What are your feelings about drag?
I am somewhat conflicted by the various forms of drag in that:
1 – It is part of LGBT heritage but is it past its ‘sell by date’?
2 – Does it parody women negatively?
3 – Does it have a negative effect on Trans women?
4 – All these yet it can be used to challenge gender stereotypes. (Thinking Conchita Wurst and 1970’s Gay Liberation Front political drag)
5 – In non western cultures does drag, as westerners know it exist?
Great question! I don’t know where to start with this really.
When was the first time I even saw drag? Hmm, maybe at uni? I mean up close and personal it has to be uni at one of the local gay bars. Before and during my initial time at university I would consider myself to be drag-phobic. Is that even a word? It sure as heck is a thing though because, you know, I was. It made me very uncomfortable and not because of the whole men dressing/acting as stereotyped women and the gender-bending nature of it all but rather something which you alluded to in your question about it parodying women negatively. Quite often, I find drag queens can be really brash and brazen and really quite sexist towards women and that is a real problem for me. We get that every day of our lives in the first damn place because of patriarchy and sexism and we sure as heck don’t need it from men impersonating women too.
That paragraph seems to be a mix of what I used to believe and what I still think now so let me break it down properly.
Did you know it was a drag queen who started the Stonewall Riots? Marsha P. Johnson. She was the first person to throw a brick at the police starting a full scale riot as a defence because of the police’s increasing brutality against the LGBTQIA community in New York. Enough was enough and they fought back. Hard. She was one of the most well-known drag artists of her time and, wow, was she quite something! Her work in transgender rights activism during a time when it was a real danger being a person of colour (still is to be honest – racism, white supremacy) is nothing short of being admirable.
I consider drag to be a political protest. An act which says fuck gender stereotypes and fuck society’s heteronormativity and, you know what, fuck patriarchy too. I still have my previous reservation about some drag artists using gender binary stereotyping and especially sexism in their acts but this is not indicative of all drag performers. I mean, check Conchita Wurst – she smashed Eurovision and brought draw performing to a new heights in the existing LGBTQIA friendly or veering Eurovision and I have so much love and respect for her. I digress though. Moving away from her and her performance, the politics of it alone were incredible and her winning certainly has set the tone of the direction people in Europe want to take with equality and liberation even with the existence of oppressive governments. A small token of ‘the people have spoken’, you know?
In terms of other cultures and does drag exist in them? Drag isn’t a Western thing by any stretch of the imagination. My heritage is in Pakistan and there is a legal recognition of the third gender. While this isn’t drag it is a recognition, a legal recognition of alternative genders and a move away from heteronomativity and the recognition of other gender-based identities.
Talking about drag specifically in non-Western cultures, the first person I thought of was Asifa Lahore. She did an amazing crowd-funded political music video. The song Tum Hi Ho from the Bollywood movie Aashiqui 2 was one of the most popular songs of last year.
Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4GgQNCbbYA
As a side note, I even watched it with my mum and while she didn’t get that Asif and Asifa were the same person in the video initially she understood what the music video was about and took the time to listen to it. I think she liked the fact that it was personal to her in terms of the South Asian aspect – specifically, Pakistani.
Here’s a background article from when Asifa was crowd-funding and raising awareness for her project: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/19/asifa-lahore-drag-queen_n_4302596.html
Thank you for your question! 🙂
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