So, as some of you may or may not know, I work with a burlesque troupe as a stagehand. I love it. I have even taken some burlesque classes and I absolutely adore every performer in the group.
I was talking to one of my friends last night and he was telling me how he wants to cat-call attractive girls while he’s driving and they’re walking down the street. He said he’s never actually done that, but I asked why he would want to.
“Because it’s a compliment!”
So sparked the debate. I told him that any time a man yells at me from his car window, I flip him off or lift my pinky-finger to indicate he has a tiny penis. I said that it startles me when I’m honked at or screamed at by a passing car, I then feel humiliated and nervous, and then I feel angry. He said, “Well, most women feel flattered. They may be angry at first, but they always say that five minutes later they feel great about themselves!” I said that I didn’t. “Yeah, you do…deep down.” When I kept denying it, I was called a feminazi.
We were actually waiting at a bar for the burlesque show to start as we were having this conversation. So, some of the other performers were asked about it and they replied, “It depends on the situation and where I’m at.” I was then asked how I could possibly be offended or pissed that a man would yell out his car window at me when I worked for a burlesque group?!?!
And I hate it when people say this to me—that I shouldn’t be offended or upset when I’m harassed because I work with performers who sometimes take their clothes off as performance art. And as some of the dancers said, “It depends.” When I’m walking down the street, in my usual grungy, wild-hair, glasses, big sweater, dorky appearance, I am me. I’m going to the store, I’m walking to the bus, I’m living my daily life. I don’t want a man to see me (some chick) and think it’s ok to honk or scream out his car window or whistle at me. I’m not asking for that attention. I don’t want to smile and accept it.
When I’m vixening at a burlesque show, I am in an environment where most of the performers are female (our male performers are very, very talented, too:), they are rocking the stage, they are wanting the attention, they are controlling the audience. There are two roles going on—people in the audience and performers on stage. The dancers ask for the attention, they purposely dress for the attention, and they are controlling the show. There’s a big difference between getting harassed on the street by complete strangers and playing the role of performer where there are set societal rules and expectations of proper behavior by the audience. I vixen because that’s the moment when I’m deciding I want to be noticed and that’s the time I’m playing the character of a flirty vixen.
People need to understand the difference between reality and fantasy. A man driving down the street or walking past me who makes an obscene gesture or says something inappropriate to me is not showing respect or trying to flatter me. He’s not. Even if he thinks he is. Men who do this expect a woman to smile and see this as compliment. If, heaven-forbid, she scowls, gives him the bird, or ignores him, she is a bitch feminazi. This situation is direct proof that many men think they have the right to control women’s actions and thoughts.
At a burlesque show, the audience is always encouraged to cheer and hoot and holler. I’m one of the loudest in the audience. It’s expected, it’s encouraged, and the ladies (and gentlemen) on stage call for it. It’s not ok for a man (or anyone!) to jump up and try to grab a performer. Once an audience member breaks that rule, they are taking away power from a performer. They are attempting to show that the woman (or male performer, though I still haven’t seen this happen to a guy yet—I’m sure it has happened before) are not in control and the audience member believes they are entitled to touch.
So these are things people need to understand. I’m not a feminazi because I don’t want to be hollered at by men driving past me. Because I work for a burlesque group does not mean I cannot be allowed to judge what makes me uncomfortable in real life. And I hate it when women are interested in things people may deem un-feminist and are therefore not allowed to be offended by other things. “Oh, you’re into bondage and BDSM, then why are offended that some guy just punched you in the face?” “Oh, you’re a nude model? Then you shouldn’t get upset by someone peeping into your window while you’re dressing.” “Oh, you vixen at a burlesque show? You shouldn’t be offended when complete strangers whistle and cat-call you while you’re walking down the street.”
I get to decide when I’m offended. Not other people.
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- chaoticrice said: Awesome post, Holly.
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- woundup-sparrow said: Totally agree with you. Stupid, excessive male privilege grosses me out.
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