A troupe of all but naked burlesque dancers is a novel way of
protesting that feminism is good and violence against women is bad.
Actually, when I saw them my first thought was, guys, it's 7 degrees
and raining, you really need some more clothes. My second
thought was, oh, it's supposed to be "sexy". Only subsequently did I
realize that they are meant to be part of the feminist demo that the
college is running today.
When I first saw posters advertising the event "Demonstration about
violence against women", my response was a bit, meh. Even the most
sexist of chauvinists is not going to be in favour of violence against
women, and having a protest about it is not going to convince the few
psychos who are pro-violence. Recently, the posters with more detailed
info have gone up and apparently the full title is a "Day of feminist
protest about men's violence against women and children". That really
put me off, because lumping women together with children as vulnerable
people that one has a duty to protect doesn't seem to me to be a
particularly feminist way of regarding the issue.
The girls with nipple tassles and thongs dancing in the rain with more
enthusiasm than skill haven't really changed my mind on this. Violence
is bad, duh. Demonstrating to that effect seems singularly pointless,
and dividing up violence according to the gender of the victims is
possibly even counter-productive. In as far as feminism is about
working against anti-women violence, I am pro-feminist (as any
sensible person would be). But if feminism is about devoting one's
resources to methods that are likely to be totally ineffective, then even if the cause is worthy, I can't be
I can sort of understand burlesque as a feminist statement in an asserting control over one's body and how it is presented way, or an assertion that some kinds of presentation are inherently fun and reclaiming them as that rather than as for a male gaze sort of way, particularly if one has a body-shape other than that which Western cultural norms push as attractive; but where it's a statement about violence loses me, I'm afraid. [ Except maybe the very edgy tango-verging-on-ritualised-assault which appears to be one of the couple of dozen classic mini-scenes of the tradition; there was one in Johnny Canuck and the Last Burlesque, though what it seemed to be saying was "being a burlesque dancer in this period put one at risk of violent exploitation", and Blue Light do a take on this with two female dancers, one in male drag. ] And to be outside in such outfits as you describe in such weather as you describe seems downright silly.
I don't think feminism is about any particular method of achieving its goals.
Few people will say in public that they are in favor of violence against women. Many more will say things of the form "it's her fault that I/he attacked her," where the justification is not immediate self-defense but a claim that the victim was wearing the "wrong" clothing (which can include any garment or combination of garments that exists), or walking alone in public, or not doing what her husband/boyfriend told her to.
Some people think only some kinds of violence really count as real, legitimate, violence. They don't mean "violence against men." They're thinking of scenarios like "mugger attacks rich-looking stranger," or "drug dealer and customer fight about merchandise" or "school bullying escalates from insults to fists to weapons." Possibly even "car thief kills driver," or "rapist attacks university student." I'm sure everyone can fill in stories for each of those headlines, they're common types of violence that can happen to men or women. As you say, nobody approves of such violence. Nobody wants it to happen to men or women.
There are other kinds of violence. "Married couple fight, he breaks her jaw." Or acquaintance rape. There are too many situations where women are threatened or injured, sometimes killed, by relatives, partners, or former partners. Some people say that's different. It's not the same kind of thing, it's just domestic abuse. It doesn't fit any of the comprehensible "violence" scenarios, it doesn't really count. Many people find it easy to imagine themselves being victimized by random violence -- mugged by a stranger, perhaps, or struck by a stray bullet. This pushes them to advocate for police programs that claim to reduce such violence (though whether they work or not is another story.)
Most people find it harder to empathize with domestic abuse and related intimidation, if it's never happened to them. They think they'd know better than to get involved with an abuser in the first place, or they think they would not become dependent. Or they just cringe, thinking: "That's awful. Why did it happen to them? Why didn't they get out in time?" A person doesn't have to be actively in favor of violence, or actively opposed to women's safety, to flinch from trying to connect with an uncomfortable subject. Oh, that's family business, they say, the police should stay out of it.
Why burlesque? I don't like it, myself, but it's not the world's stupidest way to nudge people to confront uncomfortable topics, nor to nudge them towards reconsidering the boundary between private and public. This might have been bad burlesque, of course. I have no idea.
Weather is always unpredictable. But I would have thought May 31 a reasonably good bet for going about lightly clothed. It's not like it's March, or even May 2.
Protests are not events to change the individuals mind, though they can, its primary purpose is to raise public awareness. I am a feminist and burlesque reclaimation is not really an important issue for me. Basically, the violence against women protests are human rights protests. It is meant to highlight that when women suffer violence it is linked to sexuality. Most violence against women in within domestic scenes, therefore not seen as a public issue, but a family/relationship one. These campaigns are to highlight that 'domestic violence' is a crime in the community. This may seem to you, a presumably tertiary educated person, somewhat patronising, yet most police calls to domestic violence situations are not reported, or are treated less harshly than if a stranger attacks a person on the street. It is seen as a woman's or person's responsibility in the relationship to protect themselves, and though to an extent this can be argued, many women too, believe it is their fault or issue if the violence is experienced domestically. On a more global note, women's experiences in war as civilians are often not acknowledged, so rape and pillaging or the 'spoils of war' are regarded as just that - natural occurences overlooked. So, the premises are, 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence. Violence reported or that receive media attention are almost solely public attacks. Women are less able to defend themselves physically in such situations. Women's experiences in war are under-represented or unacknowledged. Few countries have legislation or programs for women escaping violence. I agree with the women + children point you raised, it dumbs down the argument that is far too strong to oversimplify, or rely on sympathy for children in the public eye. I agree with the burlesque thing, sometimes feminist communities lump too many themes into public campaigns and obscures the fundemental arguments altogether. Finally though, violence against women campaigns is meant to make public the unknown statistics of violence perpetrated against women. Protests as the one you have described ask for 1. public awareness 2. political action 3. community support and bonding amongst communities. The burlesque performance sounds bizarre. I hope you witness better planned campaigns in future.