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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sexual Abuse Centre Defend Burlesque Fundraiser

Amber TopazOrganizers of a fundraising show for a leading sex-abuse charity have defended plans for a burlesque performer to appear at the event.

The Rape Crisis & Sexual Abuse Centre, which provides counseling and support to the survivors of sex attacks, has come under fire for using a near-naked dancer as part of its line up for a fundraising concert to mark International Women's Day.

The centre has defended its decision to feature a burlesque showgirl against claims that it is reinforcing the notion that women are sex objects and said the decision to book Amber Topaz is part of a celebration of women.

Eileen Calder, co-director of the centre, said: “Women are taking back their sexuality in this day and age and there is a vast difference between erotica and pornography.

“We don’t exist to promote prudishness. I believe women are entitled to be sexual beings and feel comfortable in their sexuality. Our femininity is not something we should be ashamed of.

“We would like to extend our thanks to all the performers at the International Women’s Day cabaret for their generosity and their time. From belly-dancers to burlesque, cabaret to swing and disco to dance – we welcome talent from all walks of life.”

Amber Topaz will join a line up of other acts, including Living TV Rehab star and former X-Factor finalist Rowetta, I’d Do Anything singers Rachel Tucker and Niamh Perry, as well as performances from top swing singer James Huish and a special live set from international DJ and music producer Micky Modelle at Queen’s University Students Union on Sunday.

Concerns have been raised about the suitability of an appearance of Amber Topaz — her website has pictures of her topless with tassels on her nipples, although the Rape & Crisis Centre has stated that her performance at their fundraising will not include nudity.

Feminist writer and former Queen’s University academic Fionola Meredith has been quoted as saying: “The Rape Crisis Centre is a great cause and it deserves all the support and fundraising it can get.

“But engaging a burlesque star as part of the International Women’s Day cabaret is a mistake and one that is in rather bad taste.

“Having a half-naked dancer prancing around provocatively in leopardskin stockings and bra simply reinforces the idea women are first and foremost sexual objects.”

Over the next week, a whole host of other performers will be announced for the marathon event starting at 7.30pm at the Speakeasy in Queen’s Students Union. These will include performance arts, dance, acrobatics and more singers.

John Ferguson of Crew Management, which is managing the event, said: “I was approached by the Rape Crisis Trust who were set up late last year to raise vital funds for the Rape Crisis Centre.

“Each month staff and volunteers at the Rape Crisis Centre battle against an ongoing funding crisis to keep their helpline open. We wanted to put on an event that brought the best of female talent together a variety of other performances to give a night of entertainment for everyone.

“We decided that we wanted to also use the event to celebrate the work of the centre and also to celebrate International Women’s Day which this year will mark 27 years since the organization opened its doors in 1982.”

Tickets for the event are available from Ticketmaster.

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