Put down that Agatha Christie… There is real life scandal afoot. Hertford, my sleepy little market town, has been brought into disrepute. The townsfolk are in uproar. Local churches are fearing the beginnings of Armageddon. Council officials are reinstating the ducking stool. We need to protect the vulnerable women within this, our precious community – BURLESQUE HAS COME TO TOWN!!
As a family, we migrated to Hertford three years ago. We yearned for the quiet life – the kind of place that only concerned itself with first-world problems. Our journey followed the northbound A10 and allowed us to find that place in Hertford.
Hertford. A pretty town where split ends are not tolerated thanks to the vast amount of hair salons. A serene town that only comes to life when the local celebrity swan gives birth to some, quite frankly, ugly cygnets. A town where middle-class mothers crumble at the prospect of their child going to a (wait for it…) “good” school with “outstanding” features rather than an “outstanding” school with “good”. Hertford is an island. Separated from the real world. It’s our Hertford bubble. But, God damn it, this fragile bubble was about to be popped by some corseted she-devil in fishnets.
I first felt this evil presence when I stepped inside the local theatre. Hertford Theatre, our precious, community hub, torn apart by An Evening of Burlesque. Some West End floozies set to dirty the usually pristine stage with this “exotic” cabaret. Pure. Fucking. Filth.
Then… the bloody Burlesque Jems caused havoc offering lessons, a FREE taster session no less. Tempting (how dare they?) regular-sized (scandalous) women to shimmy their breasts and butts at no financial cost. Local churches were in uproar because they (the poor things) had mistakenly hired rooms out to these saucy little minxes. It was bedlam. Sweet Hertford life was over as we knew it. Pure pandemonium… There was pillaging. Looting. A swarm of mutant locusts destroyed our monthly farmers market. A zombie, flesh-eating duck replaced our celebrity swan. Survivors barricaded themselves within the castle walls for protection. Complete and utter chaos… Hertford was about to be outrun by harlets… and I, dear reader, was definitely NOT going to miss out on all the fun…
My husband nearly choked on his spag bol when I told him I would be attending the Burlesque Jems lessons. He didn’t say anything. Instead he simply gave me that look. You know the one. That look that personifies the complete shock of another. The truth be told, I didn’t need a glance to reign me in. I was already full of doubt. Why the hell was I putting myself through this? However, good old pride took its place over the mozzarella so I, no matter how scared, embarrassed or anxious, was clearly going to go for it…
When entering the first lesson, my brave friend and I were welcomed by the deliciously busty Kimmy Von Shimmy. Our anxiety was quickly replaced by hilarity as we started our pelvic thrust warm-ups. Then, a few hip rolls, butt and breast wiggles later, we were ploughing through our first exotic routine. The learning of steps was interspersed by the gorgeous, red-lipped Kimmy shouting “Look at my Hertford Harlets moooooove…” I cannot remember the last time I had spent a good thirty minutes laughing – laughing deep from my belly. So deep, my uterus and bloody fallopian tubes were in hysterics. The hilarity then gave way to me concentrating on the dance steps meaning the constant chatter of my usually fucked-up brain was switched off for a blessing of a moment. I was confident. I was beautiful. I was sensual. I was…. uncoordinated. But, who cares… It was fabulous darling.
But why Burlesque?? I hear you, my lovely reader, ask. Why have I made you sit through my Rambling Red rants about feminism and the sisterhood just to shake my hypercritical ass at some class for strippers? Why not figure skating? Pottery? Karate? I clearly had other options…
You want the truth? The honest truth??
My dear friend, I could describe how my body has become purely functionary. How it has given birth, breastfed, wiped arses, comforted newborn babies for hours, carried lazy toddlers, pushed buggies and stomped its way through numerous school runs. How Burlesque helped me to get back in touch with the elegance of my feminine form. But, this isn’t really true.
My lovely pal, I could confess how I grew ashamed of my figure. How the constant changes of pregnancy, birth, motherhood and the simple act of ageing has affected my confidence in my body. How I panic as younger women begin to flourish against my fading youth. How Burlesque empowered me and helped me to accept myself, just as I am. However, this just ain’t true either.
The truth is… I have no rational answer. The only tale I can tell is that Burlesque makes me happy. Ferociously happy. I mean, when else is it deemed OK for me to pile on the eye liner and wear inappropriately slutty clothes? When else in a group situation, can I hopelessly attempt to be provocative and not be judged? When, since the girlie sleepovers of my teenage years, do I get chance to giggle hysterically with a group of women? I definitely can’t remember the last time I asked a lady “Can I feel your knickers?” before asking her name. I realise it probably all sounds bizarre in a ‘real world’ kind of context but the truth is… I love it. I love Burlesque because it makes me happy.
But… how do I justify it with my feminist principles? Is Burlesque good for feminism?
The answer: How should I know? There’ll of course be numerous debates. Undoubtedly, they will touch upon the objectification of the feminine form, the example Burlesque sets to young women, how we all have a responsibility over the example we set to others, blah, blah, blah. Well, maybe I’m sick to death of responsibility. The responsibility over my kids, my marriage, my house, my work… Why the hell should I have responsibility over the 3 1/2 billion women across the world too? For this protected hour each week, during my Burlesque class, the only thing I take responsibility for is my own happiness.
So, is Burlesque good for feminism? Who bloody knows. Is Burlesque good for me? Hell YEAH!