Trolls Attack the Berlin Femme Show

Sometimes I get so angry at the sexism I see in the world that it makes me just want to scream. This is the feeling I got when I read the sexist comments on Berlin queer mag Siegessäule‘s review of The Berlin Femme Show. The night was such a success with over 600 guests and 25 amazing performers. It really made me hope, just a little bit, that things might be looking up for femmes here in Berlin. The review was very appreciative and I was so proud of the amazing range of feminist statements our performers made: from body image, to trans identities, queer homogeneity to sex work. But no, apparently when you get a bunch of mostly feminine women performing burlesque, all we are doing is taking our tits out and being pornographic. Of course.

I mean, there is nothing political about a woman desperately breaking her diet by eating her cosmetics and then celebrating her fatness by dancing to Fat Bottomed Girls. There is nothing political about seeing fat burlesque at all, in a world which tells us we only have sexual power as women when we starve ourselves into thinness. There is nothing political about taking the stereotype of the housewife and using it to bake dreams of a different queer world and to celebrate all the feminists who have gone before us. There is nothing political about showing the thoughts of a sex worker as she strips and comes for a client, or standing up on stage as a transsexual woman and talking about the exclusion of transfemininities in the queer community. There is nothing political about standing on stage in front of a community who has done everything in its power to ignore you, discount you and keep you out and demand to be seen as sexual and queer.

Of course, all we girls are doing is taking our tits out and disappointing our queer feminist sisters, who obviously know a lot more about what it means to be queer and feminist than we do. Boo hoo fucking hoo.

So, I encourage all of you to read my zine which is now fully translated and consists of 80 pages of art about why, exactly, these kinds of attitudes are bullshit.

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Berlin Femme Show 2012: the Line-Up!

I’m back in town and overwhelmed to see how well party preparation has been going along without me! We now have OVER 15 amazing femme performers joining us to celebrate femmes in Berlin on Thursday 15th March. This is a fundraiser for my zine project about sexism within the queer community. Check out the deets below folks! And catch the updates via Facebook. Thanks so much to Trent for designing and Robekkah for contributing the artwork for the beautiful poster:

**ENGLISH VERSION BELOW**

Fem(me)inista productions präsentieren zusammen mit der Berlin Femme Mafia: The Berlin Femme Show 2012

Es dauerte zwar etwas, aber jetzt können wir zu unser großen Freude die zweite Berlin Femme Show präsentieren!
Wir laden dich_euch herzlich ins Lido ein, auf einen fabulösen Abend voll der Crème de la Crème der queeren femme Kreativtalente. Der Abend fängt entspannt und elegant an mit einem spoken word salon und deliziösen femme Catering von Ohlàlà Tartes-shop, dicht gefolgt von atemberaubendem und sexy Cabaret! Danach werden DJ_anes euch bis in die Nacht am tanzen halten.

Dieses Event ist auch eine Soli und launch Party für Dressed Like That zine: femme_inine Stimmen über Sexismus in der queeren Szene.
http://dressedlikethatzine.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/dressed.like.that.zine

performers: Alexander Alvina Chamberland, Annie Good, Margaret Steenblock, Lady Gaby, Marsmaedchen, Mimi Monstroe, Rosebutt, Sarah Martinus, Hedi Mohr, Liad Hussein Kantorowicz, Goldie Dartmouth, Laura Lipstick, Mademoiselle Kla, Yvette Bathory, Kay P. Rinha, Glittertrash, Lyndsey Cockwell, Femme Fraktionen und mehr!

dj_anes:
Marsmaedchen http://www.myspace.com/marsmddchen
Too Serious
Lisalotta P

Wo? Lido, Cuvrystraße 7, Ubahn: Schlesisches Tor
Spoken Word Show: 7pm
Cabaret Show: 10pm
DJ_anes: 00.30
Eintritt: 4€ bis 8€ nach eigenem ermessen, bitte gibt was ihr könnt!

http://sarahmartinus.com/
http://margretsteenblock.com/en/who.html
http://www.myspace.com/liadland
https://lipstickterrorist.wordpress.com/

**ENGLISH VERSION**

Fem(me)inista productions, in association with the Berlin Femme Mafia present: The Berlin Femme Show 2012

At long last, it is our great pleasure to present the second Berlin Femme Show!

You are invited to Lido for a fabulous evening showcasing the very best of queer femme creative talent! The evening begins in a relaxed and elegant way with a spoken word salon complete with delicious femme catering by Ohlàlà Tartes-shop, followed by a breathtaking & sexy cabaret! After the cabaret will be DJs and dancing late into the night.

This event is also a fundraiser & launch party for Dressed Like That zine: feminine voices on sexism in the queer community.
http://dressedlikethatzine.blogspot.com/
http://www.facebook.com/dressed.like.that.zine

Performances by: Alexander Alvina Chamberland, Annie Good, Margaret Steenblock, Lady Gaby, Marsmaedchen, Mimi Monstroe, Rosebutt, Hedi Mohr, Liad Hussein Kantorowicz, Sarah Martinus, Goldie Dartmouth, Ms Laura Lipstick, Mademoiselle Kla, Yvette Bathory, Kay P. Rinha, Glittertrash, Lyndsey Cockwell, Femme Fraktionen and more!

Plus djs:
Marsmaedchen http://www.myspace.com/marsmddchen
Too Serious
Lisalotta P

Where: Lido, Cuvrystraße 7, Ubahn: Schlesisches Tor
Spoken word show: 7pm
Cabaret Show: 10pm
DJs & Dancing: 00.30
Cost: Sliding scale €4-€8 (Please give what you can!)

http://sarahmartinus.com/
http://margretsteenblock.com/en/who.html
http://www.myspace.com/liadland
https://lipstickterrorist.wordpress.com/


Goldie Dartmouth, Lipstick Terrorist, Svetlana MC…and you?

Hold onto yer knickers (or boxers), the Berlin Femme Show 2012 is now confirmed! The amazing Emma Corbett-Ashby and I are organising this party in the spirit of the Berlin Femme Mafia Show in 2010. While we owe big big kudos and love to the femme mafia for all they have done over the past 2 years, this is an independent event. We prefer to think of ourselves as the Berlin Femme Mafia’s naughty little sister who has stolen big sis’ favourite Barbie and is currently giving her a ‘punk’ haircut in the bathroom with Mum’s nail scissors. All proceeds will go towards the second edition of Dressed Like That zine.

Clockwise from top left: Katinka Kraft, Paula Varjack, Goldie Dartmouth, Svetlana and Lipstick Terrorist

WHAT?

This year’s Berlin Femme Show is causing a commotion from the stage of Kreuzberg’s Lido on Thursday 15th March. The evening will debut with a spoken word section, followed by a late-night show; a collection of burlesque and fem(me)inist performances. The evening will finish with some dazzling DJs and the whole extravaganza will be hosted by the lovely Svetlana MC.

To give you a naughty taster, 2010’s performers included Paula Varjack, Katinka Kraft and Poe Liberado. We expect just as many wonderful acts this year!

WHY?

Emma and I want to showcase the amount of amazing Fem/me talent we know is hiding in the boudoirs of Berlin. The idea of combining another Berlin Femme Show with the chance to raise funds for our awesome queer feminist publication seemed just perfect.

Following the massive success of Dressed Like That zine, the editor (me again!) is keen to make the wise words of the writers available to everyone within the German queer scenes and internationally. For that reason, a team of wonderful translators are translating the whole thing into English and German. Cue the extra awesome bilingual edition of Dressed Like That! Given that this is going to be a 80-page publication, we understandably need to raise funds to print it. We are also currently looking for small donations from foundations. If any of you lovely readers know an organisation who can contribute to copying costs, please contact me at pinklab@hotmail.com

YOU?

We are looking for spoken word, burlesque, visual art performers, DJs and helpers. The Femme Show 2012 will showcase a variety of femme presentation and we particularly want to encourage new performers while celebrating our experienced fem/me performers. We particularly want non-cisgendered fem/mes, fem/mes of colour, fat fems and disabled femmes on stage. Non-fem/me identified people are also welcome to perform as part of collaborative pieces. We welcome performances in both German and English.

This year’s Mistress of Ceremonies is the lovely Svetlana, and confirmed performers are the alter ego of Emma Corbett-Ashby and Lipstick Terrorist (that’s me, dontcha know). With some other wonderful acts of the cusp of being confirmed, we fully expect this to be a decadent, entrancing and unique evening.

If you want to suggest a performance, DJ or help us with promotion we would love to hear from you! Email Laura at pinklab@hotmail.com

i’ll show you mine…

I am a burlesque artist. I like going up on stage and peeling off my clothes until all I am wearing are novelty pants and tit tassles. Call me an exhibitionist? I call it affirmation.

In my first post on burlesque, I suggested that, in a world which devalues femininity and women, using the stage to present your own image of femininity can educate your audience. You can choose what type of femininity you would like to present, and construct a particular dynamic between you and your viewers. By hiding and revealing parts of your body, you can tell your viewers where they are allowed to look, for how long, and in what spirit. I perform a slow, serious piece which makes my audience feel ‘awkward and sexy at the same time.’ It teases by inviting them to look (I mean, I am on a stage) while Lesley Gore sings ‘You Don’t Own Me’ and I undress shyly. My shyness contrasts with my black lingerie, nakedness and the lyrics of the song. I also perform a light-hearted piece called ‘Pop’ in which I cover myself in blown-up condoms (yes, condoms!) and pop them by rubbing them with oil. This conveys the safer sex message that you should always use water-based lube with latex condoms. Both combine traditional elements of burlesque (including retro music, vintage style and undressing) with more serious messages.

The past couple of days I have been reading Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation edited by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman. It’s one of the many feminist books my friend Robin gave me when she moved back to the US. My mission, as I accepted it, is to read them and then donate them to this queer feminist library. Yesterday I read a piece written by MTF drag queen Esme Rodriguez who said that the stage allows her to find the ‘freedom’ to explore ‘gender expression, gender identities and social justice.’ And I thought, yes, it’s like that for me too. For me the stage is a space to explore and to express my gender. And this is darn feminist.

I don’t think I have complete control over what my audience sees. For me ‘You Don’t Own Me’ is, when performed for a queer audience, me saying that yes I get to be a girly girl and strip and still be a fierce feminist, thank you very much, while other people see it as a celebration of polyamory. But I do think that Rodriguez is right when she says that drag allows her to explore both gender and social justice.

French femme performer Wendy Delorme

I recently performed at a small town in Germany (about 150 000 inhabitants),  to a mixed reception. Some folks loved the show and others seemed a bit shocked by it. And I was shocked that they were shocked. I mean, I was just taking off my clothes. How would they react if they saw my burlesque colleague Rosebutt pull a golden chain out of her cunt?!

Someone I know, a butch and feminist, said that she didn’t like my show because she felt uncomfortable about seeing all that skin. She said the way she had been brought up made nudity a little taboo. Now, she is totally entitled to her opinion and maybe burlesque just isn’t for her, but I did think, really, is a semi-naked (still wearing pants, nipple pasties, oh, and glitter) woman really that shocking?

Sometimes I forget what a laissez-faire attitude to nudity I have. My parents are doctors and very factual about bodies. They wander around naked upstairs while getting changed or bathing. I talk to my Mum while she’s in the bath, and even though after a certain age it felt it a bit awkward to do the same with my Dad, he still leaves the door open. I always strip in communal changing rooms, because I can’t be bothered to be modest and I’m pretty happy wandering around naked in a German spa.

“watching burlesque you are no longer allowed to be a passive consumer. you are part of the process”

Now, I recognise that as a cisgendered white woman, it’s not very risky for me to take my clothes off in public. At least not in those spaces where it’s ‘allowed,’ such as at a burlesque show, in  changing rooms, or at a sauna. I’m a bit fat, and stand out because of that, and I have a large tattoo, but both of these things are pretty ordinary, really. The risk for me to be naked is, in these contexts, fairly low.

So I’m gonna hazard a guess here and propose that this audience was uncomfortable with my nudity because they were made to confront something new. New? I hear you say. Erm, cisgendered pretty white woman taking off clothes, not exactly revolutionary, is it? I mean, Laura, we see images of semi-clad white chicks everyday! In adverts on the U-Bahn, TV, magazines, shops. It’s not exactly something you can escape. My reply is, yes, there are tonnes of images half-dressed girls around who may to a certain extent look like me (although at UK size 16 and age 28 I am way fatter and older), but these images are pretty flat. In lots of senses. These images don’t interact with you, with their audience. The intention behind them is to sell (objects, ideals, insecurities, you name it) and the girls in the pics aren’t the creators of the image. They may choose to pose for a particular ad, or as actresses they may love their work. But even Cate Blanchett, who is pretty kick-ass, is caught up in a world of Hollywood beauty standards and censored film scripts. Now, I’m not suggesting that the stages I perform on are in a queer bubble outside of this sexist world. To the contrary, I think the patriarchy (insert flash of lightning and evil laughter here) permeates everything. But I do think that my choices and my agency make a crucial difference.

“I set up a framework, tweak it a little and present it to an audience to see what happens”

When I performed in this town, the audience sat about 7 metres away from the stage. OK, I am terrible at judging distances, but if I had taken a running jump and hurled myself into the crowd, I still would have failed to land at the feet of the closest admirer. Sweet, shy, German audiences. During both of my performances I jumped down from the stage because, goddammit, I wasn’t going to let them get away with it. I’m was gonna force them to interact with me even if I had to sit on their laps! As it turned out, I didn’t need to sit on them, and getting some people to remove my stockings or help pop the condom-balloons got me much closer to the audience. Not only physically, but also in terms of the dynamic we were creating. The dynamic I wanted us to create.

Miss Bourbon from Club Burlesque Brutal

So what was different about my performance? Every time we look at a semi-naked woman on a billboard we do so as consumers. Our look is elicited and drawn in in order to sell something else. Feminine sexuality is directed at a male gaze (idea they will desire girl = desire product) or female gaze (idea they will want to be girl = want product). Here the audience were undressing a girl who was right there and, apparently, enjoying herself! I made them pop my balloons and take off my stockings, get close to me and participate in the stripping performance. And that’s got to make you think. Watching this type of burlesque you are no longer allowed to be a passive consumer. You have to participate in the sexualisation of the woman. You are part of the process. And maybe this participation makes you think a little about looking. When and how we look and why. Yes, it is uncomfortable. It’s sexy and funny and awkward. It walks the line between a personal sexual encounter and the public consumption and commercialisation of femininity which as feminists we rightly find suspect. It’s ‘oh my god this girl is so hot and she’s right there and she’s flirting with me, but no it’s just an act is she getting paid for this I don’t even know her!’

“it’s a bit like therapy, really”

Coming back to my personal reasons for wanting to do this, I want to emphasise that, for me, performing burlesque as a feminine woman and as a queer is an act of affirmation. It’s yeah I’m hot and yeah you’re allowed to look at me, but don’t go thinking that I belong to you or that this is for you. You know we’re never going to see each other again, baby.

In Gender Outlaws the theme of exploration keeps recurring. What strikes me most is that each and every author is looking for or has found a space to express, explore and play with their gender. It can be through writing,  negotiating the gendered language of the office, sex, role play or performance. They interact with another person or people in order to gain new perspectives on gender, new experiences, to create new things. It’s a bit like therapy, really. In my burlesque I do the same. I set up a particular framework (conventions of burlesque), tweak it a little and present it to an audience to see what happens. To see what we can make of it. I get to see a little more of myself through other people’s eyes.

It’s ‘hello’ and its ‘you don’t own me.’

tits and tassles

When I told people I had started doing burlesque performances, one of my closest friends told me she was worried about me. She told me that self-confidence had to come from within, and not from the approval of other people. Her objection made me think long and hard about the dynamic that happens when, as a feminine woman, I take my clothes off on stage.

My friend, let’s call her Emily, suggested that if you are a woman and take your clothes off on stage in a seductive way, you are somehow buying into sexism. You are encouraging other people to view you as a ‘sexual object’ and not a ‘real person.’ Of course I think many men’s sexist harrassment of me comes from this very same assumption. That when they look at me all they see is a blonde feminine white woman, and they perceive this as a weakness that they can attack.

“You could call it feminism with tassles on”

So, this is where things get tricky. Because even though we have all these negative associations with femininity, and female bodies, I refuse to accept them. I refuse to believe that men own my body. That when I undress I am always doing so for a male audience, a male gaze. I do own my body. And the assumption that many men make, that for some reason my dressing up, beauty, or even undressing, is for them, always makes me really really angry.

Going up on stage and performing for a mostly queer audience is an act of self-love for me. When I perform my beauty and sexuality onstage I am inviting people to participate in a specific vision of myself. And this is a vision that I control. I decide what I will do, which parts of my body I will or will not reveal and how long the performance will last. I choreograph this presentation from the song choice to the dance steps to the rose that I hand to the lady in the first row. And in this sense, I am asserting my agency, my ownership of my own body. I choose how it is presented and how it is viewed.

I think burlesque can be feminist because as a performer you are in control of that sexual gaze. You decide to which parts of the body it is directed, for how long and how nude these body parts are. I think the best burlesque conveys a message while teasing at the same time. The climax of much burlesque is the ‘tit moment.’ The topless performer turns around and you see (giggle) breasts! But these breasts are still partially covered; the nipples hidden behind decorated pasties. The naughtiness of the boobies is emphasised by the fact that the nipples are never shown. You are allowed to look, but you don’t get to see everything. The titillation (awesome word) comes from this, ultimate, refusal to show all. I, the performer, am in control. Maybe this control over the audience’s gaze teaches us something about the way we look at women.

“I am inviting people to participate in a specific vision of myself”

I don’t think that I can say that all burlesque is feminist. I am sure there are acts out there and dynamics between the performer and audience that I would find sleazy and uncomfortable. Not all performers find power in their own performance, and maybe they have been coerced into performing for economic reasons, rather than their own interest.

But for me, burlesque has given me more space for self-expression. It has allowed me to explore and show-off my sexual femininity in a queer community which often devalues feminine women (more in another post). In showing or not my tits and other parts of my body, I feel that I am showing and teaching the audience about the complexities of looking at women. There is something very powerful about pasties. You could call it feminism with tassles on. Give ’em the old razzle dazzle, and they might just start to see your point of view.

So, here you go, Emily:

Ta Daa!