My daughter is almost 17 and last night was her introduction to this crazy world I've spent the last year in...the world of burlesque. She's seen drag, my best friend is a drag queen and her sweet sixteen party was a drag show, but burlesque was new and some would say that at 16 and 11 months she's still far too young...heck many in our conventional Christian circles would be horrified at any age much less burlesque as a family outing but those folks can't see outside their conventional boxes the way my kid can. See in our family we have this crazy idea that God is not nearly so narrow-minded as the churches of my youth taught me to believe. We have this crazy idea that if you're looking, God is everywhere, in everyone. Isn't that what Created In His Image means? The Hindu have a word for it "Namaste", the God in me acknowledges the God in you is a really rough translation of it...look it up, that's why God gave us Google. So back to the subject at hand..
I don't know about burlesque in other cities, I've only been to shows in my own, but here in Memphis it is an amazing body positive, all shapes and sizes, celebration of women in all their strength and complexity. Every performer brings her own style to the stage and all are appreciated and celebrated for what they bring. In a world that constantly bombards my daughter with the idea that only women of a certain size and shape are "beautiful" burlesque offers an emphatic balancing statement. The shows I am familiar with are run by women and are showcasing women who are courageous enough to literally stand before an audience mostly naked (in our town its legal to go down to pasties and g-strings in places where liquor is served and to go even further in places where it is not) and declare "this is who I am, in all my vulnerability and beauty" and demand to be seen.
Isn't that what all of us as women long for? A place to be seen? In a world of rape culture where a hashtag campaign #yesallwomen is trying to bring awareness to all the ways we as women must limit ourselves to walk safely in our world there is a desperate desire to have safe spaces to be seen and celebrated. Paradoxically, ironically even, burlesque offers that. And that is why I was comfortable taking my daughter to see burlesque and why I will continue to take her to every show that is in a venue where someone her age can attend. It's why I will continue working toward finding or creating a venue for drag that is open to all ages.
Our young women need places to observe other women owning their own body in an empowered way. Our young women and young men need opportunities to encounter and challenge their own entrenched concepts of beauty and gender and power and grace...and in my own experiences and in my daughters experiences thus far, those opportunities aren't happening in the church. David may have danced naked before the Lord (and everyone else...a fact that gets glossed over in telling that story) but its certainly not something that would ever happen now...we are far more like Michal, his wife, disgusted by his "unseemly" behavior...and we end up like Michal as well, barren, unable to see the beauty before us because of our own narrow perception of propriety and piety.
So I'll expose my daughter to the unconventional. Burlesque, Drag, PRIDE...because I want her ALWAYS to be able to see the God within everyone...to realize that there IS no "other", there is no "them", there's only "us"...and if she really wants to be a stage bunny like she said after seeing the show last night then I'll find a way to make that happen for her because some of the best sermons I've ever seen have happened in clubs, in bars, in theatrical venues...preached not with words but with simply being who one is in front of God and everybody...and thanks be to God, my kid gets it.
Thank God for Burlesque.