Just finished reading How To Be A Woman, a book by Caitlin Moran which somebody else in the house got for Christmas. I'm not sure who she is to be honest but the book it interesting, sort of her own look at feminism and what it means. She writes about visiting a strip club in one chapter and winds up giving her two cents about burlesque:
"We shouldn't have a problem with burlesque - lap-dancing's older, darker, cleverer sister. Yes, I know, it's stripping in front of men for cash. Given the patriarchy and all that, I can see how many would say "But that is like eschewing Daffy Duck and then loving George Costanza from Seinfeld. They are both essentially the same thing."
But of course they are not. The difference between a burlesque artist putting on a single show in front of hundreds and a stripper on an eight-hour shift, going one-on-one, is immense: The polarity between being a minstrel for a bored monarch, playing whatever the monarch asks for, and U2 playing Wembley Stadium.
With burlesque, not only does the power balance rest with the person taking their clothes off - as it always should do, in polite society - but it also anchors its heart in freaky, late-night, libertine self-expression: it has a campy, tranny, fetish element to it. It's not, to use the technical term - an "easy wank".
Additionally, despite its intense stylisation of sexuality, it doesn't have the oddly aggressive, humourless air of the strip club: burlesque artists sing, talk and laugh. They tell jokes - something unthinkable in the inexplicably po-faced atmosphere of a lap-dancing club, which treats male/female interactions with all the gravitas of Cold War-era meetings between Russia and the USA, rather than a potential hoot. Perhaps as a direct consequence, burlesque artists treat their own sexuality as something fabulous and enjoyable, rather than something bordering on a weapon, to be ground, unsmilingly, into the face of the sweaty idiot punter below.
Because, most importantly, burlesque clubs feel like a place for girls. Strip-clubs do not. Watching good burlesque in action, you can see female sexuality; a performance with the value system of a woman: beautiful lighting, glossy hair, absurd (giant cocktail glasses, huge feather fans) accessories, velvet corsets, fashionable shoes, Ava Gardner eyeliner, pale skin, classy manicures, humour, and a huge round of applause at the end - instead of an uncomfortable, half-hidden erection, and silence.
Burlesque artists have names - Dita Von Teese, Gypsy Rose Lee, Immodesty Blaize, Tempest Storm, Miss Dirty Martini - that make them sound like sexual superheroes. They explore sexuality from a position of strength, with ideas, and protection, and a culture that allows them to do, creatively, as they please. They are dames and broads and women - rather than the slightly cold-looking girls you see in strip-clubs. Their personas embrace the entire spectrum of sexuality - fun, wit, warmth, inventiveness, innocence, power, darkness - rather than the bloodless aerobics of the podium.
Do you know what the final rule of thumb is with strip-clubs? Gay men wouldn't be seen dead in Spearmint Rhino - but you can't move for them in a burlesque joint. As a rule of thumb, you can always tell if a place is culturally healthy for women when the gays start rocking up. They are for glitter, filth and fun - rather than a factory-farm wank-trigger with (and I can say this now) very acidic house champagne"
Sorry if this is overly long (or overly late) I just thought this point of view might be interesting to some of you.