Well, why not?

Women have their day. Men have theirs too, now, apparently. And we non-binary folk are still left in the dust.

It’s not asking for much. It’s asking for a day once a year that focuses on non-binary folks, our contributions to the world, and our issues, without lumping us in with men or women. I’m so tired of things being applied to me because I have a uterus, all in the name of sisterhood. Isn’t feminism supposed to be stopping the reduction of women to their uteri?

Apparently not when it comes to non-binary folk.

One day. That’s all I want. How about July 14th? It’s precisely in the middle between International Men’s Day and International Women’s day. It’s a nice month. Numerologically it’s a 3, which is an appropriate number, I think, for us non-binary folk.

International Non-Binary Gender Day, July 14th.

There. Called for. Declared.

Who’s with me?

-TFF

It’s May 2nd and today in Canada we are having a Federal Election.

This is a big frakking deal, because it’s a chance to stop a Conservative majority and oust Harper.

I’m not going to lie, here, I’m not supportive of the Conservatives and especially not Harper (I know, you’re so surprised, aren’t you?). Not with the stuff he’s done and said. So far as I’m concerned he’s ruining the Canada I know and love (and what’s even scarier is that there are Conservatives in the party who make him look like a moderate) — which, ok, that Canada was over 10 years ago, before I moved to the States for half my life, but still.

Now, get right down to it and I’m not a fan of the NDP or the Liberals either. The NDP as a party I don’t mind so much (they’re pretty good with education, which is my main concern), and our incumbent MP Jean Crowder is actually really good for the Nanaimo-Cowichan district, but Jack Layton just comes across as skeezy to me. The Liberals I’m really not fond of, because they’re extremely Torontocentric and tend to forget about us in B.C.

Oh, wait. I can say that about almost every party.

There are other parties I’d like to vote for, but either they have a failing I just can’t deal with (Green’s lack of stance on education — ie, what’s a budget?) or they never run candidates in my riding (First People’s National Party and the BC Sex Party, for example).

What’s a genderqueer femme to do? Even with all my indecision on which parties to vote for, I know I don’t want to vote Conservative and I definitely want to do everything in my power to get Harper out of office. I believe in democracy and I will not spend an election not voting just because it’s a hard decision to make.

Someone on Facebook linked to Project Democracy’s Amp Your Vote website and it helped me make a decision. Project Democracy tells you which candidate in your riding is most likely to help stop a Harper/Conservative majority, so you can amp your vote to get Harper out of office. For my riding, our incumbent Jean Crowder of the NDP was listed. Well, ok. She’s good for our riding anyway, and there’s the added bonus of a chance to oust Harper.

So I went to the polls for advance voting over a week ago and cast my ballot for Crowder. Today in the Sea to Sky riding my mom is casting her ballot for the Liberal candidate, because that’s who’s most likely to stop a Con majority. She usually votes Green, but she’s biting the bullet to stop Harper.

Now, obviously, this post is here to encourage you to vote. Whether or not you’re against Harper — hells, I can’t stand the guy, but I still think you should go out and vote even if you support the dude. Especially if you’re young — vote mobs aren’t enough, I know, the parties actually need to, I don’t know, care that we exist as people, but vote mobs are important regardless, no matter what some disgruntled neo-Con at the Ottawa Citizen has to say — but vote anyway.

You live in a democratic society, and voting is a part of that. So is dissent, and writing blogs, and marching in the streets, and talking to your EOs or the media — so many things out there that you can do to play your part. Voting is the easiest by far. (Especially here in Canada; you can register at the polls. The US does not have it so lucky, believe me.) And if you’re part of a group that didn’t always have the right to vote (which is pretty much everybody, except white Englishmen), who gained it recently because your ancestors fought for that right…well. I’m not trying to guilt trip here, but I do think that it is honoring their fight to cast your ballot today.

I hope I’ve convinced you. If you need to know where to go to cast your ballot today or any other details, the website of Elections Canada has all the information you need.

And don’t forget — if you’re just as confused as I was with regards to what candidate to choose, and you know you don’t want more of the same, just remember your ABCs!

Anything

But

Conservative

-The Fierce Femme

In the interest of full disclosure

Posted: April 19, 2011 by Rogue Nova in Sex-Positive Feminism
Tags: ,

Regarding burlesque and feminism.

I stand by my original statement, that burlesque can be feminist (just as it can be not feminist) and that the writer of that original blog post I was riffing off had not seen the right burlesque shows.

Apparently she’d seen shows like the one I just went to. Because, let me tell you, had I not been going to Screaming Chicken’s shows for a while now and knew what burlesque could be, I would have written off the entire damn artform after seeing Naughty and Spice’s second birthday bash on April 9th, at Nanaimo Centre Stage.

Let me say right now that the performers were not whom or what I take issue with. The women (and man!) on stage were good, and while not all of their pieces may have been socially-conscious, they were not offensive or appropriative. Quite possibly the best performer was Infra Red (the newbie of the troupe), whose dance about the sensuality of a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich refuted ideas that women cannot be sexy and eat what they want.

No, my problem is not with the burlesquers and brolesquers of Naughty and Spice. My problem is with their “host”. Oliver Clothesoff.

He is the most misogynistic, objectifying, privileged, lousy excuse for a host that I’ve ever seen. By the end of the night I wanted to claw his eyes out, or watch him spontaneously burst into flames.

Problems with Oliver’s “hosting”:

  • he confuses the ability, as host, to be rude and crude with making sexist, demeaning jokes and treating the dancers like your own private harem.
  • he’s never danced burlesque before, so there’s no sense of equality when he’s introducing the dancers.
  • he made a rape joke.
  • he repeatedly holds up stereotypes of gender roles and gender essentialism during his bits, even though burlesque is an art form where gender-bending and defying gender roles is part of the norm.
  • this didn’t happen during the show I saw, but he talked about an audience participation bit he did at another show, where he pulled a girl up from the crowd and made her dance burlesque. This is never acceptable. Dancing burlesque is not an easy choice to make for everyone, and it’s not a decision you can make under the pressure of a hundred-plus eyes staring at you sweating under full stage lights. Talk about coercion. He then went on to say that because this girl later joined the troupe and was performing her debut performance that night that he had “molded a burlesque performer” with his “bare hands”.
  • he made a rape joke. 

I repeat that last point because it’s important. In the time I’ve been watching burlesque I have never witnessed such insensitivity, such disrespect, such blatant misogyny from a host.

To contrast, the hosts of Screaming Chickens are completely different. Usually they’re dancers in the troupe already, so they know what it’s like to be in the vulnerable position of stripping for an audience. They rotate the hosts — the first show I saw was hosted by The Professor and Dr. T, and since then I’ve seen shows hosted by Violet Femme, April O’Peel, Connie Lingus, and my boyfriend, who doesn’t really have a burlesque name but is generally called Ogre — so that there’s some equality. No one has more power over anyone else because no one person is the host all the time. SCTS also uses co-hosting for every show I’ve seen. This is important because one host can be the straight-man while the other is wild and crazy, and they keep each other in check. It makes for a better show.

I’ll note right now that three of the hosts I’ve mentioned were men. They were not sexist, demeaning, or objectifying in their hosting. The jokes they made were at each other’s expense (another reason you should always have a co-host). And the audience participation they did never required people to do anything that could be severely triggering onstage in front of a bunch of people. It, of course, was sexually themed, as the entire show is, but done in a way that wouldn’t make people uncomfortable.

The closest you could get to seeing a semi-objectifying joke was when Ogre said “Hee hee. Boobies.” during his intro of an act — but as the character he was playing was that of a literal caveman who had been thawed out in Violet Femme’s backyard (reference to an old Brendan Fraser movie if you caught it), I don’t think the argument holds much water. And no, I’m not just saying that as his girlfriend — I call him on sexist comments more than anyone else.

The point here is, I may have been a bit spoiled in my burlesque watching with the Screaming Chickens. And I have a feeling that if you’re writing about how burlesque hurts the cause of feminism, you haven’t seen SCTS.

I still believe burlesque can be feminist, and even if a burlesque act isn’t feminist and is just some fun on stage, that doesn’t make the performers any less feminist. Every choice that I make may not be a feminist choice, but that doesn’t detract from my being a feminist. (It’s not like hit points in a video game. “Patriarchy uses brainwash, making you think you want to take your clothes off on stage. It’s super effective and you lose Feminism Points.” Yeah, no, that’s pretty far from reality.) Also, I refuse to believe my choices happen because I’ve been “brainwashed” by the patriarchy. I want to dance burlesque because I actually study theatre history and I like the art-form. Not because the patriarchy has “convinced” me to “objectify myself”. (Also, it’s not possible to objectify yourself. The term is an oxymoron.)

However, now I have seen the darker side of burlesque — the side that could actually hurt feminism. Please, if you happened to watch that show, or any other show with Oliver emceeing, please please please don’t think that’s indicative of burlesque as a whole. He is a black spot on the face of a theatre genre I love.

I will continue to watch and enjoy Screaming Chickens, and I will continue to work on my own routines and perform as a solo artist until I am able to join SCTS next year.

As for Naughty and Spice, if the troupe wants to get an all-over positive review from me they need to ditch their host and get someone who’s actually funny and not an asshole.

Two feminist events on one day! Wonders — will they never cease.

SlutWalk Vancouver is a sister event to SlutWalk Toronto, which was organized in response to a Toronto police officer’s victim-blaming comments about how women could avoid rape if they didn’t dress so slutty. (Really? Wow, thanks for the advice. If only I’d known that when I was 10 years old! I could have worn a less-slutty night-gown and avoided all that inconvenience.)

gmail [dot] com.”]”][On a dark purple background is a white crown which contains the words “Slut Walk Vancouver” in a stylized font.Bitter, angry sarcasm aside, I think it’s probably pretty obvious how busted these comments are. Unfortunately they’re not uncommon from law enforcement here in Canada (and other places as well). Hells, they’re not uncommon on the news or from the mouths of most people I know. SlutWalk is about challenging those assumptions, the ones that say “sluts deserve it”.

I’m not going to write too much on SlutWalk, because a lot has been said already. Check out Taylor Lewis’ blogpost on SlutWalk and male privilege, the Feministing interview with the organizers of Toronto SlutWalk, and the Vancouver Observer article by Jarrah Hodge.

(One thing I will point out, as a First Nations Studies student and an American Indian woman, is that in a very high number of sexual assault, kidnapping, and murder cases in Canada the victims are First Nations women. And those cases are largely ignored by law enforcement. This is another example of how colonialism is a feminist issue.)

*”][On a white background are a picture of a man wearing a dress and holding his arms up in a Herculean fashion and black text. 

Top text reads "International Men Can Wear Dresses, Too! day!" To the left of the man reads the text "May 15th: Be a man, wear a dress." To the right reads the text "Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, cause its OK to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, cause you think that being a girl is degrading."

Now, on the same day (I don’t think it was intentional) someone organized the Men Can Wear Dresses Too! event. This event is best summed up by the quote on the poster: “Girls can wear jeans and cut their hair short, ’cause it’s OK to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, ’cause you think that being a girl is degrading.”

I have convinced my boyfriend to join in on this event, and I swear it’s not just because I like seeing men in women’s clothing. (And vice versa — actually, just gender-bending in general is pretty hot to me.) He doesn’t fit my dresses, so my best friend and I have vowed to find one to fit his glorious manbear frame by May 15th. (That, or we’ll put him in a skirt.) He’ll also be at Slutwalk Vancouver with me, so it should be an interesting day.

Speaking to the men here: I feel that if you feel comfortable doing something like this, you absolutely should. I understand that a lot of men won’t feel comfortable wearing women’s clothing, and that’s ok. You can support the event without participating. Spread the word, open dialogue with people, inform!

If you don’t want to participate because you DO think that wearing a dress is degrading, then I think you should probably examine yourself and where that opinion is coming from.

I hear a lot of men complain about how sexism is “aimed at them” because we women can wear men’s clothing and they aren’t allowed to by society. I have to explain to them that while that is an example of how sexism hurts men, it’s also an example of misogyny. It kind of boggles their minds when (if) they understand that feminism is actually trying to help them, too.

I have hope that someday there won’t be any such thing as women’s or men’s clothing — there will just be clothing. And that no matter what gender-neutral clothes you choose to wear, your voice is always respected and you are never accused of giving implicit consent to anything.

But, you know, that sort of future won’t ever be possible unless we talk about this stuff — and events like the two I’ve briefly mentioned here are good ways to start that conversation. Whether you’re writing a blog entry (hell0), talking on Facebook, or with random strangers on the bus, a conversation has the potential to change someone’s point of view. One changed point of view is one step towards a glorious sex-positive future.

(It doesn’t say it in my bio, but I’m a hopeless dreamer. Sorry.)

*This is my first time writing out descriptive text for an image. I hope I did alright. Also, I had a devil of a time with the formatting, because apparently WordPress does not like very long captions. Curses.

-The Fierce Femme

This started as a comment on another blog.

A comment on another blog that didn’t get posted, because I wasn’t smart enough to get what the poster was saying — or so her story goes. Whatever. I’m posting it here now. Because honestly, I think it needs to be said.

I consider myself a burlesque performer. Ok, so I’m not involved in a troupe formally, and I haven’t really been doing much between my 3 or 4 jobs and full time school, but I am putting together sketches, costumes, dances, audio tracks, and basic ideas. And I am involved in the burlesque scene by virtue of my partner, who helps out with a Vancouver burlesque troupe, and just by virtue of loving it so much that I go to shows and then help clean up afterwards.

I’m also a feminist. Up until now I didn’t see much conflict between these two things, but the light: it has been shown to me. Apparently one can’t be a feminist and a burlesquer. Can’t, capital C, CAN’T. It’s impossible.

And while your post does show what burlesque performers think about burlesque, it lacks a feminist analysis.

Ok, maybe that doesn’t say it’s impossible to be feminist and burlesque. But it sure as hell implies it. (For the record, the above quote was not directed at me — it couldn’t be, for my post was not approved.)

Now, don’t get me wrong — she has some good points. We do need to be critical about what exactly we, as burlesquers, are upholding when we do our acts. We need to be conscious of it. We also need to pay the bills, and sometimes — sometimes that means sacrifice. Bums in seats is the first rule of theatre — and you’re always going to get bums in seats for a strip tease. Hard-hitting political commentary or lampooning? Not so much. It’s a certain demographic that the more political, artistic side of burlesque appeals to — and in order to make a living, you must appeal to more than one certain demographic. You must be broad.

And, you know, up until seeing her response to my post (which she didn’t approve) I was rather willing to cede those points to her. But apparently there’s such a fear over at that blog about dissenting viewpoints that she couldn’t even let my comment be seen or read by anyone else.

I’m a fierce believer in owning your words. My comment policy reflects this. This is part of my feminism. I can’t hope to fight against oppression if I allow censorship.

So in the interest of not being censored, I am going to reproduce my comment for you here. You can see what was so scary to read over there. And then I’m going to make a few closing comments and post this blog, and then you can make comments of your own. Sound good?

Ok. So I didn’t really tackle anything really big there, even. I shared personal experience. Experience from a two-decade career in theatre that has ended because I was tired of the sexism. A career that I fled for burlesque because of the latter art form’s lack of sexism.

(At least, how I’ve experienced it in Vancouver. I do think that the structure of the art form itself lends itself to a less patriarchal epistemic system — there is no hierarchy. It’s a group of women who make up their own sketches and put them together into a show. There’s a real sense of community building in a burlesque troupe.)

You see, to me, what this whole post really just stinks of is sex-negative, everything-that-pleases-men-is-bad feminism. It’s still feminism; I won’t try to redefine the word because I don’t like what some feminists say. But it’s crappy feminism, in my point of view.

“Freedom from the patriarchy! Freedom for women! But only if they don’t want to strip, because stripping makes men happy and that’s bad! Also, women only think they’re empowered if they strip! The patriarchy has just brainwashed them into thinking that. They’re not really empowered, they’re playing into the hands of the patriarchy. High-necked collars for feminism! Wooo!”

This is such an old argument it’s downright boring. Not any less insulting, however. When you state that women are doing things because they’ve been brainwashed by teh ebils patriarchy, it takes away their self-determination, their autonomy. It disempowers them. It does what they’re claiming burlseque is doing.

Burlesque needs serious examination, it’s true. Like everything else, it’s become mainstream, which is steeped in cultural norms — patriarchal ideals about women’s beauty and worth.

But if burlesque needs serious examination, so does reality TV, and webseries, and shows by Joss “I’m so fucking feminist” Whedon who really just shows women who can only be powerful if they’re fucking supernatural, for gods’ sakes. (Exception being Zoe.) So does theatre (especially theatre), so do movies, so does every other form of entertainment we have.

And yes, that examination is absolutely necessary and absolutely useful. If we do not examine ourselves and our actions we will never improve, as people.

But just because burlesque needs examination does not mean it’s un-feminist. It does not mean that a woman dancing with pasties or tassels on while lampooning some common cultural myth is objectifying herself (which, again, you can’t do by virtue of the word’s very definition). It does not mean that you cannot be a feminist and a burlesque performer.

It also doesn’t mean that everyone has to like it. Ok, fine, you feel uncomfortable at burlesque shows. Your choice and I’m not going to hold it against you. But using that discomfort to spin it into a long tirade as to how burlesque is anti-feminist and “upholding the male gaze,” whatever the fuck that means, and objectifying and a whole host of other Ebil Penis Patriarchy Ills — that is what we call sex-negative, and I’ll go so far as to say anti-kink as well. Doesn’t mean you’re not a feminist. It just means that, in my opinion, you’re a bad feminist.

Nothing personal.

-The Fierce Femme