Review: The Happy Stripper

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The Happy Stripper: Pleasures and Politics of the New Burlesque by Jacki Willson.

I think I met the author at the after-party for The Immodest Tease Show in London back in 2006, but I’m not 100% sure — there were a lot of people there. But that’s neither here nor there.

Ms. Willson became interested in exploring the display of women’s bodies in a post-feminist world after seeing a piece of performance art involving striptease. She wonders if burlesque can be both sexy and subversive. Although the performers are putting their bodies on display, are they also fully empowered? Her focus is the examples of Ursula Martinez (performance artist), Immodesty Blaize (UK burlesque superstar), and Dita von Teese (no introduction necessary).

The book is quite academic and densely informative. I suspect it’s was originally the author’s dissertation. It’s not so much about burlesque as an art form but as the background for discussing the social implication and political ramifications of stripping. To really get the most out of this book, it’s helpful to know something of the different waves of feminism and the major players in each.

The focus is predominantly UK-centric, although she does use some US and Australian sources. The bibliography is exhaustive. If you’re looking for a light read on neo-burlesque, this isn’t it. If you’re interested in delving into the philosophies of stripping and feminism, this is your book.

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Published in: on 14 March 2012 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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