Stripper Talk #12: Pushing cultural boundaries?

Author of Stripper Talk, Sydni Deveraux

Hello world! It’s Stripper Talk time again! This is a place where I field questions and answer them to the best of my ability, hopefully giving anyone who’s interested in burlesque some insight.

****I need to note for clarification that anyone who emails me is granted anonymity WHEN THEY ASK FOR IT, NO MATTER THE QUESTION. This week’s question comes from a performer who did not ask for it, and therefore their name was disclosed. 

This week’s question comes from Miss Lorrie Ann from Las Vegas, Nevada

“My question to you is this:
I love pushing all sorts of boundaries in my satirical burlesque routines I perform. To be honest, as a performer when I go see other shows I’m board out of my gourd when all the routines are classic, strip tease, or bump and grind. I guess you can say I require more visual stimulation from performance. I like to see seriously choreographed routines or fucked up funny skit style routines. So as a performer I have this idea of doing a 1960’s slave/KKK routine as a funny haha routine equipped with noose  and all…. You as an African American performer, would you #1 be in a routine like this as the slave, and #2 would you find this offensive if you were just an audience member, or laugh at it because after all burlesque is about poking fun at all things equally( in my opinion)…….Why should one be able to poke fun at a redneck, Jew, or china man but not other “sensitive” past worldly issues.  I have also thought of routines such as old minstrel or black face routines and again would love your input:) thank you again!

Cheers,
Miss Lorrie Ann”
 

Hi Miss Lorrie Ann,

Wow- there’s a lot here for me to dissect- and I’m not even sure I’m totally equipped verbally to do it. We’ll see how it goes. I know that there’s been a little bit of talk about these issues at BurlyCon and online, and your question is a sticky one.

I’m going to gloss over your thoughts about neo-styles of burlesque vs. classic. I think both are awesome and both can be done both badly and excellently. Tastes are subjective. Slamming one genre to the benefit of another can alienate you in this community where we all need to stick together. Burlesque is a sexual art and being told that my art isn’t as cool as your art seems detrimental to the art-form.

Now onto your heavier thoughts…

As a performer of color- (I’m Irish, French and African-American), I would tell you that I would be upset to see or be asked by a  performer that is not of my ethnicity***(see edit) to be in an act that depicts slavery, especially if it were in a “Ha ha” kind of way. Though burlesque does mean to make fun, satirize and poke potentially flammable topics, I think that it mostly should be explored by those who have personally been affected by the topic that they are dealing with onstage. I looked you up, and you being a caucasian woman would probably (I can’t really say, I don’t know your life story) not have dealt with issues of being marginalized by your race, or have had family that have been victims of slavery. Slavery is only a few generations behind me, and the horror of what happened to my ancestors strictly because of their skin is terrifying. What I see now happening and being said to me and others with non-white skin these days still saddens me. As a country we still have a lot of work to do.

Clearly you have to know that you portraying slavery IS offensive or you wouldn’t have asked this question. Why do you want to present a piece on slavery? What is useful about using blackface in your act? You know this topic is problematic. How badly do you want to insult or shock your audiences I guess is the question. Just HOW you deal with a topic like slavery is going to make or break your piece. AND you are still going to have to deal with criticism.

As a performer of color that HAS had to deal with stupid and ignorant situations and flippant comments just because of my brown skin (try being booked just because you have brown skin, or conversely not being booked because you have brown skin), seeing a performance by someone (especially someone appearing only caucasian-though I would try to do some research and ask questions) satirizing the horrors of black slavery would downright piss me off.

The idea that you think that these issues are in the “past” is frustrating to say the least. If these issues were in the “past”, why does our President still have to deal with attacks on his race? Why are some races seen as more marketable in the burlesque community and in popular culture? Why do people ascribe certain characteristics and proclivities upon me because of the color of my skin?  If race weren’t an issue, you would see equal faces of different races on TV in movies and on the stage. But sadly, we aren’t there yet.

While I think that burlesque gives us the opportunity to discuss tough topics, it might not be to your benefit to talk about topics that have not affected you. I wouldn’t do a Geisha act because I am not Japanese, have not lived in Japan, do not know about the culture of Geisha’s and am not associated with them in any way. Now- if I did all of my research about Geisha’s and perhaps talked to one, learned their culture and explored WHY it was important for ME to present the image of a Geisha on stage and still decided to, that might be another thing. I’d also have to know that presenting a Geisha act will incite questions from my audience, and perhaps from some enraged Japanese contingent (and any other ethnicity or culture) who has every right to question what right I have to present the face of Geisha on stage.

Are you prepared to have those hard conversations from those outraged by your portrayal of the horrors of slavery on stage? Not only will you have to deal with African-Americans, but also caucasians and any other race that sees it problematic. And they will. And they should. Slavery was a crime on humanity. Humans were slaughtered and hung on trees because of their skin color. This is a topic that is delicate…to say the least.

Just because something seems clever and fucked up doesn’t mean it should be presented by YOU for an audience.

So you need to ask yourself WHY you want to do a slavery act. Why do you want to talk about it? How has slavery affected you? What would putting on blackface make a point on? The premise of blackface is steeped in ignorance and is basically like uttering a racial slur. I’m curious as to know the answers to these questions, and hope you’ll take it into consideration.

Think before you leap,

Sydni Deveraux

P.S: (an edit) * I’m only going to say just one thing that you must NEVER DO AGAIN: use the term “China Man”. It’s racist and unbelievable. Upon initially making this post I left this out of my answer because it was just too ridiculous to address, and I didn’t want to seem like I was flaming you. But by not addressing this, only part of the problem is addressed. Just so we’re clear too, the term “Oriental” is also out. I’ve heard some legends use it when talking about some of the Asian performers in their pasts and though they don’t necessarily know of a better term, I try to gently correct them and bring them into the 21st century.

**I removed the term “non-ethnic” since it was TOTALLY used wrong. I apologize it the term has upset you. Ethnicity is culture and has nothing to do with race.

*Would you like your burlesque question answered in Stripper Talk? Email me at GlitterWonderland@gmail.comWant to see more of me? Check out www.GlitterWonderland.com

101 thoughts on “Stripper Talk #12: Pushing cultural boundaries?

  1. Although this whole blog is quite shocking, I have to laugh. I laugh because when I first saw the topic on twitter I immediately thought of a slave act as a beautiful, sensual harem girl or a similar type of harem dance performed among hunky male ‘slaves’. I told myself, “You are so vintage, that’s vintage burlesque and they probably mean black slavery and a political piece.” I was shocked to see the classic slamming as well as the idea of this being a comedy routine. My best advice to this performer: stop attending and performing burlesque. Go to the theater or stand up comedy instead. I think she’ll have a better chance of finding what she’s looking for.

  2. While the “sensual harem girl” is orientalist and problematic in and of itself I am so so appalled by the woman who asked the question, she should be ashamed of herself.

    “Why should one be able to poke fun at a redneck, Jew, or china man but not other ‘sensitive’ past worldly issues.”
    1. Just because one is “able” to do something, does not mean you can or should do it.
    2. 2,000+ years of persecution of Jewish people wasn’t enough for you? Oy, next thing she’ll want to do a Holocaust performance!
    3. “China man”?! That is incredibly, incredibly racist, I don’t understand why anyone would think this is an appropriate phrase.

    The problem with “pushing cultural boundaries” is that boundaries are stampeded on, and we get into cultural appropriation. And very often the people doing the appropriation are the very oppressors of the culture being appropriated. It’s incredibly disrespectful and even the most talented of performers can’t really pull it, so frankly, why bother?

    • @megan: Please don’t think I accept the ‘harem girl’ theme as culturally or socially appropriate, or even radically inappropriate. When my eyes first gazed upon the term slave act, my mind immediately referenced where I had seen this theme in burlesque before: vintage burlesque. I am a fan of a lot of mid-century art that shows women in humble situations yet they are the extreme centerpiece or object of desire. It shows the ultimate power of female sexuality even when someone thinks they have control over a woman. While I DO NOT condone crimes against woman, I think there are some things very sexy about the image I am trying to explain. I am confident many performers could create an act of this theme that may be slightly edgy, but dripping with passion and sensuality. Nothing at all like Lorrie Ann is suggesting be portrayed.

  3. I couldn’t even begin to touch the racist nature “China Man” reference….really a lot of it is just….I’m surprised I could touch what I did.

    I was hoping someone else would touch it, and I thank you.

  4. Well said, Sydni. I’m all for provocative acts in burlesque, but shock acts like these are so crass and gimmicky when I’d rather see something that provokes thought and discussion, not angry rhetoric from any side. And I can’t figure out what thought this is meant to provoke beyond, maybe, “isn’t the performer so edgy?”

    Which is usually answered in the negative in these cases…

    • Yes, at least she asked….

      I guess I’m more surprised in HOW she asked. Also to ask a POC if they would happily portray a slave in her funny “ha ha” burlesque act featuring topics like the KKK and lynchings.

      If she would have asked “I have been considering exploring the topics of the KKK, slavery and lynchings in a burlesque act….what are your thoughts on this?” It would have seemed like a reasonable thing to ask. However, that’s not how that question went. I posted it just how it was written, except she spelled the word “noose” as “nuse”, and I corrected it to make it easier to understand. I changed no wording or phrasing whatsoever.

      • You know, I thought “ah, maybe she’s well meaning but *horribly* misguided” until she asked if you’d be in an act like this as the slave. I admire and respect your patience.

  5. I am sitting here in shock honestly. Nursing a cup of coffee and unsure what to say.
    While I think its important to portray intense subjects I also think there are times, places, and reasons to do it. This has to be weighted against the many many reasons why not to do an act. Is the shock value really all your going for?
    When I go to a show I want to be happy, I want to see acts done well by performers who take their craft seriously. Costumes that make me jealous, music that inspires me. I would NOT be happy watching an act that pokes fun at so much pain and horrendous crimes against humanity. There to me is NOTHING enjoyable in an act that would possibly hurt other audience members or performers. I also would never go back to see another show that producer would put on.

  6. While I completely agree with your opinions on racism in burlesque and your general statements, but it’s really bothering me that you refer to white people as “non-ethnic.” I understand that you’re making a distinction between performers of colour and are not trying to be racist, but…

    I’m German, Norwegian and Native American.

    I look totally white and I have PLENTY of “ethnicity.” I have a hugely rich cultural background and to refer to white people as “non-ethnic” is really rude and, I feel, if not strictly racist, quite “culturalist.”

    Not cool.

    • Hmmm….that is an interesting point.

      I’m curious, what is a better term that I should use? non-P.O.C?

      Just because you look “white” doesn’t mean you’re not “ethnic”. I’m very aware of that. Since I don’t know Miss Lorrie’s background (and I made that clear that she appears one way, but I don’t know her roots), I used the term “non-ethnic” when I didn’t see another term to use. You should note that she assumed that I was strictly “African-American” and not a mix of races that I personally acknowledge. Using “person of color” would have been more appropriate, but considering the language of the question, I gave a bit of a pass on that because it seems that she did try, at least a little.

      Suggestions would be great, as to a different word, if you have any.

  7. Burlesque is an art that uses sex, exaggeration and live theatre to convey a message and illicit emotion from an audience. I am not in favor of artists that use sex, exaggeration and live theatre to ‘burlesque’ in a funny ha-ha way human suffering – cultural appropriation aside. End of story. To put it another way, I would not want to see a boylesquer do a funny ha-ha rape-simulation act onstage complete with a bottle of rufies and a female victim. There is a similar emotion illicited when I read of the woman’s act proposal: ickyness. The same degree of violation. Sorry to be so graphic, but there it is.

  8. Even as a newbie, I’m shocked by the nature of this question. I don’t think I have the experience or chops to contribute to the discussion. However, I do want to say that I appreciate having this forum of discussion. Thank you Sydni for fielding and dealing with all the questions.

  9. Im posting from my phone so I cannot type nearly as much as a I feel I should, but I wanted to echo others appreciations and commend you on your grace and tact in answering this question. This question was just ugly. I am totally offended by someone even considering this kind of act…burlesque is a parody and exaggeration yes, but its not a forum for blatant disrespect of a subject that involves human suffering. I sincerely hope your answer makes her reconsider the kind of image she’s promoting through her ‘humor’.

  10. There is an innocence in being born white. White people, conveniently, begin to grapple and struggle with race when they choose to. It’s part of the abhorrent package of white privilege. People of color have to deal with this issue from the time your mind is developed enough to understand where struggle comes from. By 4 or 5 years old, at least, you get it. She is about 20 years behind you in understanding the complexities of this struggle. That is if she actually listens to what you said to her and begins to think about what came out of her mouth.

    I can not imagine what most white people must look like to people of color. Giant spoiled privileged babies with a perspective that extends about as far as the nose on their face. I kinda feel like this lady would have been the housewife that walked up to Dr. King and asked if he could make his speeches more funny, so (white) people would be more open to understanding.

    • “Giant Spoiled privileged babies”?

      I understand that this is an inflammatory question and emotions are running high, but any sort of assumption you make based on someone’s skin color is harmful to the community, both our small one and the one at large.

      • I am not making an assumption about white privilege. White privilege is real, as is institutionalized racism and societal and cultural boundaries that exist to keep people of color from being equal. As a white person being aware of the marginalization and struggle of your fellow people of color does not mean that you have overcome white privilege. It just means that you are not blind or stupid.

        Can you imagine struggling against assumptions people make about you everywhere you go? Everything you do? One friend of mine is an amazingly talented dancer. Probably one of the most beautiful, skilled and intuitively graceful people I have ever met in my life. He teaches ballroom dance. Every new class he has to prove to the people learning that as a 6’5″ black man he is more skilled that the short white new guy. He is consistently more qualified and a better teacher than his white counterparts in class but he struggles to book private dance lessons and his white counterpart has a full class schedule by the end of the week. When he does get clients half the time they congratulate themselves for giving him a chance and seeing him out, as if overcoming their own racist social construct is something he really wants to hear about. It hurts him, it makes him feel horrible and hopeless, like what is the point if everyday is going to be like this?

        This is one single solitary easy to explain and understand example, there are millions of examples of this if you listen to your friends of color. White privilege is real and yes it makes white people look ignorant and childish. It’s not even remotely an assumption.

      • Karina, I absolutely agree with you but I really think the issue was about name-calling. We are all here to have an intellectual and creative discussion (of which you have shown you have intelligent, thoughtful views). However, making inflammatory statements like “giant spoiled babies” is going to incite emotional responses such as this.

      • Dizzy, I find it telling that you chose to respond to this particular comment out of the entire thread and, in my estimation, it smacks of faux concern and derailment. I think it’s perfectly clear that Karina is commenting on how white privilege is perceived rather than errant name calling.

        Karina, I totally get and agree with the points you were making. I think it’s hard to always sum up complicated feelings and perspectives in polite, easily digestable bites….especially when you’re talking about the madness and pathology of racism.

        Truth is, our community as a whole could benefit from more frank discussion that doesn’t get sidetracked by people’s need to feel comfortable in their privilege.

      • I didn’t feel like I could comment further without just being a huge bitch, so thank you Tangerine. I felt like I was really nice about it. This is a giant, huge life altering topic for people of color. This “topic of discussion” on a Tuesday for all the white people here is like a 100 pound weight every person of color walks around with everyday.

        This is not polite. There is nothing about institutionalized racism that inspires me to feel polite. I feel angry. I feel like I am ashamed to be white sometimes. I feel like screaming, or crying, or yelling. I can’t even imagine how badly this hurts people of color. I want to share my opinion and share my thoughts and not be smacked on the hand for it. I am not fiercely diplomatic, I get by. Sometimes I am afraid of sharing my opinion because of people who call me rude, or act like I am ruining their perfect bubble of calmness.

        I am not calm. I don’t like this. It feels terrible, horrible and disgusting. I understand there is a lot of discussion going on here and everyone wants to be so nice and polite so they don’t offend anyone but seriously, I didn’t curse and that is my diplomatic accomplishment.

        I think most white people, most people who are perceived as white, and anyone of who knows they live inside privilege is so god damned scared of recognizing it and saying “Yes, I do have the choice to wake up one day and not think about this” People of color do not get to do that. Inevitably something or someone comes along and reminds you that our whole american culture is built on institutionalized racism.

        Frankly I feel more like rioting over it than having a polite discussion, but here I am being polite.

      • I responded to this comment because I believe that a person can voice an opinion without name-calling. It is, as you said, difficult to sum up these situations coherently- let alone politely- but I do still think it’s possible to have frank discussion without that level of vitriol against any person or people who might be actively participating and in fact *agreeing*. It doesn’t help the conversation to escalate it to that. Please don’t assume that my comment smacks of anything other than a desire that instead of railing against one another and sowing more discord we could address the issue together.

      • Ladies, I completely agree about white privilege. I was raised in a household that was brown, and as a white-skinned girl I was either REVERED or HATED. No in-between. I understand I live in a country that exhibits white privilege in everything. It’s very emotional, and it cuts everyday for my brown-skinned goddesses.

        As a woman who has extensively been with other women, I have experienced extreme exclusion at times as well. When I would walk into a restaurant with my girlfriend we were, at times, what I call “gay seated” as in to say, seated away from everybody else (especially families) VERY OBVIOUSLY. If I walked hand-in-hand with my girlfriend down the mainfare of town people would either glare at us rudely, or give us a thumbs-up and say “you are beautiful”. We were just a regular couple and deserved NONE of that awful/special attention. You feel like a leper, it sucks even when it’s positive attention.

        I think there is a way to talk about these things without “name-calling” I feel we are adults and I feel for Karina, who let herself get away from herself in a way. I was just pointing out if she had left that ONE part of her argument be re-written, than maybe some wouldn’t get so defensive.

        Yes, Karina I feel like rioting, I feel like we live in a fake fucking world with people saying one thing to your face and another to your back. It’s insanely fucked. This conversation isn’t going to fix things, sadly. I loved when Syndi wrote she both got promotion and demotion from her skin color and that is exactly what I was saying before…even positive attention sucks. Getting hired as the “token colored performer” is just as awful as not because of it.

        I used to live in New Orleans, and I befriended an older woman. She was so educated and funny. One day she revealed to me the only reason she could go to college is because she passed the “paper-bag test” as in to say that because she was lighter than a paper bag she was allowed to go to college as a black woman. I went home and cried, what a HORRIBLE. FUCKING. WORLD.

        My grandmother was STERILIZED by the US Government as a matter of POLICY (look up la operacion on wiki) and she just took it. She just….took it and it HURTS.

        I understand. I see it. I’ve worked the best I could and still do against it.

        That is the best I can do. I’m not trying to silence you, please understand…

      • I’m sorry Ann, I had no problem with what you said at all. I should have said so. Your totally right. I am not in possession of a great amount of diplomacy, but I sometimes feel like it just doesn’t matter. That it’s not the point. I could do better and more people might listen, but less people might also, and definitely no one would remember what I said.

        Your voice has been gorgeous.

      • Thanks Ann, for being clearer than I could be.

        Karina- I don’t want to silence you either, and I only wanted, as I said, to temper some of the inflammatory parts of your original statement. I just know that there are people in this conversation who are white or partially white and to accuse them or shame them for that might create an environment where they feel unwelcome, even to support this cause.

        By all means, be angry, you should be. We all should be; I just want to channel that anger where it belongs and not accidentally at one other. We are on the same team and need to support one another unequivocally.

    • I am NOT and will NEVER SAY that I understand what it means to be black in America because I am not. But what I can say is that I do in fact care and acknowledge white privilege. The best I can do is speak out in my community with my words, my actions, and my art. Thusly, I do.

    • Karina,

      As someone who is constantly working to articulate my anger around these and other issues, I so feel you. I wish more people would be angered by this and that we wouldn’t have to spin our wheels trying to come up with ways to say this is not okay in order to be heard. It should be a given.

      Dizzy,
      I’m not assuming anything, but rather calling bullshit. Maybe you’ve grown a great deal since the last conversation on racism I participated in with you. I will give you the benefit of the doubt in that respect since it has been years, but my experience with you is not one of an ally or someone moving towards greater understanding. I think the comments in this thread are honest and raw, but respectful. The racism that started this thread is far more offensive and disrespectful than someone waxing hyperbolic when describing the ugliness of white privilege.

      Ann,
      I hear you. I really do. Still, we clean up our language to be heard so often and aren’t spared from being shutdown, disregarded or discounted. As someone who is always hypervigilant around this, I am weary of coddling racists or racist behavior, passive or active. It’s not my job to educate them or help them get over their racism. They should explore and delve into that of their own volition. Those who are getting defensive are usually those who see a little bit of themselves reflected in folks’ honesty. I get it…it’s jarring to discover that you’re standing in your privilege and even more so to acknowledge that you’ve done nothing about it in the face and legacy of atrocities. I just think the “Maybe if you spoke to me this way, I would understand better” line of tone policing is a copout in these discussions. We’re talking about some real ugliness here and sometimes it means hearing the things that are hard to hear.

      • I think you might be confusing me for someone else- we’ve never met or talked about anything.

      • I know this is kicking a dead horse but there is a video I want you to see, Tangerine. Also I don’t noticed I ended my last post you were responding to with “The best I can do is speak out in my community with my WORDS, my ACTIONS, and my ART. Thusly, I do.” so you’re claim that I’ve “done nothing” is silly barring you want me to walk into a Klan rally and shoot people.

        Finding better ways to talk to people and not look like some bully they can just dismiss is a better way. If someone slapped me in the face, I can easily slap her back and say “you’re a BITCH” and she walks away and forgets about it in 24 hours.But if I pull her aside and ask “why did you slap me in the face?” she has to be accountable, she has to speak to what she did, and she has to think why she did it and take a moral inventory. The REAL copout is retaliating blindly and quickly.

      • Another thing to remember is we no longer live in a binary racist world. We have tv, commercial, print ads, and magazines that promote racism on a subtle level. Many people who are downright not straight racist have cultural degradation and discrimination in the back of their brains. Even comedians degrade their culture and promote stereotypes for a cheap laugh. People think “If Chris Rock or George Lopez can say it, so can I.” My comedy partner and I were turned down for a local tv show because we “didn’t have enough jokes about race”. This was said TO OUR FACE. When I take on people one on one it’s not because I think they ARE a racist, they just don’t understand how they affect institutional racism and that is hard.

  11. How you answered this without just screaming RACIST is amazing. I wish other white performers would understand that there is a big difference between a POC performing an act dealing with racial tropes, issues, and inequalities (historical and/or present) and them doing so. Also, why is she dissing classic burlesque when she is asking YOU, of all people, this question. It was a tailor made question to piss you off and kudos to you for even tackling it in the first place, much less with the grace you did.

  12. I think also a thing to note is though the question was extremely ignorant in many ways, we don’t know enough about the performer to immediately scream RACIST. I think that we need to keep this in our minds. I might be more patient than most, but I’ve seen how clueless people are, they have no idea. Also, if you’ve ever been corrected in your life when you used some term that wasn’t PC you’ll know that it’s just difficult to navigate this world sometimes. That being said, HOW the question was written was almost more upsetting than WHAT she was asking me.

    • I personally come from leftist anarchist groups where the following is essentially the baseline for conversation:

      1. Racism is prejudice backed up by personal privilege and systemic power. Being a racist does not mean only that someone hates someone of another racial group, but that a person holding racial privilege wields their privilege for their benefit.

      2. Privilege is a system of statuses and advantages granted based on one’s location within social hierarchies. Dismantling this system is much more complicated than renunciation of that status. Privilege is often invisible to those who posses it.

      Obviously, this means that all of us contain some balance of privileges and some where we’re not. I hold race and cis privilege where I don’t hold heterosexual or class privilege. Privilege is a part of all our lives, whether we wield it for our benefit or simply enjoy its rewards without intention.

      For me personally, realizing that I grew up and am living in a world full of racism, classism, transphobia, homophobia, etc. and knowing these things have affected me without my want or knowledge was tremendously helpful. Even if I don’t want to be racist, by living in a racist society I am getting benefits just by being white and so I have to try extra hard not to be racist. I may mess up saying something steeped in cis or white privilege, i.e. unintendingly doing something transphobic or racist, and it is my job to back up, not make it about me, and yet learn.

      Here’s an excellent website for people wanting to learn about understanding and dismantling any privilege one might have:

      http://blog.shrub.com/archives/tekanji/2006-03-08_146

    • Something can be ignorant as hell and racist too. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I applaud your generosity in dealing with this person, but the whole thing is racist as hell. I think we’re often too kind with people’s racism masked as ignorance. We quietly let it slide under the guise of someone not knowing better and let them wreak havoc on other people by not shutting it down. If you’re a grown up and willingly oblivious as to how this is problematic in this day and age, you kinda deserve to be called out. After all, we have the interwebs and the Google, if you want to learn something outside yourself all you have to do is type.

  13. I like provocative, social-commentary burlesque as much as the next person, but I agree that it needs to come from a person affected by the cultural stereotype or historical happening. For example, as a fat woman, I would be incensed to see a “normal size” woman don a fat suit, portray a few “always eating”, lazy, sloppy, sad fat girl tropes, then strip off her clothes and the fat suit to see the sexy, naked, happy and THIN girl inside. In this instance, that performer would not know what my experiences were and I would think she was mocking my body. There are ways this performance could be turned to make it into a piece that commented on body appearance in a thoughtful, non-offensive way, but it would take a lot of thought and careful planning. And we’re also just talking about body issues. Not to dismiss them, because many of us (myself included) struggle with them mightily, but it’s not the same as the enslavement, oppression and genocide of an entire race of people based solely on the color of their skin. I really don’t think there’s any way for a non-POC to use burlesque to comment on that, and certainly not in a funny way. People of Color are STILL being persecuted physically for nothing more than their skin tone. Nothing Ha Ha about it.

    Sydni, your reply was thoughtful and eloquent. I believe it made your point in a way that hopefully Miss Lorrie Ann can hear and mull over. Kudos.

  14. The topic of weather or not this person’s name should have been kept anonymous (even though she didn’t request it) was discussed on FB. Here is my input: She may never recover from this, even if deep down her intentions were purely theatrical. And she shouldn’t. What if this act had actually been created? We know each other in burlesque…it’s a healthy family if we can have a little bit of nationwide trust. We need to know she said this. If it had been anonymous we would all have this terrible, icky feeling that one of our own actually posted this and not knowing who it was. I’ll bet my rhinestones most folks would think it was a newbie, not a performer who founded a troupe, performed on national TV, and has competed at BHOF. That’s scary. I’m glad I know.

  15. For the sake of not making the assumption that this person is a racist, I’m going to make the assumption that this person is horribly uneducated about not only racial issues, but burlesque in itself.

    There is a way for satire to happen. That is not satire. That is not “poking fun”. Poking fun implies that there is a joke in there somewhere. Nowhere is there a joke in slavery…. unless you completely role reverse and find some amazing way to turn the tables. We make jokes about Cabana Boys and man slaves all the time, and that’s funny, quite possibly because of how women have struggled with equality for a loooong time. But to put a “POC” in a slave position is just simply for shock value, and if that’s all the act is, then f*ck, I don’t wanna watch it. If you’re going to touch on slavery, or be inspired by something culturally (and I need to be clear- I don’t actually feel comfortable with saying “You cannot be inspired by ______” because that seems counterproductive as well) you NEED TO DO IT RIGHT. With research, love, respect, and a very clear reason as to why you feel the need to do that piece.

    There are a number of geisha routines that are very beautiful, and they are not performed by geishas., and ultimately I cannot comment very much because I am not Japanese. But what if the person is referencing Madame Butterfly? Are people allowed to be inspired by something that has cultural misappropriation in it? What if someone is poking fun at Disney and wants to do a gypsy routine, or a Princess Jasmine routine, or a Pochahontas routine? Literally referencing Disney? Is that not okay? Should I be offended if someone does a gypsy fortune teller routine because part of my heritage is gypsy, and I’m pretty sure none of my ancestors were fortune tellers?

    I’m not saying that what this person said isn’t wrong, because they definitely went into the more cut and dry holy-innapropriate-batman side of things, but I do think there is a LOT of grey area. After all, art is what you’re inspired by, and who are we to say you cannot be inspired by something? :/ That’s where it gets tricky, IMHO.

    Just my thoughts.

  16. PS- If someone DID manage to do a routine that touched on racism in some sort of “ha ha” way, they should get a medal. My artistic brain would like to think that there is some way that any topic should be safe if its done right, but ultimately I can’t picture it, at least not from my “non-POC” point of view. Just wanted to make that clear as I don’t think it was in my post back there.

    Burgundy Brixx does an absolutely stunning routine tributing the missing/murdered women of the Downtown East Side, and it’s a very, very tough subject, and it’s definitely not ha-ha, but it’s beautiful. I think that sort of tribute is perhaps the only kind that I can picture regarding the poster’s exact scenario that she mentioned.

  17. WOW. Syd, you absolutely answered that with grace and understanding, and I’m totally impressed. These kinds of discussions can be hard to have, and I also appreciate that someone reached out to ask the question, to try to broaden their perspective and understand something they clearly don’t.

    That said… Did she really just say that?? It’s like someone dropped in everything offensive they could think of in one email and hit send- in 1952.

    Have you gotten a response yet? I’m interested in how she responded to you.

  18. As a provocative performer and comedian myself, in burlesque pieces that push societal and racial boundaries; I want to make sure that they are done tastefully, poignantly, and still have an heir of humor to them.

    Most importantly, they have to come from a place of love.

    I am half-white, half Puerto RIcan raised by my Puerto Rican father alone. I always related more to that culture and there have been awful slights against it. In turn, as a teen I turned to other great minorities struggles and acknowledged them are part of a large, human struggle. I have read The Biography Of Malcom X more times than I have read the Bible.

    I feel like racism happened yesterday and we are all still struggling with it, both between cultures and within our own. I look to provocateurs to raise questions, feelings, and boil topics until they can be popped and eased.

    Like I said, I have done pieces that are socially and racially “heady” but make sure to do them in a way that reflects intelligence, love, humor, and hope.

    The KKK was not funny, and was very hateful…it’s hard to turn that into a piece that is meaningful.

    Make sure if you want to make a joke, it lands in the right place. Like, doing a slavery piece that mocks white people’s self-righteousness about being above it. Burlesque was born out of humor, and I teeter between being offended and wondering if we are going to get too offended.

    I do feel the question was raised out of ignorance, and not hate or racism. But I am glad it was raised. I think it’s every performers role to speak to their truth. Honestly, I say to the performer, if you really have to ask…ask and maybe do research into the community not just from a performance standpoint but a cultural one.

    I work heavily with another black performer in the community, we do many duets together and are very best friends. We both like pushing people’s buttons and making the audience laugh but I believe because we come from a place of love and thoughtfulness, it can work.

    Don’t be shocking just to be shocking. If you are going to do a provocative piece have a lot to say about it, more than “man, the KKK was bad and I was just trying to make fun and demean them.” Show all that you have to say on the topic in the piece. The more questions people have to ask you at the end of a performance, the more you failed. One of my good friends does a piece where she is a bloody Jackie O. right after JFK was shot…but it was a love piece about her broken heart. This shocking image it starts with ends in tears.

    That’s my nickel.

    Also dude, China Man is NOT the preferred nomenclature…Asian American, please.

    (I love The Big Lebowski)

  19. Wow, you said that much more diplomatically than I could have. Kudos to you!

    Most everything that I could say about this has been covered by other people, but something that no one has mentioned bothers me. That is the phrase “1960s slave/KKK routine”. Does this mean she thinks slavery and the 60s KKK violence happened at the same time? Maybe she had some kind of epic, timeless arc to her plan, but it comes across that she does not have a grasp on the history or meaning of the issues.

    Also, if I were to have an idea that was so controversial, I would run it by a very close friend who was a member of the group I thought might be offended. They would know my motivations and help me or warn me against it as they saw fit. The fact that she asked someone who lives several states away from her IN A PUBLIC FORUM seems very, very strange.

  20. An update:

    A few people via facebook have been hoping that this question was a hacked email. I should disclose that I received this question via email WEEKS ago. If it were a hacked note I would be certain that I would hear from Miss Lorrie Ann to disregard it.

    A performer in Vegas is going to see her tonight and ask her about it. I haven’t heard anything from the performer on any public forum or via email. This blog has been read over 800 times in the last 48 hours and you would think that someone associated with Miss Lorrie Ann would have contacted her about it.

    I want to make sure that we all know that since none of us posting know anything about the questioner- calling her names would be detrimental.

    The question is definitely shocking, and definitely needed an answer. Some might think it a bummer that I answered it publicly and disclosed her name. Anyone who reads this blog or sends in a question has the right to have their question posted ANONYMOUSLY, no matter the question. I disclosed her name because it puts a face to the question. Putting “anonymous” when they did not ask for that on a question like this would possibly take away the sharp edges that we all need to see.

    Ignorance exists in every community, no matter how sparkly or fun it may be. We all come from different backgrounds and installed belief systems. I think it’s important to talk about these things- in fact discussions like this are happening on public and private forums and dressing rooms all over the country.

    I thank all of you for being a part of the discussion and refraining from being nasty in a time that deserves some compassion. Every single comment on this blog has been posted, and I’ve not had to moderate or erase anyone’s posts. Thank you for keeping it respectful.

  21. Well, that was a totally offensive email that she sent but I almost feel like it was intentionally written to get as much exposure as possible. I have no idea why someone would want to portray themselves in that manner but it almost seems to be deliberately provocative and just plain…….ignorant?

    • I think it’s made clear in the original question that she likes to be provocative. I think the issue is that she has chosen the wrong thing to be provocative about. I’m all for seeing an act on slavery that is thoughtful and respectful. However her wording makes it pretty clear that she is most likely not the performer to do the job.

      However, she could be a better performer than writer. Let’s hope so.

      • The best part about your response is the part in which you ask her if she is the right person to portray this and why it is important for HER to do this particular act. Although there are a lot of racial sore spots in society at large, at least most of us understand why its inappropriate to make light of a piece of history that our people didn’t experience

  22. Another update: Miss Lorrie Ann did in fact write the email and sees nothing wrong with it.

    “I talked to her. She did write it and didn’t think anything was wrong with it. She said she was just asking a question. And stating an opinion. She’s just moved here from Salt Lake and said they did these sort of acts a lot. She said they made fun of every kind of person. She was completely clueless about all the activity about this on Facebook and your blog. She didn’t really seemed bothered by any of it.”

  23. That is a very touchy question and you have handled it very well indeed. As i do not have any personal experience or cultural background in this area i cannot really comment but i do admit i would feel rather uncomfortable watching an act depicted in the way she describes.

    I do have a question however – if a person was to do this on the flip side, so that it was more along the lines of the ‘slave’ getting their own back on the KKK, would that be viewed as appropriate or inappropriate? Assuming the person performing it has the cultural background appropriate for performing it.
    Please be aware i do ever intend to do this nor do i know anyone who has/does. It is purely trying to understand how it is perceived if the roles are reversed on sensitive issues such as this. And i use the term ‘slave’ as reference only, nothing derogatory intended.

  24. Hello
    Wow! I guess an honest, innocent and truly inquisitive question got taken to the limits and then some. First let me state that I have NEVER been as cowardly to hide behind anonymity. That is a big problem with society and social media promotes this. It’s so easy to hide behind a computer. I truly believe society has lost the face to face value of handling things in a non cowardly manner. So yes let me thank you for putting my name to the inquiry.

    As to clarify the so many assumptions and negative responses let me say that I truly wanted a “POC”‘s point of view. I produced several shows in SLC of which we always packed the house and I paid my performers well;) I owned the venue we did our monthly shows at so I guess I had the edge to do what pleased me, and judging from the money made and audience attendance we pleased our audience as well. I have put skits/acts on my stage that include poking fun of camera happy Japanese tourists, Mormon missionaries, catholic priests, homeless hobos, big booty chicken heads, Ike and Tina, rednecks, drug dealers, serial killers, cross dressers, hip hoppers, Mexicans,dumb big boobed air headed blondes, cops, and the list could go on. My point being is that I don’t just poke fun at one, but all. I can tell you myself or any of the acts I’ve put on my stage have never been booed. However in my option I’d rather get a boo as a reaction than no reaction at all. So many times I’ve been to shows where the performer on stage is so awfully boring and her act was the same as the girl before her and you can count that the performer after will do the same mundane thing just to a different song…. Only to look around seeing the audience texting on their phones or leaving the venue out of lack of visual stimulation. Again my opinion of course. I understand there are close minded purists who care only to preserve the form of classical burlesque, and that’s great for the type of audience who only wants this, although I’ve yet to meet this audience. I appreciate where burlesque has come from, but I appreciate more where it can go to in the here and now.
    Now onto the whole bursque community “supporting and sticking together”. I’ve been involved in several organizations as a child and adult and I can honestly say in my observance that the so called burlesque community is by far one of the most clique-ish, caddy, out for their own bunch. That is why I don’t involve myself any more than I have to.
    So many performers are “oh I’m all for supporting other bursque dancers and lets all come together for the good of the art” only to turn around and be shit talkers and divas. Let’s get real people, the world is about doing what makes you happy and concerning ones self with only what gets you the edge, people are just to afraid to do or say so. The world is so concerned about being politically correct and “oh my god lets not do/say that it might offend someone!” if everyone could laugh at the past and make things a more equal playing field no one would care:) please POC or anyone for that matter, do a routine that makes fun of honkies and crackers! I’d die laughing!! I think the problem that is created is when it’s ok to poke fun at one race or one religion but not all… This in my opinion creates issues. History is history and if it happened, good or not, it seems fair game. How many burlesque  routines are there that poke fun at Obama? If they are out there please enlighten me! How many burlesque routines are out there poking fun at Bush or Clinton? See my point… We can’t poke fun at all presidents… Why? Oh no, because President Obama is a “POC” and that would be offensive…
    Whereas Las Vegas may not be the right venue for some of my routine ideas, I assure you that somewhere out there, there is an open minded  “POC” wiling to do these routines with me:) may not be today or this year, or even in America. And to add to that, I’m sure there are audiences that can see the humor in poking fun at ALL sensitive scenarios.
    I’m sure with me being honest and upfront with my thoughts and views will earn me a spot on the secret “blacklist” of burlesque, but I’d rather be true to what I feel and be on that unspoken list, than fake and never know the true freedom and creativity of no boundaries.
    Thank you Sydney for your input on my question. Thank you for taking the time to answer it in your opinion, as that was what I was looking for. Forgive me as I meant to address this earlier on, but based on your thoughts and theories about performers needing to have a “connection” or knowledge of the person, place or thing they are portraying on stage I have 2 responses to that:
    First, why does that matter? It burlesque not serious theatre. I mean to me that knocks out so many creative ideas and leaves a performer only to put on a fancy costume and strut or bump and grind. The beauty of burlesque is the ability to be anyone or anything on stage for that moment, and to say only someone who has lived it or has experienced such things are the only people worthy of such acts is upsetting, one sided and close minded.
    Second, by your reasoning hypothetically speaking if my ancestors were Klan members or German nazi soldiers and I knew “what they went thru” then I’m good to portray this on stage freely? Just my two cents… Not saying either are in my linage but based on your theory you would give me the go ahead of it were so? I’m not thinking so… So you may want to rethink how you presented such thoughts as only to an opinionated advantage. It works both ways… What is touchy and sensitive to one may not be to another. Thank you again.

    • You want cliquey? Try not being able to advance with your burlesque work because you’re a minority that refuses to conform to either “classical” burlesque or be super ethnic exotic. Try being blacklisted from your *national* burlesque scene because you have openly called out racism, cultural appropriation, and bad business practices. Try being so aghast that the people that inspired you to do burlesque are now going on about how they can’t possibly be racist, they’re a “pillar of the community!!” and treat your people as some helpless group in need of a savior – to the point that you’ve decided to just quit performing because it’s no longer safe nor useful to get your voice heard.

      This is *racist*, pure and simple.

    • Lorrie Ann, you are a privileged (WORDS REMOVED BY MODERATOR) derailing and not listening to what people are trying to get across to you.
      Cultural Appropriation is NOT acceptable in burlesque (this includes stereotypes like White Trash or Hillbilly)
      Your language and performance ideas are in serious need of an education.
      The idea of putting ANYONE in a noose is NOT SEXY! Burlesque is ultimately about being sexy.
      I highly suggest you leave the burlesque world and spend some time learning more about what you are making fun of, or go into the world of comedy and see how you deal with hecklers in the audience.

    • I challenge you to hear what I have to say, really, but first and foremost I am asking you to please listen to this. Its only ten minutes long.

      You are a prime, grade a example of white privilege at work. You think that you can do whatever you want, say what you want and hurt anyone because you do it in front of an audience that is 99% white. You give yourself permission to marginalize everyone, fuel hate and stereotypes because your audience doesn’t have a problem with what your doing. Your audience is white.

      Your brand of racism makes it okay to keep people of color, disabled, blind, immigrants and anyone else you have ever made fun of, poor, with little to no opportunity, in underfunded schools, in low paying jobs because your ignorant and privileged enough to believe any of this is in the past. You make it funny. You give people permission to continue buying into it by clothing it in beautiful women and making it a joke. People really do buy anything if a half naked beautiful woman sells it to them. That is despicable.

      It’s not in the past. It’s right here in your face. These ladies are telling you that they are hurt by these stereotypes. They are real, they are the voice of the people you say are not being hurt. You’re wrong, listen to them, they are telling you right now, every single one of them, that you are wrong. That these things you are saying and assuming and giving a voice are harmful.

      I have no idea if any words anyone says will make any difference to you. I would not be surprised if not many people comment back, not because they aren’t angry or upset, but because they just don’t see any point.

    • It’s my understanding that in some parts of the country there are white people that rarely, if ever, interact with minorities. Your initial letter and follow up response leads me to believe that you *may* be one of those people, so forgive me if I’m wrong and the following sounds at all condescending.

      I understand the urge to approach burlesque (or comedy, or art in general) with a “nothing’s off limits” approach, and the frustration at what may seem like an overly PC response to your question. I do. What you need to understand is that this isn’t about what is or isn’t PC. When you poke fun at things like slavery, lynchings, minstrel shows or other hardships that people of color have experienced so recently in this country, you’re sending a message to your audience that it’s OK to marginalize or dehumanize minorities. The fact that an audience might laugh at an act in which you reference hanging black people is NOT something to be proud of. It’s horrifying. You’ve just sold that audience the idea that racial minorities are NOT people, and that lynchings are a cute spec on an otherwise perfect American past.

      Your analogy about how you’d laugh if people of color “do a routine that makes fun of honkies and crackers” doesn’t stand here. You’d still be on the right side of privilege. A more apt analogy: How would it feel to you if a stereotypical hetero male did an act about rape in a ‘funny-haha’ way? To an audience full of other hetero men. No redeeming moral, no intent aside from making fun of a truly horrifying and very real threat that we face. Try to understand that you’re talking about doing pretty much that.

      • Great analogy!!! I’m impressed by many people on this thread, but I had to make a special note about that.

    • Miss Lorrie Ann
      The KKK is an organization that is very much alive and well (Google KKK). They are a hate organization who’s main activities are/ were: terrorism, through acts of violence, intimidation toward other races, such as cross burning and hanging to tyrannize mostly American minority groups, and also other social, devout and cultural groups.
      By creating and performing the act you described you are bringing attention to the KKK organization and representing them in a funny nonchalant way. This is not funny. There are people alive today that may have witnessed first hand what a noose looks like around the neck of someone they love. The KKK terrorizes innocent people because of the color of their skin, religion, sexual orientation or anything else they see as against their moral code. Just thinking about dressing in their white cloaks should make your skin crawl. Some people might be able to laugh at your idea and remain “open minded” but the majority will be very offended and upset, I urge you to reconsider creating this act. Murdering and Terrorizing innocent people is no laughing matter, as is degrading a minority group to gain an audience.

      Also, your question to Sydni Deveraux was very crass and down right mean. Why did you even ask? You seem to already have your mind made up.

    • “Why does it matter, its not serious theatre.”
      Really?! This is something that does really upset me. The burlesque community is striving to push the perceptions of burlesque, even in art communities. There are serious dancers, serious actors, serious costumers.
      We may play cutesy at times, or seem to not take ourselves seriously but I know many performers who spend more time rehearsing their acts and perfecting them than any director asked me to when I was/am on serious stages.

      Acts may be irreverent but we as performers are not. To succeed we stand together as a community. This isnt about politics or highschool drama, its about standing together and creating something that is lasting. To openly disparage the community and scoff at the idea of being blacklisted is totally alien to me.

      I love humorous acts, provocative concepts, as well as classic burlesque. The thread that ties a good act together is skill and dedication to the concept you are bringing forth. If your bored at a show watching other acts maybe you should examine why you are at that show, what you expect and the skill/experience level of the performers. Not all classic acts are the same, I have to admit be equally bored watching a “provocative” act that wasnt well executed.

    • Lori Ann,

      First let me say that I think you are one insensitive racist [MODERATED BY SYDNI] and I will tell you why in all the following lines.

      I whole-heartedly agree with every single point you have made. I have had this conversation with so many POC only to be deterred from expressing freely anything I wanted to on stage. I posed these questions as I prepared to put the final touches on my show Darkie, and with the exception of one person couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea of shoving things such as black face under the rug and acting as if it never existed and is apart of our cultural and performance history. Or portraying it in a way that influences pity. It should be recognized and appreciated, but in my opinion dealt with accordingly and by the right person, regardless of color. The subject of race and the struggle of Black people has a long history that we have yet to overcome. I see it with the intra-racism that we have to deal with, the constant disregard and discrimination we have to deal with on many scales and facets of our lives. Black people particularly have to deal with the negative perception that so many other races have about us, even when they themselves are considered to be “Black” no matter how “other” they look or perceive themselves to be.

      You raise good points. Great points even. But I think you need a bit of sensitivity training. You can make fun of many things just not everything. Everything is actually not appropriate all the time, especially coming from someone who seems to not care or understand how this effects a generation of people to a hefty degree.

      You are SO RIGHT about the cliquey community, and I want no parts of that myself. But something tells me that the responses here are less about cliques and more about your blatant ignorance and disregard for the sensitivity of this matter.

      I’m not going to go on about this. But amazon has a great collections of books that you should read to dig deeper into why this subject is so incredibly offensive in the way in which you want to present it. Try reading some of Brenda Dixon Gottschild’s books. Particularly Waltzing in the Dark. It tells so much about the struggle of Black entertainers in the 1930s. Where we were and where we still have not come because of white privilege, standards and appropriation, along with racism and skin tone preference. It’s sad tale of Black struggle that we have yet to pull up from since our days as slaves.

      You need to spend time around more POC as well as reading. Reading is great but nothing trumps experience. I live in the heart of Brooklyn where the POC population is high. If you want to stay with me for a few months and hear about my life and that of others first hand I welcome you into my space. Although I think you’re an ignorant and may make remarks that should grant you a swift kick, I’ll let go of that and embrace you and all you’re point of views no matter how far off I feel they are. Try to understand there is a bigger world there outside of you. One where people actually have feelings and put thought into their work as opposed to mindlessly doing things for shock value.

      A

  25. I enter this conversation after following it a few days, I had this questions.

    I my self am born and raised mexican and yet do not use my nationality as the gimmick of my acts or persona, others do. Mexican hat dance, Cucaracha so on and so forth. There is a way of presenting this question but i don’t think she thought of it when she send it and did not really read it back to her self.

    I cultural background paying tribute to a race that is not your own there is alot of research to be done if you are really going to do it and do it right. (this is not the right way) but what would you say if it was an african american woman brining this on stage? it’s a very double edge topic here.

    i find that in her question there was some concern and sincerity, but when does burlesque become performance art? its offensive for me to even think about it. but my bf thinks that some one will push that line soon.. and it will push it hard. like other issues of gay marriage, abortion, war, politics.. all those have been done on stage how do we coach the people in this industry to push the envelope in a friendly understanding educated way instead of ignorance?

    • Well my style of burlesque is performance art ;)
      A few other people here have said it better, but for me it needs to be informed by personal experience. E.g. there’s no point me doing a Geisha act because what would I know about being a geisha? All I have to go on are stereotypes, and that’s a very dangerous place to go from. I do draw on my cultural background, but mostly from the perspective of being someone who doesn’t fit in, doesn’t quite belong, etc because that’s my strongest personal experience.
      It’s about going past the easy stereotypes, and actually telling a story with heart and soul.

  26. WOW.

    I must say that upon reading “Miss lorrie ann’s” initial question a few days ago, I honestly thought this must be a joke or a prank. But When I realized it was serious, I was just in utter shock. There is absolutely not a need for there to be an act “poking fun” at any demographic of people just for the sake of shock value. I have yet to read a valid reason why she “pokes fun” at cultural taboos. Simply mimicking something to “poke fun at it” is A) unoriginal B) not thought provoking. Its just, to be quite frank, cheap.

    The fact of the matter is that these issues, about race, culture & social stigmas & stereotypes (like ALL of the ones “Miss Lorrie ann” mentioned in her comment still exist EVERYDAY. & are not a thing of the past. So, someone WILL be offended. I respect for my sisters & brothers around me, those who came before me, & those who are in the next generation. I would NEVER look at a white person & consider them a “cracker or a honkie.” The fact that these references of racial remarks/ stereotypes are being said by “Miss lorrie ann” is pretty telling of how she chooses to view people in her world.

    Now, “Miss lorrie ann” says that the “so called burlesque community is by far one of the most clique-ish & caddy (i think she means catty) out of the bunch,” yet she immediately contradict herself thats why she does not involve herself more than she has to. She absolutely is not talking about the burlesque community as a whole because she does not involve herself in it. She must be talking about only what she experienced. It is not possible to know what you arent involved in. She said it her self.

    The burlesque community that I know is a vast one. A group of colorful beautiful fearless people from all walks of life, that I just so happen to consider chosen family. So what, we’re divas? We are fierce & sassy & like to strut our stuff. That does not mean the burlesque community is anything you assumed. I say assume because as I said already, you said yourself you do not involve yourself in the burlesque community more than you have to.

    Hey guess what, I have an Obama act. Guess what else. It has NOTHING to do with the color of his skin, or the fact that he is the first black president. Nor am I poking fun at him. I created it a couple years back during the time of his inauguration. I set it to probably one of the most overused songs in burlesque “Feeling good” By michael buble (nina simone) on purpose & i figured I was gonna take this song & use it to my knowlege of the current times & what people were feeling good about in the community, in the city, in the nation. I did a tribute to Obama celebrating the fact that everyone was glad to see a new face of hope & new beginning. Yes it was sexy & provacative with a political twist. It was also empowering, thought provoking, inspiring & celabratory.

    “Miss lorrie ann” you said in response to Sydni talking about the importance of performers connecting to the acts they perform “Why does it matter? It does matter. Connecting with what you portray through performance matters very much so because than how are you connecting with your audience if you are just up there on stage performing something with no connection???? Lack of connection stems from a lack of knowlege. & that goes along with lack of respect, lack of true passion, lack of deep awareness/ conciousness, lack of inspiration & lack of resources. I wonder if before performing any of the act she stated above for example “serial killers, ike & tina, or cross dresser” If “miss lorrie ann” has ever experienced or have spoken to survivors of domestic violence, or families who have lost loved ones due to murder, or transgendered people who face struggle everyday & get called cross dressers because of who they are does not match with the gender roles society gave to their bodies? I wonder if “miss lorrie ann” truly has this experience either first or second hand, I wonder if she would still “poke fun” at those groups people? The beauty of burlesque is being able to connect for the 4 minutes you are on stage. If you arent coming from a place of personal touch, than what are you really? An actor I guess.

    “Miss lorrie ann” made it pretty clear in one line. She said “It’s burlesque, not serious theatre.” Burlesque is most definitely serious theatre. Its a serious art form just like any other art medium or aspect of theatre. I see now that you have little lack of regard for the art form that you perform. Thus lack of regard for everything else that comes along with it, the passion, respect, the beauty, the history, the community etc…

    My advice to “Miss lorrie ann” find your respect for what you do. Start to take it serious. learn your history. Look up some legends, read about their careers & lives. Talk to as many people as you can. Pick up a book. Know your American history, your global history. Appreciate it. Respect it. Be inspired. Talk to as many different people as you can to gain insight. Don’t refer to these people as the social stigmas we’ve been fighting for years, & will be fighting many years to come. Watch the documentary series called “what would you do?” Look it up its on Hulu. Watch many documentaries for that matter. Try not to poke so much fun at people. I promise you it hurts.

    I am a queer gender bending performer of color, & I must say I have little tolerance for any kind of ignorance whether it be intended or not. I was shocked upon reading the initial question a few days ago, but honestly the response really got me infuriated enough to speak up. I made it a point to put Miss Lorrie Ann’s name in quotation marks because i felt VERY uncomfortable reading POC in quotation marks in her comments. A person of color is more than just that, the same way she is more than just miss lorrie ann. Those quote marks tell me “so called.” & thats not cool.

    I perform because I fight to dispell all of those myths about who I am as a person, to empower myself & others with their sexuality, & being regardless. I really felt compelled enough to write. Sorry this turned out so long.

    • Don’t apologize for the length of your reply, Bianca Dagga. I thank you. I’m one of the people who have been following this post & truly believe that the original poster will be able to comprehend & hear NONE of the sense being made in these comments. However, perhaps someone actually looking to get educated & grow will. So, I thank you for writing such a thorough reply. I, don’t think the poster is worth intelligent thought or conversation as she is quite snuggled up in her ignorance & white priveledge. However, I am hopeful that this conversation may give insight to some who may not have known how to broach this type of conversation. So, thanks from one of the readers who find “ms. lorrie ann” not worth intelligence, grace or dialogue.

      • Essence, you are absolutely right. I doubt that any of the points made by the responders will be taken in by her. She can go on with where she stands in her unapolagetic perspective. I was not going to glorify her with any response but I just felt so inclined to write what was on my mind after reading her comment because like really? What time is it? Burlesque is supposed to be beautiful & tasteful. There is nothing tasteful about making fun of someone, let alone portraying horrific images with the intent of laughter. There is nothing funny about it. Period.

  27. What to say, there is so much to say, I’m using my phone, so forgive me if I’m typing faster then I can think, first i will say Sydni you were very tactful in answering this question. This question was border line a slap in the face, and I have to commend you for answering in tact. I will be honest to say, my family is a blender as i call it, we are mixed thru out, and im sure everyone these days is mix with something however , and unfortunately my grandfather was hung by the KKK, My father has cryed about this to this day, for he had to watch, he had a lot of hate in his heart, Lots ..however with time there has been a change, and the word forgave came out of his mouth. Which made me cry. I don’t judge people off the back so easily, however how the question was asked still puzzels me, haha mmmm well I suppose if someone like my father was to sit in the audience to watch Something so stupid, excuse me, I don’t know if he would of snapped. I live in the south presently, and there is still people presently still “slaves”, live in run down shacks, etc… Sooooo I will say this, to the lady who asked the silly question. before you act, know you’re audience, for you don’t know if you may get a laugh or a glass in you’re face. I’m Just saying.

  28. There’s enough negativity in this world. Why bring it into such a beautiful art form, community, etc.? Why encourage this behaviour, thought, opinion at all? I’m utterly disgusted. I hope you learn from this thread and decide to put your efforts into something positive rather than something negative, racist and offensive.

    Sydni, you have such grace about this and I commend you for that. Very proud to call you a friend.

  29. Sydni, you handled the question amazingly well. I am saddened to hear that it really was her that wrote it. I’ve also heard about Cha Cha’s dilemma and would not relish having to make that kind of decision about honoring a booking made before this statement was made.

    I really don’t understand some people, Here we are in an age where so many of us are lucky to be able to have the whole world of information in our hands via the net and this is how somebody chose to use it? (Did I just say “the net”? Who says that anymore?) There is so much beauty out there. There are so many different different cultures and histories. She couldn’t just google “is it wrong to reference nooses in regards to people of color to be funny?”

    As a producer in the scene, I just could not book somebody with these kinds of views. It’s not a “secret blacklisting.” It’s just smart producing (or at least my version of smart producing at the very least).

    Say one of our audience members googles her name and finds this kind of question… It makes both her and our show look bad. I certainly believe in freedom of speech, even for the most horrible people, but it could come down to not having the kind of security our show would need if the wrong person came across that posting and decided to make a scene at our show. Now I believe in challenging an audience with new ideas, but I’d like to think that those ideas are well thought out.

    I for one have often used a phrase about what I love about our scene and what kind of acts I love seeing in shows. “I love the salad.” So many great and different tastes put together for something even greater. I feel the same way about the human race.

    Unfortunately these issues are still out there. All we can do to help the situation is continued education and discourse.

    Sydni, thank you for bringing this discussion to our attention.

  30. Reblogged this on Hottie McNaughty's Weblog and commented:
    I originally wasn’t going to reblog this but the original questioner’s reply changed my mind. I really hate seeing this type of racist vitriol in our beloved burlesque community. Miss Lorrie Ann, you should be totally ashamed of yourself and if you are now black balled in the burlesque community well, it’s your own fault. Sometimes the toughest lessons are the best learned.

  31. Hello,
    “A discussion and clarification on the concept of ‘pushing cultural boundaries'”

    Hopefully I won’t rehash one of the 69 comments listed above. Maybe if one person gets to mine, that would be cool.

    As a burlesque dancer and a cultural anthropologist, this topic caught my attention for two reasons:

    1) I have NEVER seen a burlesque act in America, that Miss Lorri Ann says has happened which, “poke(s) fun at a redneck, Jew, or china man” Perhaps she missed the point completely when she saw one of the several prominent Jewish women in American burlesque whose acts PLAY with being Jewish while embracing their Jewish identity. They were never acts that displayed the negative stereotypes of pains of the people/histories in which they come from. I consider these to be performances based on self-love and acceptance of identity. Its not like they were wearing lingerie while acting out a jewish labor camp setting.

    2) In an effort to introduce one brain stretching concept to Miss Lorri Ann, I would like to share with her something based on my educational background in cultural anthropology.

    I believe you have the wrong understanding of what it means to “push cultural boundaries”. To push cultural boundaries is something that one does within their own culture. You can not push someone elses cultural boundaries, it is impossible because it does not make sense….just like “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”

    One little example that I toy with, but I never wrote a paper/article on:
    I hypothesize (and maybe I am wrong!) that the success of the 2006 hit, “Kick, Push” by american rapper, Lupe Fiasco, helped to push the cultural boundaries of recreational activities for black american youth, by introducing the topic and act of skateboarding into mainstream hip hop. Before this time, although skateboarders represent a diverse demographic, skateboarding had been uncommon in the greater landscape of black youth culture in America…. And then this is where I would be placing my sources if I were writing a stronger argument…..but this is where I stop today.

    In my opinion, Lupe Fiasco helped ***push cultural boundaries*** in hip hop by 1) writing lyrics about skateboarding in hip hop after no one else was (in the mainstream at least), and 2) the media attention given to this song and video allowed the concept of skateboarding to reach far into a wide variety of communities in which it previously had not touched, and at this point, it became an accepted form of recreation where it was once rare.

    Recreation is a cultural concept, just like religion, ritual, behavior, language, etc…. Macro-cultures, micro-cultures, sub-cultures, mainstream cultures all have their activities and ways of doing things, and when someone who identifies with that culture adds and influences new ways into their cultural landscape, they are “pushing the boundaries”.

    If you belong to a culture that has a tight wrap on the display of sexuality, and you were to perform a burlesque act that honors your cultural background, then you would definitely be “pushing cultural boundaries”. You would be saying, “HEY! I am a sexual being even though I identify with ________”. And this is an act of love for yourself and your people. Notice I used the word “honor”, “identify”, and “act of love”.

    Please Miss Lorri Ann- dig deep within yourself, and think about what you culturally identify with. What do you honor in your background? Would you want to watch a burlesque show in which someone who does not identify with the same culture as you, was wrecklessly re-enacting the pains of something that you honor?
    Even if you are like many white Americans, who do not feel an identity or attachment to any specific culture or ethnicity, then consider what you know for sure- that you are a woman. Do you honor the history of women before you?
    Maybe you can start with that….

    Thank you for your time,
    Roulette Rose

    • Loved what you said about pushing cultural boundaries. Just a note though: I am pretty sure there have been acts that “poke(s) fun at a redneck, Jew, or china man” – because the burlesque scene can be pretty racist and classist, even when it’s supposedly in the name of love. Quite a few of it style it up so it doesn’t look that bad – but the underlying sentiment is still there.

      • Like I said, “I have never seen it”, and I’d like to think that burlesque women are wittier than that, but Miss Lorie Ann just proved that wrong!
        I think you have a point though….some things may have been styled up and may not be as explicit.

        In fact, I am currently now questioning one of my own acts due to this discussion.
        Thank you for reading my post.

        And now it seems as Miss Lorie has just dug herself a grave…lordy, what a hot mess! Oh well, we tried!
        -Roulette Rose

  32. I turned to the internet as most of you suggested to get educated on “white privilege, where the white man’s responsibility lies in it all, and Slavery, and I am glad I did:0)I Learned so much I wanted to share these videos, all but one, posted by POC. Thank you for the suggestion, I am so much more informed. Thank you so much!

  33. You should take a break. I know others have been saying the same thing and I don’t want to be condescending but I do care about you. You have done something here to be really proud of. You have accomplished it. It will continue to be a discussion, but it doesn’t have to be one today, you can do it later. This is painful, horrible, incredibly stressful stuff.

    My husband has PTSD from war, his is from being deployed three times in the iraq war. I know this is war. Real war, there are real guns, violence, bombs, killings, hate, subjugation, and war crimes against our own. Not to mention what we are doing here now.The damage is just as real. I have seen people of color damaged and hurt in the same way my husband is because of the constant stress, the fight, the work and the backlash they suffer.

    The difference between the soldiers who come back functional, and the ones who come back not so functional is connection, camaraderie, support and spirituality. Those who get a break because they have a safe space, either in their head or in their life. People to care for them and help them feel safe and loved. The people who know, and have the ability, to let the pressure off and step back.

    I’m sure you already know all this, but I wanted to remind you we all understand and let everyone else know it also.

    • I’m heeding your advice and won’t be moderating unless absolutely necessary. I haven’t been conversing with her in message or email, so besides my brain just turning over it’s anger, I’m not engaged with her.

      I have a nice dinner with 2 dear friends tonight that will help to soothe my soul.

      Thank you for all of your participation, intelligence and caring thoughts. :)

  34. I bet she didnt watch the Tim Wise. She is a racist. But at least we all know she’s an unapologetic racist. She’s shown us who she is so now we can act accordingly. She such a typical racist that there’s already a response for her.

    http://derailingfordummies.com/#backup

    “Well I know someone from your group who disagrees:

    This one is fantastic to bring out if you feel at all backed into a corner. If, for example, the Marginalised Person™ is making sense and you’re beginning to get the unpleasant feeling that you were wrong about something, just whip up your friend – your black friend, or your trans friend, your friend with a mental illness, or your friend who is a sex worker, and vehemently express how they completely and stridently support your opinions on these issues.

    Of course, you must make out as though you are entirely oblivious to internalised stigma and how your friends may have been adversely affected by discrimination wielded by the Privileged®. And, as established by the steps above, it is imperative that you discount the diversity of experience whilst seeming to support it. After all, your friend is proof that there are different opinions amongst this Marginalised Group™ but the fact they agree with you means you don’t have to in the least give credence to ideas alternative to your own, and certainly not from the Marginalised Person™ in question.

    Plus it gives you that handy progressive veneer – see, all their accusations of racism/sexism/ableism/what have you are totally groundless because you have friends who are representatives from that group which shows how open-minded and awesomely cool you really are!

    You know what the best part about this step is?

    The friend doesn’t even have to exist!

    That’s right, the friend can be nothing more than a figment of your imagination, conjured up to provide you with vicarious backup in your hour of need! How is the Marginalised Person™ going to prove it, after all! They can have their suspicions but that’s hardly hard evidence.

    You’re definitely ahead in the game now!”

  35. Provocation for the sake of provocation is just that, empty.

    I would not call your empty attempts to provoke a room of people, burlesque. The strip-teaser’s job is to entertain and if you can do that in a truly thought provoking manner, awesome. However, if the only way you can get off is to possibly offend an entire group of people by mocking them, than you have achieved nothing but hurting others.

    Why even ask the original question through this forum if you response to the commentary was to call your peers shit talkers and divas? Again, another awesome example provocation without intention.

    The “big problem with society” is NOT anonymity. I would rather interact with a million anonymous beings than speak knowingly to one that acknowledges that they have no tact or consideration for another human’s feelings.

    Sincerely,
    The Anonymous Coward

  36. I think if miss Lorrie Ann has a brain in her head she would listen to the responses people have been giving her and realize the act in question is inappropriate. how would she like having her family tortured and murdered infront of her face, after she was raped and then have someone do a burlesque performance mocking that horrid act. she should be ashamed to have even thought the idea was legitimate. As a white hetero male, i would never support that act or any other that Miss Lorrie Ann will do in the future. on behalf of human kind, SHAME ON YOU!

  37. Dear everybody:

    Would your uproar be as strong if Miss Lorrie Ann picked some other trope that is still racist but not obviously so?

    Examples that are common in burlesque parlance: geisha as prostitute, odalisque/harem girl, gypsy, vague mashup of Arabian Nights and India, redneck/hillbilly/bogan, Mexican w sombrero, Aunt Jemima.

    Why or why not?

    (I also think many burlesque scenes, mainstream or alt, are rather cliquey and exclusionary, but in my experience the people who run the cliques are more like Miss Lorrie Ann than anyone else :P)

  38. @Creatrix Tiara, you asked, “Would your uproar be as strong if Miss Lorrie Ann picked some other trope that is still racist but not obviously so?

    Examples that are common in burlesque parlance: geisha as prostitute, odalisque/harem girl, gypsy, vague mashup of Arabian Nights and India, redneck/hillbilly/bogan, Mexican w sombrero, Aunt Jemima.

    I can’t speak for anyone but me, and my response is that about “…1960′s slave/KKK routine as a funny haha routine equipped with noose and all.” there is nothing funny, sexy, or haha. Nooses, lynching and slavery. FFS, we’re talking murder for the color of your skin here!

    Back in the day I did an act that is somewhat similar to one done by “Miss Lorrie Ann.” that I saw on youtube. It was a tribute to “I Dream of Jeannie,” complete with harem costume, long blonde ponytail, and theme music, as is hers. It was as close to Jeannie as I could get. I studied w/ an Egyptian belly dancer who told me that at that time the most famous dancer in Egypt was a blonde American woman named Dallas Rose so go figure. As the theme song isn’t long enough for an act back then, I added some modern music that was fusion w/ a Middle eastern flair. I also did a Spanish act to Flamenco music.

    f I were younger would I do those acts now? I’m actually not quite sure! To me “Jeannie” was an homage as I loved the show. But now I wonder how POC view the whitification of Jeannie, and Disney too. I know I hated what Disney did to Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli and The Jungle books and I’m not even from India. So this all makes me think deeply.

    I do understand mocking stereotypes, but I’ve never been one to “poke fun” at those who are/were oppressed. I just don’t think the subject of oppression is funny. And mostly I loathe those “shit ** says” vids as well. And ya know what? Even if it _were_ funny, funny doesn’t make it right, or excuse it.

    Now, to make fun of the oppressors? Sometimes. If she’d asked about mocking the KKK, Maybe. But even Mel Brooks, a Jewish man himself, caught much flack for “The Producers,” a 1968 satirical darkly comededic movie that made fun of Nazis, and gave us the unforgettable tune, “Springtime for Hitler.” And he’s a bona fide genius, as was the cast. Yet he got much heat for making light of the Nazis and the situation.

    Well, at least we know how she feels. She’s an all purpose bigot, it’s not just for black people only. Congratulations, “Miss Lorrie Ann,” we now have a face to put with the behavior, Well done!

  39. I have been following this blog and the comments with both shock and sympathy running through me and I’ve been trying to get a handle on my feelings and logic in order to join the conversation. I am kind of of a newbie to the burlesque community, so I wasn’t sure if I had any business commenting. However, I am a lifetime dancer and am well versed in performance art and making statements with your art.

    I am shocked at the audacity of Lorrie Ann to ask if Sydni would play a slave in an act like that… but I also notice that Lorrie Ann never got around to saying just what would be happening w the KKK, slave and noose… It’s easy to automatically be offended. I was… but perhaps she would be planning on having KKK member end up with a noose around the neck…. That could be funny.

    (Now I’m only proposing this based on the elements she gave…. I can tell the ignorance level based on the fact that she would have a KKK member and a slave in an act together… as if they were happening at the same time.)

    The fact that she chose to respond with the video links she posted makes me not even want to respond to her original question any how… but the discussion is still thought provoking and there are still questions lingering about.

    I have noticed that a couple of people have asked a question that I was also thinking about…..

    Would it be so inflammatory if she had chosen a different subject? I think yes and no.

    There is a huge difference between pushing cultural boundaries (something to be celebrated as a triumph), poking fun at a stereotype (sometimes risky, but WE ALL laugh at at least one) and …. I can’t even think of the phrase to adequately describe this… I’m going with being insensitive.

    I don’t want to say that some people are allowed to do them and others are not. It’s art… there are no real rules. How ever, I don’t believe there is any real way to funny up the very sensitive issues. I think African slavery and lynchings in the US are VERY sensitive. Holocaust scenes are VERY sensitive. The Trail of Tears, the barricade around Palestine, rape, 9-11, human trafficking… so many more major events, everyday injustices and inhumane situations are just off limits to portray in a “funny haha” light.

    Doing black face (as Lorrie Ann mentioned) COULD fall under the poking fun at stereotypes category … but I wouldn’t advise she try it. The history of black face is kinda sensitive too… I doubt she knows about it, if she does it seems it wouldn’t matter much.

    I wanted to share a personal experience. I use to dance with a cabaret/burlesquey group. We performed weekly. I had the freedom to choreograph my solos, but music was either selected or approved by the producer. I like R&B, hip hop, soul music and I was told quite a few times that my music selection was too “black” and they didn’t want to attract too many ghetto black people in the club. There were a few that got through, I was ‘allowed’ to perform to Roy Ayers, I managed D’Angelo cover of a Prince song (tho I slipped that one by her and was chastised for it even tho the crowd LOVED it). When the producer told me to do a dance to Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit I was absolutely appalled. (If you are not familiar, the song is a ballad about lynchings…. “southern trees bear strange fruit…… ……. black bodies swingin in the summer breeze’.) Now, I am a POC, very mixed, black included (I know it’s hard to see), and I was hesitant. I protested, she didn’t seem to care/understand, neither did the lead dancer. I was worried about the motive…. Why this song? She said cuz it was vintage and she thought it was beautiful. Which is true… Anyhow, I did do the song, but I turned it into a a hauntingly beautiful (I think) and sad love story to a remixed version. I eventually left that group for a combination of reasons including the whole racist about music thing.

    The moral of the story …. you have to approach some subjects sensitively and with grace, at least in public. Unless, of course, you just don’t care (which Lorrie Ann seems to not). NOTHING FUNNY HAHA ABOUT LYNCHINGS!!!!!!!!!! EVER!!!!!!!!!!

  40. I also think it’s rather hypocritical to say, “I’m board out of my gourd when all the routines are classic, strip tease, or bump and grind. I guess you can say I require more visual stimulation from performance.”
    and then have this up on youtube.

    ??

    • Damn. I wasn’t thinking when I put up the link as I didn’t realize how it would be the entire vid and take up so much space. I was thinking just the link if one wanted to see at all. Feel free to delete this.

    • I never said I couldnt do classical, it’s definately my least favorite to perform and I get board performing it. The customer requested this type. And given the very gracious pay I was receiving, I obliged. With that though I was also granted freedom to perform another 3 routines that week of my choice, none of which were classical! And at the end of it all, the person who hired me agreed that the “non classical” routines I performed we far more interesting and dynamic.

  41. Pingback: What’s F*cked Up? « Burlesque Seattle Press

  42. Hello There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and return to read more of Stripper Talk #12: Pushing cultural boundaries? | Living in a Glitter Wonderland! . Thanks for the post. I will certainly comeback.

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