Can our culture ever be ushered into a new era of female sexual expression and freedom? In a world where Steubenville is still the prime example of how we treat female sexuality, consent, and women's bodies, is it possible to go beyond the toxic ways in which we view women's sexual expression and into a new way of thinking?
The answer might lie in burlesque - an art form of cheeky striptease and roots in vaudeville, once defined by showbiz greats like Lili St Cyr and Gypsy Rose Lee, and has now evolved into a new form of strip, comedy, and message, spreading quickly across the world, with new stars like Dita Von Teese and Dirty Martini.
The piece will be written from the burlesque community of New York, a city where one can walk down any Manhattan street and see billboards of women's bodies used to advertise everything from beer to gas. We will explore how burlesque is giving women a space to express their sexual selves through performance, without immediate fears of violence or violation. Is this the closest thing we have to what a world might look like with more input from women? Or is simplifying all answers to women struggles down to burlesque just too easy?
I will profile several burlesque performers from my own community, most notably Jo Weldon, headmistress and founder of the New York School of Burlesque. Perfomer's will be asked about how burlesque has empowered them in their lives, as well as the limitations that they still experience. I will also talk to audience members of burlesque shows to see if they think that viewing women in this light, can in anyway sway perceptions of what women are "supposed" to do, in regards to sexual behavior.
As we follow women who strip down in humorous, sexy, and tongue in cheek fashions, we will talk about what it means to live in a world that is more accepting of female sexual expression. By profiling women burlesque performers taking agency into their own hands, we will dissect what striptease means for them on stage, as well as in life beyond the sequins and glitter. Join us on the journey of how burlesque might be altering the way we think about sexual expression, with the removal of one piece of clothing at a time and how that might be able to lead us into a new era of respectfully viewing women's sexual selves.