rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

In an industry based on objectification, there's going to be objectification…

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

A burlesque dancer who goes by the name of Ruby Rage made headlines recently when she was fired from New Orleans club, Lucky Pierre's. It appears, based on their website, that the club features mainly strip/burlesque shows and drag performances. Rage, who performed regularly with The Blue Book Cabaret, a regular burlesque show at the club, was let go, we're told, because of her "voluptuous appearance."

When club management told The Blue Book's producer, Bella Blue, that they were "concerned" about Rage's "curvy" body, she responded:

I told them that I could find them skinny girls with boobs and hair… But I warned them that the quality of the show might suffer. Looks don't always match talent, and Ruby is a prime example of burlesque as art.

Management let it go for a short time, but after a couple of months, The Guardian reports, they "insisted that Blue take a different direction with regard to the body types she would present on stage." Rage suddenly stopped seeing her name on the schedule and realized, after asking Blue what was going on, that management only wanted traditionally objectifiable bodies on stage. Her body, management told the performer, "wasn't right for burlesque."

Rage went public, claiming discrimination. The burlesque community was enraged. After receiving a number of complaints, the club responded in a statement on Facebook, saying, "Let's face the facts, in the long history of the art there is an expected image." Essentially they made the point that burlesque has always been about the performers' "physiques" and, therefore, it was in their right to only feature conventionally attractive and "sexy" bodies in their shows.

Despite protests from the burlesque community and despite the fact that these club owners are clearly sexist douchebags, their statement is true. Burlesque is about the sexualized, objectified, female body and I am continually confused by the insistence that it is not.

Well-known performer, Dirty Martini, told 21st Century Burlesque that "the hallmark of the New Burlesque" was "not just the glorification of retro womanhood but the dismantling of the male-dominated conversation of women's sexuality." She said, of Rage's firing, "Without raising the question of whether she's a talented entertainer with good costumes and a following, [Lucky Pierre's] objection lies in their expectations of what burlesque should be."

Martini said she was angry about "what burlesque had become." Back in the 90s, she said, "burlesque was a form of rebellion and social commentary" and "was an opportunity to excite and offer insight into a new world order where women call the shots and convey dangerous ideas in a candy-coated package."

She said she was tired of hearing what audiences wanted, especially if what they wanted was conventionally beautiful, silent women, shaking their perfect asses on stage.

But, at the risk of sounding unsympathetic, what on earth do people expect from a form of entertainment that is specifically about women looking pretty and getting naked for an audience?

What happened to Rage does constitute discrimination, but when performers talk about "taking back burlesque," as Rage said she wanted to do, I wonder what they think they had to begin with and what they are expecting from an art form that intends to objectify women? Equal objectification for all bodies? How on earth is the burlesque community shocked that women in burlesque are being judged based on their "body type and appearance" when the primary purpose of watching a burlesque show is to look at sexualized female bodies?

If this "new burlesque" is about "women calling the shots," "convey[ing] dangerous ideas," and "dismantling…the male-dominated conversation of women's sexuality" than why the "candy-coated package?" Wouldn't it be more "dangerous" to convey messages that challenge "the male-dominated conversation of women's sexuality" in a way that doesn't present female bodies as pretty things to-be-looked-at?

Blue was selling a show, for profit. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to make a living and paying performers for their work. But at the same time, you're talking about selling a product -- and that product is the female body. People don't go to burlesque shows, generally, because want to hear insightful comments challenging male power -- they go for the show. They go and they hoot and holler when the tits come out.

I am fully aware that there are "alternative" burlesque shows that are comedic or include social commentary, but those shows are in the minority. And certainly this doesn't seem to be the kind of show Lucky Pierre's was putting on.

While I do really, really want women to feel good about their bodies, regardless of what their bodies look like, I'm doubtful that the problem of objectification going to be resolved if we simply objectify more "voluptuous" women.

It's unlikely that a system that says women should only be paid attention to if they are beautiful and/or naked is going to be disrupted by a form of entertainment that exists solely on the premise that people should focus their attention on these women because they are going to eventually get naked.

If burlesque performers want to stop objectification in burlesque (which is, of course, the reason Rage was let go -- because her body was viewed as a consumable product, but one that wasn't sellable, according to male standards) than they're going to have to stop making burlesque about objectifying female bodies.

Photo: Gary/Flickr

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.