I found out via a phone call from Anne Mayne that Rape Crisis was benefiting from a burlesque revue (and did in fact receive around R36,000 if memory serves). My initial reaction was disbelief and then a sort of creeping horror. I simply could not understand that what I felt was the objectification of women’s bodies and sexuality could be used to raise funds for an organisation like Rape Crisis, founded by a radical feminist and sustained through the first really tough seven years by radical feminists, with a feminist analysis of rape as a tool of the patriarchy. Surely it should be obvious, I thought, that women stripping themselves of their clothes for entertainment was the very antithesis of feminism?
This was a gut reaction−I had heard of burlesque but had no real idea about it beyond an instinctive aversion.
But, no, I was told, these women feel empowered; they are reclaiming their sensuality; some of them are rape survivors and this is an expression of their healing; it’s very tastefully done; the only men in the audience where there by specific invitation and all the performers and technical staff were women.