Beauty and the Ball

“The presence of one woman’s beauty is not the absence of your own”

This is a quote I’ve seen floating around on social media lately, and it levels its lance at an unhealthy culture of female jealousy. The practice of constantly comparing ourselves to other women, constantly thinking “her hair is better” “she has nicer skin” “I wish I had that body” has been reinforced by centuries of women being valued solely for our looks. For a long time, looks were competitive, because looks were survival.

But this is the 21st century and it is time to move past all that, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the world of burlesque.

On February 3rd, I had the privilege of attending the Rosebud Burlesque Club’s Debutante Ball. This ball is an exclusive event where a group of women, ready to perform in front of a large group for the first time, gather an audience of family and friends and show off costumes and routines that they have spent months creating and finessing. The morning after, I caught myself dancing in the mirror in my underwear, inspired and dreaming of the day when I could do the same.

The reason I found myself undulating in front of the hall mirror was because I had spent the evening not comparing myself to these intrepid debutantes, but admiring them. The difference between comparing and admiring is huge. Comparing sets up a better-than/worse-than dichotomy that has consumed many a good woman. Admiring lets you take a step back and look at a woman for everything she is. Admiring gives you something to aspire to, without putting yourself down.

What I admired in the five debutantes I saw had little to do with their looks, and everything to do with their creativity and their courage. Of course they looked gorgeous – most women who set stockinged foot on a burlesque stage do, regardless of their hair or their skin or their body type. But that’s the thing . . .in burlesque beauty doesn’t necessarily come from the typical things we have been raised, as women, to judge ourselves by, to compare ourselves by. Beauty in burlesque is a mysterious, transformative force coming out of a woman’s bravery in taking full possession of herself, and then sharing herself with others. Beauty transcends societal standards in burlesque, and becomes what it was meant to be – something for everyone.


You must be logged in to post a comment Login