldon just released The Burlesque Handbook, which spills the beans on most of burlesque’s trade secrets and lowers the bar for practically anyone who wants to do burlesque to jump in. There’s nothing wrong with being mainstream unless you can’t handle it, and there are many problems within the Neo-Burlesque Movement where they have set themselves up for their own failure now that the spotlight really is on them. One of Neo-Burlesque’s problems is inherent in its very existence: Neo-Burlesque is part of the very problem that it is trying to be a solution for. How?  Read on to find out.

burlesque_progress_chart_cartoon_6

In 2007, the American Psychological Association released the 68-page Report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. The report seeks to demonstrate academically something that women in Western culture already know—that women are subjected to an ongoing and never-ending sexualization contest that values them solely on their “sexual appeal or behavior, to the exclusion of other characteristics.”  This comes largely from the media, but to exacerbate the problem further, women become obsessed with the sexualization contest themselves to the point that they objectify themselves and each other, using a few impossible-to-obtain body types as their reference points for performing well in this competition.

There is really no better way to explain the rise of Neo-Burlesque than as a response to this appalling sexualization contest. The stories about how women get into burlesque generally follow this pattern: They were already obsessed with the sexualization contest, depressed because they were losing it, or both.  They went to a burlesque show, saw the wide variety of body types parading across the stage and being cheered unconditionally for it, and wanted to get in on the action.  They were nervous and scared before their first strip show, but when it was all done, they too got their own unconditional adulation.  It forever changed their lives, and now they are happy and gleeful in the burlesque community, regularly taking it off for other women and being praised for—sexualizing themselves. In other words, the Neo-Burlesque Movement still buys into the Western Culture Sexualization Contest’s ever-present message that a woman’s value is primarily based on her performance as a sex object. Their sexualization of each other continues on, only in a “soccer mom” kind of way where everyone gets a prize.

Over and over again in burlesque, women will use word “empowered” to describe how they feel when they perform.  But is this really “power”?  If she were the only woman alive, the argument that a woman has acquired “power” by causing men to helplessly lust after her would hold some water.  But what if this man is bored with the “empowered” dancer’s act and falls asleep during her performance?  Or, let’s assume that while our “empowered” burlesque dancer is putting on her show, another woman came along that was a little more willing, and the man the dancer has “power” over trots off to bed with the other woman.  What happened to her “power”?  What we see is that her “power” is not tangible power at all, but rather an illusion of power. She may feel like she rules the world, but what she feels and what exists in reality are two very different things.  The 30% of the burlesque audience that are men and who smittenly watch our “empowered” woman are consensually giving her the “power” that she possesses, and can shut it off at any time.  She cannot collect lust from them the way that the government collects taxes.  So how exactly is this “power”?

In the previously mentioned The Burlesque Handbook, author Jo Weldon tries to explain how burlesque dancers differ from strippers: “As a strip-joint stripper, I usually looked for one individual to perform to, and that individual paid me.  As a burlesque performer, I play to the entire house, and the house (show producer or venue owner) pays me.” She then recalls the pain when “As a…stripper, my appearance was constantly evaluated and commented upon openly…it was a rollercoaster for my ego.” As dehumanizing as it is for conventional strippers to be scrutinized like they are, at least they have the strength to get up close with men.  Burlesque dancers, on the other hand, have a wall of separation between them and the audience, and have rigged the show to where the audience can only give positive reinforcement. In this environment, all the “power grabs” and attempts and being “daring” end up being, as Roger Waters put it, “the bravery of being out of range.”

 

The Alternative: The Vintage Movement

So you’re an audience member that’s getting bored of burlesque and tired of saying “Woo!” to everything they do.  Or you like older styles of clothing and ways of doing things, and really want to get away from the sexualization contest. Where to you go? The answer: check out the Vintage Movement, which had its breakthrough year in the UK in 2010.

The Vintage Movement looks to the larger culture of the mid-20th Century, with the intent of bringing the better ways of life from the period to the current day.  It is welcoming to newcomers, features real gentlemen that are kind to ladies, and ladies who come in all sizes and shapes who are appreciated as whole people.  The ladies in the scene are genuinely loved and appreciated for who they are and what they do, and don’t even have to take their clothes off to receive that love and appreciation.

Here’s an overview of what has been going on so far.  The tradeshow-sized Vintage At Goodwood festival made the biggest splash of the year, followed by the traveling event Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fairs. Vintage resellers fuel much of the movement, some running their own shops on Etsy, and others, such as Sadie Boon Vintage, running handsome online boutiques.  Vintage fashion blogs like Va-Voom Vintage also drive the scene, and hard-copy magazines such as Vintage Life support it further. The men come in with blogs like Manly Vintage and magazines like The Chap.

The Vintage Movement’s music looks to be what will gather people together and perpetuate the movement even further.  Dutch chanteuse Caro Emerald broke this territory open in 2010 with her multi-platinum selling Deleted Scenes From the Cutting Room Floor. Expanding the musical vocabulary further is the upcoming compilation This is Vintage Now, which features Miss Emerald, living saxophone legend Big Jay McNeely, exotica revivalists The Waitiki 7, classic jazz singer Beverly Kenney, and many others.

With so much excitement and so many nice people in the Vintage Movement, who needs the same old trite Cherry Bettie Kitty Bottoms taking their clothes off whilst holding the PC gun at the audience, demanding unconditional applause?  The sexualization contest is tragic, but obsessing about it further in a narcissistic way and seeking “I win you lose” answers and imaginary “power” acquisitions is not healing, but a continuation of the problem.  And this is only one of many issues inherent within the Neo-Burlesque Movement that suggest that the show is almost over.

David Gasten is a Vintage enthusiast and producer of the soon-to-be released compilation This is Vintage Now.

28 Comments

  1. Steve says:

    Step out into Europe my friend and you will find that in many places Burlesque has just begun…..

    We went to VINTAGE at GOODWOOD, and… much as we love other events at Goodwood we are into Vintage will not go back to this mishmash of 5 decades! Lots of people did their own thing with a Vintage flavour, but a significant percentage of people were dressed from the high street and thought they had a vintage flavour, perhaps this is ‘neo vintage’ which surely is an oxymoron!

    And on Saturday….we went to the Burlesque in Milano, and who were the audience?, well there was as significant percentage of ‘Vintage Enthusiasts’…..dressing in Vintage style, listening to Vintage Music and Swing Dancing…..these things exist together….or what are you getting dressed up in your Vintage duds to do….walking around a muddy field does not do it for everyone…..

  2. The illustration made me chuckle.

  3. i agree with steve, as a professional burlesque dancer i’ve travelled to Milan, Paris, LA, Croatia, Rotterdam, Barcelona etc etc where people dressed in vintage (and good vintage too, it’s too “in fashion” here and most of the good stuffs gone….) lindy hopped, and watched performers mainly hailing from the UK.
    Jo weldon is a teacher of burlesque, she’s well known as the headmistress of the new york school of burlesque, and has had a version of this handbook for sale online for many many years, before it hit mainstream, so to critisize that she’s now had it published shows a real lack of knowledge, and maybe more research should have been done on your end really.
    But as a uk performer and promoter i’m not worried that there is now a mainstream film, after all, there are still showgirls in Las vegas, and Showgirls was terrible.

  4. Neko says:

    Let me get this straight: You failed to get sufficiently turned on by the “variety of body types” at a burlesque show because they’re performing for their own pleasure (not yours). So you, instead, advocate a wholesale return to the good old days when women knew their place and “real gentlemen,” such as yourself, could rule the roost in comfort.

    Wow. Way to TOTALLY miss the point of burlesque. Have fun playing dress-up!

  5. admin says:

    I think the question the article poses is: does burlesque objectify women, and if so can it still be empowering? I think it’s fine to say burlesque is empowering, provided it doesn’t objectify women. But if it does I find it hard to reconcile the scene with the empowerment it purports to endow. I’d be interested to know if anyone answers “yes” to both questions, and how they reconcile these two seemingly oppositional statements.

  6. Who gives a shit. what is this, cubism against impressionism? burlesque vs vintage? what an asshole. I agree with a lot of this asshole’s insights, but he just sounds stupid. really, who gives such a shit? I’d rather side myself with the failure of neo burlesque than join in the douchebaggery of the likes of this fucker. If this post did anything it turned me OFF vintage. what a bunch of snide assholes.

  7. I think you are over-analyzing this and missing the point.
    As burlesque performers, many of us objectify ourselves in an over-the-top manner because that is part of the spectacle and fun of it all! Did you miss the punchline?
    You know, I’ve seen fads and trends in entertainment come and go since I got involved in the music industry as a teenager (and a lot of it had to do with the vintage culture you are drooling over, which actually sounds like you just have a bad case of fantasy induced nostalgia for an era you did not live in). I’ve seen that movement come and go in one way or another every 5 years, through music, fashion, entertainment, car design, and cocktails.
    Since you generalized the whole culture of burlesque, let me encourage you to think about something, don’t worry, its just a few simple ideas:
    Perhaps you just went to some shitty burlesque shows?
    Perhaps you missed the memo that there are a variety of sizes and shapes of burlesque dancers out there, and the fact that there are all types of entertainment for all types of people?
    Perhaps you missed the memo that audiences actually have booed, are free to “boo”, and have many options for watching burlesque so that they don’t have to rely on going back to a show that they didn’t like? However, there really isn’t a need to boo anymore, because shows (as with all entertainment) is not structured the way it was back in your vintage-loving era. Entertainment is more structured now since we have more access to entertainment choices and resources to make decisions ahead of time as to whether we want to take the risk or not, to see a new show. The internet is the obvious source, where you can get a sneak peak of a show or performer or band before you waste your time going- I’ve done it plenty of times!

    In addition to your psychoanalysis on sexualization and objectification, what many “caring and sensitive” feminist men and narrow minded feminist females have to realize about burlesque and women in general is- YES a woman (or anyone) can be understood as a sexual being alongside other values, especially if it is associated with their chosen career path. Why is it that just because sexuality comes into play, that everything else must be null and void? This is not true for all cultures around the world, nor in many subcultures within our westernized ones.
    Don’t think that you can resort to using the word “empowerment” against us…we feel just as good as any man who is also feeling empowered by doing what he loves to do whether it be career or hobby.
    Of course a woman feels empowered- she just had the guts to get up and do something that would scare the shit out of most people, whether it includes any form of stripping or staying completely clothed; performing on stage as a dance, musician, or actor leaves a certain thrillfull feeling that many other jobs might not.
    Don’t you think a CEO feels empowered after watching their stocks rise, or a baseball player feels on top of the world after hitting a homerun or two or three?

    Why is it that this women-dominated entertainment form is so criticized when the male dominated forms such as rock music are left alone?
    When is the last time that someone wrote a dumb blog preaching that all the men in rock bands need to get over themselves and the time is near where rock n roll shows won’t be desired anymore?
    Face it dude- you feel the need to criticize women who are not the women you desire.
    But guess what- attendance to good shows and RETURN ATTENDANCE to good shows, is indicative that this entertainment form is doing just fine.
    Thanks anyways for providing the platform to sound off on theories like yours!
    Later!
    -Roulette Rose
    New Orleans, LA

  8. Lil' BeauxMonts says:

    I had a response but…
    Meh.
    Those of us who know, know better.

  9. Moxie Sazerac says:

    I love you Roulette Rose. Mr. Gasten, please leave the commentary on female bodies and performance to female bodies and female performers.

  10. Audrey Hepburn's cigarette holder says:

    The problem with whacking in “the Vintage Movement” at the end of this article is that (if I can get past the sneeking suspicion that you haven’t just slapped burlesque in the chops purely to advertise your CD), there is a large crossover between vintage & burlesque. There are even burlesque do’s at “vintage” events! Take The Rhythm Riot, for example – on one night they have The Lady Luck room for burlesque. It’s a rockabilly/rhythm & blues weekender, but plenty of people who just happen to like wearing old clothes go as well (partly because the shopping is amazing).

    Witness also Viva Las Vegas – HUGE rockabilly festival which has a burlesque element to it.

    You mention The Chap magazine: are you aware that at their Christmas ball they have “the legendary “Chap Room”, where guests may dictate a letter to a 1950s secretary and have it delivered on a silver salver to another guest by a butler.” Odds are on for the secretary being female – does that not objectify women in a similar way to burlesque, harking back as it does to a world where women were denied positions of power and had to be secretaries? But it’s ok because she’s fully clothed? However, I will be in attendance at the ball because… I can see the irony.

    The trouble with the V-word is this: it is losing its meaning. It’s a handy word that gets bandied about (witness how many times you’ve used it in just one paragraph) and applied to anything even vaguely old – a five year old high fashion piece is “vintage” these days. How anything from the 80s can be described as “vintage” is something that will forever astound me. Where wearing ‘vintage’ used to have a slight odour of rebellion about it (bear in mind I’ve “dressed vintage” since I was 16, before it was even called “vintage” in the UK, and I was the only person who did it in the town I lived in – rebellious AND very dangerous), it is being watered down and made safe – and nostalgic.

    Nothing annoys me more than people saying it’s about nostalgia – how on Earth can I be nostalgic for a period I wasn’t alive in? And why on Earth would I want to be nostalgic (in the sense of longing for something forever out of reach) for, for example, the 1940s when people in my family were killed in The Blitz? Oh yes, how nostalgic – the cause of death they were given is “war operations: buried under debris.” Let’s bring that back – what a golden hour! I do like 1940s fashions though, but nostalgia??? Absolutely not! Same for the 1950s – as an independently-minded woman I would have gone mad if I lived in the 1950s. I would’ve been wired up to an ECT machine! Is that empowering? As much as burlesque may have ideological flaws, “vintage” is just as bad, especially from a feminist perspective. Is a return to baking and knitting empowering? My feeling is that if people want to bake and knit and wear girdles, it’s up to them, but it’s not unproblematic.

    If women want to be sexual then it’s their business, and a crucial strand to burlesque, and why it’s so popular, is that women are using it to reclaim their rights to their bodies and their sexualities (and these are not always heterosexual, cis-gendered sexualities). I agree to an extent with the idea that people aren’t allowed to criticise burlesque performances/performers – I think everyone’s seen poor burlesque acts and have felt unable to comment, but if you’re an audience member you vote with your feet. You don’t go back to see a poor performer. As burlesque becomes watered down, it becomes unimaginative and loses its entertainment values – but there will always be excellent performers about who value narrative, character, performance and art over “oh look, I’m a bit naked.” Burlesque, and similarly pin-up, is an art form and there is no excuse for bad art for the sake of empowerment – bad art empowers no-one.

    And neither, for that matter, does nostalgia.

  11. Roulette Rose gives the most powerful counter-argument so far that I’ve read when whenever a critic poses questions like this. My hats off to her for asking further questions to continue dialogue on this medium. Most critics always ask “Is this a valid medium, or merely a group-hug?”

    In which most performers always leave comments that are pretty close to “OMG! You’re a ignorant/misogynist male who hates empowerment. You don’t get it, and your opinions mean nothing.” Which does nothing to further the debate of validity that will inevitably come when any artistic medium gets mainstream spotlight.

    I honestly don’t think vintage Barbie burlesque is the future. I’m from Seattle WA, where that style maintains a choke-hold over the cabaret scene over here and many performers judge themselves by how well other women can pull it off. This inevitably descends into “Ugh, look what she’s wearing.” convo’s that don’t seem feminist to me at all.

    I agree with Roulette, I think the author misses the point. But I definitely relate to him on the analogy about the PC gun being held to the face of the captive audience. People who boo at burlesque shows are douches. But how can the art-form get constructively criticized without gender politics playing into it? Is it because of the presence of sexuality? How can we nurture the scene as spectators into adding more depth to itself?

  12. admin says:

    @ Moxie

    To suggest that someone of one gender can’t comment on anything to do with the other is faintly ridiculous. Naturally our perspectives are gendered and we take that into account when reading any argument. But to say that someone can’t offer a differing opinion to your own because they have a different chromosome is an argument slightly thinner than a wet paper bag.

    @ Rose

    Good comments. Yes, women are sexual — but the question is does burlesque demean women by objectifying them. However you dress up men staring at tits, it’s still men staring at tits — just because burlesque is more inclusive, it may still be teaching men to view women as sex objects, which can in turn lead to domestic violence, etc. Personally I worry that rephrased this argument “women who strip on stage promote domestic violence!” could be seen as nothing more than “women wearing low cut tops are just asking for it!” but I think the situation is qualitatively different, because arguably it places women in a subservient position to men (by providing gratification for their amusement). Sure, some girls might get off on it too, but that doesn’t make it any less harmful than, say, women performing for men in a strip club. It may be empowering for the individual, but not for women collectively, if it reduces their general status and makes them seem subservient / reinforces negative gender stereotypes.

  13. Dear “Admin.” or Author, or whoever is hosting this blog entry,
    Thank you for your time and further probing.
    However, you make it sound like a burlesque show is “just staring at tits”.
    How are you missing the other elements?
    Dance/choreography/movement, comedy, satire, drama, costuming, storyline, and don’t forget asses and legs, makeup and hair!

    I can vouch for hundreds of burlesque and/or titty loving men who treat women with respect and are in healthy relationships.
    Not to mention, you and many other straight male critics fail to realize that there is a growing gay audience for burlesque, both male and female, who appreciate the female body and the variety of performance art conducted with it- such as burlesque!
    In addition, I don’t know about what you have witnessed over there across the pond, but male performers are joining/rejoining the burlesque circuit, both as clothed entertainers and strip tease artists, which has provided many laughs and entertaining acts for both male and females at shows.
    The Burlesque Hall of Fame weekend over here in the U.S. is a good place to start to find which male burlesque performers are making a name for themselves, both in the U.S. and around the world.

    So, with that in mind, the slippery slope argument for staring at titties=domestic violence will not apply.
    In addition, I don’t know if you know this, but burlesque performers choose when, how, rate of pay, and where they want to perform, therefore, NO, the performer/woman is not placed in a subservient position.

    I don’t even know you but now I am really concerned now about where you are getting your burlesque ideas from.
    What shows did you watch that gave you these ideas?
    Have you even been to some shows or did you just watch videos on the internet?

    Personally, I do think it is empowering to women collectively.
    Burlesque suggests that yes- a woman can be both sexual and funny, sexual and a good actress, sexual and a good dancer, sexual and a social/political commentator.
    Just like when we see a man display themself in a certain way (lets replace the word sexual with funny), do we assume that all funny men are lacking in other merits?
    Do we degrade men for being funny?
    Do we worry that men are subservient because they are funny?
    The answer to each question is no.
    The obviousness is that most (not all) societies have held a woman’s sexuality against them throughout most of history.
    In other words, just because a person is one thing does not make them devoid of other things, and that is the problem in logic left over from the past eras that you/the author are promoting (or not realizing).

    There are many women such as myself and my peers (both burlesque and non-burlesque) who refuse to accept this any longer and it is important for you to know that.
    You’re going to stumble upon it in your relationships in the world!
    You don’t need to accept it, but now you know- things aren’t always the way you think they are when you are on the outside looking in.

    Besides, the term objectification is so subjective.
    I’m sure you’ve been objectified a few times.
    A woman probably looked at you like a piece of meat that she didn’t give a fuck about and she probably wondered if you had a nice package and could be a potential suitor for a one night stand.
    Or you probably had a boss that didn’t care about you and just saw you as a tool to get a days worth of work out of.

    All in all, burlesque has been doing just fine and no one is holding a gun to a performers head.
    She chooses it and she loves it, and it may be hard to believe, but it is also hard for me to believe that you have actually been to a burlesque show.
    Thanks,
    Rose

  14. Chris Beyond says:

    People have been saying, “Your thing sucks. Mine is better” for ages.

    While you do have a few valid points, you do, as many debaters do, leave out many points that take away from your argument. Instead you yourself are objectifying th very people you say are objectifying themselves by leaving out the many other talents plenty of performers bring to the stage.

    It comes off as simply that you could not get over the breasts and body size and ignored all else. So it’s not your cup of tea and you got a lil article out of it. Nice enough. Just an opinion, right?

    You mention that there’s a vintage movement. I don’t think it’s big news to most people in (or not in) burlesque that there is ALWAYS some kind of vintage movement going on. Nostalgia isn’t a modern invention after all.

    …although it’s often a re-invention I suppose, take Happy Days and Grease for example.

    And burlesque itself is always being re-invented one way or another. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Modernize it too much and you get…strip clubs. Try to pretend that, “No, THIS is what burlesque is supposed to be” and you get that Cher movie (my apologies to Cher. She at least admits the film isn’t about burlesque at all).

    No real points here except to point out that you left out some (points). Damn, I really tried to not use the word points three times in that sentence.

    And just to bring everyone back to Earth, lets not forget that when all is said and done, burlesque is defined as “parody” and while we take our art seriously, it should never be taken THAT seriously.

    ~ Chris Beyond
    co-producer, peepshow menagerie
    http://www.peepshowmenagrie.com

  15. admin says:

    @ Rose

    Admin would like to point out he is the curator of this website, not the author.

    And Rose, I just have to disagree with you. When most people think burlesque, they think women taking their clothes off. Yes, I’ve been to nights where other entertainments have taken place, but these form the wider theatre of cabaret. What demarcates burlesque as different is its overtly sexual nature. It’s not the same as a woman (or a man) singing or telling jokes, etc. It’s a sex act, it’s a sex performance. And while performing in this way may empower some, make some women feel better about their bodies, etc, they are essentially participating in a transaction — even if the event is free, people are still “buying the ticket” in terms of coming to see a stranger perform (a sex performance). This would be the difference between, say, a woman performing a striptease for her boy(or girl) friend or privately for a group of friends. At a burlesque show, any pervert can come and watch you for his own gratification, can objectify you, can in his own mind degrade you and other women.
    Therefore even unintentionally, burlesque provides the opportunity for men to objectify and degrade women. You can have all the best intentions in the world, but from a utilitarian perspective we should consider whether or not burlesque harms women.
    Mad Men is one of my favourite TV shows — but I know a lot of people have seen it and instead of seeing how outdated some of the views are, they think, hey, in the 60s men were men and women knew their place, and they think it gives them license to act like that in real life. It’s an unintended side consequence of glamorizing a position where women are considered inferior.
    My perspective on this (as admin, not author of this post) is that burlesque while claiming empowerment for women actually has the serious potential to demean and degrade women by legitimizing their perception as “mere sex objects” in some people’s minds.
    This is definitely a negative side-effect of burlesque (as it is a negative side effect of idiots watching Mad Men). Whether the good outweighs the bad is a different question — you have to weigh up that empowerment some people get with the damage others may do.

    Also, thank you for assuming I’m straight. In real life, most people think that I’m gay. But nothing quite like a good ol’ dollop of assumption to lump on top of your all-you-can-eat buffet of angry, irrational “you don’t know what you’re talking about!” style of “debate.” I’m here to debate the issues, not the emotions. Burlesque may be good for you. But it may also harm others.
    I’m trying to leave personal perspectives out of this.

  16. Yeah, Moxie, I read Roulette’s first response and laughed all the way through it. I wrote this article as a result of a full academic literature review that I wrote that examined the existing literature written about Burlesque and the Neo-Burlesque Movement. (While we’re on that subject, “The Burlesuqe Handbook” was published by major publisher Harper Collins under the “!t” imprint in August 2010; the preceding material available solely through the NY School of Burlesque’s website. That’s a HUGE difference in distribution.)

    Having walked through their literature, I would say that burlesque dancers would be wise to READ THEIR OWN LITERATURE before they try to “re-educate” (i.e. brainwash) others into burlesque zombies. For example, your deceptive “Oh, it’s not that dirty—we just tease, we don’t get naked or lewd” PR tactics go all the way back to the 1930’s, and the neo-burlesque movement started using the same PR shell game early on—it’s all documented in your own literature. There is also an academic book that tries to defend neo-burlesque, and hogties itself in the process because your own standards are so conflicting and contradictory. This happened again in a scholarly article I found on the subject of neo-burlesque, and yet again in another academic book that documented the history of striptease. It’s really bad when your own corroborators in academia can’t use reason and simple logic to defend you.

    From all the responses I’ve seen, the three favoured tactics in responding to this article have been the “Dance Around the Issues” tactic, the “The Exception Negates The Rule” tactic, and the “I Didn’t Experience It, So It Must Not Be Real” tactic. This confidently willful blindness reminds me of the little kid with his hands over his eyes, shouting, “You can’t see me!” Imagine there’s no reality, it’s easy if you try…

    In addition to reading your own literature, you may also want to actually read over the American Psychological Association’s Report On the Sexualization of Girls. I gave you a link to the full report; why didn’t you read it or at least browse through its claims before you started arguing?

    For a little more critical “food For thought” on this subject, read Dan Savage’s “The Burlesque Shoah”, published July 7, 2010 in the Seattle (US) culture magazine “The Stranger.” (http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-burlesque-shoah/Content?oid=4399613) It addresses the state of the Burlesque Scene, showing concern that it may be following in the wake of the Drag Scene of the 1990’s, pointing out that Burlesque seems to have all the same warning signs that preceded the fall of Drag. It also addresses the rigged nature of burlesque audiences. I encourage more people who have been noticing the neo-burlesque movement’s inconsistencies and shifting standards to stand up and speak out as well. You can only have a bully pulpit for so long.

  17. Yeah, Moxie, I read Roulette’s first response and laughed all the way through it. I wrote this article as a result of a full academic literature review that I wrote that examined the existing literature written about Burlesque and the Neo-Burlesque Movement. (While we’re on that subject, “The Burlesque Handbook” was published by major publisher Harper Collins under the “!t” imprint in August 2010; the preceding material was available solely through the NY School of Burlesque’s website. That’s a HUGE difference in distribution.)

    Having walked through their literature, I would say that burlesque dancers would be wise to READ THEIR OWN LITERATURE before they try to “re-educate” (i.e. brainwash) others into burlesque zombies. For example, your deceptive “Oh, it’s not that dirty—we just tease, we don’t get naked or lewd” PR tactics go all the way back to the 1930’s, and the Neo-Burlesque Movement started using the same PR shell game early on—it’s all documented in your own literature. There is also an academic book that tries to defend neo-burlesque, and hogties itself in the process because your own standards are so conflicting and contradictory. This happened again in a scholarly article I found on the subject of neo-burlesque, and yet again in another academic book that documented the history of striptease. It’s really bad when your own corroborators in academia can’t use reason and simple logic to defend you.

    From all the responses I’ve seen, the three favoured tactics in responding to this article have been the “Dance Around the Issues” tactic, the “The Exception Negates The Rule” tactic, and the “I Didn’t Experience It, So It Must Not Be Real” tactic. This confidently willful blindness reminds me of the little kid with his hands over his eyes, shouting, “You can’t see me!” Imagine there’s no reality, it’s easy if you try…

    In addition to reading your own literature, you may also want to actually read over the American Psychological Association’s Report On the Sexualization of Girls. I gave you a link to the full report; why didn’t you read it or at least browse through its claims before you started arguing?

    For a little more critical “food for thought” on this subject, read Dan Savage’s “The Burlesque Shoah”, published July 7, 2010 in the Seattle (US) culture magazine “The Stranger.” (http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/the-burlesque-shoah/Content?oid=4399613) It addresses the state of the Burlesque Scene, showing concern that it may be following in the wake of the Drag Scene of the 1990’s, pointing out that Burlesque seems to have all the same warning signs that preceded the fall of Drag. It also addresses the rigged nature of burlesque audiences. I encourage more people who have been noticing the Neo-Burlesque Movement’s inconsistencies and shifting standards to stand up and speak out as well. You can only have a bully pulpit for so long.

  18. PS “I’m here to debate the issues, not the emotions.”

    Priceless.

  19. Nonita says:

    There are some really valid and extremely interesting points in this
    thread, it seems we all have something to contribute on the subject
    of burlesque, burlesque performers and burlesque shows in London.
    As a writer of the blog of a burlesque and cabaret show in London,
    I thought of adding my bit too. 🙂 You can catch it here: http://bit.ly/gKaB1O

    xoxo
    Nonita

  20. Sally Holmes says:

    I found the article and replies extremely interesting, I’ve heard the argument a million times.

    Yes, Some people go to Burlesque shows to objectify the performers, but we open ourselves to that reality when we decide to go out in public and perform. And don’t forget women objectify men just as much, we also have male performers in our burlesque troupe.

    The biggest annoyance to me was the comment about men staring at tits leading to domestic violence. I have male friends who are big fans of breasts and they don’t hide their love of them at all, the thought that their appreciation of the female form could turn them to violence is ridiculous! Domestic violence is a result of a person’s personality, enviroment or mental state.

    The Burlesque show will never be over, it’s been going for centuries, yes popularity will peak now it’s become mainstream and it will again fade into background when a new fad comes to replace it.
    I also think that the idea of Burlesque and Vintage being seperate is ridiculous as the two have gone hand in hand for as long as I can remember. Neo Burlesque is not Vintage, but that’s why it’s Neo, it’s new! My Burlesque troupe specialises in Traditional Burlesque, which is Vintage style.

    Also the majority of our audience is female, the majority of men in the audience are gay, a small percentage are straight males, and in my experience they are usually much quieter than gay men or the women, in my 5 years of performing I’ve only ever once experience a lewd outburst from a man, and that was obvious from his demeanor that he was the type to make such a remark.

  21. Thanks for using our Facebook event to shamelessly promote yourself! Allow us to respond in kind!

    The *fifth* Annual Great Burlesque Exposition! Come celebrate our birthday with us and all sorts of special guests! Watch this space for details!

    Super Advance Tickets are on sale *now* for only $135! Join with 300 of your closest friends from all over the world at burlesque’s fastest growing gathering! Buy your ticket at http://www.Burlesque-Expo.com

    Friday, April 22: Workshops by day and THE RHINESTONE REVUE at night! The Rhinestone Revue features past year’s winners and invited guests. You’ll see SCARLETT LETTER, MISS ORCHID MEI, GLAMOURPUSS BURLESQUE, SCANDAL FROM BOHEMIA, and BETTYSIOUX TAILOR, plus members of THE BOSTON BABYDOLLS and more!

    Saturday, April 23: Shopping, special events, and our world-famous conference during the day, and at night it’s our MAIN EVENT — The Burlesque Battle Royale! Who will reign supreme?

    Sunday, April 24: The Conference, shopping, and exhibits continue — plus THE SIDESHOW BALL, where all of the wonderful freaks, geeks, and weirdos that accompany burlesque get a turn and THE ORIGINAL NEWCOMERS’ SHOWCASE where we shine a spotlight on the rising stars of burlesque!

  22. To “The Great Burlesque Exposition”: In the future, please do not use the keyword “Vintage” to spam people’s Facebook pages with adverts about your event. Thank you.

    By the way, here’s another great commentary article about Burlesque courtesy The Daily Mail that comes to a lot of the same conclusions that we do:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1340939/Burlesque-Penny-Wark-visits-artistic-clubs-sleaze-tease.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

  23. Gah! What a tease! You kept me reading for the whole post, though I apparently need to wait for the next chapter of your blog.

  24. Elizabeth says:

    Note to author- you sound very worried about us women-folk but no one is holding a gun to the head of burlesque artists, forcing them to do what they do. They do it by choice.
    You are not a woman and obviously, you don’t understand how empowering it feels for a woman to be the object of desire.

    If you are worried about women being objectified and women being empowered, maybe you should focus your efforts on women that -really- need your help such as women who are victims of sexual assult, domestic violence and women and girls sold into the sex trade. If you want to fight for women, there are many women out there who both want and need your help. Burlesque performers are not among them. There are probably millions of women out there who do need you help and your passion about their safety would be a god-send. Perhaps you should consider extending your hand and help lead those poor women out of the darkness. Fighting for the empowerment of women who think you’re a jerk is like punching yourself in the nuts, isn’t it?