Do you feel you've found a way through your burlesque to progress feminism despite the fact that the specific style you portray is rooted in a time that was not exactly progressive for women?
I get asked about whether or not I'm a feminist all of the time and I get questioned a lot about things that I do on stage in my show and what it means. Of course, it's incredible when I do come under fire about being anti-feminist, like when people don't know anything about burlesque and point fingers and go, "Oh, she's a stripper this is objectifying women," and it's like wait; you haven't been to the show and you probably don't know that 80% of the audience is female and the rest is dates of the females that bought tickets, or they're gay men and lesbians.
Unless you have really done your research, people can't just point fingers and say it's anti-feminist. So, there's that. And, of course, I also feel like one of the last taboos to be liberated is to revel in being objectified, and I feel like indulging in taboos sometimes is a way to liberate them! So, when I put together a show and somebody says they don't like it or they were offended by something, it's like listen: What you're watching are my obsessions come alive on stage, my sexual fantasies, and in my sexual fantasies, things are not politically correct.
It always comes down to if you don't like it, don't watch it! We don't need people to come that don't get it. But, the neo-burlesque movement is so much different than what the burlesque movement was in the old days, and I'm super grateful to the women that paved the way and made this burlesque movement even possible, because it was much different for them. They were performing for a predominantly male audience and they were -- apart from some of the big stars like Gypsy -- a lot of them were looked down upon. It must have been much harder for them than for someone like me or the modern burlesque movement.
But, I wouldn't be where I am today if hadn't wandered into a strip club in 1991. That's part of what sparked my interest in doing this: I wanted to know the history of strip tease and so, I also feel like we're all relative and I know a lot of burlesque performers want to separate themselves from strippers because they want to be respected. But you know, ultimately, you can't talk someone into respecting you by telling them or explaining to them that you're not a stripper, you're a burlesque star.
At this point in your career, do you encounter more people that identify what you do as art?
Yeah, I feel like I've been through most of my years of being ridiculed for doing what I do and I paid my dues big time already by doing something that people didn't understand at all, pre-neo-burlesque movement.
I don't really come under fire that much anymore. Then on the other hand, when people start calling me an artist and all of that stuff, I just smile and say thank you, I would never use words like that to describe myself or anything. I Just do what I do and I'm not trying to act like I'm changing the world, I'm just doing something that I have been obsessed with for a long time and I'm very lucky that it's found an audience of women that are finding power in having a different kind of role model for sexuality and glamour and beauty. So I'm just feel very lucky that it turned out that way because I certainly didn't think it would.
Dita Von Teese with MC Murray Hill and Special Guests, 7:30 p.m., on Thursday, April 10, and Friday, April 11, at Stache, 100 SW Third Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $35 general admission, $200 for 2 top tables, and $400 for 4 top tables. It's an all ages show. Visit jointherevolution.net.