Cosmetic and politics

Roller derby players and New-Burlesque cabaret performers

New-Burlesque cabaret performers and Roller Derby players share common fields of resistance and both question the role of genre’s performativity in establishing new forms of domination. Successively promoting physical performance and creativity, valorizing alternately political commitment or virtuosity, these sub-cultural practices are arenas for empowerment and protest. Roller Derby and the New-Burlesque cabaret have the ambition to reveal the diversity of female identities. Their practices are in fact part of a wide network of sociological mutations and revindications that ranges from the liberalization of body representations to the exhibition of the intimate sphere, including self-construction and gender theories.


Whatever its form: poetic, satirical, or kitsch, New-Burlesque always questions the appearance and place reserved for women in society. The performers constitute themselves as objects of desire, reinterpret female figures shaped by the unconscious and popular culture while advocating a subversion of androcentric normativities. It is no longer a question of submitting to the norms of a femininity placed under the aegis of a dominant male gaze, of matching one’s beauty standards but rather not to forget the Italian origin of the Burlesque name (burlare) which means to flout, mock. For such reason, New Burlesque artists intend to resist the standards orchestrated by men while returning to a form of glamor that would not be limited to the aesthetic criteria of the body, but would denounce in a satirical way, even transgressive one, our visual habits. The satirical nudity offered by the New Burlesque cabaret is also that of our societies and their faults. Extravagant costumes and outrageous makeup are actually the vectors of a committed speech.


Roller Derby belongs to these new physical activities, sometimes called “post-sport”, whose ambition is to let the participants’ personality express itself while promoting the construction of an alternative identity. The use of pseudonyms and the choice of outfits are therefore at the heart of the movement. Bloody Spark, Trash Putin, Nana Fatale… in the world of Roller Derby, it is necessary to create a borrowed identity inspired by her temperament and to deflect the stereotypes of hegemonic femininity. Extreme competitiveness, dedication and the power of physical commitment are required qualities. To join a Roller Derby team is to join a network of peers and share common values. It is to experience assignments traditionally reserved for men and stigmatized by many women. It is to express one’s attraction to a feminine sport in which grace and agility are not the key words.