Nobody hates you because you’re beautiful (they just hate you): On Samantha Brick and woman-hating

How many more times will we have to hear about how ALL WOMEN are horrible, insecure, jealous, other-lady-hating bitches? Probably at least a few more times.

In case you missed it a couple of weeks back, Samantha Brick, a lady who I’d never heard of until just now, but apparently is so beautiful that men give her booze and train tickets and stuff, wrote what is possibly the most entertaining article of all time, explaining that being the prettiest flower on the plane, in the bar, or in all of France isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

In an effort to finally address the age old oppression of the very, very good looking and to, at long last, end the silence! around the true fact that no attractive woman anywhere has ever been a bridesmaid or had dinner at a friend’s house while their husband is present without the evening ending in a soap opera style cat fight, Ms. Brick, a journalist, took it upon herself to write an entire article detailing the ways in which men love her and women hate her, pointing to examples such as these:

I’m not smug and I’m no flirt, yet over the years I’ve been dropped by countless friends who felt threatened if I was merely in the presence of their other halves. If their partners dared to actually talk to me, a sudden chill would descend on the room.”

It is not just jealous wives who have frozen me out of their lives. Insecure female bosses have also barred me from promotions at work.”

I don’t drink or smoke, I work out, even when I don’t feel like it, and very rarely succumb to chocolate. Unfortunately women find nothing more annoying than someone else being the most attractive girl in a room.”

Not only that, but attractive women everywhere are being forced into “baggy, sombre-coloured trouser suits” you guys! Enough is enough.

This sort of thing goes on as she explains how hard her life has been, all because other women see her as a threat, whereas men fawn all over her. Basically men are good and women are bad.

It was clear that when you have a female boss, it’s best to let them shine, but when you have a male boss, it’s a different game: I have written in the Mail on how I have flirted to get ahead at work, something I’m sure many women do.

Women, however, are far more problematic. With one phenomenally tricky boss, I eventually managed to carve out a positive working relationship. But a year in, her attitude towards me changed… When I asked her right-hand woman why, she pulled me to one side and explained that my boss was jealous of me.”

Not once does it occur to Brick that, perhaps she has such negative experiences with other women because she actually really, really hates women? And because her hatred of other women has been rewarded by men and a misogynist culture?

All women are not envious, jealous, evil people. My friends are my friends because we enjoy each others company, not because I think they are safely unattractive. I know many conventionally attractive women who have lots and lots of female friends and who have never been fired for being “too pretty”.

Often you hear about women who supposedly don’t “like” other women. What is that about? Are women really so unlikelable? When women are painted as mean, catty, boyfriend-stealers by other women, what does that tell us? That all women are, in fact, shitty? Or that women internalize their own oppression in a way that sometimes manifests itself in misogynist ways?

Women are pitted against one another. Women are told that their primary power lies in their looks and in their ability to attract men. Women are told that other women are a threat to their marriages (letting the cheating men off the hook, of course). Women are picked apart constantly throughout their entire lives – they’re too fat, they’re too skinny, they’re too old, they’re too hairy, and their vaginas are just all wrong all the time.

We’re made to hate ourselves and its no wonder we sometimes end up hating one another.

The only times I can recall feeling “threatened” by my female friends is when my actually evil partner took it upon himself to invent flirtations – just to, you know, keep me on my toes. This kind of behaviour is fairly common in abusive men. It’s a way to keep you feeling isolated, insecure, and paranoid. It’s called crazy-making. Otherwise known as emotional abuse.

If you look around, you’ll start to get the feeling that the whole world is in on this kind of crazy-making. The more we’re told that women are jealous, insecure bitches who hate one another or are out to “steal your man” (because, you know, men are brainless puppets who are drawn through life by a string attached to their dicks), the more likely we are to believe it. We’re all supposed to be in competition with one another, right? We need to work to catch and hang on to men because at the blink of an eye, a younger, blonder, thinner lady might come along and, as evil ladies do, steal your man away. Whatever you do, don’t put any of that onus on the dudes. Boys will be boys and it’s the responsibility of women to deal with it.

I wonder if Ms. Brick’s obsession with her looks has anything to do with the fact that her father told her over and over again how beautiful she was, or because other men did, and because now her husband does? I wonder if the fact that women’s appearances are the focus of so much of society’s attention makes us, in turn, obsess over the same? I wonder if we were told, instead, how smart we are or how athletic or good at math or knitting or building houses or fishing or making muffins or whatever it is we do, instead of being told we are alternatively ugly or beautiful, over and over again throughout our lives, we wouldn’t think that was all others cared about.

It isn’t only men who see women through a hypercritical lens. Wonder why flawless, objectified women fill the pages of women’s magazines as well as men’s? We learn to see ourselves through the eyes of a sexist culture too. We are taught to study and pick apart our own as well as each other’s bodies and faces.

By now you all have probably read or read about the piece Ashley Judd wrote, calling out the media for their treatment of women, naming this obsession over women’s appearances (and, in this particular case, her face) “nasty, gendered and misogynistic,” pointing out that:

“The assault on our body image, the hypersexualization of girls and women and subsequent degradation of our sexuality as we walk through the decades, and the general incessant objectification is what this conversation allegedly about my face is really about.”

Brick says that her father’s love and affection was the key to her being able to love herself. But I get the feeling that her “love for herself” is actually a love of being admired by men.

Brick reminds me of my 20 year old self – cocky as hell because a bunch of drunk dudes wanted to pay for my drinks. That shit is temporary. Eventually I wanted more from the world, more from men, and more for myself. Feeling like the only thing you have going for you is male attention isn’t a good feeling.

I can’t say that feeling attractive to men hasn’t made me feel good about myself. It has and often it still does. I can’t say I’m immune to that learned desire to be perceived as attractive. But I can say that I know where that comes from. I doubt I’d wear makeup if I didn’t feel as though it would help me move more easily through this world. Or if I hadn’t been told by advertisers and media that having under eye circles should make me feel suicidal. Here’s hoping that the more aware we all become around how all this works, the less we will buy into it and the less we’ll hate ourselves for having flaws.

So Ms. Brick claims that all women hate her and are out to make her life difficult because ALL women are horrible, jealous, insecure, bitches. What are we to make of this? It’s woman-hating, internalized. Not only does the whole world hate us, (unless we are acceptably beautiful and available for consumption, at which point we will be “loved” temporarily and then discarded), but we’re also taught to hate one another and to hate ourselves.

I don’t care what Samantha Brick looks like. She’s some blonde lady who looks like any other blonde lady. Who cares. As much as I think she is ridiculous, I don’t hate her. I feel sorry for her. I feel sorry that she doesn’t have any friends and I feel sorry that she’s learned that this is because women are jealous of her. I’m sorry that she’s learned to value men’s attention in such an extreme way and I’m sorry it’s led her to have so much disdain for other women. But in a culture that tells use we are worthless and either “to be looked at” or invisible, in a culture that has made violence against women sexy, that sells women as consumable products, and has managed to find flaws from our heads to our toes, it isn’t surprising.

Sure. Brick is annoying and delusional. Ok. Self-obsessed, narcissistic , and arrogant? Perhaps. But she also represents the extremely insidious impact a misogynistic culture has on women – wherein male attention is everything and woman-hating is assumed. Brick is the product of a culture that objectifies women and that tells us we are simultaneously delicate flowers and unfuckable trolls. We are told that women hate porn because they are “jealous”, that feminists are critical of the sex industry because we can’t get a man or because we are angry that we aren’t getting enough male attention ourselves. We are told that male philandering is normal and that we should expect to be cheated on by our male partners and that this is either the fault of other women or our own faults for not providing a consistently abundant level of blow jobs. We live in a culture that treats women like trash, blames them for their own abuse and their own oppression and then, on top of all that, we’re taught to hate one another. Divide and conquer.

All Samantha Brick is is a woman who bought into all this and, instead of becoming politicized, became complicit.

 

 

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Why my body doesn’t exist for your viewing pleasure: An open letter to Ian Brown and friends

On Friday, The Globe and Mail published an article so offensive, so backwards, and so nauseating that the only reaction I could muster over the last 48 hours was fuming, spitting, red-faced anger.

They smartly (if intelligence is calculated based on page views and the ability to get pervy dudes on-side, which clearly The Globe and Mail believes is the case) titled the piece:  Why men can’t – and shouldn’t – stop staring at women. Criticism of the article could almost begin and end with the title.

One of the things we’ve learned from feminism is that, while men have long enjoyed arguing that biology accounts for misogyny, having used scientific arguments to “prove” that, for example, male dominance, rape, male violence and of course, the objectified, sexualized female body is “natural”, things are not quite so clear cut. Similar arguments have been used by white men to justify racism and slavery. As such, it seems reasonable to assume that those doing the “science” and those communicating to society what is and is not “natural” based on said science have some level of control over what we come to believe, as a society, is true, factual and, of course, “natural.”

Now back to the overwhelming stupidity of this particular article.

I’m gonna go ahead and make some assumptions about the series of events which led Brown to write such a thoughtless and offensive article in the first place:

1) Brown leaves house

2) Brown stares at 20 year old ass

3) Brown sexualizes 20 year old ass

4) Because Brown is turned on and, as we’ve learned many times over, anything that provides erections is GOOD and TRUE and NATURAL and JUSTIFIED he is led to not only defend and justify his pervy behaviour but also find other men and women to argue that, in fact, he is doing women a favour by staring at and sexualizing 20 year old ass.

5) The Globe and Mail is run by like minded dudes and still believes that white men should have the space to write 1500 words on why 58 year old dudes have the right and obligation to stare at 20 year old ass and, one would assume, have few to no feminist minded women on their staff (or, at least, in any positions of power on their staff) to say: “Hey guys! This article is gross!” And it goes to print. Easy peasy.

 

Much of the piece is dedicated to pornified descriptions of female bodies. That, in and of itself, could and should have (in my humble opinion) led the editors to question the usefulness and/or necessity of publishing the piece. The lack of thought, research, and analysis which fills in the empty spaces in between descriptions of Brown’s favorite 20 year old body parts should have been the second clue.

It’s not that Brown wasn’t able to find folks who agree with his thesis, which I summarize as such: “It is not only biologically natural for me to objectify much younger women, but they actually like it.” He does find men and even women to help ease the little guilt, shame, and uncertainty he may have around his fetishization of the female body. His male friends are, unsurprisingly, just like him. They support his hopeful thesis that says: “this is not only right and natural, but good.”

For example:

[Y] holds up his BlackBerry. “I don’t see what’s wrong with it. In a world where, thanks to this thing, I am only two clicks away from double penetration and other forms of pornographic nastiness, the act of merely looking at a girl who is naturally pretty – I mean, we should celebrate that.”

Another friend takes it further. Acting as though the objectification is a compliment:

“Beautiful women are like flowers,” W interjects. “They turn to the sun. But if they don’t receive a certain amount of attention, they wither.”

Oh dude. You are so right. If you don’t stare at my ass I will actually die.

As if the flower analogy wasn’t enough to signal red flags with “Women are not human beings, they are pretty things that exist for me to look at” written all over them, the idea that women will wither and die if old dudes stop objectifying them really solidifies the deep misogyny of these kinds of arguments and beliefs.

Sadly, Brown finds one women to back him up:

[K] just turned 50, and is still attractive. But she admits looks from men are rarer. “Leering hasn’t happened in years,” she adds wistfully. Visiting Italy 20 years ago with friends, “we were furious that the Italian men pinched your bum. When we went back, in our early 40s, we were furious that no one was pinching our bums.” This makes me as sad as it seems to make her.

Oh you guys! He feels sorry for her! Sensitive.

At this point I am seething with rage. Has he asked one young woman how she feels about his 58 year old eyes fetishizing her legs, her breasts, and her backside? Does he even care? From what I can tell, no. The argument he makes has little to do with how his eyes and how his sexualization of these women’s bodies might impact actual women. Would anyone like to take a gander as to why that is? Because the women he is sexualizing aren’t human beings. They are delicate flowers! Also they are tits. They are legs. They are asses. Why would a disembodied ass care what a man was doing to it?

Though Brown claims that the intent of his article is to “investigat[e] the famous male gaze,” he has zero understanding of it. The male gaze is a concept which was explored initially within feminist film theory and has since extended into an explanation and analysis of the objectifying, disempowering male gaze. So when a 58 year old man decides that a 20 year old woman is a beautiful flower which exists in order for him to look at, he dehumanizes her. And, as many of us know already, dehumanizing a human being is a dangerous thing. It means we no longer need to treat said human being with respect. A body part is just a body part, not a whole, complex being with thoughts and feelings.

One of the most minor consequences of the male gaze is that, and I will speak from personal experience here, a lifetime of being looked at makes you feel as though your self-worth is largely dependent on your ability to be desired by men. This is not a good thing. It is something many women fight at every turn. Yet we still internalize that male gaze. This means that many women see themselves through male eyes. We also believe, to a certain extent, that we exist for your viewing pleasure. Should women really have to fight to believe that their value exists outside your desire?

I won’t speak for any other woman aside from myself at this point, but “Hi, Ian Brown! I am a woman and I don’t want you to look at my ass. It doesn’t feel flattering, it feels creepy. It makes me feel self-conscious and it makes me not want to leave my house. I may be too old for you at 32 (gross!), but many old men stare at me regardless. I hate it. It makes me want to punch them. So stop. Please. I guarantee your penis will survive.”

The fact that men believe women exist for their viewing pleasure IS A PROBLEM. It doesn’t matter how much men like it. I should be able to leave my house without feeling watched.

This isn’t to say that there is something wrong with finding other people attractive. Every once in a while I, myself, find other people attractive. Being heterosexual, often those human beings I am feeling attracted to are men. Strangely, I don’t find myself ogling 20 year old man-ass or lusting after young man calves pedaling a bike. Has it ever occurred to you that there is a reason young female bodies are, in particular, sexualized and fetishized by older men? Is there any reason that 58 year old women aren’t commonly writing 1500 word articles about how much they enjoy watching 20 year old men walk down the street? I find (some) male bodies attractive. And yet, the men I am interested in are my own age. And often, when I am attracted to a man, I will look at his face and talk to him as though he is human. I don’t tend to see them as things which exist simply for me to look at.

I’d like to be able to go to the beach without feeling as though I am on display, being judged, being sized up. I’d like to walk down the street in a dress without feeling like some 60 year old dude is fucking me with his eyes. It’s gross, not flattering. I don’t need the gaze of a 60 year old man to validate my existence. All that gaze does is make me hate 60 year old men.

I am not your right. No woman is. No matter how beautiful she is. You have no right to her. She is more than just body parts. Allow me to confirm what I assume was the fear which led you to write this piece, Ian Brown, you are a perv. Stop staring at us. We have the ability to exist without your eyes on our asses.

 

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Connecting the dots: Pornography, the VPD, and violence against women

We could feign shock at recent reports that members of the Vancouver Police Department were busted for sharing and watching pornography while at work, but are we really all that surprised? Certainly many feminists are not.

The connections between pornography and violence against women are understood by many feminists, though perhaps not so much so by the general public. In a recent statement from Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter, Summer-Rain Bentham is quoted as saying:

“This attitude within VPD and the actions by these officers reinforces that women’s bodies are nothing more than objects for male sexual gratification…”

Pornography is something that encourages dehumanization. It is much easier to commit violence against or abuse something or someone who we don’t view as a full being. Who, instead, we see as simply a body or as body parts. This is, of course, what feminists describe when they speak of women being objectifed. We fetishize certain body parts and separate them from the individual – the body or the body parts become objects of desire and, in pornography in particular, women become things whose sole value and purpose is male pleasure.

While it is not true that pornography is the only cause for violence against women, or even necessarily a cause at all (i.e. some men watch porn and do not commit violence and some men may well rape and abuse without watching any porn at all), the relationship between the objectification of women and the degradation of women that happens in pornography and our culture’s devaluing of women is undeniable.

Robert Jensen, who has done extensive research and writing on pornography, wrote:

Contemporary pornography will make use of any relationship of domination and subordination — a power differential between people that can be sexualized and exploited. The primary domination/subordination dynamic eroticized in pornography is, of course, gender.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the VPD’s treatment of women. Shown to have consistently ignored reports that women were disappearing from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, it has become brutally clear that both the VPD and the RCMP don’t care about women. Particularly women who are poor, racialized, and prostituted. The Vancouver police had been receiving reports of “foul play” since 1998, and yet the department, nor the RCMP took action until it was way too late.

A couple months back we learned about the rampant and unchecked sexual harassment of women in the RCMP by male officers, and though women groups and feminist activists have long known and spoken out against sexism on the parts of the police, on the parts of those who are meant to protect us, it now seems impossible to ignore.

The CTV report on the discovery of porn-use on the parts of the VPD asks the question: “What were they thinking?”

But isn’t it obvious?

Porn culture, a culture of misogyny, of hierarchy, of a deep lack of respect for women is accepted in our society. It isn’t as though it’s only the VPD who think women exist as masturbatory tools or that certain women’s lives are disposable. The culture of male power and dominance is, of course, particularly rife within criminal justice systems, but it also speaks to a wider acceptance of this kind of behaviour.

When we discover that police officers are watching porn on the job, I wonder what the response is from the public, truthfully? “Well, that was stupid?” “They should have been more careful to avoid getting caught?” “Surprise, surprise?”

One of the saddest things to come of of this “discovery” is that we probably aren’t all that surprised. Spaces that are defined by male power and by hierarchy are generally not spaces that include and value respect for women and equality. Pornography doesn’t teach men to care about and value women and, coincidentally, the VPD and the RCMP have, over and over again, shown the public that they don’t care about or value women.

We expect men to watch watch porn. We expect them to hang out at strip clubs. We know they buy sex from women. We think it is a “normal” and “natural” aspect of masculinity and even of male bonding (exhibit A: the bachelor party). And then we act surprised when the men responsible, supposedly, for protecting us prioritize their pleasure over the safety of women?

Time to start making some connections.

 

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The naked protester (or, how to get the media to pay attention to women)

Nudity as a form of protest wasn’t invented by PETA. Events such as the World Naked Bike Ride uses nudity as a way to protest “oil dependency and to celebrate the power and individuality of [their] bodies,” 600 environmental activists went naked in 2007 to protest global warming and even as far back as the early 1900s, the Doukhobors, a Russian pacifist religious sect, held nude protest parades. So I wouldn’t go so far as to say that nudity was useless as a tactic in social movements.

Lately the Ukrainian protest group, Femen, has been getting a lot of attention. Why? Well, they’re beautiful, thin, young women who are mostly topless. They’re described alternately as a “women’s rights group” or a “feminist group,” as they campaign against issues such as trafficking, international marriage agencies, and sex tourism. According to their website, their goal is “to shake women in Ukraine, making them socially active, [and] to organize… a women’s revolution.” Of course feminists have been working towards revolution for decades and yet, somehow, have never been quite as popular as Femen appear to be now.

When three protesters showed up at an Occupy demonstration in Davos, yelling “poor because of you” outside the World Economic Forum, the media fell in love.

 

These three women were covered by pretty much every media outlet out there – mainstream and alternative alike. Particularly, many of the Occupy sites seemed enamoured. From right to left, dudes love Femen. Funny, because most of them seem pretty disinterested in feminist protests and movements otherwise.

Over at Occupy the Environment’s Facebook page they stated the obvious, commenting above the story: “That’s how you make it into the mainstream media.”

Yep. As witnessed by Slutwalk and by PETA, playing to the male gaze and going nude or almost nude is a great way to get media coverage. Particularly, as witnessed by coverage of Femen, if you’re a thin, young, conventionally attractive woman.

In fact, both PETA and Slutwalk stand by that very argument, defending problematic strategies and sexist branding on the basis that they would never have received so much media attention had they not gone with controversial marketing ploys. Whatever gets the attention of media is represented as a “good” thing and as something that somehow cancels out hypocritical messages.

Clearly nude protests are not the problem. The problem is that, within our pornified culture, women seem to only be able to find power in their sexualized bodies. Have we seen viral media coverage of nude male protestors over the past few years? Not that I can recall. PETA’s ads are certainly focused on the female body and, generally, that body is sexualized, thin, and often surgically enhanced.

When someone over at Occupy Ottawa’s Facebook page* posted an image of the women, naked from the waist up, the point was made by a couple commenters that it seemed unfair that women had to bare their breasts in order to get anyone to pay any attention to their message. This point was met with anger, confusion, and disdain. In fact, the response from the page’s admin as well as most other commenters on the page was a definitive: “stop with all the feminism, why dontcha.” This was followed by predictable commentary insinuating that those who weren’t fully supportive of Femen’s tactics and the page’s commentary were “dividing the movement” and being “counter-productive” by bringing feminism into the conversation. Interesting, because Femen is a group that is often associated with feminism. It would appear as though we only like feminists so long as they are nude.

It’s frustrating, but understandable, that the mainstream media jumps at the opportunity to splash images of young women’s breasts across screens, but it’s even more frustrating that progressive groups don’t see the problem with these tactics. And of course, we have to ask whether the media or the public are really getting the “message” they are meant to get. Are we seeing these images and thinking about systematic poverty or the exploitative nature of prostitution? Or is the message just: titties!!

Judging from the popularity and response to Femen, I’m getting the feeling that the “message” is all but lost.

*Edit – 02/01/12 – The Occupy Ottawa Facebook page referenced here is not Occupy Ottawa’s official Facebook page, but rather is described as a group which “share[s] the same goal and beliefs…Occupy Ottawa is a solidarity and support effort with the Occupy Wall St movement.”

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Burlesque: They tell me it’s just for fun…Except I’m not having any.

Two weeks ago we ran our 2-part series on burlesque. Considering the many varied perspectives among women and feminists, we felt it wouldn’t be quite sufficient nor would it present an entirely accurate representation of those varied views if we explored only one side of the argument. The first show featured local burlesque superstar, Crystal Precious and PhD Candidate, Mary Shearman, who we brought on in order to present a look at burlesque that included feminism and female empowerment, rather than a straightforward rejection of it. The conversation could have easily gone on for another hour. Our guests provided us with some super interesting ways of looking at this ‘neo-burlesque movement’, as it’s been coined. We were presented with some ways in which burlesque could, potentially, be subversive. Both from our guests and from listeners. Like thisthis,  and this.

Alas, this was not what we were seeing from mainstream presentations of burlesque.

Nor was it, no matter where we went, what we were seeing at local burlesque shows.

And while we didn’t agree with everything our guests argued, we realized that there are many out there who do. And that there are many women who enjoy burlesque; whether from an audience’s perspective or as a performer. I mean, what’s wrong with having fun right? What’s wrong with feeling sexy, right?

…right….?

Weeeellllllllll….we weren’t entirely convinced.

The idea that we should just ‘work with’ that ever-present male gaze just didn’t sit well. For me, personally, it brought up a lot of that-which-I-am-ever-irritated-by in what is often presented as being the ’3rd wave’. That which the older generation of feminists, those who came from the revolutionary 2nd wave often seem to feel disappointed by – this concept that feminism is about individual empowerment. Not my feminism. This isn’t a ‘hey whatever makes you feel good’ kinda movement. Not that you can’t feel good and be feminist. But let’s get this straight – this is a movement. Not a self-help book. Feminism and neoliberalism are not bff’s. Feminism is, in large part, about changing those dominant systems that hold up neoliberal ideology. We aren’t all out for ourselves here. And individualism just doesn’t work for the marginalized. It sure doesn’t work to destroy that objectifying male gaze.

In terms of burlesque, I just couldn’t get past this idea that it takes a certain amount of privilege in order to even argue that this kind of stripping is ‘just for fun’. For so many women, stripping isn’t ‘just for fun’. It’s a living. Like, they need the money. So what kind of implications does it have when some women decide to start stripping ‘just for fun’? Does that mean stripping is supposed to be ‘fun’? Are we supposed to be doing it for free? Am I supposed to enjoy it? Should it be fun for me? The unexamined privilege within this discourse is pretty glaring. Regardless of whether or not burlesque dancers align themselves with strippers, they are not viewed or treated by society as strippers are. They are not judged or disrespected or subject to violence in the same ways that many strippers are. Particularly those who aren’t doing it ‘for fun’. But rather as a living. Out of need.

Women and girls everywhere are being told that pole dancing is ‘fun’. That flashing your breasts for Girls Gone Wild is ‘fun’. And that burlesque is ‘fun’. And you know what happens when we think something is ‘fun’? It means that we choose it. That we consent to it. And therefore it equals empowerment. Being coerced isn’t ‘fun’. Having no other alternative but to sell our bodies isn’t ‘fun’. In order for something to be ‘fun’, we must feel like we get to choose. What, then, are the repercussions for those who don’t choose to strip or flash or take pole-dancing classes – are we, then, not ‘fun’? What does it mean when I go to see a burlesque show and don’t have any fun. When, instead of liberation, I see women shaking their asses for an audience. Posing in martini glasses or on coffee tables. Like pretty objects. What happens when I feel angry, instead? When I feel uncomfortable, instead; seeing a male MC introducing his legion of ‘girls’ and encouraging the audience to tuck money into the ‘go-go girl’s’ g-string? Am I no fun?

Individualism and neoliberalism have stolen choice from the feminist movement. As Nicole Deagan so aptly pointed out on show number 2, ‘choice’ is about abortion rights. ‘Choice’ was a powerful aspect of the feminist fight for control over reproductive rights and women’s access to medical procedures. For us to be told that ‘choice’ is about our ‘freedom’ to pasties is misleading, distracting, and dangerous. Capitalism isn’t our friend. You can’t sell choice. And, let me add, having a ‘choice’ does not mean that we all have to shut our eyes and lay down. Being a feminist means we question these narratives. We question those things which reinforce the idea that women are meant to be seen and not heard, that women are ‘to-be-looked-at’, that women exist to fulfill male fantasies. And we do this because it’s easier to commit violence against objects than it is to whole human beings.

As Nicole also mentioned, and I want to include this because I think this is central to this conversation, as well as, in large part, what is missing from mainstream narratives around 3rd wave feminism: “The fact that white women have decided to ‘play’ with the role of ‘empowering’ an objectified woman performing for an audience is really telling about how disconnected they are from the actual lives of women who live in true poverty and how traumatizing it is to be living in a racist, sexist, classist world where women are sexually used by men who have access to privileges and entitlements that many women can’t even dream of.”

I have seen several burlesque shows in Vancouver. And Ariana and I went again, for research purposes; to check out what’s happening on the scene these days. Hoping we would find all sorts of subversion, you know, challenges to gender norms, maybe some comedy, something even remotely feministish. What we found was a stage and some women awkwardly taking off their clothes, with smiles pasted across their faces so we knew they were enjoying themselves. A man in a business suit ‘hosted’ the evening, and introduced all the ‘girls’. He remained clothed throughout the evening. A male MC was also allowed the privilege of keeping his clothes on. One after another, ‘girl’ after ‘girl’ got up on stage, unzipped her dress and, by the end of the ‘show’ was in pasties and a g-string, posing for a cheering crowd. Let’s play find the subversion! There is nothing new here. It’s just the same old thing. And I wasn’t having any fun.

***Authors note: Thanks to Nicole Deagan and Ariana Barer for inspiring and contributing to much of this content and to my larger understanding of what the hell it was that was bothering me so much about this burgeoning movement.

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