This happens to all burlesque performers at some point in their performance career. It happens to anyone who is in the public eye and even more to those who utilize their bodies as vehicles for self expression of whatever kind. I think back on how many times I have criticized a celebrity/singer/actress for being too fat, too skinny, or whatever ass-inine comments about their appearance. Since I've started my burlesque career I've stopped doing that. I've become more aware (even enlightened) about what's going on with women.
There was that one time when a male fan posted a photo of me on his Facebook and it instigated several negative
comments about my scar, mostly from women. I defended myself on that thread and explained why I do what I do.
I don't feel like I should feel ashamed for having a scar from a near fatal surgery, and I love the art of striptease, the creation of self made glamour, and I certainly did not feel the need to censor myself because someone else believes only "perfect unmarred bodies" should be seen publicly. And... then there was last night. A female fan posted a photo of me on IG, full frontal in the middle of my act. I really like the photo even with the low camera angle and up-my-nose-ness (the show was really packed so many people graciously sat on the floor as I instructed and that was where her photo was taken from, see below).
The first comment (now disappeared): "shame she's not even hot." Comment was by a woman. I replied, "thanks (name) love the haters". I then re-posted the photo on my IG (below), because I felt like this phenomenon of women-hating-on-women must be addressed! Then suddenly my followers, many I know and many more I don't know, jumped on the thread to defend me. One "Amy_robot" even took the trouble to look at the commentator's profile and threw it back at her by saying:
I see you have a quote from B.K.S. Iyengar at the top of your profile - have you heard this one? "You must purge yourself before finding faults in others. When you see a mistake in somebody else, try to find if you are making the same mistake. This is the way to take judgment and to turn it into improvement. Do not look at others' bodies with envy or with superiority. All people are born with different constitutions. Never compare with others. Each one's capacities are a function of his or her internal strength. Know your capacities and continually improve upon them."
Wow! Go social media! I also cross-shared this post on my Facebook Page but that didn't accomplish the result I wanted.
Many people reassured me of my "hotness" which was very nice of them to be sensitive to the possibility of an injured ego and for that I thank you, but I was honestly not trying to fish for compliments or reassurance. The issue at hand is the culture of competition between women.
Criticizing other women for not being "hot", too fat, too skinny, "gross" or my favorite women-hating-women term being a "skank". Many of my followers theorize that these kind of negative comments speak to the commentator's own insecurities and self loathing, but I don't really buy into that explanation. I believe it is what author Ariel Levy calls the "female chauvinist pig" syndrome in her titular book "Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture" (good read!).
Levy's main argument is that contemporary culture has become so saturated and inundated with sexualized images of women as commercialized objects that girls are raised to compete with each other to be the "hottest" and "sexiest" rather than the most accomplished or successful. She explains that this is defined by displays of "...inauthenticity and the idea that women should be constantly exploding in little bursts of exhibitionism." How many times have you gone to a party and suddenly some girl whips off her top and it's supposed to be so shocking, so wild, crazy and so hot? That is because we live in what she calls "raunch culture" where women are not only encouraged but rewarded for out-competing another woman as "the hottest" and most sexualized object in any given social situation (ie: the Girls Gone Wild franchise)
And this is what I think is happening when women make comments like "shame she's not even hot", because she insinuates that she herself is hotter than the criticized subject, or at the very least, she is an expert on the topic of what society portrays as the ideal object of male sexual desire. And thus she gains status (essentially "wins") at this competition for the attention of men by ironically acting like a chauvinistic male pig.
Theory is helpful for me to place things in context and to not take negative comments personally. But on a more immediate level, the most proactive thing I can do is to NOT participate in the culture of chauvinist pig behavior by thinking twice about my own comments. Lastly, if you hear something, say something. If someone backstage (or in regular conversation) make comments that sound pig-like, call them out. You can turn the attention on another facet of the person rather than their perceived hotness or physicality, or do what I like to do and simply say, "That's a really negative comment" and let that stew.
So on that note, I'm going to buy something on Pin Up Girl Clothing's sale site right now to make myself feel hotter. ;-)