Monday 13 July 2009


Right now, I'm getting ready to go on SkyNews and talk about burlesque, and whether or not it's empowering. Programme should be going out later in the week. And I'm planning to say something along the lines of of course it is. It's empowering to feel that you can control men, however briefly, with your sexuality. I'm not denying that there's power there, or that it feels good - actually, it feels very good indeed. But the question is, should we be interested in that sort of power? It's a limited and dubious form of empowerment, and not one that's particularly revolutionary.

So I find it mildly amusing that for the last half hour I've been running around the house trying to find something to wear that's modest but not TOO modest, frantically putting on make-up and doing my hair. Because I can't control sending a message with my sexuality if I appear on telly. All I can control is what sort of message I send.

It's kinda like rain on your wedding day, innit?


  1. Priapus Revivimus13 July 2009 at 15:33

    I don't know about all this "empowerment" jazz but I really like burlesque. The legs, bums and tits are great! And I love the cunning stunts of the performers!


    For some of us, the audience is not the point. For me, it's more about dressing up, about exercise, about having found a type of dance that I can actually ruddy do with my two left feet.

    If it's anything like your "Guardian" article, then you're certainly not speaking for me.

  3. 'kinell, are we still talking about burlesque?

    Are Sky focusing on this to avoid talking about the Murdoch press phone-tapping scandal that's all over the non-Murdoch press?

  4. Ooh, you have a suspicious mind c-arestillrunningtheworld. You're probably right, but it's still nice to see a lot of different items on news channels. Maybe just because when I feel lazy I can watch freeview news channels for a long time without getting up to do something.

  5. I think I've left it too late to suggest a red rose in your hair.

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  8. @ Mark - that would be a definite no to any kind of physical contact whatsoever. Now, no more naughty suggestions or I will politely ask Penny to consider deleting them.

    @ Dionysis - I took a moment considering whether to answer or just type "no comment". But I don't mind saying that I'm more a tree hugger than Earth Mother. I generally fit into most size 12 skirts. It's even possible some of my skirts might be 10s. But, pre-burlesque, I did sometimes fret about whether particular outfits made my bottom look too big. Now I don't care.

    Also, I feel more confident about the way I move, after having been a bit of a failure at other dancing and even yoga and t'ai chi. (Dancing badly at weddings is fun, though, because it's the taking part that counts.)

    And when it occured to me that I could actually choreograph something to a song, that was a really special moment for me. I think people who know me would generally say I was creative, but I'd never really been creative in a performing way before.

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  10. CSRTW: In a word, yes. This is not the 4th interview I've done after that Guardian piece. It's not as if it's the most important thing in the world, really, is it? I mean, christ, I only did the article to make a quick buck...

    Vanilla Rose, I've deleted the wankers. I know I'm not speaking for you on this issue, but I'd like to think that you at least feel safe commenting here.

  11. On the 'should we interested in that sort of power?' question, I don't know but it's a good question.

    I suppose it depends on what you want to happen?

    It clearly isn't revolutionary but is it useful to the people exercising the power and does that usefulness outweigh any damage people to do themselves in the process of claiming it?

    'Controlling the message' sounds like an exciting challenge. Good luck.

  12. Well, I don't watch Sky, but I really like what you're planning to say.

    And I also like what VR said as well.

    I thought I hated burlesque, until I saw some. And I hated it because the hype makes a person think it's about men and sex, when actually (correct me if I'm wrong VR), that's kind of incidental to the artform. What I imagine is empowering about it is about an aesthetic that isn't premised on the male gaze. It's re-taking ownership of the female body, and that's great.

  13. Re burlesque, Mimi pretty much nails it in a couple of sentences.

  14. Well she would, wouldn't she?

  15. Thanks, Penny. Dandelion, that is perceptive. I mean, it is a bit about being sexy, but it's basically a performance. I feel that a female singer who sang a suggestive song whilst wearing a sexy outfit would be seen by most people (except twits) as a performer rather than someone trying to control the straight men and lesbians in the audience.

  16. Re Mimi's comment, "You’re taking off your clothes in front of people because it gives you a thrill."

    During my recent routine I wore a knee-length skirt, blouse, bra, corset, knickers and shoes the whole time. I don't think that fits most people's definition of stripping.

    Yeah, I removed some gloves and fake flowers and stuff, but if anyone was there expecting nudity they were clearly in the wrong place.

    And that's another thing about burlesque, the costumes. One of my friends is very interested in the history of clothes and it is nice to discuss outfits together. (The history of clothes is connected to the history of all sorts of other things as well, it makes for interesting conversations that go in unexpected places.)

  17. Vanilla
    How long does the performance last for?
    Do you have a very large wardrobe full of different clothes? Are you very creative in the outfits?
    What kind of music do you play?

  18. I love it when girls try to control me with their sexuality. I see it all the time in my interactions with females - a smile, a dip of the head, flick of the hair, wrist display, neck display, a touch on the arm etc etc.

    My response is I think fairly unique for a man - I smirk. It's hilarious to see the flash of annoyance in her eyes when she realises she's failing to exercise influence with her sexuality :-D

    The irony is that girls seem to find this response more attractive than if I fell over myself trying to impress. Reverse psychology rules I guess.

    All guys should try this. Trust me. It's fun ...

  19. Anonymous: You mean, people have unconscious body language and you smirk like an ass? Gosh, attractive.

    Tell us the time when it's on, PR.

  20. But "being sexy" isn't just about men, VR. To embrace and celebrate female sexuality is a pleasure in itself, regardless of what men think about it.

    It is irritating to me that public discussion surrounding burlesque is so focussed on a potential male response to it, and presumes that that is its driving force, when it isn't. At least not as I understand it.

    Singing a suggestive song while wearing a sexy outfit depends rather on the context, I would say. If we are talking mainstream mass media, then yes, the person probably is trying to cash in on what will get men's attention, and thereby control them into buying the act. But Burlesque, to my mind, is nothing to do with that. If men like it, fine, but it isn't for them, and it isn't about them, except perhaps as a historic critique.

  21. It's not at all related to this thread. But i'm a new reader and just perused your archives.

    Yah, the Matty Groves quote has made you my favouritist blogger evar! I thought yu should know that.

  22. I like Pole Dancers and Lapp Dancers best!

    Young women who are willing to travel all the way from Eastern Europe and Scandinavia to entertain us are wholly admirable in my view.

    And people say that immigration is bad.


  23. @ Dandelion, I have only performed in public on two occasions. Both occasions when we had been told to try and bring friends and family. Some of the other women brought have male relatives/ friends or husbands/boyfriends. The first time, none of the male friends I invited turned up and the second I made less of a big deal of it and just brought my friend-who-is-into-fashion-history, for moral support.

    I wasn't thinking much about the audience either time. The fact they were there made me slightly nervous beforehand on the first occasion. On the second time, I was nervous, but once the opening bars of the music started, I just wanted to try and show why I liked the song. The only people in the audience I was really aware of were three fellow dancers who were sitting right at the front, and I felt pleased they were there.

    @ Mr D, my wardrobe is a work in progress. There are things I would like to try that I am looking forward to trying. Dressing up is part of the attraction. The first routine I choreographed was from a well-known musical and lasted 2 minutes and 27 seconds (I checked on the sleeve of the tape). The second, well, you should know what the song was! I said you should google "crawl mask chain beauty beast hand" (or similar) and it should come up! That song lasts 4 minutes and 25 seconds.

  24. Thanks for that Vanilla
    Have you ever thought about an article on your own website about this?
    By the way the way you can call me Steve.

  25. @KJB you're completely right. Although no doubt Tories will respond to comments like yours with 'but it's a marginal issue!'

    Um, no it ain't...

  26. @ The Divine Steve, yes, I will write such an article when I get round to it. I'll try and have one up there by this time next week (Friday 24th).

  27. I think it's rather sad that in order to "earn a quick buck" you wrote an article that has endangered an artform which lots of women find enjoyable. That's really feminist. Well done.

  28. Oh come on HH, it wasn't ONLY to make a quick buck - these are my opinions, I'm just shocked that, well, people find them so interesting.

    And if your version of feminism involves never criticising anything any woman ever does ever, never challenging anything women claim to find enjoyable - well, I'm sorry, but that's not any kind of feminism I'm interested in. Grow a thicker skin.

  29. I do enjoy it, I am not stripping, I am not trying to control men. Mr D is right, I really should write about why I enjoy it as opposed to just why I disagree with Penny and with Jacki Willson, an academic who goes round telling burlesque performers that "art must disturb". That is not the only function of art by any means. Art can lift our spirits too. Art can celebrate what matters to us.

    Penny is not the first woman to dislike what a boss has told her to do. And there are plenty of actresses who moan about lack of good roles for women: do we boycott theatres and cinemas in protest? Surely we should make it known that we, as audience members, want better roles for women? Women writers, and men too, have their role to play.

  30. PS Go on, Steve, have you googled it yet?

  31. I have googled "crawl mask chain beauty beast hand" but the only thing that really comes up is L. Cohen song, I am your man.

    'Art can celebrate what matters to us'. I couldn't agree more Vanilla my love.



  32. @Vanilla
    I think the the song, 'I'm your man' is a good choice for your burlesque performance because the song is essentially saying, 'I'll be anything you want me to be." In the performance you are dressed 'in disguise' and the audience makes their own mind up about what is underneath. And that can be anything they want it to be.

    Sorry about the kiss earlier, I got carried away.


  33. Why do people find your opinions so interesting? Could it be because you're villifying an entire artform based entirely on your own unfortunately negative experience? Just because you had a bad time, which is a shame and I feel sorry for you having had a bad time, it doesn't mean that the entirety of burlesque is exactly how you found it!

    I mean, I had a bad time living in Leeds as a student, but I don't go about telling everyone that Leeds is a terrible place and they shouldn't live there.

    It seems to me that you had issues which you thought burlesque would be able to magically solve. It didn't work, and you're blaming burlesque for that and beating it with a big ol' stick.

    Are your issues going to be solved once burlesque has been tarred with the same brush as lapdance and clubs that thousands of people go to and enjoy are closed down because they can't afford the licence? Will you really feel like you've achieved something? What issue will you tackle next? Will you demand people put skirts on their table legs?

  34. @ Steve, yes, you found the song. My routine is also an hommage to a film where the song was used ... your next homework task is ...

    I used two masks in the routine. I did feel that it was about choosing whether or not to do things that outwardly seem submissive. I feel that the character I was playing was in control of her choices, including when she was crawling.

    @ Helen, I see exactly what you mean about not telling everyone to avoid Leeds.

  35. PS Question about cinema for Penny, if she comes back. Please comment briefly on the careers of the following 5 actresses: Halle Berry, Andie MacDowell, Dame Helen Mirren, Susan Sarandon and Charlize Theron. Which, if any, is the odd one out and why?

  36. Vanilla
    Your film is:
    I'm Your man by L Lunson

    I haven't watched it but I'll seek it out. Anything to be closer to you. Actually I'm a fan of Leonard Cohen .. in small doses.

    I too have lived in Leeds, in Burley - went to the Royal Park pub a bit. How about you Vanilla? Did you also reside in those luxurious back to back terrace houses with designer front gardens?

    You say you used two masks. Did you want to pretend to reveal something about yourself? Like ' OK now everybody you will see my face ..ha ha just kidding.' Why two masks?

    Anyway enjoy the rest of your day at work and I'l shortly be off to bed dreaming of you.


  37. Sigh, keep with the programme! It was Helen who said she'd lived in Leeds.

    Wrong film, but I hope you enjoy looking for the answer.

    One of them, which may not appear in my next version, was a harlequin mask, for the "I'll wear a mask for you" bit. The other one ... was different. I made both from papier mache.

    The actress question is now thrown open to everyone.

  38. You're teasing me again Vanilla. The song was used in a film. It wasn't Saturday Night Fever was it? Or Grease. Or The Sound of Music?

    And now this actress question. I'll be up all night trying to please you.

    Am I right in assuming that the masks are used for two separate routines? I mean you don't wear two masks at the same time and remove one of them part of the way through the routine to reveal another mask?

    I'm very impressed that you made them yourself. I am extremely attracted to intelligent artistic women especially those who are nifty with the paper mache.

  39. Two masks, same routine. But the next time I do it, I'll probably just use one.

    Oh, Steve, I'm probably a lot more boring than you imagine.

    Now, the actress question. Clue, it's not something like "One of them was in a film called 'Monster' and another in a film called 'Monsters' Ball'", although that is true.

  40. Thanks Vanilla. I notice that Penny Red answered your actress question really quickly!

    Are you suggesting that I am imagining you as being boring? And that you are in fact boring but even more so?

    Why the self doubt? Your character seems so sure of herself. Besides I haven't imagined anything with regards to your boringness. There's more important attributes that I sensed about you, in particular your kindness. For me, this is the most important thing...don't you think?

    I hope you to see on the other pages of this brill blog. Until then

  41. Ah, that is sweet of you to say that.

    What I mean is that it's easy to get a bit carried away when you've only recently met someone. On a scale of boringness, I would rate myself as "occasionally".

    Penny fell into my little trap; she answered half the actress question but didn't realise it was a two-part question! That's not the only thing about Andie MacDowell.

  42. PS "I'm Your Man" clue: try looking for something that has both Leonard Cohen and Lizzie West on the soundtrack.

  43. Vanilla
    Is it the 'Secretary'? I saw the clip and it said you have to be a 'monk without a home.'
    I'm glad you're not boring all the time.

    Yes you're right , it's easy to get a bit carried away when you've only recently met someone . So do you think I'm moving too fast for you?

    I don't know about Andie MacDowell .. I can never remember the name of these people anyway.

  44. What's with the deleted comments? I'm really curious now about the censored entries. And why is Vanilla Rose and Mr. Divine conducting a flirtation via this blog? Penny Red isn't what it was.

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