The Burlesque Hall of Fame holds the principles of diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA) to be central to our existence. As a museum dedicated to telling the stories of mostly women, mostly from working class backgrounds, often gay or bisexual, often trans, often from one or more ethnic and/or racial minority, we hold these principles to be central to what we do and why we do it.
As historians working in a field that is marginal even by the standards of women’s history, we know that we often cannot tell the whole story, but we do our best to make sure we tell as much as we can and that we seek out and integrate new material as we can. When we launched “Not So Hidden Histories”, our exhibition highlighting performers of color, in 2013, the intentional subtext was that there is not enough known about these women. SInce then, we have been able to track down a performer we knew only from her name and photo in 2013, and we have remounted the exhibition with expanded data and new performers. And still the search for more and better information goes on.
We are proud of what we have been able to do with few resources in a profoundly marginalized field, but of course it is not enough. Our society works hard to forget the stories of all burlesque dancers, and even harder when they are from minority ethnicities, when they grow older, when they are mentally or physically disabled, when they are gay, when they are trans. We must continue to find and celebrate the stories of performers who have been lost to history because of their race, their sexuality, their age, their disability, and other sources of unfair discrimination.
We are also proud that through improving our selection and judging processes we have been able to increase the diversity and representation on the BHoF Weekender stage and among our title-holders. But of course it is not enough. As part of a racist and patriarchal society, the burlesque world, unfortunately, is not free from prejudice at all levels, and puts barriers to participation by minority performers, performers whose bodies do not approximate cultural beauty standards, older performers, performers with disabilities, performers who are trans, neurally atypical performers, and others. We must continue to inspire and celebrate performers who are often invisible in our performance communities due to their race, their sexual identities, their age, their disability, their neural atypicality, or any other source of unfair discrimination.
Due to our position as holders of burlesque’s history and gatekeepers of burlesque’s most coveted showcase, the Burlesque Hall of Fame has a responsibility to set an example in how we approach DEIA issues in our programming and in our organizational makeup. As such, we are committed to:
- Incorporating diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility, content explicitly into our primary exhibition and developing ongoing programming addressing DEIA topics in burlesque history and in the present.
- Considering questions of diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and equity in all our programming choices, including the tools and methods we use to present programs.
- Developing programs specifically intended to highlight and amplify under-represented voices and perspectives.
- Actively seeking out and cultivating a diverse field of candidates for staff positions, volunteer positions, Weekender production roles, consulting roles, and participation on our community council and on our board.
- Ensuring every part of our competition champions DEIA principles, from the application to the representation on stage to the titles of the awards themselves.
- Establishing and maintaining a BIPOC committee to inform and advise the board.
- Providing DEIA training to our board and making DEIA considerations a regular part of the agenda.
- Providing diversity and bias training to our staff.
- Centering diversity, inclusion, accessibility, and equitability when planning and executing the annual Weekender and any other showcases throughout the year.
- Integrating DEIA concerns into our strategic planning and vision statement to ensure that DEIA principles are not just part of how we do things but are a core part of what we do.
- Auditing our vendors for their commitment to DEIA and wherever possible choosing or switching to vendors with a demonstrated commitment to DEIA principles, with preference for vendors led by women, BIPOC persons, LGBTQIA+ persons, and/or persons with disabilities.
- Developing finding guides and other tools for greater on-site accessibility, and using online programming to make more of what we do accessible to remote audiences.
- Keeping prices for programming as low as possible and maintaining a steady flow of free and low-cost options, where possible offering community pricing options and counting on our community to support as well as they can.
- Developing better channels for feedback from stakeholders regarding DEIA and other issues.
We understand that diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility are not “goals” we “attain”, they are principles that must actively guide us in all our decision-making processes. We will strive to find areas of improvement in our practices and continually re-evaluate how our commitment to these practices can be better met. And while we expect to make mistakes occasionally, we will do our utmost to accept criticism with grace and humility, and to correct ourselves in the same spirit.