Cultural Appropriation: Short and Not Sweet

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The words are my own, and I take full responsibility for them. I know this note may be offensive. Feel free to leave all the hateful comments you want. I will stand by my work. – Shoshana

As promised, the issue of cultural appropriation has returned at the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. I will repeat myself from the 2014 article: Where Do We Grow from Here? , At this point, to deny the issue exists, or that it is not relevant to burlesque is not possible. Since everyone on the internet is in a hurry, and most don’t take the time to read, listen, or have real dialogue any more, let me make even simpler.

You Can:

If you are intentionally trying to create an offensive act; go for it. You can join the long line of successful artists who try to engage and offend with their art: GG. Allen, Marilyn Manson, Lisa Lampanelli, Andres Serrano, the list goes on and on……

Decide that you don’t agree that your act is offensive and continue to do it, as long as you can continue to get booked for it, and you can deal with the criticism and defend your art.

You Cannot:

Do half-assed research, or no research at all and claim you understand what you just did onstage. (IE I read Memoirs of a Geisha and loved the book so much, I am doing a geisha number.)

Tell people they cannot be offended by your art.

Get mad when producers or performers call you out. (You can only try to intelligently defend your decision.)

Dismiss the issue as “drama” or “stupid”.

Complain that because you were called out on one act “they [POCs] are taking everything from us and we [white girls]have nothing we can do.”

Attack, shame, or try to silence the issue or the whistle-blower on the issue.

Sit in a room full of people who are from the cultural/racial background as you and/or have the same opinions and pretend you have discussed and understand the issue.

Now, want to actually try to learn and grow as a human and think of someone other than yourself? Start with the article linked at the top of the piece.

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  1. Full disclosure: In addition to being a producer, I am a pinup photographer. Many years ago, I did a shoot based on Memoirs of a Geisha because I loved the book and wanted to make a pretty photo. I took white chicks and made them into geishas. After that I decided to make images based on my love of Dia de los Muertos. I got called out. I know now I was wrong to do so, and won’t do it again. -Shoshana