Brad Wall backpedals on bare bodies in licensed venues
PROVINCE by Megan Roth
Last month the Saskatchewan government admitted it made a mistake and promised to fix it.
While there’s widespread agreement that a mistake has been made, there’s some disagreement over whether the error is in the government’s original decision or its recent backpedalling.
On March 25, Premier Brad Wall told reporters that his Saskatchewan Party government will reverse its decision to liberalize rules around exotic dancing. “I believe the government of Saskatchewan made a mistake last year when we allowed licensed strip clubs in the province,” Wall said to media. “I made a mistake, and so I’m announcing today that we’re reversing that decision.”
“Here’s the measure for me,” said Wall: “if by this decision, we have inadvertently allowed for even a marginal increase in the chance for human trafficking, it’s the wrong decision. If by this decision we have allowed, only marginally, for the slimmest potential for a greater foothold for organized crime, then it’s the wrong decision. And basically, that’s the reason.”
Other Saskatchewan political parties supported Wall’s move. Green Party Leader Victor Lau thanked the Premier for the repeal in a press release, saying it shows he listens to voters. “Strip clubs exploit women and have the potential to attract other unwelcome activity into communities where they operate,” Lau said.
The Opposition NDP offered qualified support for the reversal, saying that while liquor law modernization should be on the table, it needed to follow adequate research and consultation — which, the NDP said, the government’s original decision did not.
TL;DR: no strippers for you, Saskatchewan.
Not everyone’s happy about the change. Commentators on social media blasted the government for “moral policing” and telling women what they can and can’t do. A March 26 StarPhoenix editorial essentially called the move an embarrassment that makes Saskatchewan look like an unsophisticated haven for puritanical, self-appointed moral crusaders, and called for legalization and regulation of the adult dancing industry.
The ban doesn’t just impact strippers — burlesque performers are also affected. This change vastly limits both the venues they can use and the audiences that can potentially see them.
Missy Suicide is the co-founder of the burlesque troupe Suicide Girls, scheduled to perform at Saskatoon’s Louis’ Pub on April 12. Suicide says lumping burlesque dancers in with the ‘victimized exotic dancer’ stereotype is the opposite of what burlesque is about.
“Burlesque is the embodiment of power,” says Suicide. “They [the performers] are embracing their unique beauty and are totally in control of themselves,” she says.
The shows are also about self-expression, says Suicide — not inflaming lust and dirty thoughts.
“To paint these women as anything other than the strong, independent and powerful people they are goes against the history of burlesque and minimizes the women performing,” Suicide says.
Arloe Scott is a Regina burlesque dancer who goes by the stage name Trixie Applejaxxx. Scott dances with Prairie Pin-Ups, part of a vaudeville revival collective known as Queen City Cabaret.
“We were so hopeful when the original laws were finally repealed — [so] this just feels like we’ve had the rug pulled out from under us,” says Scott.
Scott says that her troupe is more like a community theatre or dance group that uses elements of nudity in their shows. But depending on the performance, the striptease could involve as little as the removal of one glove.
“Grandmothers come to our shows, for heaven sakes!” Scott says.
“It’s an archaic prohibition-esque law which seeks to control the population by withholding alcohol,” says Scott. “Consenting adults are allowed to consume alcohol. Consenting adults are allowed to watch stripping. Why are the two together outlawed?” Scott says.
To some, it seems more like the government is trying to keep strip clubs from opening in Saskatchewan by keeping them from being profitable.
“I’d like to see a dry strip club open up [right next to a bar hopefully] and have a successful run, quite frankly,” said Scott.
Scott adds that well-known venues such as Globe Theatre are hesitant to book performers who have been forced to “degrade the traditions” of burlesque by changing their routines. By taking out the racy bits, the group is able to book venues at bars and larger licensed venues.
Some might think Saskatchewan deserves more than a watered-down version of this sassy-yet-noble art form. More than that, Scott claims this to be the beginning of a larger issue: theatre censorship.
“This would be a detriment to a vibrant, interesting, and progressive community of arts and culture,” said Scott.
On April 12, the Suicide Girls will be in Saskatoon at Louis’ Pub. It looks like they’ll be the last licensed burlesque show in Saskatchewan for a while, as the new laws will likely take effect shortly after the show.
“We promise to make this show, the last show, the best one we can,” says Suicide.