Why can’t I stop talking about stripping? The simple answer is that I am making a show about strippers. But the real question is why decide to create a show as part of Dollypop Theatre Company that highlights that stories of strippers and burlesque dancers?
I have wanted to work with Dollypop for a while, they are an all female theatre company telling the stories of women. So the first reason for choosing to do this show is that I want to work with people that are giving women opportunities and a mouthpiece. I don’t have a problem with men being involved in stories, or even having their stories told. But let’s face it, men have been having their voices heard ever since Eve had the audacity to ask Adam if he was interested in tasting something delicious or, for those of us who are not fundamentalist Christians, since civilization began and stories started to be shared. We live in a society that was totally built by a certain type of men and whilst things are slowly changing our value systems and societal constructs are still very masculine (more about this in future posts – I have SOOO much more to say on the matter).
Ok, so let’s get back to stripping, not actually stripping, it is way too cold, but talking about stripping, or more accurately STRIP, the new show by Dollypop which we are debuting at the emerging artists showcase at The Ustinov Theatre, Bath. Followed by a short tour. I am intrigued by the world of stripping, mainly because I can’t make my mind up about it, but like a lot of women (and maybe men), I have been in the position where I have thought maybe it would just be easier to become a stripper than put up with all the stress in the workplace, it has never got past a thought, and it probably isn’t something that I would do. For me there are three things that come into play when we talk about stripping:
What does society think?
If I was to be a stripper, I would be ashamed, I wouldn’t tell people, I would feel like the lowest of the low, or maybe I wouldn’t, if I was actually good at it, maybe I would feel proud, validated and confident in myself and my body. But I’m pretty sure that others would look down on it.
Could I get naked?
Ummm, probably, I have been on stage in bra and pants and had my bum flashed. Dependent on the situation this is not something that worries me too much. Although, I suppose, being naked could impact on other things in life like getting jobs in certain environments due to society’s general views on nudity. I even had reservations posting the pictures that I posted on this post because of some of the work I do.
Is it good or bad for feminism?
For me this is the hardest question to answer, I think that one of the biggest things at play in misogynistic thinking is the fear of women being sexual beings, the sex industry breaks out of that and says we are sexual and YOU like it so much you are willing to pay for it. But society also puts down strip clubs, and the women who work in them, so they become hidden, late night, dens of sin. What kind of message is this – the female naked body equates to a den of sin – back to the Adam and Eve analogy by working here do strippers perpetuate that myth?
I think that women being naked can be a very positive thing (take Lena Dunham – she is going to continue to get naked on TV until no one cares that she has wobbly thighs and we start to realise that women have all sorts of different bodies). Women who strip seem to develop a better relationship with their body – I think a lot of people need this and I think that finding a way to not be afraid of female bodies, with all their bits and pieces is something that women really need to do. Perhaps we should rebrand strip clubs as female happy body houses – but maybe that is kind of what burlesque is?
I think that this final question needs more thought before I can draw a conclusion!
Anyway back to why I am making this show. I think that the real magic on focusing on a very feminine world of stripping and burlesque is that by highlighting the women’s lives, female stories rise to the top, not just things that are relevant to the sex industry but things that impact on a lot of women: body image issues, eating disorders, harassment, homophobia, money, happiness, relationships, ambitions, to name but a few.
I have also really enjoyed the challenge of making this piece of theatre, as a verbatim piece it has been really important to find a way to shine a light on the words whilst making an entertaining piece of theatre. My role as the presenter, pulling together all the stories and acting as a mouth piece has also been tricky, it could be easy to play this woman as me, but she is not me, her views are different, the way she approaches the story is different. I have discovered that the best way to make the stories shine is for my role to be strong ,confident and true to her motivations of curiosity to drive the story forward and start a conversation – that part we have in common.