An Open Letter to Artshub re: Claims of Sexism

Recently, an Artshub reviewer came to my latest show at Melbourne venue The Toff in Town where my band The Freed Radicals and I were launching our new album “Birthing the Sky Birthing the Sea”. Whilst the majority of the review was wonderful, the reviewer went on to make extraordinary claims that were so incredibly offensive, I had to write a response. When someone accuses you of being sexist, and you have worked hard at being an outspoken feminist, it’s important to answer back. I understand that Artshub as an organisation didn’t write it, but that they chose to publish it online without an invitation to discuss it means that they are in some way complicit in the reviewers opinions. You can read the original review here.


Dear Artshub,

I am writing to you in regards to the review recently published about my Melbourne show at The Toff in Town by reviewer “Evie”. Having received many reviews over the years, I am normally entirely fine letting that reviewer write about their experience of my show without feeling a need to respond regardless of whether the review is positive, negative or somewhere in-between.  However, in this instance, a response is absolutely necessary.

Evie is entirely entitled to her opinion of the show, but to suggest my work in any way “…demonstrated and reiterated the sexual objectification of women” is utterly and completely ridiculous, showing a complete disregard for context and a huge misunderstanding of content. Her statement is offensive in the highest regard considering much of my work strives to educate the greater public about feminism and the importance of female equality and empowerment.  

I have a history of working with women who express themselves through movement – from the inimitable Betty Grumble aka Emma Maye Gibson to the well-known dancer and choreographer Paea Leach and many other contemporary and burlesque dancers. 

My ethos as a woman who works with women, is to allow those women to interpret my work in whatever way they see fit – if this includes removing their clothes and “dance[ing] erotically with a chair, slapping [their] buttocks and bending over– actions that are clearly similar to those at a strip bar”, that is their artistic prerogative. 

I am not embarrassed or offended by the female form – and I feel quite able to handle a woman spanking her own bottom and even dare I say it: bending over. Nor am I offended by female artists who choose to manifest the repressed and ‘taboo’ subject of female desire and sexuality through their choice of movements. 

What sort of feminist would I be if I were to dictate to a woman how they should utilise their bodies? What sort of feminist would I be if I were to dictate how much flesh they should or shouldn’t show? What their reclamation of their sexuality should look like?

I would like to ask Evie how her views differ from say, a man from a purportedly conservative religion? I’m curious to know Evie’s views on the Hijab – I suppose I should also tell my hijab wearing friends to uncover too? Does Evie know the exact amount of cover required for true liberation?

Furthermore, so what if the actions used “are clearly like those at a strip bar?” What is the suggestion there? That the sex workers I know who choose to be strippers are somehow not in control of their own sexuality? That as their feminist friend I should tell them, regardless of their own articulated experiences of positivity and empowerment, they’re actually being oppressed? 

Evie’s incredibly naive and frankly extremely outdated views on feminism may come from a well intentioned place, but it completely silences the experiences of women who choose to work in these industries, who have taken control of these work places, their working conditions and pay rates and use these industries in ways they choose to – including the porn industry which is seeing a large number of women taking over directing and production roles, creating beautiful, hot and empowered porn. My response to Evie is that the patriarchy objectifies women, not women choosing to empower themselves in these environments.

In addition to this, Evie chooses to completely ignore the fact that burlesque is often a celebration of women’s diverse bodies – there are whole events dedicated to this, with creative collectives endeavouring to create spaces of inclusion, not exclusion. Places where women’s naked forms are on display because those women choose it as a form of expression and the audience understands they are witnesses to that empowerment, not complicit in objectifying women who are not self determining. Miss Friby aka Elizabeth Dawson-Smith is a professional burlesque dancer and showgirl. She has built her whole career on expressing herself through movement, dance and similar creative forms. Is Evie suggesting that her whole career is the antithesis of feminism? When I asked Elizabeth for a response to Evie’s review she responded: “I’m glad that this author picked up on the fact that I was dancing dirty to the lyrics ‘dancing dirty’, I was worried it wouldn’t come across.” Of course, she’s being sarcastic and I don’t blame her – Evie’s review is verging on the absurd.  

The offending piece in question “The Meeting” is off my most recent album with my band The Freed Radicals, “Birthing the Sky Birthing the Sea”. The track is about how I met my current partner on a dance floor in London and how she actively seduced me through the movement of her body. The lyrics (below) should paint a picture of queer love and sex. Ms Fribys movements help to illustrate sexual attraction between two women – an instance where the partriachal gaze is utterly absent. Further, the piece is a celebration of the equality of seduction – equal attraction. I believe love between two women is an incredible thing worth celebrating. Sex is sexy, especially when written about by a woman.

Can Evie indicate where in the song I have apparently suggested “it is acceptable to treat woman (sic) as an object of sexual pleasure”? What I have written about is two women enjoying sex – so who is being objectified? There is no imbalance of power here, all involved are consenting women – contrary to Evie’s statement that it “is not ‘empowering,’ instead, it is sexism. This has become reproduced in Candy’s show without much consideration”. This statement is the most offensive part of her entire review – everything I do is done with absolute consideration. Every word I write and sing and perform and carry within me comes from a place of conscious consideration. Every nuanced moment, every naked breath, every interaction between every female on stage is a declaration of feminism. Everything I have read, experienced, spoken about with other women, infuses my work – everything is considered, hashed out, tested, reworked so that the message is one of strength, empowerment and truth. 

What saddens me, more than anything, is that Evie has taken something beautiful, queer, celebratory and sexy and turned it into a terrible, dirty, accusatory and completely misunderstood interpretation that undermines all the power we as a collective of fierce women, were displaying on stage. Let me be clear once more – love and sex between two consenting women, is sexy. Burlesque, stripping and any other form of sex work by consenting women is empowered. It is my absolute pleasure to proclaim this to the world through my work and the women I collaborate with. That Evie and by association, Artshub, believe this to be untrue, is a hard knock for feminism in the arts in Australia, but we all push on and we will keep creating work which stimulates dialogue and challenges the ideas of people stuck in the past and unable to see power when it’s shaking its bare rump right in front of them. 

Please note, I will be publishing this letter online as an open response to the review published by Artshub. As an activist, staunch feminist and passionate creator of art, I believe it is my responsibility to hold organisations and individuals responsible for the content they put out – in the same way I must be held responsible. I understand this will now jeopardise any future support Artshub may have been willing to offer editorially but I must strive for integrity and though I am a fallible human, it is important that I always do as I say.  

With the utmost peace and respect,

Candy Royalle



“The Meeting” – Candy Royalle 

From the album “Birthing the Sky Birthing the Sea” 

Eye’s lock across a dance floor

Body moving double time

you pull close smile then grind

we’re climbing rhythms the DJ is giving

no beats missing

nowhere to hide

no denying ego

enough to make

the approach easy

eyes down briefly

Desire makes me unsteady

Desperate to lay hands already

heady pheromones coursing

Mouths meet quickly

Bodies pressed together

feathered breath on necks

Sex whispered in the physical

Expectations of a one night stand

eyes demand attention

swimming in the tension

waiting for the question

intensions made clear

invitation incoming

drumming desire against chest

rest easy this will be pleasing

teasing tongues talk and taste

hasten to the taxi

waiting for a fare

this affair speeding up

backseat fumbling

tumbling deeper

struggling against clothes

straining reigning in the want

regaining composure

the only closure clothes

on the floor

evading nothing

drugs make us trusting

busting through facades

and fears we’re both clear

that tonight could be anything


busting through facades

and fears we’re both clear

that tonight could be anything




Dance it dirty

flirting heavy

play my body

I’ll play yours

it’s hottest when we’re sweating

love out our pores



Bodies pressed together in bed

skating landscapes wet

Blood come sweat smears

Skin seeking something

Deeper than a moment

chosen to reveal

parts broken

potent stronger than an omen

open to something bigger

than we’ve chosen

focused on pleasure

as a measure of whether

we make each other better

I’m not leaving

Fall asleep heaving

Thumping hearts through rib cages

it abates the constant rage

strange we’re so connected

unexpected where we’re headed

accepting I’m unprotected

fall asleep dreaming waking

Languid loving in the afternoon

another night or too

Lost in the beauty of connection

evident affection

projections of potential

who wants to be alone

there’s no view

through that window

A letter left on a pillow

Planting seeds of more wanting

More wanting

It doesn’t waver

More wanting

Every day

more wanting

This collision occurred

so we’d be stirred beyond words

safety vision blurred

Time to take the risk

I don’t care if I get hurt

it’s just nice to be seen and heard



Dance it dirty

flirting heavy

play my body

I’ll play yours

it’s hottest when we’re sweating

love out our pores


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