Sep 29, 2023
Stripping vs. Burlesque

Stripping vs. Burlesque

I doubt strippers & burlesque dancers will join forces

My ass has arguably saved lives. When I’m not twirling around a pole, I’m searching for my next burlesque gig. My ass has helped to raise thousands for animal shelters, for harm reduction, for reproductive justice, and for AIDS research

I was hired as a stripper before my burlesque debut. Neither is superior to the other. I’m sure a decent percent of performers today venture into burlesque out of necessity. I’m also certain that percentage doubles or triples for those who begin stripping out of necessity. 

My stripper income is consistently inconsistent. I occasionally leave the club with less money than when I entered. It’s less stressful for me to do gigs because I know exactly how much cash will be in my wallet by the end of the night.

Solidarity barely exists between strippers, so I don’t foresee strippers and burlesque dancers teaming up anytime soon. Stripping is widely regarded as a form of sex work, burlesque isn’t. There is extensive documentation of the oppression strippers face*. Sex workers are oppressed worldwide–even in areas where it is decriminalized, unfortunately.

Exploitative management is the tip of the iceberg as to why strippers from Star Garden Topless Bar went on strike and partnered with the Actor’s Equity Union. Perhaps you heard about the WGA (a guild of film writers) striking and winning, but did you know that the Star Garden strippers have also recently unionized? I'd argue strippers have more in common with burlesque dancers than Hollywood actors; it's sad those two groups haven’t found a common ground yet.

In the meantime, I hope to find solidarity amongst Asian burlesque dancers and Asian strippers. I have Chinese and Vietnamese ancestry. I recently visited the Asian Showgirl Museum in San Francisco's Chinatown. The museum is open from 2-6pm on Saturdays only--it's a hidden gem that I wish was lauded like other tourist attractions. Admission is free and the museum curators speak English. I've documented my experiences as an Asian stripper on medium; my latest medium article was published in September 2023.

I'm currently in the process of adding ALT text to all the photos I upload there. Alternative text is helpful for anyone who relies on screen reading software to browse the internet. I practice what I preach and prioritize accessibility wherever I can.

Inclusivity doesn't translate to conflating different groups. I don’t conflate burlesque performers and strippers because they’re “exotic dancers”. The term, exotic is shunned by strippers and pole hobbyists; I’ve yet to hear any burlesque dancers discuss how ‘exotic’ is alienating. That word has been used for centuries to fetishize women of color, especially Arab women. I’m all for reclaiming slurs but white people can’t reclaim exotic. To strip the stigma away from dancing, white dancers first need to advocate for dancers of color. 

At the end of the day, I can quit burlesque and I can quit stripping but I can’t quit being East Asian.

Both photos of me were taken in Seattle, Washington. I'd love to return to the Emerald City for the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival in 2024. If you're also a sex worker attending SEAF, let's connect!

*Major trigger warning if you decide to read this news article

Stripping vs. Burlesque