[UPDATE: I cut a section which I want to post more in-depth on later. Miss Astrid's "State of Neo-Burlesque" raised some really important points bit I'm not sure I'm the right person to address them.]
Back home today after an intense, amazing, mind-expanding, soul-filling, heart-warming long weekend at BurlyCon 2011 in Seattle, and boy is my mind racing! The first two days were great, but Saturday and Sunday were simply magical. I’ve had so many amazing conversations with so many amazing people, I can hardly make sense of it all.
But I’ll try.
1) Despite Neo-Burlesque’s feminist, all-sizes-welcome ideology, big-bodied burlesquers don’t always feel the love from their smaller sisters. They get booked as “token” plus-size performers — a fact brought home when the only two in a show find themselves performing back-to-back, over and over and over. They have to listen to thinner sisters express their own insecurities and body issues in phrases like “uck, I feel so fat today”. They don’t get booked as often as thinner dancers. And people feel licensed to talk about their bodies much more than they do with slimmer women. So here’s the deal: y’all gotta get some self-awareness up in ya. Pay attention to what you say, how you act, and who you book. Because big gals enrich this community. Anyone who witnessed Rubenesque Burlesque’s off-the-hook performance during peer review can attest to that.
2) Speaking of license and bodies: one surprising statement from the panel on sex work and burlesque was that burlesque audiences take far more liberties with the bodies of performers than the audiences and patrons of other sex workers. Does this mean that, like strip clubs, burlesque theaters need bouncers? Or is there a code of etiquette that we as a community can spread and enforce ourselves? Grabbing someone’s boob uninvited is a violation — maybe we need to speak up more when someone crosses that line.
3) Invited boob-grabbing is still A-OK.
4) People could use some help using the web and social tools to promote themselves and their events. I’ve got a bunch of material I’m going to adapt for burlesquers — look for it on the Burlesque Hall of Fame site in weeks and months to come.
5) The burlesque community is filled with amazing, thoughtful, generous people. So many of the people I talked to at BurlyCon said simply this: “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it.” People offered to fly to Vegas on their own dime and work, they offered to carry exhibition material around the country, they offered their time and money and bodies to do whatever it takes to make the museum great.
And I definitely plan to take them up on that!
6) The burlesque world is full of brilliant, beautiful geeks. I knew they were beautiful, I knew they were brilliant, but man are they some geeks! I had more profound intellectual conversations at BurlyCon than I had at the last American Anthropological Association conference — and with better fashion sense.
7) Last but not least, I learned that I might be the only guy in the country who could spend 4 days at a stripper convention and somehow manage to interact almost exclusively with married women and lesbians. It’s like I forgot to be straight! I’m pretty sure that says something about me — and I’m not so sure I want to know what…
So that’s what I learned at BurlyCon 2011. I have a ton of stuff still buzzing around my head that I have to process, but that will come in the days and weeks to come. Right now, I’m just kind of basking in the neon afterglow of a weekend among one of the strongest and most caring communities it has ever been my privilege to be a part of.
Only 360 days or so until BurlyCon 2012!