The release of new film Suffragette has shown how the discourse around feminism remains marked today.
Now, a century after the suffragette stage, another kind of independent female group hopes to tackle the pole-mic issue through their latest project, The Art of Stripping.
The East London Stripper Collective (ELSC), a group of striptease dancers based in East London, will shine a spotlight on their saucy spectacle with an exhibit at the Red Gallery in Shoreditch from October 22.
Stacey Clare, the co-founder of ELSC, explained: “Several members of the collective are practising artists with success as photographers and designers. We thought why not show off our work instead of showing off our bodies as usual.”
In a case of art mimicking life, the showcase promises to be an interactive affair, with a day of pole dance work shops and a ‘Stripper Wear Fair’, where strippers and members of the public can sell or trade costumes.
But there is a serious message behind the playful event, which is the first exposition of its kind in London. Organisers aim to challenge the lack of public understanding of the art and aesthetic of their universe.
“I think strippers still exist in the public imagination as victims” said Clare.
She continued: “When you get identified as a victim by wider society then suddenly you lose your autonomy and find that all sorts of decisions and discussions go on about you above your head.”
Ultimately, the feisty females hope to seduce curious spectators into being educated about the lack of job protection, as Clare describes current legislation as “not fit for purpose”, whilst club bosses “run their businesses like personal fiefdoms”.
“Working conditions within the industry are pretty poor, we don’t have any rights as workers, our jobs are not protected and we have no contracts of services” said Clare, who recently presented a TEDx talk, “The Ethical Stripper”, discussing the “exploitative” nature of a shrinking industry.
Encouraging debate for reforms, the event will host an academic symposium as a new platform for these women’s voices, and offer expert lectures on issues of employment rights, sexuality, and bodies, as well as a film night, featuring dancers from the area.
“We’re proud of our career choices, and we want our audience to share in our excitement and enthusiasm for what we do.”
The ELSC’s The Art of Stripping will run for ten days between October 22-30.
by Alex Jackson