A Feminist Burlesque
An Interview with Bunny Buxom of Rabbit Hole Productions
On Rabbit Hole Productions: It is a burlesque production company dedicated to showcasing high-quality entertainment through a socially aware lens of body positivity, sex positivity, and feminism.
On the importance of a feminist burlesque: I felt it was important to launch Rabbit Hole Productions and have it's mission statement be about body and sex positivity and feminism because that's what my personal burlesque is. Often times I find that though burlesque is largely run by and performed by women, we can still fall victim to the patriarchy in our small community and create art specifically for the male gaze. I wanted to create a show specifically for the people doing it, where men and women alike could appreciate and showcase their body and their sexuality without criticism and feel empowered in doing so.
On how it's different: Rabbit Hole Productions is different than other burlesque shows because it has a mission statement! I make sure that my mission statement is reflected in the casting, the theme, and the language. A lot of our shows are themed, so the ones that are, usually have a pretty easy-to-spot feminist lean to them. Shows that are tributes to female artists like "Spice Twirls: a Spice Girls Tribute", "Womanizer: a Britney Spears Tribute", and "Lilith's Pair: a Burlesque Lilith's Fair" all have themes that honor well-known women who are vocal about feminism. The language of the show is very specific, for example, instead of telling people at the beginning of the show that they can cheer, we say "we give you our consent for you to cheer", which immediately sets up a consent-based safe space for performers. As for the casting, we make sure that all of our shows represent a wide variety of performers in size, shape, ethnicity, background and more. Where other shows might prefer a single body type, we love, appreciate, and showcase all types of bodies and people.
On sex and body positivity: We make sure that our shows celebrate sexuality instead of shaming it, even having shows called "Let's Talk About Sex" and "Fifty Shades of Feminsim" which were both sex and fetish themed shows. As people who take their clothes off in public, burlesque performers are often slut shamed, and we don't tolerate that kind of language or actions from our cast or show patrons. We make sure we book with body diversity so that everyone in the audience can find someone who looks like them on stage.
On feminist operations: This show is run by women, with women in mind. We do occasionally book men, and we love them, but we try to steer clear of the male gaze that objectifies. When I perform I don't want a man telling me that he's now sexually attracted to me, I want a woman telling me that she now feels good about her body because it looks like mine. Sometimes burlesque shows will be hosted by non stripping men, that's something we don't do either. Women usually host and they few times that men have, they strip as well, and they wear pasties just like the women do, this is to avoid a harem trope of a man in a suit surrounded by naked women, and to keep a level playing field. If women have to wear pasties, men do too. Rabbit Hole Productions also puts performer safety first. If an audience member is making a performer uncomfortable there are no questions asked and that person is removed. Performer safety and comfort over money and a patron, always. I believe this to be a feminist concept because it puts a person, specifically a woman, over profit. Though we put ourselves out their for consumption, we decided how we want to be consumed, and the second someone takes advantage of that or asks for more than what we are offering, we shut it down. Performers maintain all the control. I've seen burlesque shows that do the opposite of what Rabbit Hole does, and they were part of the reason why I wanted to start Rabbit Hole.
On sexualization: I think the difference between sexuality and sexualization is control. I own my own sexuality, it's mine to use and express at will. If I'm being sexualized, someone is deciding when I'm sexual for me. I see it in the media and in society all the time, the most prominent example I can think of are women's nipples. People sexualized nipples to the point of photos of a mother breast feeding getting removed from social media, despite the fact that those nipples aren't sexual!
On the importance of embracing sexuality: I think it's important to embrace your sexuality because it's part of who we are. Sex, eating, and sleeping are experiences that all human beings share, and I think it should be celebrated for the wonderful, fun, empowering thing it is. Even if part of your sexuality is not to be sexual, you can still celebrate and enjoy that fact. It's never good to hide or be shameful about something that's a part of who you are, especially since typically male sexuality is the only acceptable type, it's especially powerful for a woman or a non binary person to explore, celebrate, and own theirs. It's an act of rebellion.
On burlesque as a positive promoter of sexuality: Burlesque promotes the embrace of healthy female sexuality because we put it out there. Female sexuality is so often hidden away, or told that it SHOULD be hidden away, so the act of going on stage, in front of strangers, and loving and feeling your body and self is inherently an act of defiance for those who think a woman's body and sexuality is a shameful thing. We publicly declare that women are sexual and can be sexual in any way they choose. We own it, so it just is. I've definitely encountered misunderstandings about burlesque. Some people think it means not stripping, others think it means sex work. Usually it's nothing a conversation can't clear up!
On inspirations: It's hard to say who and what influenced me to be body and sex positive. I feel like every female character who embraced her sexuality on TV, or every singer who sang about girl power, and every burlesque performer I've seen who's not a typical model build has inspired and continues to inspire me. If I had to pick one person though, my Mom made sure that I was comfortable with my body and that I knew sex and sexuality aren't shameful things.
On all size and shape burlesque: I think it's so important to include women of all sizes and shapes in burlesque shows because I think it's important for women in the audience to see themselves represented on stage and to feel beautiful, sexy, free, etc because of it. I have an act where I shake my belly fat and without fail, every time I do that act, a woman approaches me post show and thanks me for showing her that her belly is sexy. I also think it's important for men to see women of all size so they too can unlearn what the media has taught them, that only one shape and size is acceptable and sexy. Learning that is part of unlearning misogyny and even toxic masculinity.
On advice: Embrace your body and your sexuality and have fun! Your body and your sexuality are continuously changing and it's fun and exciting to explore them while they're doing that. Body positivity doesn't mean you can't change or enhance your body or want it to change, it just means that you appreciate it. Like, how cool that we can modify it to look the way we want! So long as you appreciate it and only change it because that's what *you* want, you'll be fine. Sexuality wise, don't yuck a yum or knock it till you try it! Whatever you feel and want, there's a million other people who feel and want the same. None of us are ever alone in our feelings on our body or sexuality, and if you're struggling, try burlesque, it'll probably help!