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 should mention that this particular blog is long but could be longer because of the enormity of the topic. Hopefully this episode with start another conversation on the topic of body positivity in burlesque. I’m hoping to touch more on sub-topics within the idea of “body image in burlesque” in future Stripper Talk sessions. Please comment or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have a question or a topic that you’d like covered.
This week’s question comes from a performer who would like to remain anonymous.
” I have been attacked by people due to my size, with things like “She’s fat and she needs to lose weight if she’s gonna take off her clothing” and I know am not a professional dancer like some of the girls but I put effort in my performing and costuming. I’m constantly put down by people saying “sizeist” remarks about my body or the way I perform. As of late I just want to quit. I really need help I want to be healthy for me and that be ok.
Does size really matter?
looking to your answer.
with much love and admiration…”
Bodies have sure been taking a new kind of beating lately, haven’t they? Fat, thin, short, tall- no one can win these days. I was wondering how long it was going to be until I received a question like this considering that in our chosen field of art, nudity is pretty much pre-requisite.
Does size really matter? I think if you let it, it does. We all come into this world with a whole mess of issues to deal with, and for some of us one of our issues are our bodies, whether placed on us via our families, trauma, or through society’s very narrow standards of beauty.
I can tell you that I’ve had my fair share, being 6’2″ in this performing world and until recently, feeling like an otherworldly giant. The way some people look at me you would think I was going to go smash a city with my bare hands! You wouldn’t believe how often someone comments as I pass on the street “is that a man? That’s definitely a man”, because I am tall and walk proud and strong unlike so many of my tall sisters that have been tricked into playing mousy games with their posture, trying to disappear into the background.
I’ve also spent half of my burlesque journey being called a “big girl” because of my sheer size. I remember one particularly painful performance where I was called “fat” by an audience member, and I wasn’t comfortable with that term being applied to me. I was jealous of those women who fully own their delicious curves and juicy walks, the one’s who relish being called “fat” or create terms that don’t come with the negative social stigma that some apply to the word “fat”. I was dancing not even 3 feet away from that person, and I had to finish the performance (“stay professional”, I said to myself, even though I wanted to rip her eyes out). For me, I was uncomfortable where I was physically even before that situation had occurred for me. At my personal heaviest, I was physically and mentally uncomfortable with being me. I was performing out of passion, doing everything I could to check any bad feelings about myself while I was on stage and dealing with them after. I used that moment as a catalyst to figure out where I would be happy. My “happy” is stronger. I’ve lost weight during the process, and yes, that was a part of my goal (and those wanting to give me shit for wanting to lose weight be dammed- skinny bashing is just as nasty as bashing anyone for being over a weight that they deem unacceptable for someone’s body), but getting stronger has helped me be a better performer.
Before we talk about all of the horrendously awful people in the world who feel it’s their civic fucking duty to tell you what they think of your body, I encourage you to check in with yourself about how you feel about your body right now. Try to unpack the beliefs other’s and society at large have placed upon your beautiful shoulders and see where your heart lies.
Until we have a society that accepts all bodies, genders, races and sexualities equally every one of us has to have a thicker skin and a bigger mouth. If you are unhappy with where you are in your body, change it. Change your perceptions, change your body, change whatever that thing is in order to find your path to happiness. For some, it’s therapy, running a 5K, Losing 40 pounds, gaining 20 pounds, others-a breast job, a nose job, a tattoo. I don’t care what it is for you-but do it now and don’t delay. You have 1 body in this world to do what you want with it. If that means that painting yourself blue every day makes you feel beautiful, BRING IT.
**(I should note if you’re having any obsessive thoughts, please go talk to a professional about what you’re going through, be healthy about it)
I believe that it’s possible to be happy in whatever body that you have- fat, thin, muscular, tall, short, etc. Accepting what is seems great if you’re good at accepting the current situation and you don’t want to change anything. If you’re bothered by something and see a different way that would be better for you, by all means check it out (safely).
I know that I’m happier when I’m stronger, and now I can do more on stage. With what I did to change my situation, I also changed my body based on what I’d like to see on ME. If you are healthy and happy with where you are inside and outside (we’ll talk about those assholes in a minute) rest assured that you are doing great. If one of those doesn’t resonate in a happy place with you, do some explorations.
Aesthetically, everyone likes something different. There are people that prefer more curvaceous performers, skinner performers, athletic types, etc. The moment that I realized that I don’t appeal to everyone and that is ok was a freeing one. Did I still want to appeal to everyone? Of course I did, and to some extent, still do. This is human nature, we want to be loved. As performers, I’m sure this deep need to entertain is about being accepted. We’re all freaks, getting on stage, letting our naked freak flag fly. Every single one of us, no matter how famous or talented. Some good news is that even though there’s work to be done, we do have all types of physical representations in our burlesque community.
The truth is, not everyone is going to think that a 6’2″ athletically built amazon is attractive (or any other type of physical presentation, I was just using myself as an example)- but that is their prerogative.
As someone who gets discriminated against, just like you are- I’ve decided to get a bit of a mouth on me. Assholes at shows and on the street that want to tell me I’m too tall, question my gender or critique my body get to find out what I think of their mother’s parenting skills and perceptions of their big, rude, ignorant faces. People that tell me that I’m too tall and shouldn’t wear heels get laughed at. It’s funny- I think something has happened in the world (probably due to faceless technology) where people just think they can say anything to anyone. Inside thoughts become ignorant and hurtful outside voices. They should know better. I encourage you to tell them that you never asked for their opinions and that opinions are like assholes- everyone has got one, and you don’t want to see theirs.
Some people just like to be mean. I try to look at this compassionately. They have turned away from dealing with their own issues (often with the thing that they are hating on) by picking on someone that seems weaker or more empowered than them. There’s both types. Some people love to rain on other’s parades, they hate seeing someone else have all of the attention or fun. Self-esteem issues run RAMPANT in this country. When was the last time you heard a friend say “I love all the things about me”? I feel sad for them- they’re missing out on enjoying a moment, appreciating their own beauty. If they’re gonna hate on you, make sure that you are one brazen bitch, my friend. Own what you have, change what you don’t want to have anymore, if there is anything.
In the past, the body of burlesque was a different one. Now, we have more options- enjoy being one of the glorious figures in a very sparkly world. Make sure that if you’re exploring any demons that you may have (or society at large) on stage , that it is done in a constructive, exploratory way (check out NY’s Miss Tickle- her 2011 Bhof act is WONDERFUL). Skinny, big or whatever anyone may be- confidence is key on stage and I’ve seen all types of bodies approach the stage scared and shameful of a part of themselves- and this is precisely when they lose me as an excited audience member. Attractiveness is many things, and MOST of it comes from confidence. If they try to grab you down from your confident tree, kill ’em with intelligent honesty and a wicked smile.
Again- no matter what you look like on the outside, you need to do everything you can to feel good on the inside. You really can’t make everyone happy. Just focus on being happy and always strive to be an even better performer than you are now. Beat ’em by being better than them, smarter than them, kinder than them, more compassionate than them, and wittier than them.
Keep your head up, and speak out. Be the best you that you can possibly be.
You were born naked, so be naked, if that moves you!