Let the record show that ladies who take their clothes off are not bad people.
Recently, a burlesque dancer in Alabama was banned from performing or even DISCUSSING burlesque, in order to maintain joint custody of her children. Her friend (also a burlesque performer) commented, “Somehow burlesque, the satirical comedy it portrays on stage and the sensual exploration of sexuality that does occur in some performers’ numbers, is somehow horribly disgusting and therefore nullifies a mother’s right to her children…”
Keep in mind that the allegedly bad conduct of the children’s father was not taken into account at all.
I don’t have kids, but this is very, very sadly not a surprise to me. Consider the following:
- When I was still taking classes and had only performed once (in a group, at a student show), my teacher warned us that we had to be careful about disclosing our burlesque activities, especially those of us who worked with children, and/or at educational institutions. My teacher was referring not just to performing, but taking classes.
- My friend and fellow performer was told by her brother that if she were to continue burlesque, she would not be allowed contact with her young nephew.
- Many burlesque performers have separate social media accounts under their stage names.
- I do not (as I maintain several social media accounts already), but after I started performing regularly, I took my last name off my account. When I talk about burlesque, I refer to my stage persona in the third person.
- Most burlesque shows have a photographer present, but the audience is not allowed to take pictures or video. This is not only announced at the top of the show, but enforced.
- While my friends, siblings and some of my coworkers know I’m a performer, I am not “out” to my employers, or my own parents.
All of this? Is a problem.
Some people prefer to keep their professional and personal lives private, and of course that is completely acceptable and should be respected. Some are “out” to all they know, and their families, employers and significant others are peachy keen with it all. But many of us are somewhat in hiding because we’re afraid of judgments like the one above. Of losing our jobs, our children, and respect as a whole. Of being seen as deviants and bad people who are a danger to children and society in general.
Not right, at all, but this is the way it is now.
My best friend, ever-supportive of my endeavors, attended the debut of my holiday solo. I was also dancing in two group numbers that evening, one of which involved us pulling a man out of the audience. Later, my friend told me, “You know, his friend started taping it. I mean, I think people want to show their friends, because burlesque is different and cool…but they don’t think about you guys, who have lives outside of it and might not want videos posted everywhere.”
Damn right. Like I said, my bosses don’t know. Another woman in the group number works with young children. Thankfully, I spoke to a producer later and found out the video had been deleted while the producer watched. Close shave.
It’s sad we have to worry. That our sexuality and our bodies are seen as harmful. That even though we are regular people, good people even (ours is an incredibly supportive and loving community), people with jobs (sometimes in the sex industry, mostly not) and relationships and interests just like everyone else, we’re still viewed as “disgusting” and unworthy for our art.
I promise my next post will be more positive. This time, though, I had to speak out, under my stage name, of course.