I was just kidding about turning I Blame the Patriarchy into an empty vessel of YouTube-itude, but that did not stop veteran blamer B. Dagger Lee from sending in the vid below. It is a strip-tease, and therefore is not “work-safe,” which is a phrase one applies, as I understand it, to web pages that do not contain the Lord’s Prayer. Not that you really need to know whether the video is work-safe; apparently all corporate and corporatesque networks block I Blame the Patriarchy as a matter of course.
Anyhow, if you would do me the favor of watching the video before reading the rest of this post I would be greatly obliged. I ask this to ensure the — I dunno — purity of your response to it (quiz follows). If you aren’t going to watch it, fine. Go have a sandwich while the rest of us enjoy some good old-fashioned entertainment, you old prude!
Quoth BDL on the subject of the video: “I think I’ve found a strip performance that subverts the patriarchy. Okay, I exaggerate, but I think it pokes at it a little.”
I don’t want to tip the taco cart in advance or anything, and I may be wrong, but I predict that old BDL is about to catch it a little. Ah well, she brings it on herself.
So, onward: What you may not know about the stripper is this: she is London lesbo performance artist Ursula Martinez. Here is her one-sheet:
She sets fire to her tits, interrogates her parents, re-defines class, blurs fiction with reality, cures homosexuals, gives birth to penises, tells autobiographical stories, deconstructs performance and sings South London suburban flamenco – from high brow to low brow, from spectacle to confessional, from live art to light entertainment, Ursula Martinez produces solo and collaborative performance for theatre, site-specific, installation, cabaret, night club, film, television…… birthdays, weddings and Barmitzvahs!
And now for the quiz: does a previous apprehension of the context of this video, i.e. that Martinez is a “lesbian performance artist” with a significant body of subversive work under her garter belt, rather than a garden-variety exploited woman, in any way alter the meaning of her strip-tease? I mean, if you didn’t know anything about her artsy lesbo curriculum vitae prior to watching, would there have popped into your astute blaming head the slightest inkling that Martinez is subverting patriarchy? Does the fact that it is a comedic performance impart philosophic value sufficient to derail the patriarchally-programmed response — by which I mean prurience — to a naked woman pulling objects out of her vagina onstage? Does Martinez, in fact, poke at it a little?
My own view is that, out of context, this video is sexploitation. In context, it is sexploitation.
I’m not a big proponent of the “artist’s intent” school of art criticism.
I don’t presume to know Martinez’s intent, but supposing, as BDL does, that she aspires to a send-up of raunch culture by riffing on its beloved burlesque, she doesn’t quite succeed. Granted, there is something refreshingly — and sort of weirdly — un-pornulational about this performance, but in the end she turns her vagina into a punch line, just like a long line of misogynist pigs before her. As 20th century sexist gasbag Jean-Paul Sartre wittily opined in Being and Nothingness, “The obscenity of the female sex is that of everything that gapes open.”
Under the auspices of patriarchy, female onstage-ical nudity, comical or not, performance art or not, cannot overcome the woman-hating cultural conditions, so sweetly described by Sartre, that have been placed on it. Indeed, the lone comment (as of this writing) on Martinez’s YouTube page suggests that the viewer has been unable to distinguish between naked strip-tease performance art and pornography:
“is she a psycho, cause only a psycho woman can get naked in front of all that people [sic].”
I assert that the commenter lacks such fine discerning sensibilities because in our culture there is no difference between women, psychosis, and, of course, obscenity.