I stumbled across an article on the BBC website here, which discusses the increase in popularity of burlesque in the mainstream, as well the debate over license issues.
I found these quotes interesting at the bottom, from 'feminist journalist' Laurie Penny(who did perform in a burlesque troop)
"I don't think the ultimate symbol of feminist empowerment is for women of any size to be sex-objects," says Penny.
"A lot of people start burlesque for their confidence. But confidence should be more than the power to get your breasts out."
Maybe the difference between burlesque and stripping is down to the sort of people who tend to practise it. Given the expensive vintage costumes and extravagant props, burlesque is certainly not for those on a tight budget.
"It attracts middle-class women, who do it for fun," says Penny.
I am oddly (and surpringly) drawn to her first statement. It reminded me of an article I read just this evening in The Evening Standard here. Rosamind Urwin questions why we don't see men using their nudity in the same way as women. Is it because women have an integral sense of shame over their bodies that men don't? That we feel more of a need to shout out and claim our femininity? That we are somehow empowering ourselves by being brave enough to show our bodies? Do men feel less embarrassment showing theirs?
'Many of these naked women trill that they are not getting it out for the lads, this is about sisterhood. But bottoms, bottoms, everywhere, fuels the fixation on the female form — not men's obsession but women's.'
Is there an argument that we are somehow encouraging the fixation on bodies and size through the increase in female nudity (whether deemed sexual or otherwise)?
'Besides, there are more-pressing battles for women which would be better fought with our clothes on. When the boardrooms of the biggest companies are still boys' clubs, when women earn less than men for the same work and gender inequalities persist in the home, is the feminist cause really best served by posing as God intended?'
I'm still toying with her closing statement. I agree with her, that we still have a way to go. But I'm not sure that they have to be exclusive from each other. I may return to this post once I have mulled it all over a little more!
Returning to the original article here, Laurie Penny says that perhaps the only difference between stripping and burlesque is class (and/or money). Controversial! And almost worthy of a separate post of its own!
I love burlesque, and I love meeting the performers as well as the audiences, all of whom seem to gain a lot from it - as do I. I have only benefited from my trips into the world of burlesque (and I'm not a performer), but I do find these differing opinions interesting, and certainly worth a pause for thought. It is always good to challenge things we believe in!