Never Stifle an Artist

What is so scary about sexuality? That is a question I don’t think about that often living in Jersey City. You get all kinds of characters walking down the street, and when summer comes layers of clothes reveal sexy bodies doing everything from exercising to pushing the carriages with their kids. A recent development here in Jersey City forced me to ask this question again of such a progressive city.

While getting on the train, I flipped through my Facebook and saw a post by Lillian Bustle, a local burlesque performer. She was shutting down her show today at FM because of a letter from the city that ill-defined her art. The letter says:

“Chapter 157.3 of the Code prohibits obscene entertainment. Obscene material is defined under chapter 257.4[sic] as follows:

..”Any display of a specified anatomical area contained in a live performance which by means of posing emits sensuality with sufficient impact to concentrate prurient interest on the area or activity…”

(Excerpt taken from Lillian Bustle’s Facebook post).

The thing that bothered me the most about this was honestly just the fact I had seen ads for her show for the past two years throughout the downtown area. My friends have worked with her on shows, and even more of my friends have been present for them. I read the message and a form of shock came over me as to not exactly knowing how to deal with it.

I, unluckily, have not been available during any of her shows. They seem to fall on Wednesdays or Saturdays, days that I have had to work. But, burlesque has been an art form my best friend back in South Dakota has been pushing me to see since I moved here six years ago. Lillian herself promotes the body positivity that my friend has done in South Dakota making her a bit of an at a distance reminder of my best friend.

Speaking of South Dakota, this is the same kind of thing I know happens in even the most democratic of counties. My old place of work, the Brookings Book Company, for a very short time was a place called Peelers. It was a strip club. The city of Brookings took to the laws and began to push in on the establishment until it ran it out of business. It’s unfathomable to me that such a thing could be happening in the city I now call my home.

I cannot do much. I don’t know the mayors office. I don’t know anyone at all in office. What I can do is put the question out there? What is so scary about sexuality? What bothers people so much about a woman performing a dance and promoting a positive body outlook that many people in our country need? We in Jersey City are promoters of art, culture, sexuality, and diversity. It’s what we’re being told by the news and by the country. It’s what we know deep in our hearts to be true, but here are the same people telling us we aren’t. It’s moments like this we need to fight back however we can. I have my words. I have my passion. And I have my friends that I’ve brought in help where they can.

Art should never be stifled, especially arts such as Lillian’s the better the world promoting positivity and beauty. When we let that happen, we’d be losing what makes our community so beautiful. So we don’t. However we can, we fight.

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