If you’re a burlesque dancer, Lort knows you’ve encountered all sorts of feedback on your acts/self as a performer.
From the gushing super fans, the ‘but-what-do-your-parents-thinkers’, to the compli-sulters (my word for when someone tries to compliment you but ends up insulting you – ‘You’re so brave to be that big of a slut onstage!’).
Sometimes you just get a shot of someone’s junk with no further follow-up or explanation (because we all know true love stories begin with unsolicited dick pics).
A large percentage of these interactions go down online in the form of post comments or private messages. And one thing that seems to be a reoccurring theme is people (largely men) trying to post ‘compliments’ on dancers’ photos/posts and then being miffed when the performer ‘just doesn’t take the compliment’.
And I know some people truly want to be able to interact with burlesque dancers in a kind, complimentary, and respectful way, and then feel attacked when their intentions are perceived as creepy or unwarranted.
So the next time you want to ‘offer a compliment’ and you’re curious on the best way to do so in a respectful, non-objectifying way, consider the following pieces of advice:
Burlesque Compliment Etiquette 1: Compliment artistic choices.
Nine times out of ten, your compliment will be better received if you comment on the decisions a performer has made instead of physical appearance. ‘Your boobs look awesome’ is less meaningful than, ‘the costume you chose really compliments your body well.’ This point leads me into point number 2, which is:
Burlesque Compliment Etiquette 2: Don’t frame the compliment from your genitalia’s POV.
Insinuating that a performer is giving you an erection or getting you turned on is, to put it as mildly as possible, not a meaningful compliment. I mean, let’s be honest: It’s not like boners are solar eclipses that only occur three times each century.
‘Compliments’ like this tell me that you’re not appreciating the choices I’ve made, the time I’ve put into my craft, and that you’re just looking at the situation with a ‘yeah, I’d bang that’ mentality.
Burlesque Compliment Etiquette 3: Consider your familiarity with the performer before posting.
I know, I know – you think, ‘Well, I see her friends posting about how sweet her ass is, so I thought she was down with that!’ Well, consider this – we spend hours with other performers backstage and at shows, and trust is built by people connecting over a shared experience and vulnerability.
And even if you HAVE performed at multiple shows or shared a backstage with someone, it doesn’t even guarantee that those people will be comfortable with this sort of communication.
Just because you’ve been posting on someone’s wall consistently for a year does not mean that you really ‘know’ a performer or have established the trust necessary to comment in a familiar way online.
Burlesque Compliment Etiquette 4: Ask yourself if you would be comfortable saying this to someone’s face, or if you would be comfortable if someone talked to your friend/relative that way.
If you would punch someone in the face for talking to your mom/sister/friend that way, then why do you think a burlesque performer would swoon over it?
Burlesque Compliment Etiquette 5: Check in with how frequently you comment on someone’s posts.
It can feel a bit aggressive when someone comments or contacts you frequently, especially if you don’t know that person in real life and if the content of your communications does not advance past surface-level topics. I value quality over quantity. In this vein, remember that dancers do not owe you their time or energy.
Burlesque Compliment Etiquette 6: Try to be honest with yourself about what is truly motivating you to post.
I really cannot stress this enough. Because often I see situations where the ‘Man, I was just trying to give you a compliment!’ line is used, and I want to counter with, ‘Yeah… but WERE you, really?’
Please understand that the reason we don’t ‘just take the compliment’ is largely because most of the time, that’s not why the conversation was initiated. How do I know? Because those interactions don’t stop at the compliment. In my experience, once I acknowledge a person’s problematic compliments without any rebuke, it is often interpreted as a door that is now cracked open for them to pursue some romantic union.
Burlesque dancers communicate with audience members and fans on a regular basis, and let me be the first to say that your intentions are often not as cleverly masked as you think. The way you communicate with someone you respect is vastly different than when someone is testing the waters for their personal gain in some regard.
Burlesque Compliment Etiquette 7: Try to genuinely listen when you receive feedback.
No one likes it when someone goes off on you online, I get that. But understand that due to our profession, burlesque performers deal with these issues on a regular basis, and for many of us, our patience is worn incredibly thin on the subject.
Many performers just don’t have the time or energy to post a detailed, polite and respectful response outlining why they feel disrespected, so often responses are short and abrupt. If you receive feedback on something you’ve posted, my advice is to:
– Wait a few minutes before you respond, and try to keep your response as unemotional as possible
– Realize that intent and impact are completely different things. Acknowledge the person’s POV, because they are responding to an action that you initiated and only they can tell you how they responded to what you said.
– Take the high road. Even if you feel you are getting chewed out in error (ahem… reread the point above), you will gain more respect for owning your actions than vilifying the performer.
I want to end by saying that performers, by and large, truly do appreciate genuine compliments and respectful fans. This isn’t trying to say that all men suck, or that men can’t comment on posts. But we’re in an industry that is meant to empower its performers, and part of empowerment is trying to identify and rectify negative patterns so that performers are respected and have a positive experience.
By Eva La Feva. Read more on Eva’s burlesque blog.
Quoted in major international newspapers and held in high esteem and affection by the international burlesque community, 21st Century Burlesque Magazine has documented the contemporary burlesque scene since 2007. Founded and edited by Holli-Mae Johnson.