Why has drag escaped critique from feminists and the LGBTQ community?

I don’t intentionally go to many drag shows. Not as a political or even personal decision — in fact, it’s not really something I’ve thought about all that much. I suppose that form of entertainment simply has never interested me. That said, it’s been around for so many years that these performances are practically mainstream — many a documentary has been made about drag culture and drag queens and drag performances are often a part of gay/queer nights, fundraisers, and other events. It’s pretty impossible to have missed drag. But because it isn’t very much a part of my world, I think it’s escaped my radar in terms of a feminist analysis.

The other night I was at a bar for a gay night and a portion of the evening featured drag queens. As I watched, I was struck by how accepted drag is by liberals and progressives — people who will, without a second thought, call out things like blackface and yellowface, which are understood by most (frustratingly there are some who continue to need education on why blackface isn’t funny or ok) to be racist.

Why is drag any different? Really, I’m asking. It’s possible I’m missing something here…

To me it seems equivalent to cultural appropriation or the way in which white people have mocked black people, Asian people, Indigenous people, and pretty much every other race/ethnicity that isn’t theirs, under the guise of “performance” or “satire.” Why is it cute or funny or entertaining for men to mock women via drag? Why is it not considered to be a form of cultural appropriation, but with regard to gender? Why have progressives and mainstream feminists avoided critique of these performances, in large part?

I imagine that the defense of drag would include arguments that say this performance of femininity is so exaggerated that it doesn’t mock women so much as it mocks a cartoonish version of extreme femininity, but I’m unconvinced that turning women into extreme, cartoonish charicatures that are to be mocked is particularly progressive — rather, it feels regressive to me. There must be a reason women don’t do this to men — turning masculinity into entertainment or a joke, that is.

Why is it funny for men to dress up as women and not for women to dress up as men? There’s something about this performance that says that femininity and, in turn, women, are a joke (just like white people dressing up as “Indians” for Halloween turn Indigenous peoples and cultures into a joke or simply a costume one can put on or take off at will). If only being a woman was simply a costume one could take off…

Last year, a drag queen named Daytona Bitch was fired from a Toronto Pride event for a blackface performance in which, as Laura Kane reports, “she dressed up as Miss Cleo, a kitschy telephone psychic from the late ‘90s, complete with black face paint.”

Daytona Bitch, in blackface.
Daytona Bitch, in blackface.

“After tweeting photos of the costume, she received several outraged responses on social media from members of the LGBTQ community.” And rightly so. But where is the LGBTQ community on drag? Why is it understood that the appropriation of a marginalized ethnicity, race or culture is facilitated by white privilege and that it’s offensive, but not that the same arguments could be applied to a group of men (who benefit from male privilege) who appropriate femininity as a form of entertainment?

In a 2006 paper, entitled “Imitating Others As Control: Is Drag Sexist/Racist?” Kirsten Anderberg writes:

When men dress in drag and supposedly imitate women, it is most often very sexist in a remarkably similar way to the whites imitating racial minorities… All the things I have shunned as part of the ancient ‘cult of womanhood,’ all the superficial, commercialized, and fake aspects of ‘femininity’ that I have fought to be freed from, these men were embracing as their ‘womanhood!’ Tons of make up, huge dyed bouffant hair-dos, binding lingerie, heels, nylons, shaving…and these men in drag who were supposedly acting like women, also acted giddy, stupid, shallow…it is odd to me that this could be seen as anything but blatant sexism.

While there have been the odd critique here and there, I’ve seen little from mainstream feminism or from the LGTBQ community about the sexism of drag. In a post from back in 2011 called “Is drag sexist,” Kelly Kleiman asks: “Why do we despise performance in blackface and celebrate performance in drag? Is blackface considered an insult and drag a joke because of some inherent difference between them, or because African-Americans won’t tolerate ridicule while the women’s movement is still trying to prove we have a sense of humor?”

And I can’t help but wonder the same thing. Feminists are routinely accused of being “no fun,” having no sense of humour, and generally hating everything. We try very hard, as women, to be “in on the joke.” We pretend to like porn, join in on rape chants, laugh at rape jokes, and self-objectify, claiming that we like and feel empowered by our own oppression — we’re owning it, and therefore it’s ok. Wishful postfeminism, I’d call it.

Kleiman writes: “There was ridicule of African-Americans. ‘Look how silly they are! But look how they laugh, and doesn’t that prove they’re happy in the confinement in which we’ve placed them?’ Likewise, men who dress up as women and adopt stereotyped feminine behaviors are comical because of their stereotyped behavior, and the inference the audience is encouraged to draw is not that stereotypes are comical but that women are.”

Beyond that, it feels as though drag queens are given free reign to insult women and adopt over-the-top sexist language (bitch, ho, etc.) and objectified depictions of women in ways that women don’t even get away with, within a feminist context.


After watching a documentary about the famous drag queen, Divine, Julie Bindel wrote: “He played, according to his manager, female characters who were ‘trash’, ‘filth’ and ‘obscenity in bucket loads.’ But Divine was born into a conservative, middle-class family and played on nasty stereotypes of trailer trash women to get a laugh. In his films Divine called his female co-stars ‘sluts.'”

So a privileged male is permitted to mock women and use sexist, derogatory language because, what? “Performance art?” “Humour?” Help me out here…

To be clear, I don’t think that drag queens are all intentionally working to subordinate women (but who knows, I’ve never asked any), nor do I think your enjoyment of drag performances (if you do indeed enjoy them) make you a necessarily Bad and Wrong, misogynist person. But I do think that the unwillingness of the LGTBQ community and mainstream feminism to talk about drag as something that is no more acceptable than any other kind of cultural appropriation or than white people’s efforts to turn ethnicity and race into a stereotype and a joke, is significant.

After Daytona Bitch was fired, Toronto Prides’ executive director Kevin Beaulieu said about the performance: “It doesn’t meet our mission or our mandate, which is to celebrate the full diversity of Toronto’s LGBTQ community.” The statement begs the question: where are women in that “celebration” of “diversity?” Do we matter at all? Or are we just a joke?

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • morag

    Thank you for this! This is what drag queens and transwomen always fail to understand: femininity isn’t a fun costume that us women are sooo lucky to be able to take on and off. Femininity doesn’t reflect femaleness, in fact it’s like being forced to wear chains. Women who fail to be appropriateley feminine are tortured and killed around the world. This shit kills women, but who cares about butch lesbians when it’s much more fun to think lipstick is feminist?

    It’s the ultimate expression of privilege to say he wants to be seen as a “woman,” when most females would give up everything to be regarded as human beings.

    • Grace

      Drag queens are NOT the same as trans women.

      • Meghan Murphy

        I was under the same impression and, oddly, I was just informed on Twitter that many drag queens identify as women and am confused now. https://twitter.com/Chris_arnade/status/459772246027161600

        • Jennifer “Renee” Bernard

          Don’t be confused. It is all still sexual dysfunction. Your blog is still precise. Whether drag or trans woman, the truth remains the same; women are being portrayed as trashy, slutty, and vulgar.

          • Gus

            Drag is not a sexual dysfunction. It’s an art form. Then again, neither is transexuality.

          • http://mmmariguana.wordpress.com mmmariguana

            There’s no business like show business.

          • Mrs Mardler

            Drag acts have their origin in the repression of women. When The Globe’s actors played female parts it was because women were not permitted to perform on stage. When men dressed as women in pantomime or variety the object was almost always one of ridicule.Men were dressing as women to make a joke or a performance but women did not have the right to divorce or over their own property or a vote. Drag acts cannot be seen as anything but offensive to women. Transvestism is another matter, I dont give a damn how people dress or their sexuality, I live in jeans and work wear for practical reasons but am a straight old woman. I dont care if a bloke wears a frock and make up. But what I am not prepared to accept is him calling himself a woman or creating a vicious parody of woman hood and making women look absurd.Anymore than I want to see willowy androgynous transvestites or trans women distorting the perception of the body form of real women. I have this gut feeling that the male gay community is at the vanguard of a broadening of sexual and gender assignment freedoms for males which may be misogynist and may erode equality for women. When the media is now so full of how anyone can become a women, when women are being labelled as “biological ” or cis to differentiate them from men who have made themselves look like women-seems to me the only winners are men as usual. I wish no one any harm and everyone deserves respect, but seems to me there is no more respect for women than there was in the 16th C.

          • Dan

            Jennifer “Renee” Bernard,

            Wikipedia defines sexual dysfunction as follows in the first paragraph:

            “Sexual dysfunction or sexual malfunction is difficulty experienced by an individual or a couple during any stage of a normal sexual activity, including physical pleasure, desire, preference, arousal or orgasm. According to the DSM-5, sexual dysfunction requires a person to feel extreme distress and interpersonal strain for a minimum of 6 months (excluding substance or medication-induced sexual dysfunction). Sexual dysfunctions can have a profound impact on an individual’s perceived quality of sexual life.”

            Where did you get your degree in psychology or psychiatry? Drag queens, as posted numerous times correctly under this article, are not being such based on distressing sexual feelings as described by Wikipedia. A better example of sexual dysfunction is when someone has sexual problems regarding the actual act of having sex. This act is not occurring onstage during a drag performance, or the performer would be banned from the venue and arrested for indecent conduct.

            But if you do indeed have experience in the private bedroom with a significant number of drag queens to form a cogent opinion on their sex life and how distressing it has been to them for at least six months excluding substance or medication-induced sexual dysfunction, then please, do tell so that your opinion can have at least minimal weight.

          • lizor

            Oh look everyone! A man came in to explain How Things Are to us all and How We’re Discussing Things Wrong! How cool is that? I’ve never seen a dude do this before, like ever…

            I wish.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I, for one, am grateful to better understand what we’re all talking about and how we should actually be thinking about and discussing our own oppression.

          • Kendra Robinson

            Drag Queens are not representing women they are representing themselves.

          • amongster

            Cool, then those men can shut the fuck up about “celebrating womanhood” if they are actually just celebrating themselves and giving a shit about how women feel. If you like to perfom femininity as a male, go ahead, but don’t talk like femininity is something inherent to women.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Exactly, @amongster

          • http://blasphemoushomemaker.blogspot.com/ The Blasphemous Homemaker

            Being a transwoman is NOT a sexual dysfunction. There are many different hormones and chemicals in our bodies that determine sex and biology, and it is very valid to have an internal makeup that does not match your outward genitals. Discrediting the transgender experience is not just wrong, it’s cruel, as they already experience tremendous obstacles and discrimination in our culture. Please research the issue further and become educated.

          • Missfit

            Whatever outward genitals you have, they are the results of your biology, hormones and chemicals, and whatever internal makeup you have matches your genitals; how could it not? On what basis? The only reason a person can come to a different conclusion is by believing that certain qualities are strictly to be found in people with a specific type of genitals.

          • jack brody

            While this statement seems correct it is only partially correct. It is in fact possible that, physically speaking, that the biology and associated homones develop the body with a certain sexual appearence but fail to fully develop the associated hormonal organs to fully support a distint gender. My sense that any discussion of the developmental biology is taboo, as is any discussion as to why sexual identity may result in anything other then physical the gender physically attributes. Instead, there seems to be a “this is what it is!” now lets be supportive. Finding a reason as to why someone should find themselves identifying with an opposite gender then their physical attributes tends to be looked upon as identifying abnormality and being unsupportive or creating a dialogue of exclusiveness.

          • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

            Can you tell me which “associated hormonal organs […] fully support a distint gender” that are not part of “the body” as you refer to it in the first part of your sentence? I’ve got lots of physiology books but can’t find “hormonal organs” that are not part of the body.

            There is also no physiological evidence of gonad development without corresponding endocrine development in the way you imply being associated with a need for medical intervention to build facsimiles of sex organs for that enable performing intercourse. If there is such research, please cite it.

          • Le

            Missfit- Yes!! I am a woman because I have woman bits, NOT because I wear makeup or dresses or enjoy shoe-shopping or whatever other bollocks women are supposed to be defined by. Cut the gender-role crap and you cut the need to redefine people’s gender if they don’t fit in to traditional gender roles. (or something….;-) )

          • Scott

            Having the patriarchy making you believe that you are different and therefore inferior is the oppression that you suffer from. It is quite similar to the oppression that women face every day of their lives. The truth is that you are a unique person who is biologically male and you do not identify as a man. This is actually a good thing, it means that you are uncomfortable with the rape culture that the patriarchy has enforced for thousands of years. However when you adopt the stereotypes that are the instrument that oppresses women, you not only reinforce the system that is oppressing you but you are also unraveling the work of hundreds of people who fought and died to pass on the freedoms that females have today. not the least of which is segregated restrooms.

          • CG

            “Feminine” and “masculine” are really *HUMAN* traits,thoughts,feelings and behaviors! Unfortunately transsexuals both reflect and reinforce these artificial socially constructed categories in the very sexist,gender divided,gender stereotyped,woman-hating male dominated society we all live in!

            And there is plenty of decades worth of great psychological research studies by many different psychologists that shows that the sexes are much more alike than different in most traits,abilities and behaviors with a very large overlap between them,and that most of the differences between them are really small average differences,many of which have shrunk even smaller,and they find much greater individual *people* differences! Biologically the sexes are more alike than different too! As I said comedian Elaine Boosler said in the 1980’s,I’m only a person trapped in a woman’s body.

            Feminists(such as Robin Morgan,Janice Raymond,Gloria Steinem,Germain’e Greer Sheila Jeffreys etc) who have rightfully pointed this fact out,are not afraid of transsexuals or prejudiced against them,the issue is what I said it is. The only transsexual woman who actually debunks these common sexist gender myths,and gender stereotypes is Kate Bornstein author of Gender Outlaw:On Men,Women And The Rest Of Us,Gender Outlaws,My Gender Workbook etc. She was a heterosexual man who was married and had a daughter,then had a sex change and became a lesbian woman and then decided not to idenify as a man or a woman.

            I heard Kate interviewed in 1998 on a local NPR show and she totally debunks gender myths,and rejects the “feminine” and “masculine” categories as the mostly socially constructed categories that they really are.She even said,what does it mean to feel or think like a woman(or man) she said what does that really mean.

            And as cultural anthropologist Roger Lancaster wrote in his introduction, in his very good 2003 book,The Trouble With Nature sex In Science when he’s talking about how scientists constantly search for a ”gay brain”,a ”gay gene” or ”gay intergovernmental” patterns. Roger came out as a gay man in college.

            He then says (One can hardly understate the naive literalism of present-day science on these matters: Scientists still look for the supposed anatomical attributes of the opposite sex embedded somewhere in the inverts brain or nervous system.) He then says and this notion now enjoys a second,third,and even fourth life in political discourses.He then says it is by appeal to such conceits that Aaron Hans,a Washington,D.C.- based transgender activist,reflects on his uncomfortable life as a girl:”I didn’t *think* I was a boy,I *knew* I was a boy.” He says,Hans elaborates: ”You look at pictures of me- I actually have great pictures of me in drag-and I literally look like a little boy in a dress.

            Roger then says,Far,far be it from me to cast doubt on anyone’s sense of discomfort with the ascribed gender roles.Nor would I question anyone’s sense that sexual identity is a deeply seated aspect of who they are .But testimonies of this sort and appeals to the self-evidence of perception beg the obvious question:Just what is a little boy or girl * supposed* to look like? The photograph that accompanies Han’s interview shows a somewhat robust girl.Is this to say that (real) girls are necessarily delicate and (real) boys athletic? He then says (If so,virtually all of my nieces are ”really” boys,since not a one of them is delicate or un presupposing)

            Roger then says,There is indeed something compelling about such intensely felt and oft- involved experiences-”I knew I was gay all along”; ”I felt like a girl” – but that compulsion belongs to the realm of outer culture,not nature.That is, if ”inappropriate” acts,feelings,body types,or desires seem to throw us into the bodies or minds other genders,it is because acts,feelings,and so on are associated with gender by dint of the same all-enveloping cultural logic that gives us pink blankets ( or caps,or crib cards,I.D. bracelets) for girls and blue for boys in maternity ward cribs.He then says,when we diverge one way or another from those totalizing associations,we feel-we really feel;in the depths of our being-”different”.Therein lies the basis for an existential opposition to the established order of gendered associations.

            Roger then says But therein also lies the perpetual trap: Every essentialist claim about the ”nature” of same sex desire in turn refers to and reinforces suppositions about the ”nature” of ”real” men and women (from whom the invert differs), about the ”naturalness” of their mutual attraction(demonstrated nowhere so much as in the inverts inversion),about the scope of their acts,feelings,body types,and so on( again, marked off by the deviation of the deviant). Aping the worst elements of gender/sexual conservatism,every such proposition takes culturally constituted meanings -the correlative associations of masculinity and femininity,active and passive,blue and pink- as ”natural facts”.

            Roger then says,In a twist as ironic as the winding of a double helix that goes first this way,then that,the search for gay identify gradually finds it’s closure in the normalcy of the norm as a natural law.In the end,I am not convinced of the basic suppositions here. I doubt that most men are unfamiliar with the sentiment given poetic form by Pablo Neruda:”It happens that I became tired of being a man. ”Even psychiatrists who treat ”gender dysphoria”- a slick term for rebellion against conventional gender roles -admit that at least 50% of children at some point exhibit signs of mixed or crossed gender identify or express a desire to be the ”opposite” sex. Roger has a note number to the reference in his notes section to a March 22,1994 New York Times article by Daniel Goleman called,The ‘Wrong’ Sex:A New Definition of Childhood Pain.

          • CG

            There is an excellent online article that I printed out 13 years ago,by Jungian psychologist Dr.Gary S.Toub,called,Jung and Gender:Masculine and Feminine Revisted. On his site it now only has part of this article and it says you have to register to read the full article. I emailed Dr.Toub years ago and he wrote me back several nice emails,in one he said he really liked my letter,and that it was filled to the brim with excellent points and references.

            In this article he talks about what parts of Jungian thought he finds useful and what he finds problematic. The first thing he says he finds useful is, In the course of Jungian analysis, he often assists female clients to discover traditionally,masculine qualities in their psyche and that he likewise frequently assist male clients to recognize traditionally feminine qualities in their psyche. He says this process frees each gender from the straight-jacket of stereotyped sex roles and expands his clients identities. He then said that the process also mirrors and furthers the breakdown of male-female polarization in our culture,and the cultural shifts towards androgyny.

            He also says that most importantly, his practice of Jungian analysis places the greatest emphasis on facilitating his clients individuation process. He says this means that he tries to assist clients,male or female,to search for their authentic self-definition,distinct from society’s gender expectations.He also says that many Jungian definitions of masculine and feminine are narrow,outdated and sexist.

            He also says that he has found that generalizing about what is masculine and what is feminine is dangerous,often perpetuating gender myths that are discriminatory and damaging.He says while there is some research supporting biological roots to personality differences,the majority of studies suggest that much of what is considered masculine or feminine is culture determined.

            He also says that viewing masculine and feminine as complementary opposites,while useful at times,is problematic. He then says as his gay,lesbian, and transsexual clients have taught him,gender is more accurately viewed as encompassing a wide-ranging continuum. He then says that likewise,the more people he sees in his practice,the more he is impressed at the great diversity in human nature. He says he has seen men of all types and varieties,and women of all kinds. He then says,he is hard-pressed to come up with very many generalizations based on gender.He says he knows that there are some statistical patterns,but how useful are they when he works with individuals and in a rapidly changing society? He says if each person is unique,no statistical norm or average will be able to define who my client is.

            He then says,from a psychologicalperspective,men and women are not, in fact,opposite. He says his clinical experience is that they are much more psychologically alike than different,and the differences that exist are not necessarily opposing.

          • CG

            Interview with long time feminist Letty Cottin Pogrebin about her teaching and erasing her two twin daughters and her son with non-sexist non-gender roles and gender stereotypes. http://www.smith.edu/libraries/libs/ssc/activist/transcripts/Pogrebin.pdf

            Feminist Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s son didn’t reject playing with dolls and tea sets, just as her identical twin daughters didn’t reject the non-gender stereotyped toys and behaviors she encouraged them to have. And her son didn’t grow up gay or transgendered he’s married and I think has children,but he didn’t grow up to be a macho football player either,as Letty said he’s a chef and loves to cook.

            And there is a lot wrong with sexist very limiting gender roles,gender myths and gender stereotypes that are mostly artificially created by the very sexist,gender divided,gender stereotyped,woman-hating male dominated family and society we all live in,which makes both sexes,into only half of a person,instead of full human people able to develop and express their full shared *human* traits,abilities,and behaviors etc. And then these artificial gender differences continue to reinforce gender inequalities,male dominance and men’s violence against women,children and even each other.

            There is a great 2005 book,Sex Lies And Stereotypes Challenging Views Of Women,Men and Relationships by social and cognitive British psychologist Dr.Gary Wood.He too shows plenty of great important research studies done over decades by many different psychologists that finds small average sex differences,and the sexes are much more similar than different.He also thoroughly demonstrates that gender roles,gender myths and gender stereotypes which are mostly socially and culturally constructed,harm both sexes because they are very liming,cause conflicts and misunderstands between women and men,and only allow each of them to become half of a person which can cause mental and physical conditions and diseases.

          • CG

            And an interesting observation is that why is it ( I already know why) that the overwhelming majority of transgender men who became women are always wearing usually short or long dresses,skirts and high heels and make up? And of course Janet Mock is wearing a close fitted *pink* dress and make up on the cover of her book.

            A lot of heterosexual women often wear jeans and T-shirts,or other type tops,sweaters and blouses and sneakers or other flat shoes for casual wear,and don’t get dressed up most of the time unless for special occasions.But you rarely ever,I don’t think I’ve even seen one,see men who became women wearing jeans,or other pants,sneakers or some other flat casual shoes,and little or no make up!

            And believe it or not some women don’t wear make up at all.The ironic kind of funny thing is that I have spoken to more than a few consultants you talk to when you call, at Maybelline,Cover Girl,Revlon,and Loreal and even though they work for cosmetics companies they told me they don’t wear make up.

            The only unisex clothes that both sexes are allowed to wear or the casual clothes I mentioned above.But in Scotland men wear kilt skirts,and in the 1800’s many little boys wore dresses with longer hair.

            There was also once a ridiculous rule that women and girls weren’t even allowed to wear pants.And before World War 1 or 2, baby boys were dressed in pink because it was considered a light red ”masculine” color and baby girls were dressed in light blue which was then considered a delicate ”feminine” color,it just strongly demonstrates once again how these definitions are artificially culturally and socially created.
            In the beginning of time there were no clothes,so women and men wore their nude birthday suits,which weren’t dresses and skirts and high heels for women and only pants for men.

            Also some years ago I read a discussion on some woman’s blog about how ”feminine” is mostly artificially socially constructed,and the women who posted in the comments agreed but quite a few said they never even thought about it because of how conditioned they are and because of how our society encourages,enforces and rewards it and punishes people who don’t conform.

            One woman who said that she’s a heterosexual married woman who rarely wears dresses and skirts,and that when she does she feels like a female impersonator, I know exactly what she means I feel the same exact way, anything that you can put on and take off you just know it’s fake and it feels fake and that it’s socially constructed even the clothes we wear sometimes.

          • Morgan

            If femininity is a social construct for cis women, then it follows that it would also be enforced against trans women, with the added danger of transphobia. This being the case, I can certainly see how trans women would prefer to fit the social construct of feminine, so as to be rightfully identified (and not outed, which increases dramatically the likelihood of violence and death) by others who are operating on a transmisogynistic and misogynistic bias.

          • Morag

            “If femininity is a social construct for cis [sic] women, then it follows that it would also be enforced against trans women … ”

            No. Transwomen are male. They were not groomed into femininity, and the female sex-role has not been not imposed upon them and enforced via various forms of patriarchal control and violence. They are men.

          • http://jasonparent.bandcamp.com jessica murray

            i’m a transwoman that wears (purple-pink) sneakers, (tight) jeans and tshirts and tank tops. most transwomen i’ve met are similar in terms of fashion decisions.

            two things.

            1) it’s mostly a media stereotype.
            2) perhaps you’ve met transwomen without realizing they’re transwomen.

            drag queens generally identify as gay men, not as transgendered. nothing is absolute, but it’s the overwhelming trend. further, transwomen tend to prefer to fit in than stand out – that’s the point.

            i think the answer to this quandary is that, by becoming the patriarchal-enforced concept of “women”, they’re actually expressing an internalized perspective of their suppressed heterosexual feelings, and becoming the women they would desire. because strict heterosexuality and homosexuality are as socially constructed as masculinity and femininity, and they are in truth bisexual like everybody else, but can’t deal with it.

            is it degrading? well, it can be. i don’t like these shows, either, and also tend to avoid them. but it’s more complicated than that, because it’s acting out a repressed heterosexual impulse – it’s sexist on a pretty base level, which is *why* it’s so accepted.

          • Mrs Mardler

            Surely unless a person is a woman at chromosomal level they are not a woman , despite all the weasel sociologist speak. Of course there are a great number of factors that affect how a person may feel that they are a woman or a man and how their gender is assigned,but one has some anxiety that psychological factors are neglected in some cases-especially in that of very young trans,where the kick in of masculinity cannot be expected to have had full effect and gender identity may have been affected by environment and upbringing. I think Germaine Greer had some apt words to say on the matter.
            However this is a completely different subject to drag acts. There are many things once regarded as art forms or amusing which are no longer acceptable-dog fighting , bull baiting , Minstrel shows etc. The whole issue has been conflated with male gay rights. The right to parody,insult and abuse gay males would not be accepted as a part of a heterosexual female stage performance, so why are men accorded the right to make vicious parodies of women on the basis of sexual freedoms and gay rights? Frankly in my experience, men do not stop being men because they are gay and they do not become any less misogynist.If being a woman is seen as a joke, what hope for our daughters or the women who live in societies where women have no freedoms?

      • adasd

        Both treat womanhood as a fun costume and don’t face any form of “oppression” that wouldn’t dissapear once they admit to being men.

        • sam

          Actually, that is quite false. Transexuals do not treat it as a fun costume anymore than they do manhood. They feel instead that their outward appearance should reflect that of what they feel the most, and receive lots of oppression. Drag queens also face discrimination, but not nearly as much as transsexuals. What you may mean is that they are not discriminated upon in their own community. Maybe, you should actually research a bit before you state unbiased claims that cannot be backed up. All I have to do is refer to the countries’ view on transsexuals and bathrooms or working in the military, really any federal employment for that matter; and thus the reason why anytime some transsexual, transgender, etc., gets an office, it is considered news.

          • Morag

            “They feel instead that their outward appearance should reflect that of what they feel the most, and receive lots of oppression.”

            Wow, man, that’s really deep and insightful. I can just tell that you’ve done a lot of research into “that of what they feel the most.”

            That of what men feel most is very important for women to understand and to honour. Feminists often forget to prioritize men and men’s delicate feelings, so thanks for reminding us!

          • Meghan Murphy

            It’s always most important, when doing feminism, to think about what men feel the most, Morag.

          • Morag

            So true, Meghan. Also, what men feel the most must be reflected in their outward appearance. That’s why they always make an appearance at feminist blogs, and at the scenes of violent and/or sexual crimes. We should understand this need men have to align the their internal feelings with external expression. Men have a need to be, and feel, whole. It’s different for girls, which is why we struggle to understand.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Do you think that if we just were better listeners and spent more time listening to men, we’d be better women and, by extension, better feminists?

          • Morag

            Dear Sister, we have much to learn. Yes, I believe it would make us better women, but not better feminists. The best feminist is not. That is, the best feminism is the sound of one hand clapping. I speak in riddles about silence because men like those. It makes them feel deep and complex and at peace with the violent world they have created.

          • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

            Oh my God, you two. That was hilarious. Thank you.

          • Morgan

            Trans women are women, so yeah, including them in feminist discouse should be a fairly non-threatening stance to take. Trans men (that is, those assigned female at birth who identify as men) are the transgender people who really have no place in feminist discouse, seeing as they are men. Of course, there are grey areas for individuals who are neutrois or genderqueer, but the basics, as far as I understand them, are that if someone identifies in a certain way, why not believe and include them? Otherwise you will be operating in essentially the same manner as a homophobe who claims that queer men aren’t *really men,* or queer women aren’t *really women.*

          • amongster

            Transwomen are transwomen. You might include those who have proven themselves to be supportive of feminism into some feminist groups but not into female-only spaces. Those spaces must exist. Transwomen may create their own transwomen-only spaces, no problem. They should not expect of females to make room for males though. That’s not what feminism is about, that’s not what females should do.
            And you confused yourself: Saying “transwomen are women” basically means that gender, a social construct, matters more than biological facts. It is you and folks like you, the whole queer community, that inforces gender and gender roles, not us who state that being female has real material consequences.

          • Morag

            “transwomen” = male, men
            “transmen” = female, women

            All the rest is of your comment is magical thinking induced by queer theory.

        • RS

          Please do not speak for drag queens unless you are one.

          I’m a drag queen, and my feminine persona is a part of who I am. I am not a heterosexual male, and I lack quite a bit of male privilege because I’m an especially effeminate gay man even when I’m out of drag. It’s difficult for me to find work in any environment that isn’t gay friendly due to my voice and mannerisms (which I cannot successfully hide even when I try). I’ve been denied housing, and I’m often fear being assaulted.

          Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about drag. When I’m in drag, I feel more able to express myself without fear, and I’m able to express myself more fully by accessing other parts of myself that are difficult to manifest when I’m in “boy” drag. My drag persona has been with me since I was young, and it’s a part of my identity. This is a familiar story for many of my peers.

          This doesn’t mean that drag should be above scrutiny — there is a lot of misogyny in drag culture, as in most other cultures, that should be called-out. But it is NOT the same as heterosexual male misogyny, and it often does NOT come from a place of privilege: very few of my friends can “pass” as straight men, and many of us face the same hardships when it comes to living in communities with primarily cis-gendered heterosexual couples.

          So please — you obviously don’t know anything about drag queens, and it would serve you well to not try and speak for us. I hear what you are saying, but you are entirely wrong about appropriation. Drag is, for many of us, deeply personal identity; that identity happens to overlap with cis-gendered female identity in many ways, which is where the conflict lies.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “Please do not speak for drag queens unless you are one.”

            So feminists shouldn’t critique male behaviour unless they are male? What kind of logic is that?

          • amongster

            It’s you who obviously doesn’t know anything about feminism so please don’t tell feminists how to do it. I have no intention to “speak for” *you*, I speak for myself and other women to whom drag is harmful.
            Just because you are a gay man doesn’t mean you don’t have still privileges over females and you make that clear by hiding behind “woman face” instead of having the guts to fight with females against the oppressive system that is gender. *You* turn “women” into an identity and make women’s lives even more intolerable. Your own suffering is no excuse for stabbing members of other oppressed groups in the back.

          • http://www.kteis.com Kteis

            “hiding behind woman face” oh, so powerfull, thank you!

          • queertransguy

            Yes times infinity. Most gay male drag queens are the ultimate misogynists. In contrast, I have known trans women who are lesbian feminists and oppose misogyny and male supremacy. Gay male drag queens, with their nasty vagina jokes and oozing hatred towards anyone not born with their precious penis, are doing the equivalent of blackface. Trans women are women and have as much interest in ending sexism as cis women. And yes, it’s trans men who need to stay out of women’s space while trans women should be welcomed! Btw, I am a trans man with a bi cis man partner. You should see the way gay cis men treat us. It’s not pretty.

          • Morag

            “Trans women are women and have as much interest in ending sexism as cis women. And yes, it’s trans men who need to stay out of women’s space while trans women should be welcomed! Btw, I am a trans man with a bi cis man partner. You should see the way gay cis men treat us. It’s not pretty.”

            If some gay men treat you badly, it’s because they know that you are female and/or because they do not accept that you are a man. Gay men can be misogynist, but they can also, like most people, be sensible and realistic about the sexes. I.e., gay men prefer the company of other males.

            In the same vein, transwomen are not women, they are male. Period.

          • Simon

            Garish costumes and idiotic mannerisms are part of the “cis-gendered female identity?” If you really believe this then I feel sorry for the women in your life.

      • Mammajoon

        And drag queens are not portraying ‘women’. They’re portraying drag queens. ‘We’re all born naked – the rest is drag.’

    • http://dothedead.wordpress.com The Real Cie

      Do not confuse trans women with drag queens. A trans woman is a woman who feels like she has been born into the wrong body. It is very distressing to these individuals to look in the mirror and see a body that they don’t feel could be theirs because it is the wrong sex. Drag is a form of performance art. Trans women are women.

      • http://therearesomanythingswrongwiththis.wordpress.com Miep

        No, they are men who think they have been born into the wrong body. Thinking you are something you are not does not mean you are something you are not, it means you are confused.

        • morag

          Exactly, Miep. My feminism is not about catering to males in anyway shape or form. And about drag kings: just because women do something doesn’t erase the political and historical ramifications of that thing. Goddess I hate drive by commenters who add nothing to the discussion and expect everyone to take their word as law on radical feminist sites.

          • nobody

            If your feminism isn’t catering to men, then keep your filthy paws out of LGBT issues for fucks sake. There is a reason men in the LGBT community are becoming more hostile towards feminists: you come in acting like some kind of saviour then shit on them the exact same way the rest of society does. Its infuriating.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Uh, are there no women in the LGBT community? Are feminists not permitted to have opinions on sexism when it happens within a community that they don’t belong to? Gosh the LGBT community is starting to sound like it’s full of self-absorbed misogynists.

          • http://www.hellyeahimafeminist.com ptittle

            You want feminism to cater to men? CATER? Oh my. Are you ever mistaken about what feminism is all about. Cater to men. (sorry, can’t stop giggling) (the poor men become hostile because they aren’t catered to.) (oh for gawdsake grow the fuck up.)

          • Nordie

            so, lesbians don’t “qualify” as LGBT issues now??

          • Clemdane

            If they are becoming more hostile to feminists it is due to their own sexism.

          • Sabine

            And there I was thinking the “L” in LGBT was referring to lesbians…as in gay WOMEN???? But women should be keeping their “filthy paws” out of LGBT issues??? What a ridiculous, vile, misogynistic thing to come out with. Nobody is right.

          • Sabine

            There is a reason men in The LGBT community are becoming hostile towards feminists: THEY ARE MEN.

          • Michele

            Then your feminism is bigoted. I’m a woman. I was born and bred a woman. Every part of me is real. But because I am a bisexual woman, I’ve been told by feminist radical lesbians that I’m confused or taking privilege, or am a disease carrier, or will wake up someday and give up men. Yet I’ve known since the age of five what I am and am not – and what I am not is monosexual. I’ve been told by radical feminists of all kinds that I don’t belong because my sexuality has always involved BDSM – and my fantasies go back to childhood. But these people don’t get to decide who I am any more than non-feminists of all stripes do. Your opinion won’t change who I am.

            I’ve met trans men and women who knew what they were since childhood, too. One can be a feminine man, a masculine woman, or a masculine man or a feminine woman. Layer aspects of queerness and straightness onto that, as well as a desire for self-presentation. I consider trans women to be my sisters and I am proud to stand with them. I consider trans men to be my brothers, and I am proud to stand with them too. But I will not stand with bigots, because it’s people who are bigoted who made it hard for me to come out to my parents, who made it difficult I ever told a person on a date what I was like, who made it impossible for me to stay home and be the person I am. You make life hard for them too, and that makes me sick.

          • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

            “One can be a feminine man, a masculine woman, or a masculine man or a feminine woman.”
            You define identity as existing within and rigid either-or essentialist binary. And then you complain that radical feminists – the people who reject these oppressive constructs – for making your life difficult.
            Wake up. It’s the gender essentialism that you have apparently bought into and promote with your words that is the source of the difficulties you name.

        • https://www.facebook.com/scottesnow Scott Snow

          Miep, you wrote, of trans women,
          “they are men who think they have been born into the wrong body.”
          Then you go on to assert transsexual individuals are simply confused.

          At first, I find your first assertion acceptable – they *think* they’re in the wrong body, for some unknown reason(s). But the “think” troubles me. Then I recall that I’ve also learned of the experiences of young families in which their pre-school aged child clearly identifies as the opposite sex from their physiology. I believe these children usually are not aware enough of sexual differences to recognize that their biological sex doesn’t match their identity. One place it can become an issue is when the child in question will attend a pre-school or Kindergarten, and the family needs the teacher and school administration to understand how their child differs from the physiological gender norm.

          I do not believe that such children usually “think” they are in the wrong body, but I am confident that as they grow, our culture will teach them to think that is the case.

          • morag

            I know what you mean-usually little boys say they want to remove their penis because his parents told him he can’t play with dolls. Same with little girls who say they want a penis-funny how the focus is always on the penis, it’s the ultimate indicator of society’s male supremacy. Theses kids internalize it early on.

          • Ash

            Gender and physiology should never be used in the same sentence. Serious biological determinism. There doesn’t need to be a “matching” if there does, you are pretty much erasing people who are intersex.

          • morag

            I’m not sure if you’re responding to me, but I think you misinterpreted what I was trying to say. I don’t believe there needs to be a “matching” between one’s sex and gender, since I believe gender is a bullshit social construct. I think it’s dangerous for adults to say “oh my son wants to play with dolls, he must really be a girl,” and then keep badgering the kid til he says he doesn’t want to have a penis anymore. Boys should be allowed to play with “girl stuff,” but in getting back to the point of this article we as feminists need to deconstruct what “girl stuff” means and how that relates to sexism. It’s homophobia and sexism that’s the foundation of transgenderism and sex changes. Also, many intersex activists have said that they don’t want to be lumped under the whole trans umbrella.

          • Jennifer “Renee” Bernard

            This sort of issue with not identifying with your birth gender and instead feeling as though you are a man trapped in a woman’s body or a woman trapped in a man’s body merely begins in childhood predominately because of some sort of traumatic experience. This could come in the form of child abuse, absence of a parent, etc. Out of all the “trans men and women” I have spoken to most admit they are not positive that they were born that way but rather wonder if there was a “trigger” and over 80% of these trans men and woman have been sexually abused as children. And 99% of them abused by men, not women. The same is the truth for those who do drag. These are facts and I do believe I am an authority on this because of my long history of interaction and one-on-one counseling with these groups. There is some food for thought…..

        • Verita Fides

          Where do you get off telling other people who they are?

      • CG

        I was widely considered a strikingly beautiful baby and child and many strangers would come up to me and my parents and say what a gorgeous and beautiful baby and child and people still tell me I’m beautiful as an adult woman,but I don’t ”feel like a woman inside” there is no such (natural thing
        ) I feel like as comedian Elaine Boosler said back in the 1908’s that she’s only a person trapped in a woman’s body.

      • Sabine

        “Trans women are women.”

        Absolutely NOT.

    • http://liberalfeministtropes.blogspot.com.au/ Independent Radical

      “This is what drag queens and transwomen always fail to understand: femininity isn’t a fun costume that us women are sooo lucky to be able to take on and off. Femininity doesn’t reflect femaleness, in fact it’s like being forced to wear chains.”

      I think you’re right on the money here. Men acting feminine can be offensive because they often take things that radical feminists regard as oppressive (e.g. beauty practices) and make them out to be fun. Rather than comparing drag queen to whites in blackface, I would compare drag queens to BDSMers. BDSMers take things that are clearly oppressive (e.g. tying people up and flogging them, a practice which resembles the way in which white slaveowners treated black slaves) and make them out to be fun and sexy. Drag queens do the same thing, although the oppressive nature of the things they celebrate is less obvious.

      I wouldn’t call it “cultural appropriation” because I think that implies that beauty practices are part of “female culture”, when in reality they were probably not created by women and nowadays are promoted to women by powerful corporations (almost always run by men.) They are part of capitalist consumer culture, not “women’s culture” and they definately should be mocked (though women should not be mocked for doing them.) This is why I am all for clips of men (in films) attempting to perform some beauty practice (e.g. walking in high heel shoes, or ripping hair of his legs) and suffering as a result. I don’t usually like watching people suffer (I don’t find slapstick funny) but these types of clips show that beauty practices are painful and ridiculous, a fact that is not acknowledged often enough.

      To summarise, men mocking beauty practices (and by extension “femininity”) in a way that makes beauty practices look ridiculous is fine. Men mocking women by reinforcing the idea that women in general like beauty practices and making women out to be ridiculous because they perform beauty practices is not cool. Pretending that painful beauty practices are fun and totally painless is also not cool (in the same way that giving the impression that women like to be punched is not cool.)

      I think people in the gay community are generally pro-drag queens but not pro-blackface because they are in favour of anything that deviates from the status quo with regard to gender. Also, conservatives hate drag queens and according to liberal non-logic anything a conservative dislikes is automatically positive, whereas blackface was something invented by racist reactionaries. I would argue that the blind endorsement of anything “subversive” is misguided. Not everything “subversive” is automatically good. “Subversive” things are not automatically bad either, but we need to evaluate “subversive” things to determine whether they’re good or bad for the (radical) feminist cause.

      • anaelir

        While I agree with you on most points, I must say that I don’t think seeing men suffering from trying to wear heels or removing hair in movies sends the message that these practices are bad and should be stopped… I almost always get the message that “Look what those silly women put themselves through! They must be cray-cray!” or maybe, sometimes, it’s something like “Yep, we women must go through these everyday, but it’s just the way life is so we suck it up.”

        This is just my personal opinion, I may be wrong, am open to discussion.

      • Morgan

        I don’t agree with you that it’s comparable to BDSM, because in BDSM it’s generally women assuming their supposed “natural” submissive roles, but in drag it’s men appropriating those roles. But I do agree with you that it’s not quite cultural appropriation, because women did not create these things and they are not expressive of who/what women are. But it is appropriation, be it appropriation of our oppression or the harms done to us or whatever.

        I would also add that I don’t think men mocking anything women do is ok, no matter the intent behind it – “men mocking beauty practices (and by extension “femininity”) in a way that makes beauty practices look ridiculous” is not fine because it’s still mocking women for practicing them (or for having to practice them). I think I know what types of “comedy” or drag you are referring to but I rarely find them to be educational in delivery/message – sort of like “feminist porn.”

        • https://www.facebook.com/scottesnow Scott Snow

          Morgan –
          Regarding: “in BDSM it’s generally women assuming their supposed “natural” submissive roles” – do you have any references to back up that statement? I know of both dominant males and dominant females, but I don’t have any idea of the ratio between the two types participating in that community.

          • Morgan

            Of course I don’t – just my online observations of the BDSM community, it sure isn’t 50/50 split male & female doms. Just because a few female doms exist doesn’t completely erase the oppressive nature of the practice; even if it were 50/50 you can’t ignore the stereotypes, the links to slavery, etc. There are far more informed people than I who have written about the topic pointing out just how it’s not in women’s interest as a sexual practice.

          • Scott Gilbert

            It doesn’t matter if the role is played by a male or a female. the act is of a man dominating a woman. It matters not if the submissive is male or female, they are playing the role of a woman, which defends gender roles, which is not okay. it is a practice that ends up dehumanizing everyone.

        • Terrie

          Yeah and white racists told the same lies about Black people,that they were naturally submissive and that they deserved and were happy being slaves for White people.

      • Meghan Murphy

        This is a great point:
        “I wouldn’t call it “cultural appropriation” because I think that implies that beauty practices are part of “female culture”, when in reality they were probably not created by women and nowadays are promoted to women by powerful corporations (almost always run by men.) They are part of capitalist consumer culture, not “women’s culture” and they definately should be mocked (though women should not be mocked for doing them.)”

        But I don’t quite agree with this:
        “This is why I am all for clips of men (in films) attempting to perform some beauty practice (e.g. walking in high heel shoes, or ripping hair of his legs) and suffering as a result. I don’t usually like watching people suffer (I don’t find slapstick funny) but these types of clips show that beauty practices are painful and ridiculous, a fact that is not acknowledged often enough.”

        It really bothers me to see men doing these, like, Walk A Mile in Her Shoes events, stumbling along in ridiculous heels. I feel that a) it assumes all women wear shoes like that, which we don’t, and b) again, I feel it makes a mockery of women and women’s oppression… Though I see your point that it could “show that beauty practices are painful and ridiculous” and hadn’t considered that before, it still annoys me..

      • https://www.facebook.com/scottesnow Scott Snow

        “:BDSMers take things that are clearly oppressive (e.g. tying people up and flogging them, a practice which resembles the way in which white slaveowners treated black slaves) and make them out to be fun and sexy”
        I take issue with the “make them out to be fun and sexy” bit. The “BDSMers” *do* find these things fun and sexy, as long as it is consentual. This crosses genders – a cis gender female might find tying up a cis gender male quite exciting, and if the male in question sexually enjoys being tied up, they will have a good time together.

        • morag

          1. Don’t fucking dare call women Cis on a radical feminist blog.
          2. What BDSMers like has nothing to with female liberation. You can go anywhere on the Internet to talk about how BDSM is great, but that shit doesn’t fly in feminism. Do you know how offensive you sound? Try reading some history, sociology, and feminism 101 before condescendingly telling women that an oppressive thing is fine because some people orgasm from it.

          • Lola

            Brilliant answer!

          • Margaret McCarroll

            a million thumbs up !!

          • Lemon

            Unless you’re transgender or identify as a different gender from your genitals, you’re cis, sorry to burst everyone’s bubble but that’s how it is, whether you’re male or female or on a blog or not, you’re cis, not a bad thing at all anyways, it’s just that you identify yourself as the gender which matches your genitals so no harm done.
            Also I don’t think drag queens are all that bad, sure there are some which make fun of extreme feminism but a good majority identify themselves as women. So no, I can’t see that we should oppress drag queens due to a small minority, I mean, all groups of people have a minority which makes the rest look bad but we can’t all stereotype them due to that. Just my opinion though.

          • Grackle

            Did you read this article at all? Nobody suggested anything even remotely close to oppressing drag queens. Why would we want to do that?! The fact that we consider them an offensive mockery of the (socially constructed) female gender does not mean we want to oppress them, good grief. Feminism is wholly against all forms of oppression.

            As for the cis issue, everybody here is well aware of what it means, so you don’t need to trot out the basic definition as if it’s a new concept that we just don’t understand yet. I’m still trying to figure out my opinion of the term but I can easily see why it can be viewed as offensive as hell to those of us who consider gender to be a harmful socially-imposed hierarchy and not some magical innate quality.

          • morag

            Why are you so hellbent on labeling women “Cis” after we repeatedly explained why we reject that? Why are our lived experiences always invalidated but drag queens are sacrosanct? Radical feminists don’t believe in gender so of course we reject the idea that gender can somehow match genitals.Is it so difficult to listen to feminists when we speak before pissing all over comment sections like a dog marking his terrritory?

          • http://jasonparent.bandcamp.com jessica murray

            all of your posts here are incoherent. if you agree that gender is a social construct (as i do) then you agree it can be arbitrarily assigned to people with either birth sex, because you realize it exists independently of biology. otherwise, you’re merely contradicting yourself.

          • http://wateralwayswins.wordpress.com gxm17

            Bullshit. Cis is a name made up by the trans community. And, IMO, it’s hate speech. No different than calling a woman the c-word or calling an ethnic minority a pejorative. Feel free to use it if you want to but you’re not fooling anyone.

          • Clemdane

            I’m a woman, not a ” Cis.”

          • JC

            You’re not educating anybody with this response. Its so hostile and confrontational that nobody is going to get past “how” you said something to the “what” of what you’re trying to say. If you want to be smug and accurate, then fine, but if you actually want to educate people and help them see things differently, you’re response is pointless and adds nothing to the conversation.

          • amongster

            there are still people out there who haven’t heard about “derailing for dummies”!?


            hope this helps to educate yourself.

      • http://wateralwayswins.wordpress.com gxm17

        Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wearing fake breasts and assuming a higher pitched voice is absolutely appropriation. It is mockery of women’s bodies. Add on the cultural stereotypes and “drag” is the misogynistic version of blackface. So glad Meghan tackled this issue.

    • https://www.facebook.com/bailey.summers.351 Bailey Summers

      Stop intentionally labeling trans women with drag. We’d appreciate the civility to not do more image damage to us by stereotyping.

      • morag

        Stop intentionally labeling females as roles for men to play and for equating femaleness with femininity. We’d appreciate the civility to not do more damage to us by stereotyping. Shocker, feminism is about and for women! If you want the “freedom” to appropriate femaleness and embrace the patriarchal idea of femininity, feel free to start your own movement. We’re not here to play nursemaid for you.

    • Dan

      I appreciate the author’s willingness to ask questions in areas she admits to have little knowledge and interest, but the feminist slant which conveys legitimate concerns for women is inappropriately superimposed onto drag queens who she also admits are a culture in and of itself. The title of this article asks the question, “Why has drag escaped critique from feminists and the LGBTQ community?” but the feminist author answers her own question by stating that it has never interested her. A lack of interest would imply a lack of need for such interest, and here’s why.

      I believe that drag queens are behaving in an authentic manner based on their own personal psychological need. It is a statement of defiance to spite negative opinions from society stating that masculinity and femininity each follow strict rules, for example, by wearing a dress and retorting that because society does not consider them to be “real men”, yet obviously not real women either, they will be both and neither at the same time — a personal need to be who they are. While this can include obnoxious behavior, it is understood to be a catharsis from having grown up in a society where they felt rejected for simply “being”. It could be a plea for acceptance, not a method of representing womanhood, and anyway, why is the author taking the entertainment value of drag queen performances so seriously when drag queens so often portray themselves as humorously imperfect? That is, unless they are contestants in a pageant.

      It is inappropriate to say that there exists representation of just womanhood or just manhood, but our language doesn’t yet have words to describe the “neither-nor” part. The LGBTQ culture is actually a set of diverse and separate subcultures that group together in the political fight for equal rights. Drag queens represent one of those subcultures, but I would hardly say that drag queens dress up as women because they want to represent womanhood — which is not to say they haven’t carefully studied it, including its imperfections, just like a young girl studies womanhood as she is growing up. They know they will never become pregnant and raise children as only a mother can do. They do dress up to imitate (the correct word is “impersonate”) famous female actors and singers, or just as often, the feminine version of themselves. They represent themselves, not womanhood, and yes it is often very personal. Femininity does not always equate to being a woman, but there is not some other term to more accurately represent the intent of men in dresses. The author says drag feels “regressive”, so it is good that she admits having insufficient knowledge based on lack of interest to form a cogent opinion. This is also why her using “drag” and “racism” in the same idea is in dire need of explanation, because it suggests a very false and very serious accusation.

      Generally equating drag queens to racists is inappropriate. The intent to mimic another race in drag is likely more a compliment than a racist statement, as drag queens often want to “be” whom they feel the need to imitate — it can be viewed as a celebration of role models with a hard slant against the ideal, because no one is perfect. That’s probably the message: if society taught me I am flawed, I will point out how society is flawed and never the ideal it pretends to be.

      The author quotes Kirsten Anderberg, who is not an authority on drag queens or on psychology. If a white drag queen paints his face to look like a black woman, it is no more racist than when he paints his face to look like a white woman. It’s all about illusion. However, if the intent is to disgrace black people, then that would be racist. But if I paint a picture of a black woman, that is art, not racism. Should a white female impersonator try to impersonate a black woman WITHOUT using black cosmetic paint? That would hardly be convincing, and the illusion would fail.

      The author says that women do not imitate men using drag, at least not the same way or for the same reasons, but drag kings have been known to use a banana in their pants that they take out to eat on stage. But women do indeed make fun of men in ways that men do not make fun of women, so the assertion is pointlessly argumentative. Men and women have differences, so methods and motivations can be different as well.

      It would be more appropriate to say that drag queens equate to the childhood fantasy to be someone else whom they admire, and they do so using the imagination and the art of make-believe, for humor is a coping mechanism often born from suffering. Without it, and the ability to laugh at at one’s self, there is only suffering until equality and acceptance — not tolerance — are the norm.

      In short, being a drag queen is about being a drag queen. Compassion for the oppressed LGBTQ community would seem to be more important than trying to lay false accusations wrongly taken personally by hypersensitive people. It’s not about them. It’s about one’s own self, so take it or leave it, and by all means, DO ask a drag queen questions instead of speculating circles around things you don’t understand.

      • amongster

        so, basically you are saying that we are all just “hypersensitive peopel” who can’t take a “compliment” without being offended and who simply “don’t understand”. your other arguments have all been addressed already so in my oponion it is only *your* post that is inappropriate.

        • marv

          Dan, I can’ t stop you from defining drag in the way that you do but lord knows I want to. The fact that masculinity and femininity are social constructs of male supremacy that must be abolished altogether is lost on you. If you can’t see that women are a subordinated sex class to men you will never grasp the misogyny of male drag. Despite all your convoluted claptrap about drag as “defiance”, “catharsis”, “being” oneself, “a plea for acceptance” , “childhood fantasy “, in the end you are just another charlatan who is using compassion for LGBTQs as a cover for your menacing sexism. I wonder what you would think of heterosexual men impersonating caricatures of lesbians or gays but claiming they were not intending to do so. Intentions are moot. It is the actions that offend. Your liberal psychology ideology betrays your blindness to its patriarchal presuppositions and narcissism.

          If you read this article about blackface and racism and substitute them for drag and misogyny you could learn something IF you open your mind: http://feministcurrent.com/8161/beyond-halloween-revisiting-blackface/

          • Dan

            Marv, drag queens, as well as many members of the LGBTQ community such as myself, abhor stereotypes and strict gender roles, with the latter already expressed in my original commentary. Your assumptions about what I know or don’t know are simply incorrect, but they are your opinion and I respect that because they are a statement on your own behalf and you may choose to represent yourself however you see fit on a public forum.

            Drag queens “choose” to be who they are in terms of how they represent themselves; they want to be like women because they associate their identity in part with being woman-like as they have learned or perceived women to be — in that case, the teachings of what is considered “womanlike” is the issue, not the symptom of drag queen behavior. The point is, they are not trying to represent womanhood, but “drag-queen-hood”, if there is such a term.

            I do not understand why you needed to use such emphatic words to disagree with me, but I really do have an open mind and it seems that your mind has already been made up to support your viewpoint at any cost. It is clear that you have pre-judged me as being a certain way, but as a gay man I am very sensitive to that because I have been pre-judged by nearly all of society, who also doesn’t know me.

            Do you think that just because I really do have compassion for the LGBTQ community that it is not possible for me to also have compassion for whatever beliefs or community you may associate yourself with? Tone down your attitude and hard-core presumptions about me, it is not compassion and it does little to help me understand your viewpoint, or to support it. It only tells me how you feel about me, and quite possibly how you feel about anyone who disagrees with you. I “get it”, you believe in what you do very strongly, but why should I show an open mind when you have closed yours to my views? I show an open mind because I have enough integrity to do so, and because I believe it is the right thing to do.

            I read the article at the link you provided. I can see it from several viewpoints, even opposing ones. If impersonating another is done for the purpose of disgracing them or the community they represent, it is certainly a bad thing. But it is not always feasible to substitute one term for another. So far, what I get is that you’re saying that if any given person is a certain sex and a certain race, then dressing up like the other sex or a different race is always offensive simply because it is.

            Have you watched the show, “Modern Family”? One of the two married gay male characters in the show is really straight in real life, though the other man is gay in real life. You ask me how I feel, I say the straight man is a very good actor. It is clearly possible for acting, whether on a TV series or as performed by a drag queen, to be tastefully done. That’s why it’s called “acting”, and you don’t see the LGBTQ community protesting the series.

            In your reply to me, I am certain that you were not “acting” when you called me a charlatan having betrayed blindness using convoluted claptrap. What were you thinking? Perhaps you were thinking that all humans should dress the same way and stick to their own race. But you can’t take away a person’s right to dress and behave as they choose, because you will take away your own rights at the same time.

            You argument isn’t with me, it’s with my having relayed a commentary based on my life experience that you happen to dislike so much that you must attack it and me as well. That says more about you than you realize. But if change in the drag queen community is really what you would like to see, you won’t get it by representing yourself as someone who pretends to know me well enough to box me into a few derogatory categories. Isn’t that what you are against in the first place — the misrepresentation of others? Or is it just “any” representation of others? Drag queens mock the “patriarchal social constructs” of femininity and masculinity simultaneously, and sometimes they do the same with race. Wrap your head around that.

          • marv

            Gibberish. “[T]he symptoms of drag queen behaviour” and the “teachings of what is considered “woman-like”” are both sexist expressionism regardless if drag is “not trying to represent womanhood, but “drag-queen-hood”.” Similarly, blackface is racist no matter what the motives are.

            You stated that feminists were “hypersensitive” up the thread. Then you complained how “sensitive” you are to being “pre-judged by me. You have the audacity to come into a feminist blog telling them they are wrongheaded about male performance. You obviously don’t realize how male supremacist and galling you are. Feminism, has been pre-judged by you and “nearly all of society” even though you and they don’t know her.

            I am skeptical also about how much compassion you have for lesbians in your support for men in drag, since it feels/is so oppressive to women. Your self-serving definition of compassion as a matter of toning down attitudes and words is bogus in the face of such male entitlement. True compassion is not so shallow. It means fierce opposition to those who claim integrity yet speak in ways that uphold male power over women. You are closed minded to admit mimicking exploited groups is unjust because of the context of inequality. Imagine white people dressing up and acting as traditional aboriginals while dwelling on their confiscated lands. No equality country for women either, or for homosexuals.

            “Drag queens mock” women while thinking they aren’t, and “sometimes they do the same with race. Wrap your head around” all this, polite talking women fucker.

        • Dan

          Amongster, my, my! Your reply seems to want to invalidate my entire commentary on drag queens based on the opinions of others, but you do not state precisely why you disagree or how you came to your conclusion. When you say “we”, are you referring to all feminists? Because when I said “people”, I was referring to society. My commentary was based on over three decades of interactions with hundreds of drag queens.

          To be clear, the “compliment” you refer to has nothing to do with feminists or womanhood. I never saw a drag queen impersonate a feminist. As I stated, it either has to do with the famous women drag queens impersonate, or simply the feminine version of themselves (particularly since many do not look enough like the famous women to be convincing). Drag queens represent themselves, and because drag queens are men, at best they represent men in dresses, and it comes from an innate desire to cross over and break and/or undefine the traditional gender stereotypes based on the either/or mentality of gender roles. It’s who they are, like it or not. They get to express their individuality just like you do.

          I believe many drag queens would feel very hurt if they were accused and convinced they are sexist, since like many members of the LBGTQ community they know deeply and from an early age how it feels to be judged and condemned from nearly all aspects of society. If this is what feminists believe, then as with the title of the article, the critiques should begin and an open dialog should be established. But the question is still begged, why haven’t such critiques or dialogs really happened yet? I think the answer is that they are being themselves, they are being men in dresses, and that is not the same as being sexist. As a gay man myself, I am aware of my own thoughts and methods that could be termed as more feminine, but no one can tell me to be any different. If I dress in drag because I associate my identity with it, or if even I wait until Halloween, that’s not sexist, and the accusation is quite unfounded.

          The very nature of the article itself has successfully opened a discussion on the topic of drag queens, and it doesn’t matter to me what other people think they know — when they don’t. Humanity is multifaceted with many truths. Discussion is not productive if “they said” so “I believe them” so “your opinion is inappropriate.” I believe you just don’t want to accept any viewpoint other than your own, which may be based on others who are just as angry as you are and need any target to express it. I choose discussion, not argument. Your reply is a statement on behalf of your own level of sensitivity and offendedness.

          But if you really do insist on disagreeing with my commentary, begin getting to know drag queens — you may discover a sense of community and shared interests, and your opinion may change when you learn things you never knew.

          • amongster

            dan, you are repeating yourself and it is boring. if you were interested in finding answers to your questions you would actually read and try to understand the arguments that have been made in the comments here. it’s all right in front of you, take it or leave it.
            i don’t care about the feelings of sexist men and if they “feel very hurt” when their sexism is pointed out to them. women are hurt by these men’s sexist behavior and we don’t just talk about hurt feelings here. believe it or not women too “know deeply and from an early age how it feels to be judged and condemned from nearly all aspects of society” and they can’t just step out of their dresses and get rid of their make up and play “men” to avoid oppression.
            i’m tired of apolitical “identity politics” that talk about “brain sex”, innate “feminine feelings” and alike while ignoring the reality of being socialized into gender roles and having internalized sexism. it is your privilege as a man to remain ignorant of the harmful consequences of gender and gender roles and to play with femininity when you feel like it.
            and yes, i don’t accept ignorant viewpoints. opinions are not truths and they are not sacred either. i am angry and sexist men are the right target for that anger. don’t really care what you think about my way to discuss things when you are not able to engage with all the points that have been made by others already.
            now excuse me but i’ve got better things to do than being repeatedly called hypersensitive for being righteously offended by sexism that you are unable to spot because of male privilege.

    • Maia

      The difference is this: race is not a spectrum. Gender is. If a male FEELS feminine, why can’t they express where they personally feel they belong on the gender spectrum? And trust me, as an effeminate man, they too suffer from patriarchy. They have a right to identify with the world how they want.

      • Lo

        Gender isn’t a spectrum either, it is a social construct, just like races.
        If you like pink, dresses, or football, it doesn’t mean you have to label yourself as “”girl or boy or fluid or 1586th gender”.

        Gender =/= personnality

      • http://mmmariguana.wordpress.com Mar Iguana

        “And trust me,…”

        I have a real hard time trusting the ignorant-and-proud-of-it. Gender spectrum. Good grief.

      • lizor

        Alert! Alert! Social critique=taking away rights!!!! God Forbid anyone should discuss the social and cultural implications of what anyone “feels like” expressing! Feminists are imperilling human rights again!!!

        What do you mean by FEELS feminine? You put the “feel” bit in caps so you must have a pretty definable idea of what “feeling feminine” means. Please explain, because I have not got a clue what “feeling feminine” is and what that has to do with uncomfortable and expensive costuming.

        “race is not a spectrum”? Seriously, how did you concoct that? Do you really think that race is not a social construct while gender is?

      • JP

        How is race not a spectrum? Some people are born to a white and a black parent, and they’re basically forced to identify at black because of their skin tone, even though they’re biologically half-black and half-white. That’s a simplified example. In a globalized world, there are families made up of several genetic mixtures from around the world. Defined races will eventually fade if we continue on our current globalization path. I argue that race is also a spectrum.

        If a male feels feminine, let him behave exactly as he wants to (feminine, however he defines it). However, don’t go around saying you’re female just because you “feel like you’re female”. Someone who isn’t female doesn’t know what it’s like to be female, so there is no way they know they are female. It’s like me saying I feel like a potato. How do I know what it feels like to be a potato if I’m not a potato? At least if I dressed like a potato, there aren’t potatoes out there with feelings who might be offended at the appropriation of their identity. Unfortunately, females are actually people.

      • Anonymous

        The difference is this: race is not a spectrum. Gender is.
        I think there’s a lot of bi- and multi-racial individuals who might disagree.

  • http://www.medium.com/oHegarty Orla

    In outport Newfoundland a regular sketch feature involves the local priest pinning on balloon boobs and wearing dresses. This is met with tons of laughter and applause. I find it deeply disturbing, on many levels.

    • lizor

      That phenomenon occurs in working class cultures, especially in rural communities all over North America. It is not specific to Newfoundland or to one particular sketch. Communities that are more comfortable with rigid gender roles tend to find guys in dresses and pearls with balloons in their shirts to be hilariously funny.

    • http://mmmariguana.wordpress.com Mar Iguana

      This reminded me of England’s weird vicars and tarts parties.

  • http://twitter.com/aysha_marie aySHA (@aysha_marie)

    I don’t know any drag queens, but I do know a few drag KINGS.. not sure I am following you here.

    • MJ

      I would be interested in some discussion about drag kings…I am not that familiar, but it seems to me that drag kings are not mocking male characteristics. Because everything is contextual, we have to consider the gender difference in a man imitating a woman in a drag show, vs a woman imitating a man as a drag king. IMO neither can really escape the notion that Western (and maybe others as well) culture values men more than women. So we have exaggeration in the drag queen example, and in the case of the drag king performances I have seen something more akin to “see how you cannot really tell if I am a man or a woman.” In other words, a drag king’s performance is judged on how completely the illusion convinces, vs most drag queen performances not really trying to fool the audience, but trying to make it as extreme and therefore UNbelievable as possible.

  • lamentoid

    Sheila Jeffreys’ Unpacking Queer Politics is ever-relevant

  • Susan B Journey

    I have been saying exactly this for years. Thank you!

    • Meghan Murphy

      I shouldn’t say that it’s “escaped critique” — I think radical feminists have made the critique and a few others, here and there, but I just never hear a peeps from mainstream/popular feminism and certainly not from the LGTBQ community…

  • Corey Frost

    Thank you for writing about drag! Feminist philosopher Marilyn Frye is one of the very few exceptions to the general lack of critique and analysis in feminist and lesbian and gay circles on drag. Her chapter “Lesbian Feminism and Gay Right” in her book Politics of Reality critiques drag as a form of mocking women. bell hooks also touched on some of the problems with drag in her essay “Is Paris Burning?”


  • http://dothedead.wordpress.com The Real Cie

    It would be nice if we could find actual drag performers to give their take on this. I’m not one. Perhaps I’m “missing something,” but I’ve never had a problem with drag. In a society where sex and gender roles have been exaggerated, such as Western society, forms of expression such as drag are inevitable.
    I do not see drag as mocking women, but as taking certain stereotypes to extremes and mocking the stereotypes. Drag performers know that real women do not behave in the exaggerated ways that their characters do.
    Drag performers such as Lady Bunny tend to also be very politically aware. I can’t speak for all drag performers, but Lady Bunny is interested in better treatment for all people. She tends to mock people who treat others poorly.
    I feel that drag is also a way for these male,and most often homosexual performers to express their feminine side in a society that decries men “behaving like women” and sees women as second class.
    There is no male drag because men’s clothing tends to be very similar and men tend not to wear makeup. However, I’d say there is also no male drag because no-one has thought to really give it a go. Perhaps it would be more interesting than people tend to think.

    • Meghan Murphy

      What do you think about blackface? Would you say that equates to “taking certain stereotypes to extremes and mocking the stereotypes?” Would you ask that black people talk to white people who perform in blackface before forming an opinion on it?

    • Ashley

      There actually is “male drag” in the form of drag kings where women dress and perform as men. There are some videos of a group called the Miltown Kings that are kind of a fun example.

      • amongster

        there are videos on youtube called “shit girls say” or “shit guys say” etc etc and while those videos made by guys dressing up as girls and mocking feminine behavior get likes and laughs those very few made by girls dressing up as boys get dislikes and all the sexist comments, making sure to let girls know that they “are not funny” (especially not when they make fun of men, obviously).

        germany’s probably most famous drag queen, olivia jones, is also a tour guide in hamburg’s popular red light district reeperbahn.

      • Ash

        I took part in a drag king show and no one laughed at us like they laughed at the drag queens.

      • Terrie

        What about jeans and T-shirts and some sweaters and tops and sneakers and flat leather shoes that both sexes wear? Is that drag? Obviously not!

    • Alta Verso

      “Drag Kings” exist, but perhaps there is a conflict in making this into entertainment where mainstream culture has been so misogynistic. Maybe the stereotypical man image is just not as funny for reasons of oppression, it seems more like taking on a male image to falsify that power and privilege.
      Drag Queens, as men, in my impression, as a woman, take those stereotypes on in a way that could potentially (or does) threaten their male privilege, to use it as material for entertainment in a way that seems more like sharing in an awareness of the stereotypes and misogyny experienced by women from the male perspective. As a woman who has been around drag shows since the age of 16, and has appreciated them like many 16 year olds might watch Miss America, I have questioned this stuff, even to the extent of still relating wearing eye-makeup and lipstick at the same time to drag. I am a natural born woman who experiences life as a woman and recieves the subjugating gazes of hetero-male privilege if I do, which has not been in my best interest for a large part of my life. I find Drag Queens participate in an approach on misogyny and female stereotyping in a way that I relate to, but from a different angle. There is also the consideration that they are gay men who experience their own issues with misogynistic culture. Drag is a hyper-indulgence into taking on a different perspective, as I have come to understand it, in a way that is entertainment rather than intellectualized.
      Honestly, I have to say I have a harder time with trans women whom I do respectfully call women, and accept their choice to live this way, yet have a different perception of what women are from being born male. To me it becomes an existential conversation, where existence has determined a desire to be other than they are, to follow what their essence feels as a better image …but does this not adhere to taught stereotyping? As a woman who does not feel like changing into a man but accepts what life gives in my natural gender, what definitions are perceived in wanting to change gender? Am I supposed to fit into a passive, gentle, nurturing, boob sizing, heel wearing, hair obsessing, weaker-sex stereotype too when someone doesn’t feel like they fit into the masculine form? And how would this not reinforce these stereotypes that are bred from misogyny? …which comes back to the same point made about drag queens. As people I accept both, all, respectfully. But am I being accepted, when my gender is still being externally defined? As an obtuse performance I accept drag as a form of critique itself. I have a harder time accepting trans women as authentic women, who divorce all male experiences (good or bad) when they divorce their penis. I do accept trans women as “trans women” / “cisgender” etc., and appreciate moving beyond gender duality as has been defined archaically.

      (I realize I’m not just replying to a comment but to the whole article and conversation – I get wordy)

      • sophie

        I think we can all agree that old fashioned gender stereotypes don’t reflect reality.

        Instead of thinking: ” As a woman who does not feel like changing into a man but accepts what life gives in my natural gender” ask yourself: “As a woman how would it feel to be forced into a male gender role with a male name and shaming for not conforming to masculine stereotypes.”

        I also have a hard time accepting trans woman that are obviously trying too hard with over the top woman stereotypes made by men who appear to be turning their gender into a performance while over quoting RuPaul and even saying that being trans is a life-style. Yes indeed, gay men claiming to be women because a feminine man is worse in the eyes of influenced people. This makes me think of that madonna song “what it feels like for a girl.” And no I am not a fan of hers.

        What ever happen to independent strong courageous women. It’s rude to assume all trans women have a different perception of being female more than other non-trans women. A lot seem to have thought that they were going to grow up as their mother but were horrified when they found out they were going to grow up like their father. Can you imagine being 4 and being told that? or 12 just before puberty and your body is ruined forever? That all your dreams of being a pretty dancer, a singer, an artist…just to be yourself are gone because your parents said so? Constantly shamed for being girly?

        “where existence has determined a desire to be other than they are, to follow what their essence feels as a better image” No, that is a stereotype also. You just can’t imagine the physical discomfort but I guess you could inject yourself with testosterone regularly to find out somewhat. Get a “full gender/sex change” and perhaps the discomfort and loss of identity will give you an idea of how transsexual people feel from birth.

        Also, what do you mean by divorce male experiences? would one not want to move on from the horrible past? and i mean move on, not deny. Also a lot of trans women don’t adhere to wimpy stereotypes and I hate those that do as if being pathetic validates womanhood.

        Do you wear make-up? I hear a lot of women complain about male-gaze but wear make-up for some reason. Also, girls openly talk about men as sexual objects but I guess that’s okay since you are oppressed which means by some sick logic escape the double standard.

        you said:”gay men who experience their own issues with misogynistic culture”. I would say this is true in a lot of cases I know personally because they are men who are ashamed to be feminine, also fem gays are like looked down upon however it isn’t the hatred or oppression of women, it’s the oppression of femininity in general and feminine people as it seems to be the case. Also guilt from male expectation of being macho. However it is wrong to dismiss ones own femininity as some other personality that ruins [insert man’s name] life and give it a girl name.

        Also drag made more sense when society was sexist and women were not allowed to be comedians or anything much really or war time when they were no women for miles because the army was all men and they were …anyways.

        • amongster

          Gender is not “natural”, it’s a social concept created to oppress females. I don’t have to imagine how it would be to be forced to be someone I’m not because women *are* forced to perform femininity. And the best thing about this is that females cannot even feel safe from being shamed, humiliated and violated when they have perfected femininity because femininity makes you a target. Gender is a no-win concept for women.

          It’s also the norm that girls are told they can’t do and become what they want because they are female. So again, we don’t need to imagine how harmful this is, we know it. This is what happens when you are at the bottom of a hierarchy and that hierarchy is called gender.

          What has “complaining” about the male-gaze to do with wearing make-up? Do you think women who wear make themselves into objects and should therefore shut up about male harassment?

          I don’t think anyone here will defend the objectification of people but it *does* make a different who is objectifying whom. In a society in which it has been normalized to see females as objects and in which males hold all the power it is not even possible for females to objectify males for long without eventually seeing them as the powerful.

          And no, not femininity gets oppressed, femininity *is* the oppression. It is misogyny, the hate of women and anything related to them, when feminine men get harassed.

          I also want to know since when society is free of sexism? I must have missed that big event.

  • LC West

    I’ve known a number if drag queens over decades 70s thru 90s and you can be assured the majority if them hate women. Plus they suck the air out of lesbian and gay culture. Like early Shakespeare, they play all the roles rending lesbians invisible. Especially butches.

    Not many women do like drag queens. I’ve found them vicious and demeaning. Especially if you happened to be trapped in a woman’s bathroom with them. Creepy.

  • Matt Hamblett

    Here is a celebrated example of women in ‘drag’-http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/video/28888/cross-dressers-topp-twins-as-ken-and-ken

    • Nick

      While I am a fan of the Topp Twins I also think that the culture of drag kings could be critiqued. If you watch the documentary on the Topp Twins you’ll hear one of them mention that she can just be one of the blokes at the bar when she is in drag, treated as an equal with the other guys, you know go off to the strip joint with them and they wouldn’t feel weird about it because she’s dressed as a man.

      This is where I think most drag kings get excited about performing, they get to obtain certain amounts of power and to feel what it’s like to ‘be a man’, a lot of them in turn unfortunately begin to act in very sexist ways and treat women like shit all over again. Drag kings come on to women, call them names. All of a sudden dressing as a man makes them feel empowered to be sexist assholes.

      From what i’ve seen it reinforces the gender binary and reinforces patriarchal ideologies. Nothing about it has convinced me that it is in any way promoting subversive gender roles…which is an argument i’ve heard many times.

      So in my opinion both drag kings and queens are promoting similar practices and can be critiqued in the same way.

      • Matt Hamblett

        No disagreement from me.

  • Kim

    I am sympathetic with your argument which is thought-provoking as is much of your writing on here. However, I agree with Cie and would elaborate: one might want to be more sympathetic to the historical position of gay men. That is, a performer like Divine may have been from a middle-class family, but doing drag may have allowed him to cope with being a gay, fat man in the late 60s and also allowed him to express his gender non-conformity. That is, disenfranchised gay men donned a role that felt empowering to them in a society that understood them to be worthless “sissies”–the role of a fabulous, strong, eccentric or ball-busting woman. It may seem and even be a grotesque caricature, but I feel that drag attempts to be a celebration of a certain archetypal woman as well as a send-up of gender conformity, and was aspirational and intended to be funny. In this way I think it may be distinct from blackface which is initiated from a different power dynamic. Although gay men may be “privileged” as males, there’s a lot of historical psychic trauma there, and I’ve often felt drag comes from that place. So in criticizing drag from a feminist perspective, I’d like to think we pay respect to that history as a starting point.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Those are fair points, Kim.

      • ozzie

        ”…fabulous, strong, eccentric or ball-busting woman. It may seem and even be a grotesque caricature, but I feel that drag attempts to be a celebration of a certain archetypal woman as well as a send-up of gender conformity, and was aspirational and intended to be funny.” I completely disagree with Kim here because absolutely nothing about what Divine did was ”aspirational” or a ”celebration” of ” fabulous, strong, eccentric, or ball-busing woman”. The whole premise/plot of John Waters’ The Pink Flamigoes, starring Divine, was Divine personifying the most shocking/disgusting and vile person possible: the film even contains numerous rape and incest scenes. While I do appreciate the fact that this was a campy, low budget-type artsy project created with the sole intention to provoke, let’s not pretend it was in any way a complement or a celebration of women. Divine has even had a strange type of misogynistic butterfly effect in culture–he was apparently the inspiration behind the look of Disney’s Ursula, the archetypal conniving, evil witch jealous of another woman’s youth and beauty.

        I’m all for gay men trying to empower themselves, but they can’t do it at the expense of another oppressed class.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I haven’t seen the film but you’re right that it certainly doesn’t sound respectful towards women — the opposite, rather.

        • Morgan

          “I’m all for gay men trying to empower themselves, but they can’t do it at the expense of another oppressed class.”

          Exactly. I am baffled by commenters explaining away the offensive nature of drag because gay men are oppressed. It doesn’t make it ok.

    • http://wateralwayswins.wordpress.com gxm17

      Wow. A “what about the menz” justification. Yes. Of course. Demeaning women is perfectly fine if you are a fat, gay man and need to vent your “psychic trauma” on those with less power than you.

    • Nordie

      Gay men feel “empowered” by donning drag because it proves that there is still a class of people “below” them on the social totem pole (women, specifically). Whew! It sure IS reassuring to the gay male ego to know that, no matter how downtrodden you may be within the class of male people, you aren’t powerless. No, in fact, there is a whole class of people (women) you can lampoon and whose bodies you can appropriate for fun.

      It isn’t a “send up” of gender conformity because it is a performance that demonstrates how repugnant women truly are (for being ball-busters, or eccentric, or just overly feminine and “slutty”) in order to laugh at women and feel superior. It’s hilarious because it doesn’t frighten these men, because femininity has never been the damaging, degrading force in their lives that it is in theirs. We don’t laugh because we see femininity being “celebrated” and feel awful. Our suffering is hi-larious. Our actual social condition is just so funny. The beauty rituals and objectification we have forced down our throats are not silly to us. Frederick Douglass didn’t think blackface was funny, either. No one asked him to think about the poor lower-class white people’s fee fees when he said that, now did they.

    • Terrie

      What about the fact that there are many macho gay men.a lot of football players are known and unkown to be gay etc.

  • Rusty

    I imagine that a big part of the aversion to analyzing drag queen performance is that many of the performers are trans women, as was mentioned above, even if they haven’t yet come out or transitioned. It’s hard to argue appropriation if it’s being done by members of the ridiculed group (women). Once you’ve got the whole “women do it too” argument happening, it suddenly becomes ineligible for critical analysis.

    I’d also guess that, from the perspective of identity feminism, there’s really nothing about womanhood and gender in general that even CAN be appropriated, since gender isn’t a system of power but rather an apolitical set of individual attributes that can be super fun to play with. In other words, drag is about “fucking with gender” and that in itself is a feminist act. No further analysis required.

    • http://www.invisible-armies.com bex0r

      Wow. This blog has opened up a whole can of worms for me! My thinking and feelings about drag have always been very much along Rusty’s lines of explanation – gender hacking is intriguing to me, both as a progressive/radical feminist and as an artist. I like performances that call into question our societal norms and make us re-evaluate the status quo, but reading this critique and a lot of these comments has also opened my mind to examining why certain forms of drag are privileged and found to be “entertaining” while others are not. Does drag culture ultimately serve to reinforce traditional gender roles (even when they’re not being carried out by people who identify as that gender)?

      Further complicating my thoughts and feelings are the many close relationships I’ve had with trans women (and trans men) who utilized drag as a form of socially-sanctioned “test driving” of their new identities. As a feminist I fully believe in creating safe spaces for trans people to exercise their chosen identities without fear of reprisal or harm, and so I will never condemn drag queens for their performances. I think, however, it should okay to talk about why some queens choose to perform femininity they way they do and how that plays into the larger discussion surrounding feminist politics.

    • JP

      “I imagine that a big part of the aversion to analyzing drag queen performance is that many of the performers are trans women, as was mentioned above, even if they haven’t yet come out or transitioned. It’s hard to argue appropriation if it’s being done by members of the ridiculed group (women).”

      Trans-women and women are not the same. It’s being done by men who want to present as women. Not by women.

      “Once you’ve got the whole “women do it too” argument happening, it suddenly becomes ineligible for critical analysis.”

      Women aren’t doing it too. Men who want to present as women do it. They aren’t the same as women.

  • Jason Regnier

    Really? There’s a deep feminist and academic literature base on this question, both making this argument and defending against it. Bell hooks was mentioned above, but Judith Butler and Peggy Phelan are two prominent examples of people that complicate the simplistic portrayal. Shoot, even RuPaul has talked about this. Also, the cheap comparison to blackface is lazy and fundamentally erases the unique history of that practice.

    • Meghan Murphy

      And yet drag goes on, largely unchallenged in the mainstream and in queer culture/communities. I fail to see how the comparison to blackface is ‘cheap’?

      • https://plus.google.com/105622811662468399516 Jason Regnier

        Because there is nothing that is equivalent to blackface. The history of that specific performance has no analogue. The closest is maybe the Native American costumes that some people wear, but even that doesn’t reach the same level of single-minded denigration as minstrel shows. The purpose of minstrel shows was to police color lines, and for white people to take pleasure in terrorizing black populations. It’s all to easy to make comparisons to the history of racial oppression, but racism and sexism don’t operate the same way or have the same dynamics. Blackface isn’t just a matter of white people putting on black makeup and pretending to be black. If it were just that, it would just be regular-old offensive, but not as traumatic as it is. Saidiya Hartman argues that blackface can’t be understood outside of the context of chattel slavery and the socially gratuitous violence against (and social death of) black bodies. Drag may be offensive (though it’s probably not that simple) and may be motivated in some individuals by sexism, but the dynamics of gendered performance don’t have that same history. If they did, you wouldn’t have to make the analogy to blackface in the first place. Gendered performance is just that — inherently performative, which is why it’s so fluid and changing. Drag performances play on the markers of gendered performance, and much less on the materiality of women’s bodies. As people have commented above, they occur within a context of shifting gender norms and while they may sometimes reinforce sexism, they also take place in a context of challenging patriarchal and heteronormative assumptions about sexuality.

        Ultimately, I’m conflicted about whether drag performances (or even trans performances) perpetuate misogyny or are on balance ok, but the idea that this is new ground is just not true. I mean, http://lmgtfy.com/?q=drag+performance+sexist

        • Meghan Murphy

          I find your anger at the notion that drag shows could possibly be offensive TO WOMEN, to be kind of telling, considering that it is only two men in the comments (as of yet) who have reacted with anger at this notion, to be men (presumably white men?). I don’t understand why you feel you are in the best position to know what is and what is not offensive or oppressive to women? I doubt you’d feel gender was simply performative (it is performative, but it is much more than that…) if you were part of a class who was forced to “perform” in a certain way and then systemically punished, discredited, abused, and silenced for it.

          There are others who’ve commented here and brought in new perspectives to this conversation, that I hadn’t considered before (and I appreciate those perspectives) but that haven’t reacted with such condescending anger at the mere thought that drag could possibly be offensive to women.

          I’m sure that not all drag performances are sexist and mock women, and that some are more critical of gendered stereotypes, but many-most just take on exaggerated “feminine” characteristics and let men play at and mock women’s lives and the roles forced upon them.

          And again, I didn’t argue that this was new ground, but rather that this critique was not being made within the LGTBQ community or in mainstream feminism.

          • https://plus.google.com/105622811662468399516 Jason Regnier

            Not sure where you got to thinking that I was angry. In fact, it’s a little weird that a self-identified feminist would so quickly impute emotionality to a pretty straightforward argument as a way to delegitimize it when that’s exactly how feminist concerns are themselves delegitimized. In fact, when I posted, I was worried that my comment would come off as overly sterile academic prose.

            I’m also not clear on where you got the idea that I said that drag couldn’t be offensive to some women. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I said the exact opposite. I repeatedly said that some drag could perpetuate sexism or be based in misogyny. I even admitted that I was conflicted about whether it was on balance good or bad. I just said that it’s not at all the same thing historically as blackface, and I’ll maintain that it’s not. Saying that just because you’re “offended” by drag that makes it the same ignores the fact that not all “offense” is the same (nor should it be — for example, you shouldn’t be concerned about offending MRAs). To think that the problem with blackface is just that it offends somebody is to trivializes its actual history as a direct mechanism for violence and racial terror. Drag just simply does not have this history, and if you do, I challenge you to prove it.

            And you’re right that the fact that I’m a man has effects on my perspective, but it’s not only men who make the argument about performance. In fact, it is *many* feminist women who make this argument. But beyond that, it’s ironic that you use this argument against me while failing to reflect on it yourself. If I don’t get to engage the argument because I’m a heterosexual man, then why should you get any say about drag when you’re not one of the queer individuals who finds drag a key way for them to explore and express their sexual and gender identity? And maybe even more importantly, why do you get to make the comparison to blackface when you’re not a black person?

          • Meghan Murphy

            “To think that the problem with blackface is just that it offends somebody is to trivializes its actual history as a direct mechanism for violence and racial terror.”

            Christ, you’re manipulative. I certainly didn’t and would never make that argument, nor did I make that argument about drag. (See above blog post),

          • Clemdane

            How is blackface a direct mechanism for violence? I don’t understand this part.

          • drm342

            Why are you so angry?

            Okay, be angry. It’s a good thing. Productive, healthy anger leads to social change, and I’m all for that. But there’s the rub: Be productive and healthy with it. I think you’ve automatically undermined your own argument by incorporating criticism of the author’s “gender” (forgive me, am I allowed to say that?), AND his race as a basis for discrediting him. In point of fact, you’re merely discrediting yourself because you’re displaying a clear lack of objectivity and an obvious conflict of interest.

            Also, if he is a man, then he would totally understand what it means to be a part of a hierarchical society in which individuals are expected to perform an idea of themselves for the benefit of satisfying gender stereotypes. Men are absolutely expected to ‘perform’ a pageant of maleness that punishes any indication of weakness or ‘femininity’ from the earliest age. Has anyone EVER said, ‘be a woman?’ Bahahaha, um, nope. But boys are told from day one, ‘be a man.’ Boys are cultivated to resist the emotional impulse, deviation from which earns us pejorative words like ‘sissy’ or ‘gay,’ because anything feminine is, in itself, considered insulting. And of course it disgusts me to live in a world where the idea of being a woman or a girl, or being compared to one, is the ultimate tool of shame culture. Yes, gross indeed.

            But tangled up in that male privilege and woman-shaming is a lot of disturbing female privilege as well: The playground notion that boys can’t hit girls back if girls hit them. My mother was not about that crap. If a girl hit me, I hit her like any other bully. The weakness of men is the facade of their strength; the strength of women is the facade of their weakness.

          • Meghan Murphy

            No, of course not. No one’s ever suggested a woman or girl behave in a “ladylike” way, or told them to smile, or suggested their behaviour was “slutty,” “bitchy,” abrasive, pushy or crude when they behaved “like men” instead of like “ladies.”

        • ozzie

          ”Because there is nothing that is equivalent to blackface. The history of that specific performance has no analogue.” Your lack of knowledge and historical insight is astounding. You realize that examples of an underclass being mocked and degraded in art/film/performance/theatre/photography exist in nearly every country or culture with hierarchal social architecture, right? The purpose of them being to further reinforce the schism between those with fully human status and ”others”. Sometimes the motivation wasn’t to oppress but to express fear/disgust towards those not belonging to your race/group.

          ” Saidiya Hartman argues that blackface can’t be understood outside of the context of chattel slavery and the socially gratuitous violence against (and social death of) black bodies. ” Again, do you realize that women were also chattel (during this same period and beyond, and in many places, still are) and that violence towards them is till enacted, trivialized, eroticised or erased right?
          Your argument is completely devoid of reason/logic and seems more motivated by your knee-jerk distaste for something you’re apparently very invested in called out for its parallels to racism.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “Blackface isn’t just a matter of white people putting on black makeup and pretending to be black. If it were just that, it would just be regular-old offensive, but not as traumatic as it is. Saidiya Hartman argues that blackface can’t be understood outside of the context of chattel slavery and the socially gratuitous violence against (and social death of) black bodies.”

            Yeah, I am in awe at how incredibly ignorant you are with regard to patriarchal oppression of and violence against women.

            1) Drag isn’t just a matter of men putting on women’s clothes and makeup and pretending to be women either.
            2) (As pointed out above) Patriarchy and male violence against women also can’t be understood outside of the context of chattel slavery and the socially gratuitous violence against women either. As ozzie pointed out, women were treated as chattel in marriage, continue to be enslaved via trafficking and prostitution, and continue to be subjected to “gratuitous violence” on a daily basis.


          • ozzie

            He also says, ”…the dynamics of gendered performance don’t have that same history. If they did, you wouldn’t have to make the analogy to blackface in the first place.” The reason women have to draw analogies to other forms of -isms is that these other -isms are nearly universally understood as vile and abhorrent by at-least semi-reasonable people, but these same supposed semi-reasonable people seem to have a huge blind spot (intentionally or not) when it comes to the oppression of women. Like, their brains completely stop analyzing the situation as they normally would if we were talking about this happening to a class of people other than women. Someone was shocked that I thought Daniel Tosh should be as condemned and punished for his rape threats as Kramer (I forget the comedian’s name) was for his racist tirade. They couldn’t explain why the situations were not comparable mind you, but they were offended that I even suggested this nonetheless.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “The reason women have to draw analogies to other forms of -isms is that these other -isms are nearly universally understood as vile and abhorrent by at-least semi-reasonable people, but these same supposed semi-reasonable people seem to have a huge blind spot (intentionally or not) when it comes to the oppression of women.”

            Yes! Exactly! Women’s oppression is not “real” to many.

          • http://djupgron.wordpress.com Henke

            While I am not exactly sure how to make my case I think that it has almost everything to do that we live 24/7 thru a male gaze lens in how we look at each other and the world around us. This is being made possible so easy today with all kinds of media, political discussions and so on and so forth and more often than not as soon as women comes into play in a movies, tv-series and so on she is a character written by a man to fit the whole male gaze we all live in 24/7 in this industrial society, which just vanishes the real world women actually live in (and us men too of course).

            If people would stop spending so much time on FB, WoW and watching TV but rather was out in the real physical world they would probably have a much greater chance to break this psychosis which is strikingly similar to domestication.

          • lizor

            “If people would stop spending so much time on FB, WoW and watching TV but rather was out in the real physical world they would probably have a much greater chance to break this psychosis which is strikingly similar to domestication.”

            I just want to say that I think you are dead-on correct with this. People don’t seem to get that their practices are what actually constitutes them and their world view. Not engaging in the physical world seems to foster a belief that whatever you imagine, IS. It has been a huge catalyst to entitled individualism and has been an essential ingredient to the vicious anti-female backlash.

          • Peggy Luhrs

            You make a great point about the media encouraging magical thinking. As a designer and a builder I have to confront reality when my design is made into a building. I can’t ignore material reality. But sitting at a computer all day may allow that.

          • Clemdane

            Yes, witness how long and how widely the furor over Donald Sterling’s racist comments has gone on, whereas casual misogyny of the same level is so accepted that it scarcely merits a headline.

        • http://wateralwayswins.wordpress.com gxm17

          I can not believe this fool used the word “chattel” and then tried to argue that that drag isn’t similar to blackface.

      • Morgan

        Meghan, let the man tell us how we should really feel.

        Note that comparing to blackface is “cheap” and being offended by drag is “simplistic.”

        • https://plus.google.com/105622811662468399516 Jason Regnier

          Nowhere did I, nor would I, deny the history of oppression of women. Yes, women were treated as property historically and in certain contexts today. I’m not saying that race-based oppression is worse than sex-based oppression. That’s not where I take issue with the comparison. I’m saying that what makes blackface so historically unique is not just that its a dominant group dressing up like a subordinate group. If you want to make the comparison to blackface, you actually have to read a book about blackface. Instead, you just base your analogy on a de-historicized facile similarity. That’s why I cited a well-respected black feminist historian who has actually done some research on this issue. Blackface was a particular practice that emerged at a particular historical moment for a particular purpose. Drag emerged at a different moment for a different purpose. You can make all the arguments you want about why drag is bad, and I think I’ve said that I am sympathetic to some of those arguments. But the comparison between them does a disservice to both because the similarity is only at a surface level. If you want to show that drag has an irremediable history of its own, do the work to document that history. Don’t rely on the analogy to do the work for you.

          • http://wateralwayswins.wordpress.com gxm17

            Women were not “treated” as property. They were (and many still are) property. “Drag” is an expression of misogyny that spans thousands of years, from Ancient Greece to the Renaissance to modern day. So, yes, it has a much deeper history than American blackface. But why are you so opposed to examining why one version of oppression via “entertainment” is no longer socially acceptable while another version of oppression via “entertainment” is (not only viewed as acceptable, but) often lauded as some “edgy” gender-defying statement when this crap has been around for thousands of years and it’s not even remotely provocative. It’s just good old-fashioned woman-hating “fun.” Maybe if men stopped stonewalling, gave this topic some careful thought and examined the basis of their motivation to dismiss a feminist perspective on drag, then maybe we might make some progress instead of reinventing the misogyny wheel again and again and again.

            “The purpose of minstrel shows was to police color lines, and for white people to take pleasure in terrorizing black populations.”

            I’m curious if you are aware that minstrel shows included drag in addition to blackface. So, one could argue, the purpose of minstrel shows was to also police women’s equality and to take pleasure in the oppression (an oppression that maintains much of its strength through terror) of half the population.

            “Gendered performance is just that — inherently performative, which is why it’s so fluid and changing. Drag performances play on the markers of gendered performance, and much less on the materiality of women’s bodies.”

            Bullshit. Then ditch the padding. Ditch the high-pitched mockery of women’s voices. And ditch the wiggling of a man’s narrow hips in an exaggerated ridicule of the natural gait of women. The “materiality” of women’s bodies if the foundation of drag. Without it, there is no drag, just a guy in a dress.

    • http://afreudiannightmare.wordpress.com afreuddiannightmare

      “Also, the cheap comparison to blackface is lazy and fundamentally erases the unique history of that practice. ” To say that we can compare two things is not to say that they are the same. Yes, blackface has a unique history, as does patriarchy. HOWEVER, they are not exactly historically distinct either. Patriarchy and racism co-existed at the time of the minstrel show, just as they do now at the time of the drag show. The “wench” and “yoller gal” were characters performed in minstrel shows who ridiculed black/non-white women and were played by white men. Many of them were teenage boys.”the funny old gal” was also a minstrel character who was a fat man pretending to be a fat ugly woman, where the humor is due to the absurd fact of just how ugly she is. Also, the minstrel show and drag show are both just that- shows for entertainment. While the blackface show may have served to terrorize blacks, just as the drag show might terrorize women both had an air of fun and lightheartedness. They were meant to be funny and entertain, yet we recognize that blackface is extremely offensive. The shows often advertised a “real glimpse” into black culture. The jubilee music that was played was said to be “authentic”. It was neither. Neither is dressing in drag a way to “try” on “authentic womanhood”, nor is femininity part of any authentic woman or women’s culture. Its absurd and offensive.

      • http://twitter.com/Jan4Matt Jan (@Jan4Matt)

        “Neither is dressing in drag a way to “try” on “authentic womanhood”, nor is femininity part of any authentic woman or women’s culture. Its absurd and offensive.”


    • imogen

      there is isn’t a “unique history” to erase because they have the same history (on the north american continent anyway): drag grew out of minstrel shows, and minstrel shows included drag in them. White men got a real kick in the 1800s of playing black female slaves while in blackface and drag. Go figure. I read about that here: http://afreudiannightmare.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/blackface-drag/

  • CD

    For liberals, it’s probably something to do with the fear of appearing homophobic by criticising something that’s popular with a lot of gay men.

    I get that gay men are often ridiculed for being effeminate, and a lot of straight women treat their gay male friends as somewhere in between feminine and masculine, maybe encouraging them to act in a traditionally feminine way sometimes. I’ve got gay friends who fit in as “one of the girls”. But I would hope that gay men could see that their mistreatment for (in some cases) acting in a stereotypically feminine way is because our society encourages people to look down on anything considered feminine, whether that’s women ourselves or the behaviours associated with us. Also, because so many women are forced into feminine gender roles from birth, I don’t think that it’s possible to mock feminine behaviours without mocking women in general, as most of us do act at least somewhat feminine. I’m sure that drag queens’ intentions are good, but if the point of an act is to make femininity look funny, I don’t believe that they’re really challenging gender roles as much as they would like to think.

    Also, in response to Rusty, if a transperson who has yet to transition, i.e. who is living as a man, and is visibly male does drag… yeah, their intentions might be different, but how would that even be clear from their act? Anyway, if they’re mocking people, it doesn’t really matter if they identify with the group that they’re putting down – that definitely doesn’t make drag beyond criticism or analysis. Also, unless the definition for the word has suddenly been officially changed to mean something completely different, gender is *nothing but* a system for division of power; why do you think that men are brought up to dominate women and to occupy positions of power? These apolitical personal attributes that you’re talking about? The word for that is “personality”. Not gender.

    • Clemdane

      I think they’re actually reifying essentialist gender roles.

      • Terrie

        You mean they are reifying the myth of and artifically socially created gender roles.

  • christopher.scott.thomas@gmail.com

    This entire post is crazy to me. You openly acknowledge your ignorance yet seem to make VERY universal statements about drag. Why is it that men performing as women is “mocking” women? Why is not a celebration? Drag has never been just about women. It is a culture in an of itself that is fed by gay culture, female culture, pop culture. You’ve also isolated very specific examples of really racist drag queens who wear black face as a means to disregard a entire community. Seriously, not all drag is the same. not all drag demeans women, not all drag is done by men about women, some drag is actually political. To even compare blackface to the complicated and complex world of drag is also just fucking ignorant of racism.

    You should read books about camp and drag. The point is so far beyond “making women look funny” and your simplistic understanding of the art makes that very apparent.

    Seriously, you make constant claims without a single warrant for them….well, other than…I just don’t get it.
    This is why blogs are ridiculous, you get to post shit like this.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Do you honestly think that objectification or things like uncomfortable stilettos and cartoonish makeup “celebrates women”? Those things don’t empower women…

      • Missfit

        Neither terms like ‘bitch’ or ‘bunny’.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Certainly not.

    • Morgan

      Another man coming to a feminist blog to tell women how to feel about men mocking them.

      Some people probably argue that the blackface they do is celebrating black culture or was mocking stereotypes or was just for fun, doesn’t make it any less racist. You can’t “celebrate” an oppressed group by appropriating behaviours and appearances associated with that group. Its offensive to that oppressed group to then tell them they “should read books” about why it’s ok to mock them. Sounds to me like it’s your argument that’s ridiculous, not this blog.

      • Gus

        And yet you have the right to call out the LGBTQ community?

        • imogen

          news flash, some women are feminists and L/B/ Q. durr.

        • christa.

          women do when members of lgbt community are reinforcing women’s oppression, yes. being lgbt does not give one a free pass to appropriate women’s lives/identities.

          and as imogen pointed out, GUESS WHAT, SOME WOMEN ARE LESBIANS AND/OR BI

    • http://manyfesto.wordpress.com manyfesto

      I think the idea is that men are not performing as women. they are performing as misogynist, offensive stereotypes of women.

    • http://genderrealities.wordpress.com susanbjourney

      To use your terminology, Christopher, I’d say that you are “just fucking ignorant of sexism”. Which is pretty typical of your kind. Zero knowledge or analysis backed up by 100% self-confidence. Meh.

      • drm342

        What does, ‘of your kind’ mean?

        • marv

          It means sexist men, like Christopher, who condescend to women. Pretty obvious, unless you have that blocked mindset yourself.

    • JP

      Because obviously for a man to dress like a woman it must mean he really likes women, because why else would a man be seen dead dressed like a woman?


  • Mercy

    It may help to compare to the use of drag outside the gay community, particularly in theater. If you look at it’s history in britain, on stage and in comedy shows, the comparison to blackface is much more straightforward, not just in terms of the performance being mockery but that it also served to facilitate an all male cast (and still, I think, serves this position in the old boys club of comedy, especially for stuff like Little Britain).

    It also allows for the character to be subject to levels of violence/degradation that wouldn’t be tolerated if there weren’t that distance between the actor and the character, if they felt the actor was one of the humiliated rather than one of them, in on the joke – look at something like Mrs Brown’s Boys for instance, the slapstick in that is much more violent than people would be willing to watch on a show with an older female lead; this shades into transphobia too with Little Britain and even moreso in pantomime, where the winks to the fact that the actor is a man are typically timed to come before a particularly nasty joke so as to cushion the blow – haha, this old woman’s got a dick, therefore it’s cool to have her strip to reveal a variety of comedy disfigurements, cluelessly attempt to pickup the hero then get catapulted off stage to raucous cheers (did I mention I hate British panto?).

    None of the gay drag I’ve seen has been remotely comparable to that kind of stuff, so the power differential idea has a lot of legs to me, but with gay rights moving along so swiftly I wonder how long it can last, if it hasn’t crossed the line already. Still, focusing on the Little Britain’s of the world and, once we’ve got it clear in everyone’s heads that this is unacceptable, mopping up the RuPaul’s has got to be the smarter move, tactically, rather than getting into the gay/feminist/transgender three way brawl that seems to be the usual end-point of this argument.

  • http://genderrealities.wordpress.com susanbjourney

    I think that each new generation of young women needs to learn about and think through these issues anew. The patriarchy is thousands of years old – misogynist crap has been raining down on girls and women for untold generations. We’ve got more females being trafficked for rape for money, more female murder victims (femicide), than in the history of the planet *right now* in 2014. I won’t be done talking about issues of female oppression until death sucks the air out of my lungs for the last time.

    To me, drag is exactly the same as blackface. It’s womanface, it’s members of the oppressor class mocking members of the class that they oppress. It trivializes women, caricatures us, turns us into entertainment in a mean-spirited, hostile way. I know that many gay males who perform drag are ignorant of their membership in the class that oppresses women because they’re focused on their subordinate role in the social hierarchy to heterosexual males. Nevertheless, they exist in the power-space between heterosexual males and heterosexual females.

    As a class, gay males – and male transwomen – absolutely participate in policing, judging, ridiculing and oppressing females for the patriarchy. Some of them call us bitches and sluts and fish and worse as much or more than most heterosexual males. Both in the workplace and in private life – I have experienced more direct abuse from some gay males than from some straight males, including a gay male manager who went out of his way to get me fired because I didn’t suit his ideas about how a “lady” should behave (dress, walk, make-up, shoes, voice tone, etc.) and another gay man in a political organization who walked in the door, took over, took credit for everything I’d already done and stabbed me in the back a dozen different ways so he could laugh at humiliating me and eventually replace me (as “ineffective”) with a cute young gay male.

    Please don’t tell me that gay drag queens are my bosom buddies in the war against the patriarchal oppression of women and girls, that they are celebrating me or paying homage to me. I believe SOME are but I also know that SOME are my mortal enemies and would do anything to hurt females just because they think it’s fun, including creating grotesque caricatures of females while acting in disgusting ways to wink-wink get everyone in on the joke about how stupid/ugly/slutty/useless women are (in his mind, at least) EXACTLY like the blackface minstrels who caricatured African-Americans as dumb/sly/lazy/childish etc. ad nauseum.

    • http://www.invisible-armies.com bex0r

      Some of these comments are coming dangerously close to spreading trans hate, and I just wanted to check that you are aware of how your language could be considered as such. For instance, there’s no reason to use the term “male transwomen”. That would just be women, or trans women. To say that trans women play an active role in policing and oppressing hetero cis-gender women would also be patently false, based on current statistics around violence and victimization rates ( in 2010 44% of LGBTQH murder victims were trans women, and in 2009 trans women were 50 percent of murder victims. Yet trans people as a whole are only about 1 percent of the LGBTQH population.)

      I’m curious to know if you have any studies or research to back this claim up? I’m sorry that you feel you have been bullied by gay men in the past, but that is also not evidence that you or women in general are being actively oppressed by gay men. I would argue that many gay men who perform many of the unfavorable traits you mention are actually mirroring the ways that cisgender women treat each other. They’re not actively mocking, they’re adopting real, witnessed examples of how women act.

      • morag

        To but it bluntly bex0r, if you have a dick I and many women don’t care about your opinions on feminism. If you don’t have a dick, I and many other women aren’t going to pat you on the back and call you a sister for prioritizing dick. Do some reading. The points you brought up have been discussed in many feminist blogs before, and it’s frankly rude for you come to a blog and demand we reinvent the wheel over and over.

        • drm342

          So, basically, you’re saying that anyone with a penis isn’t welcome in the conversation. Wow, incredibly enlightened, big, and not-fascist of you to exclude someone on the basis of prejudice, rather than to actively engage them in dialogue as an individual.

          • morag

            Yeeeeeah, it’s the feminists who are the fascists. You little boys just hate being told NO by women in any way, shape, or form, don’t you?

      • amongster

        “For instance, there’s no reason to use the term “male transwomen”. That would just be women, or trans women.”

        there is no reason to use “male transwomen” because “trans” already says that those women are male. however, to call them male is not offensive but reality and many reasonable transwomen agree with that. also, you use the words “transwomen” instead of just “women” yourself because it is important for you to make it clear which group is meant because they *are* different ( you even use the term “cis” for female born women…). i don’t understand why you would ask others to act differently.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I honestly don’t understand why using the words “male transwomen” “spreads trans hate.” It’s perhaps unnecessary or redundant to add the word “male” there, but pointing out a biological fact doesn’t strike me as “hateful”? Transwomen know they were born male and will say things like “I used to be a boy/man.” It doesn’t mean they aren’t now trans and it doesn’t mean they can’t identify as transwomen.

        • JP

          In fact, to argue that just because you don’t feel like a man, you must therefore be a woman, makes women an “other”. It makes women “not men” by definition. It doesn’t give women their own unique identities, other than being “that thing that isn’t men”.

      • JP

        “male transwomen” are not women. They’re men who want to be seen as women. Like I said before, you can feel like a potato, but if you’ve never been a potato, you don’t know what it feels like to be a potato, so you couldn’t possibly know that you are actually a potato.
        Men who feel like women were never women and therefore don’t know how it feels to be a woman and therefore can’t say that they feel like a woman, and definitely can’t say that they “are” a woman.

  • http://mmmariguana.wordpress.com mmmariguana

    Thing is, racism could not exist without sexism; they are not on par with each other. Women were the first humans to be enslaved lo these many thousands of years ago (no, it hasn’t been since the dawn of time), mainly due to extreme womb envy. Sexism is the root (it is radical) from which all other oppression sprouts.

    Men in drag, and surgically and/or chemically altered men (SCAMs, demanding they be considered women and pitching fits when they aren’t) are merely the latest iterations of men to erase women. They are men and we forget that men (whether they realize it or not) hate women at our peril.

    Racial (ethnic, social, class, caste, etc.) purity can’t be maintained unless women are completely controlled. When (not if) women get men off our backs, will the clouds part, rainbows appear, birdies sing and all human ills disappear? In a word, YES!

  • Tobysgirl

    What I would like to hear from people are their thoughts about women doing drag, by which I mean women using tons of makeup, wearing painful, absurd shoes, wearing provocative clothing, speaking in high-pitched voices that are not natural, etc. I do not find clothing, shoes, makeup, gestures, voices, to be fundamentally male or female. All of these items are essentially gender-neutral even if society insists that dresses are female, trousers are male. I’m aging and disabled, so I do turn on the TV, and it is interesting how women news readers often wear skimpy clothing while men are fully clothed. What would we think if the male news reader for the BBC was wearing a tank top and shorts? Would he be doing drag? Would we laugh? What do we think of the women we see on television who will even say they look nothing like what we see? Are they mocking womanhood? If anyone reads this, I would hope that you realize I am ASKING QUESTIONS, not answering them.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’ve written about femininity a lot on this site. What I think is that women are socialized and pressured to “perform” in these ways — to objectify themselves, sexualize themselves, and cater to the male gaze. It doesn’t “mock” femininity so much as it IS femininity and you’re right that femininity is not empowering for women.

      • Tobysgirl

        More questions. Does femininity mean simply performing as women are expected to perform? Does it have any other meaning?

        • Meghan Murphy

          Well, as I mentioned, it’s about hierarchy. Who is subordinate and who is dominant.

  • http://wateralwayswins.wordpress.com gxm17

    Kinda OT, but why do websites exist that “teach” men how to walk like a woman? If a male transwoman “identifies” as a woman, then why does he have to learn how to walk like one? Wouldn’t he already walk like one, or at least his version of womanhood? All the effort, in addition to the extreme body modification, that is required kinda puts the lie to transitioning being anything “natural.”

  • http://nanasgotablog.com Rebel Nana

    Back in 1979 I was befriended by one of the dearest persons that I have ever met in my life, and we remained friends until his passing in 1992. At the time Toronto was becoming a little more tolerant of the LGBT community but shamefully there was lot of hatred and violence.

    The St. Charles on Yonge Street was a notoriously well-known gay tavern where my friend ‘Blank’ would take me after our office hours to have a few pints. It wasn’t the kind of place that many straight girls my age would have dared to venture into, but because I was with ‘Blank’ and he was quite popular I wasn’t intimidated. I loved it, the beer was cheap, the food and music were fab and I didn’t get hit on left right and centre (which was the best part).

    One Friday night we decided to stay a little later than usual – at about 9 pm the bar-tender turned off the juke box that was piped into the PA and suddenly Donna Summer’s Hot Stuff was cranked. Then the double doors at the front of the Tavern were yanked wide open, the smoke filled air parted and in strutted 12 of the most beautiful women I have ever seen. They literally walked through the entire bar and marched right back out again. There were 4 – 5 bodyguards who waited at the doors and they escorted the women back onto a school bus that they had hired. I turned to ‘Blank’ and asked. “What on earth is going on?” He replied. “OMG you’re going to love this – this only happens about once a month.” All of the patrons in the tavern stood up and started applauding to the beat of the music. Some stood on their chairs and on the tables. On their way out the door I asked, “so where are they headed now?” ‘Blank’ replied, “that’s it – they’ll go home and change back into their man clothes.” “But why the bus and the body guards?” “Safer in numbers, if they take taxis, transit or walk they’ll get the shit kicked out of them or arrested by the police.”

    This was just the beginning of one of the largest movements in Canada, which lead to the inception of Pride Toronto in 1981 – and despite the fact that I have never witnessed another gay parade – with PRIDE I can honestly say that I witnessed one of the first.

    I really do not know enough about this subject from a feminist or from a personal LGBT perspective – but I would assume that ‘Drag Queen’s’ in a cabaret or burlesque show are simply campy artistic performers and this is how they happen to earn their living, just like strippers or prostitutes and regardless if one is on-stage or off-stage, or whether they are trans women, or trans men, transvestites or cross dressers – no one deserves to be beat up, murdered or raped because of the clothes they are wearing.

    In addition Have a look/listen to this link.

    Panti’s Noble Call at the Abbey Theatre


    • morag

      Can you please point to where anyone here said anyone deserved violence? And of course the drag queens were the “most beautiful” women you’ve ever seen-femininity, womanhood, and conventional beauty are all man made definitions that don’t reflect authentic femaleness. Like I said upthread, it’s the ultimate privilege for a man to don high heels and fake implants and say he’s celebrating womanhood, and this misogyny isn’t erased because he’s gay. It appears that celebrating womanhood is just plain old woman hatred, and the status quo disguised as revolution.

      • http://nanasgotablog.com Rebel Nana

        My post was not pointing to the fact that anyone here was discussing any form of deserved violence. My post was merely a reflexive comment about how I felt at a particular time and place – I was just 19 years old and in 1979 many folks were quite confused about feminism. I/we (the general population) were simply not aware of the ill effects of patriarchy, hegemonic masculinity and misogyny. It is unfortunate that my generation was so ignorantly conditioned. In this day and age it is remarkable (thanks to the internet) that we are now able to have these conversations and open dialogues – it is refreshing and a relief to know that so many bright young folks are challenging all of the rhetoric, confusion and backlash that has taken place for so long.

    • jo

      ” I would assume that ‘Drag Queen’s’ in a cabaret or burlesque show are simply campy artistic performers and this is how they happen to earn their living, just like strippers or prostitutes ”

      Well this is a feminist blog so the perspective of the readers here is usually that things like drag, and much more seriously, stripclubs and prostitution aren’t just simply things that happen – they exist in a sexist, misogynist society and the demand was created by it.
      And no, feminists are not the ones who wishes violence on gays/trans people.

  • Ash

    It saddens me how quickly the conversation went off topic. But this article really gave me a lot to think about. I remember years ago, when i was like 18 or 19, i would go to drag shows and took part in a drag-king show…when i was on stage as a drag-king, it was more cool than funny…no one thinks its funny to be men. your article has really helped me reflect on that. it was weird, though, because one of the drag queens from a show i was at came outside for a smoke and insulted my haircut. I was pretty taken aback by their sexism towards me…that really made me think like “what the hell?”

    • hootyhoo

      For a man who likes to dress as a woman, it is obviously not to be “one of them” (ie a woman), but to be “the best” most extreme woman possible. The dominating woman, the winning woman, most beautiful woman in the room, loudest. It is a competitive male version of womanhood. I think, in a way, to be a man dressing as the most extreme woman possible is to imbue ‘woman’ with humanity (maleness) and respectability (masculinity) which would still allow them to look down upon and insult real women. Still allow them to hate women- “look how much better we can do it than you”.

    • Tobysgirl

      I wish I could remember the name of the Off-Broadway show I saw many years ago; in it, women dressed as men in a gentlemen’s club — the old meaning of the word, NOT a sex club — and behaved as men, and it was hilarious. So in that case it was funny to see stupid behavior being sent up by very sly female performers.

  • http://www.kcna.co.jp/index-e.htm Morgan le Faye

    I’ve lived in San Francisco for many, many years. I have had gay/lesbian/LGBTQ friends, enemies and acquaintances. I’ve seen drag shows,
    and known some drag queens. That said, I suggest you speak with a few. Those that I know consider themselves to be paying tribute to women, through emulation, not imitation. They worship women. Watch ‘To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar ‘ to get an idea
    what drag queens are ayming for.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I certainly am not or would not be opposed to hearing about what they think they are doing and what they think about women but, as was alluded to further upthread, I don’t understand why women should talk to men about what they think women should think about their representations of women in order to decide whether or not they should or should not take offense?

      In any case, if it’s anything along the lines of this, not super interested…. http://www.tbd.com/blogs/amanda-hess/2010/10/are-drag-queens-feminist–3759.html

    • Missfit

      I’d rather say they worship femininity. And by referring to themselves as women based on their wearing mascara and a dress reduces being a woman to a stereotypical notion of femininity. I don’t find drag subversive at all, it rather reinforces gender stereotypes. What would be subversive is a man wearing make up and high heels, not pretending that this makes him a woman and calling himself Mr. Peacock or whatever.

      • marv

        “….known some drag queens. That said, I suggest you speak with a few. Those that I know consider themselves to be paying tribute to women, through emulation, not imitation. They worship women. Watch ‘To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar ‘ to get an idea
        what drag queens are ayming for.”

        Would you condone blackface if the whites were “paying tribute” to blacks “through emulation, not imitation.” What if they worshiped blacks. Patronizing, don’t you think. Should blacks give a damn what blackface is “ayming for”? If you think I am right then why not show the same respect to women? Looks like sexism is alive and well in San Francisco.

    • JP

      So if a white guy in blackface is actually trying to emulate, not imitate, black people (whom he worships), should black people first talk to him to find out his intentions before they get offended?

  • julia

    In response to this: “Why is it understood that the appropriation of a marginalized ethnicity, race or culture is facilitated by white privilege and that it’s offensive, but not that the same arguments could be applied to a group of men (who benefit from male privilege) who appropriate femininity as a form of entertainment?”

    Femininity is not something inherent to women. While it is true that ethnicity, race and culture are also “made up” they are more concrete than something like femininity.

    I understand that you are responding to drag in Vancouver which is a pretty sorry event. Davie Street and Commercial Drive are filled with misogynist gay men and les”bros” worshipping masculinity. Most of the drag you’ll see here is sexist, violent, and boring. However drag has a very rich tradition outside of this (ball culture, etc). Because your account of drag lacks nuance, I think the way you draw parallels to blackface is questionable. White people often use anti-black racism as an analogy for other forms of oppression. It’s a lazy form of analysis which is itself rooted in racist epistemology. It is especially sketchy in this case because of drag’s history in black communities.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “Femininity is not something inherent to women.”

      Of course it isn’t. My entire body of work argues the opposite. Femininity is forced upon us.

      And yes, you’re right. Most of the drag I’ve seen is in Vancouver and has been very sexist and racist. The last show I saw featured a hetero black man mocking black women.

      What’s odd is that your response the same one I receive every time I critique burlesque (and selfies, and porn, and everything, really) — that it ‘lacks nuance’ and that not ALL drag/burlesque is like that. It doesn’t render my critique irrelevant though.

      Your response hasn’t actually provided any examples, evidence or explanations for your disagreement with my arguments — you’ve only spouted academic jargon and made unfounded statements. I’m sure there are lots of points to counter my arguments, I just wish you’d offered them…

      • marv

        “While it is true that ethnicity, race and culture are also “made up” they are more concrete than something like femininity.”

        We must be from different planets. Where I live femininity (and masculinity) are concrete as concrete. They take on numerous specific manufactured forms that are resistant to liberation, e.g. porn, prostitution, marriage… If I could had the means to leave the Earth I would come and visit your world to see how your species lives.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Yeah I’m not sure that there are any more concrete categories in this world than ‘man’ and ‘woman.’

        • julia

          On my planet, masculinity and femininity are codified behaviours that people take up in different ways at different times. Yes, it’s systemic, but one day I can wear a dress and shave my legs, and another I can cut my hair short and put on menswear. Whether I am perceived as being more feminine or more masculine, I will always be white. This is what I meant by “more concrete.”

          • Meghan Murphy

            Gender isn’t just an individual choice though. It’s a hierarchical system that places people in one category or the other based on biology. How exactly do you think patriarchy works?

          • julia

            I’m in total agreement with you, Meghan. I’m talking about masculinity and femininity though, not men and women. Women do not always act feminine and men do not always act masculine. They might be punished for this socially but that doesn’t make it biological. Like you said, “femininity is forced upon us.”

            Do you think that mocking femininity is the same thing as mocking race?

          • Meghan Murphy

            “Men” and “women” IS gender. Do you mean males and females?

          • Julia

            I am not talking about gender or sex. I am talking about masculinity and femininity. I’ll ask my question again: do you think mocking femininity is the same as mocking race?

          • Meghan Murphy


            1) You don’t seem to understand the difference between sex and gender, nor do you seem clear on how power systems and the gender binary/hierarchy works. I’m just trying to clarify for you.

            2) “I’ll ask my question again: do you think mocking femininity is the same as mocking race?”
            Please stop trying to oversimplify this conversation. It’s disingenuous and unproductive. I just wrote an entire post noting comparisons/similarities between drag and blackface. Others have brought forward further context, history, and theory. Feel free to do the same, but all you’re doing here is being manipulative and derailing in an attempt to cover up the face that you don’t have any clear/substantive points to make.

          • http://wateralwayswins.wordpress.com gxm17

            Drag queens do not merely mock “femininity,” they mock women’s bodies too. They wear padding, change the pitch of their voices, and imitate a woman’s natural gait. There are even “how to walk like a woman” websites. Ridiculing women’s bodies is fundamental to drag. As I’ve said before, get rid of the padding etc. and all you have is a man in a dress (with clown-like make-up).

            Also, I want to point out that black face imitates supposed cultural qualities that are “made up” and not “inherent” to an entire race.

          • marv

            “On my planet, masculinity and femininity are codified behaviours that people take up in different ways at different times. Yes, it’s systemic, but one day I can wear a dress and shave my legs, and another I can cut my hair short and put on menswear. Whether I am perceived as being more feminine or more masculine, I will always be white. This is what I meant by “more concrete.””

            Race is invented, codified and systemic as well but can’t always be identified with skin pigmentation and other bodily features. Whether one is “perceived as being” a person of colour or white or mixed is not tangible in many cases.

            Anyway, in terms of the concreteness of gender we are talking about more than just styles, haircuts and individuals. The sexual division of power and roles between males and females as social groups is the real issue not the aberrations. Systems thinking is required here not diversionary individualism. We need a fundamental reordering of sexual relations since patriarchy structures the current range of options.

            One or both of us are extraterrestrial or lacks acuity.

  • http://www.hellyeahimafeminist.com ptittle

    I agree that we need to emphasize that drag imitates and possibly mocks the feminine, not the female. That said, given the comments about hierarchy and discomfort, I think the feminine is an appropriate target of mockery – if one is inclined to engage in mockery. I confess that I HATE seeing women perform femininity (I won’t say I find it offensive only because I haven’t worked out what exactly it means to be offended by something) – it hurts all of us. And I don’t accept the ‘it’s forced on us’ claim, nor even the ‘we’re pressured’ claim. I am, of course, aware that women are expected to appear feminine, as well as marry and man and reproduce, but many of us don’t do any of that, for some excellent reasons, and at least here in Canada, we don’t get stoned for our choices. So where’s the force and pressure? Sure, maybe we are ostracized somewhat, but geez louise, that’s a small price to pay; how stupid (needy?) is it to wear make-up and high heels, marry a man, and reproduce just to avoid ostracization?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Well I’m not sure it’s always understood as ‘I might be ostracized if I don’t perform properly’ — I think women just grow up believing they have to in order to be considered attractive AND learn that being attractive to men is the most important thing they can be…

  • Alli

    Have you followed Eurovision song contest and this year’s winner, Austrian Conchita Wurst?
    In press people have commented how he (in a drag, she) encourages people to be themselves and accept other as they are.
    I would like to read your comments!

  • isthisajoke?

    This article and most of the comments (didn’t read through all of them sorry) completely miss the point of drag performance.

    As an example, the quote from Kleiman,

    Kleiman writes: “There was ridicule of African-Americans. ‘Look how silly they are! But look how they laugh, and doesn’t that prove they’re happy in the confinement in which we’ve placed them?’ Likewise, men who dress up as women and adopt stereotyped feminine behaviors are comical because of their stereotyped behavior, and the inference the audience is encouraged to draw is not that stereotypes are comical but that women are.”

    is flat out wrong. The audience IS encouraged to infer that the way women are stereotyped in society is comical and to question why we think women are expected to act this way.

    And your assumption that, “there must be a reason women don’t do this to men — turning masculinity into entertainment or a joke, that is.” is also grossly incorrect, Ever heard of drag kings?

    I’m sorry you fail to understand the point of most drag performances, please educate yourself a little further next time you intend to make a ridiculous blog post such as this.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Of course we’re all aware of drag kings. But it’s far more commonplace and more popular to see drag queens.

      • isthisajoke?

        Right, so you are on the fringes of queer culture and are making a broad generalization about something you don’t understand. Give it a rest already.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I don’t understand what it feels like to see men mocking women? Ok. Stupid me. Thought I did.

  • https://www.facebook.com/tlacount Tyler LaCount

    The problem with that analogy is is that cis-gendered women don’t really “own” femininity as an identity the way a racial minority does. Anybody regardless of their sex can have a wide spectrum of gender identities. The idea that exploring that feminine side of yourself is “mocking” women is itself pretty offensive I think.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Femininity is something that is forced on women, just as masculinity is. Pretending as though women and men aren’t socialized (sometimes via violence) to perform gender which, in turn, reinforces the gender hierarchy and is oppressive, is just magical thinking. We can’t simply pretend gender away because some men decide to play with it on stage.

  • CK

    As a drag performer myself, I’ll dive in.

    To me, it seems that your argument overlooks a key wrinkle by pushing everything into a male-female dichotomy. Gender, to many, is more of a fluid spectrum; people choose to identify not simply as male or female, but sometimes as somewhere in between or elsewhere (genderqueer is a broad heading, but there are all sorts of options that people have taken up).

    Drag as it stands now is typically not a tool used by heterosexual men, but rather a banner waved by gay men to fight back against oppression. It’s no coincidence that the Stonewall Riots were started by a drag queen. Gay men have historically been viewed as disgusting, deviant, overly sexual, and feminine. So the drag queens like Divine that took up such qualities did so knowingly, with the goal of becoming the very thing that straight society feared and embracing those qualities as beautiful.

    RuPaul, another prominent example, isn’t in it for the shock value, but rather emulates pop stars. Again, she does so with a highly specific intent. She has said in interviews that her performance is intended as a critique of Western celebrity culture. After all, media tells us that the most beautiful thing in the world is a specific type of young, thin, blond woman; by attaining that ideal as a black man, she undermines its validity and points out the falseness of the construct. Her drag is specifically aimed at questioning the beauty standards to which women are held.

    Drag has also provided a gateway for some women to find their way into their gender identity. Many transgendered women begin their journey through drag performance; Carmen Carrera is a prominent example of such a shift.

    In general, I think that gay men use the trope of female costume as a means of embracing the parts of themselves for which they have been shamed. Society views the crossing of gender lines as deviance. Men are discouraged from walking with a swish, wearing high heels, putting on make-up, or otherwise changing the dialogue about what men are supposed to be like. It is empowering to be a man in feminine dress as a means of mocking the whole idea of masculinity and femininity, with the aim of breaking down barriers in general. Drag queens, in my view, are forever posing a pointed question about male/female roles.

    I’d also encourage you to do a little more digging in terms of the reading you’re doing, because drag has definitely not escaped notice from feminists and queer theorists. Though there is, of course, wider and wider acceptance of this performance medium, it has had its share of critique. I know bell hooks has done writing about the ways that drag reinforces heteronormative views, and also about the problems of race inherent in drag performance. (To be clear, while I do drag, I am NOT supportive of blackface or other racially insensitive routines.) There are essays out there, though they might take more digging to unearth, but this discussion has been had and will continue to be had because there is not full consensus on the impact of male-to-female performance.

    • morag

      This is where feminists and drag queens differ: the former see gender as a hierarchy and the later think it’s a fluid spectrum. Mazel tov that gay men can ‘play” with femininity but that’s not the reality for women. A marginalized group shouldn’t seek empowerment from another marginalized group. Also your claim that Rupaul and Carmen Carrers has attained some kind of female perfection while commenting on pop culture is absurd and frankly shows how much some gay men have their head up their ass when it comes to feminism. Females are not an abstract concept in some guy’s head, nor are we fish, cis, or bitches. If you bothered to LISTEN for once you would see your points have been addressed ad nauseum here.

  • Vivian Divine

    Nobody ever says “I want to make fun of women” and goes through all the trouble and effort of being a drag queen. Women, trans or cisgendered, should be appreciative of drag queens. We are the most radical and best dressed symbol of the fact that genitals don’t define who a person is or what they’re good at.

    • morag

      So basically you’re saying “you stupid women, you should be thanking us drag queens for doing womanhood and feminism better than you.” Wow how original, I’ve never seen a man barge into a discussion before to tell us stupid women how it is. Your comment is laughable, and the fact that you’re writing this with linebacker shoulders and 5 lbs of makeup just makes it funnier. This isn’t Will and Grace here, where women will fall over backwards to cater to queer men and assure them that yes, you have the most radical politics, yes you’re so much smarter than me, and yes your slip hides your junk.

      • Meghan Murphy

        You should just SEE the virulent, horrid, misogynist comments I’ve been deleting here all day, morag. From men, of course. Gay men defending drag. Yep, they’re the real radicals.

        • http://www.hellyeahimafeminist.com ptittle

          I know why you’re deleting them, and I thank you, but every now and then I think moderators of sites like these (IBTP and femonade come to mind as being subject to the same shit) should be allowed – posted at some other separate place – so women can see just how much men hate them. (women who still don’t get it.)

          I’m tempted to offer my place once a week, for an open ‘This is what real men are really like’ or ‘This is what real men really think about you’ thread, but of course that would just give them some sort of audience, attention…

          So again, thank you.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I know. I often consider posting them just so people can see, but I also don’t want to encourage it and worry that posting them will keep ’em coming back…

          • amongster

            i really appreciate that you delete those comments. there is already enough space for those people and sometimes it is even hard enough to read comments by simply uneducated males who still believe they know better. this page feels like a safe place to me and i’m thankful that you make that possible.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I do my best. And yeah, I do sometimes let some through just so people can see and so they can be ripped apart, but this is not a public forum for misogynists. They have the whole rest of the internet.

        • http://wateralwayswins.wordpress.com gxm17

          You really don’t have to scratch the surface too far to reveal the ugly misogyny in so many men’s hearts.

        • morag

          Eww you have my sympathies Meghan :( It’s a catch 22 with troll comments since you can either post them with the intent of showing how disgusting they are and then women waste their energy and respond to them. Or you don’t publish them and then get all of the “you’re exaggerating, not all men are like that!” comments. I agree that you have the most enlightening and best moderated comment section!

          • Meghan Murphy

            Thanks to my commenters who happen to be the best commenters on the whole internet.

      • Vivian Divine

        You assume that my support of drag is based from the perspective of a drag performer, and in part it is. It is also from the perspective of someone who deals with the challenge of gender and the expectations of our binary society on a daily basis.
        You have no idea, only assumptions, of my gender, sex or expression thereof. (In fact, I am not a gay man, nor a man at all beyond what chromosomes dictate.)
        You have no idea, only assumptions, of what I look like or how I am perceived by the world. (I am more, often than not, taken for female and treated as such. Without any makeup at all. That includes the limitations imposed by a male-oriented society)

        Assumptions by men say that women are of lesser worth.
        Assumptions by one race say that others are inferior.

        I consider all people’s worth based on their abilities and attitude towards others.

        Instead of stereotyping gay people and drag, perhaps you should be reaching out to the fierce warriors within the culture who want all people to be treated equally.

        The face of drag and gender have changed. If people, especially the radfem
        movement, continue to generalize what people do you’ll continue to miss out on some very powerful allies.

        My message is that if my linebacker shoulders can exemplify society’s mold of womanhood so well, then maybe that mold isn’t quite so rigid after all.

        • morag

          You guys never fail to crack me up. “I’m biologically male but I’m a woman in my special lady brain where it counts! In fact I do woman so much better than you that I get treated as one even without makeup. Blah blah blah new age bulshit about letting love in your heart and embracing allies.”
          Feminists don’t care how hot you think you are or how well you fit the femininity box. Your delusionals of grandeur and MRA faux equality talk have zero to do with the liberation of women.

        • http://mmmariguana.wordpress.com Mar Iguana

          “In fact, I am not a gay man, nor a man at all beyond what chromosomes dictate.”

          Bad chromosomes. Bad. Evil little tyrants.

        • Jani

          I think drag queens are insulting to real women. Drag queens focus on, highlight, and ape the worst aspects of womanhood. Their promotion of vanity, vapidity, shallowness and an overemphasis on appearance and materialism projects a horrible, sexist, and demeaning view of women. Why haven’t women in the wider society protested this? Well, most women don’t see drag shows. Most women are too busy attending school or working at jobs to support their families or are taking care of children or caregiving for their elderly parents or friends. Most women are too damn busy to give a crap about some clowns in gowns insulting us. But those clowns when seen do provide us with something to point to as an example of an anti-woman.

          Drag queen anti-women do not amuse me – instead they make me cringe. And those women who do enjoy drag shows probably enjoy the objectification of women in beauty contests and in the larger media culture. Anyone who thinks drag queens are beautiful – don’t know what true female beauty is. True female beauty is strength. Its stretch marks and C-section scars. Its dark circles under your eyes from staying up all night with a sick child or relative and still going to work the next day. It’s being there for your family and friends when they need you, to bring jumper cables, food, sit with you during chemo and lend a spare hand or just provide a shoulder to lean on. Drag queens are free to play their dress up games – but they should keep them in those dark, nasty clubs where they belong. Not in the real world with real women. Real women have it hard enough without being mocked and insulted by silly drag queens.

          And while I’m on a roll. I feel sorry for Transsexuals. It must be terrible to be that confused. That said, I don’t care what you cut off and what you add on and how many darn chemicals and hormones you pump into your body. A transsexual will never truly experience what it is like to a woman, period. They will always be other, an outsider and never my sister.

    • Sabine

      “Women, trans or cisgendered, should be appreciative of drag queens.”

      Oh we SHOULD, should we??? Are you fucking kidding me? And if I hear “cis” one more time I’m going to scream….Also, being trans does not make a man a woman.

  • Caroline

    Comparing drag to blackface….. No. Just no. That is all sorts of wrong to do- racism (especially in America) has it’s own unique history and shouldn’t ever be compared to issues of gender. They are not the same. Using the the reference of blackface to forward your argument here is appropriation in itself (looks to me like you’re not black, yourself), and muddling up different systems of oppression.

    • Meghan Murphy

      There are very clearly intersections between the ways in which people are subjugated based on race, class, and gender. The hierarchy that places white men at the top is tied to all of them. In any case, of course there are separate histories — one of my points is that progressives are comfortable calling out racism but not sexism and there is clearly sexism in drag. Yes, there are different histories, but that isn’t to say that we shouldn’t question why some forms of oppression are still accepted in progressive communities and others are not — particularly when they manifest themselves in ways that appear to be similar.

      • Caroline

        Yes there is intersections, but this post was not much at all about intersectionality. It was trying to compare drag to blackface.

        In any case, I find it interesting that you start this post off by admitting that you haven’t seen much drag and haven’t thought much about it, and then immediately go painting it all as fundamentally misogynistic. I think if you were to look more into drag (and the endless forms it takes), you might start to see that it’s hardly ever about “haha this is a dude pretending to be a woman and making fun of all things feminine”. If that’s all drag was about, then you’d not see the multitude of styles there are out there- pageant queens, camp queens, club kids, genderfuck and tranimal, etc etc etc. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some men that dress up in drag because they think it is inherently funny to do so- but those men don’t make (successful) careers out of drag, because it gets old REAL quick. Drag is much more about the realization that gender is not some force of nature that controls us like gravity. It’s about exploring femininity and realizing it’s not such a scary monster thing, or creating a fully-realized character separate from the person behind it… rather than appropriating femininity to laugh at it. I’ll offer you this quote from BenDeLaCreme-

        “As a feminist and an advocate of trans rights, a man in a dress CAN’T be a joke. Wearing beautiful things and telling jokes are two ways I get to make the world closer to what I want it to be. To me, drag is the perfect vehicle for comedy not because “HA-HA MEN AREN’T WOMEN,” but because of the camp tradition. In camp, a character can simultaneously be the joke and be in on it—the character and creator coexist in a way that is rare in other forms. Some of my favorite comics are Amy Sedaris, Paul Reubens, Maria Bamford, Kristen Wiig, all the above-mentioned queens [Varla Jean Merman, Miss Coco Peru, and Lypsinka], and Seattle’s crown jewel Dina Martina.”

        • Meghan Murphy

          “Yes there is intersections, but this post was not much at all about intersectionality. It was trying to compare drag to blackface.”

          Hmm ok. The post was about pointing out sexism in drag and asking why it was acceptable for men to dress up as caricatures of women and mock them when we are comfortable saying that blackface (i.e. white people dressing up as caricatures of black people in order to mock them) is not ok.

          And I’m sorry but I went through the exact same thing when I wrote about burlesque and was told over and over again that I just hadn’t seen ENOUGH burlesque to be able to have an opinion on it. And NOT ALL burlesque is sexist, etc.

          I’m totally open to hearing different perspectives on drag and I’m sure there are lots of drag performances that are more subversive and aren’t merely focused on mocking exaggerated caricatures of women, but the drag I’ve seen has been mostly sexist and offensive. This isn’t a black and white argument — it isn’t all one thing or the other, so i think my criticisms can stand alongside other perspectives.

  • an30o

    I was reading bell hooks’s “Is Paris Burning ?” where she quotes Marilyn Frye, a quote which I found extremely interesting, at least for the last sentence :
    “As I read it, gay men’s effeminacy and donning of feminine apparel displays no love of or identification with women or the womanly. For the most part, this femininity is affected and is characterized by theatrical exaggeration. It is a casual and cynical mockery of women, for whom femininity is the trapping of oppression […]. What gay male affectation of femininity seems to be is a serious sport in which men may exercise their power and control over the feminine, much as in other sports… But the mastery of the feminine is not feminine. It is masculine…”

    And as always, the men are the one who are really able to reveal something of a higher state, to put it at a higher level of perfection than women, you know, like in cooking for instance. Because men choose the time they dedicate for this and for them, (in a paraphrase of Christiane Rochefort), feminity doesn’t strike them as a constraint, but more as a way to feel themselves differently, they’re free of the strain of oppression. They don’t realise the luxury this is, to be able to try to be some sort of woman in a controlled environnement.

    • morag

      This is an excellent quote. I forgot where I read it, but I remember a feminist commenter argue that femininity is not an expression of femaleness but rather childlike behaviour. And who else but men can have the luxury of acting like a child minus the vulnerability and danger real children face?

  • http://twitter.com/secret_sass Dr. Sassy Yoni, Esq. (@secret_sass)

    Meghan, thank you for asking the questions that none of the woman-hating identity-zombies on the Left want to deal with – or even tolerate a woman asking. If you are interested, I wrote a related blog post here, “Sex & Race & Boundaries on the Left.” http://secretlyradical.blogspot.com/2014/02/my-initial-take-on-sex-race-boundaries.html I think those boundaries are treated differently b/c white supremacist patriarchy wants different things from the Others in each category (woe to those who are in both).

    • http://mmmariguana.wordpress.com Mar Iguana

      Scratch a racist and you will find a sexist. Racism could not exist without sexism; they are not on par with each other. Women were the first humans to be enslaved lo these many thousands of years ago (no, it hasn’t been since the dawn of time). Sexism is the root (the radical) from which all other oppression sprouts.

      Racial (ethnic, social, class, caste, etc.) purity can’t be maintained unless women are completely controlled by any means necessary.

  • Lela

    Hey Meghan, I’m late to this particular thread, but great post and comment thread! Glad to see you are still at it, and your regular commenters are so sharp! In my experience, progressive women are psychologically barred from articulating our less-than-awesome feelings about drag if we want to consider ourselves supporters of LGB people. As we have seen here, the stock response is to conflate feminist critique of drag with what “the rest of society” feels toward gay men, which is both false and intellectually lazy.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks Lela! Yeah it’s weird. (Some) folks seem very unwilling to acknowledge the possibility that (some) gay men might promote sexist or misogynist ideas…

      • http://www.hellyeahimafeminist.com ptittle

        I confess I had that opinion initially too. (When I deejayed at a GLBT event, I realized I was wrong.) I think it was because I was thinking that being gay = challenging the whole heterosexual thing, including the hierarchy… But if being gay is ‘just’ biological, then there’s reason whatsoever to think anything at all about the attitudes/opinions of the gay population as a whole. Goes for lesbians too. I still mistakenly assume all lesbians are feminist!

  • http://stoneyland.net/ Yeoman Nacelle Envy

    I wrote a very similar blog post just the other day and then a friend of mine found yours and linked me to it. Well put.


  • Dan

    “Nobody”, I agree with your comment (May 20, 2014, 6:42 am). I have already been male-bashed for expressing my opinion, presumably because someone thought I was a heterosexual man when in fact I am a gay man.

    In response to your reply as well as to others who read this, I was looking on Wikipedia under “drag queen” and found two paragraphs that I strongly suspect the author of this article has based this article on:

    “Within the larger lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) communities, drag queens are sometimes criticized for their participation in pride parades and other public events, believing that this projects a limited and harmful image of gay people and impedes a broader social acceptance. This attitude itself is criticized for limiting self-expression and encouraging the idea that there are “right” and “wrong” ways to be gay. In more recent years drag queens have been prominently featured at these same events.”

    “A common criticism of drag queens is that they promote harmful stereotypes of women, comparable to blackface portrayal of African-Americans by white performers that was popular in the early 20th century. Conversely, some feminists embrace drag as a skewering of traditional gender roles, defying the social norms of male and female looks and behaviour and showing the artificiality of femininity and masculinity.”

    In answer to the author’s question (in the article’s title) and the example of blackface she provided, the LGBTQ community does indeed critique itself as apparently “Daytona Bitch” had infuriated many for doing blackface.

    According to Wikipedia’s information, while some women believe drag queens promote a harmful stereotype of women, some feminists “embrace” drag which defies social norms and shows the “artificiality of femininity and masculinity”.

    Wikipedia also gives a quote from American drag queen RuPaul who once said, “I do not impersonate females! How many women do you know who wear seven-inch heels, four-foot wigs, and skintight dresses?” He also said, “I don’t dress like a woman; I dress like a drag queen!”.

    This is what many don’t “get”. Drag queens are gender expressing, entertaining, and in no way try to recreate or redefine what womanhood is — and drag queens as a whole cannot be labeled as racist. Some of them are, of course, but then again, some feminists are racist as well. Many feminists are sexist in that they discriminate against men, for example, by not wanting us to comment in this forum or in my case, I was assumed to be a “misogynist woman fucker”. That’s sexist, and many people who look in the proverbial mirror forget that what they are seeing is not someone else they hate, but themselves.

    I would encourage anyone to look up “drag queen” and “drag king” in Wikipedia, especially if they do not even know any such people, and then to formulate opinions that are better informed, rather than attacking each other as in “I’m right, you’re wrong”.

    Many members of the LGBTQ community know and appreciate that the Feminist Movement opened the doors for the LGBTQ civil rights and human rights movements. There will always be bad apples in any and every group, but at least the LGBTQ community includes all of humanity, and is not a members-only club.

    And, “Nobody”, I agree with your being infuriated — you are absolutely not alone in your feelings. About one in three people I personally know feel the same way. But also know this, such bad apples in feminism thrive on transferring their issues onto others. Why not do what I have done — engage in thoughtful, informative and respectful conversation with feminists who are the same, as they have ways to soothe the suffering that the bad apples try to project onto the world.

    No one can tell us or anyone in the LGBTQ community the “right” or “wrong” way to be who we are.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Why are you mansplaining feminism to us?

      Also, for the record, there is no such thing as sexism against men.

      • lizor

        FTR, Dan, “not wanting us to comment in this forum” – is not accurate. Your comments have been posted. The fact that you are so far out of your depth that you take up space preaching wikipedia to us (FFS) has you come off as ignorant and presumptuous. No one is preventing you from commenting. However, if you want cheers and pats on the head instead of informed engagement, then you should look elsewhere.

        And BTW, how is it that “the LGBTQ community includes all of humanity”? If it’s a community that has no exclusions and inclusions, why define the community at all? LGBTQ form a connected confederacy of people marginalized because they identify outside of the heterosexual, so-called “cis” majority. Maybe you should try doing a little more in depth research than wikipedia and invest in some serious consideration of the issues before writing long posts that do nothing but demonstrate the limitations your current understanding and your inflated self-regard.

    • marv

      “Many feminists are sexist in that they discriminate against men, for example, by not wanting us to comment in this forum or in my case, I was assumed to be a “misogynist woman fucker”. That’s sexist, and many people who look in the proverbial mirror forget that what they are seeing is not someone else they hate, but themselves.”

      Now that we know you believe in reverse sexism, what will your next oxymoron be? LGBTQs oppress heterosexuals when the former accuse the latter of heterosexism. That would be a heterosexist assertion. Don’t tell me you are hating on gays now not just women. That would also be self-loathing, something you already oppose. Cognitive dissonance?

    • Lo

      You sure like Wikipedia. Best source ever.

    • Sabine

      Wikipedia?? WIKIPEDIA???? Seriously? That is your source of information? I actually have my head in my hands at this point…

  • Maureen

    In case you are interested in a Black woman’s point of view on “lady face” versus “Black face,” you can find it here:


    in which she writes:

    “Essentially they practice sex appropriation and as far as I’m concerned ‘lady face’ is just as offensive as ‘black face.'”

    It’s just one point of view, but I’m really far more interested in what a Black feminist has to say about this than what some dude who feels it is his place to lecture feminists on a feminist blog thinks about it.

  • https://www.facebook.com/FearlessJDK Jonas Kaufman

    Gender identity is not a binary it’s a scale. That, I think, is the difference. A person is either of a race, partly of a race or they’re not.

    But you can’t say that about gender identity.I know lots of gender fluid people, And I think drag queen/king-ing is an aspect of that.

    I think drag kings/queens are just expressing that part of their gender identity.

    This is an excellent explanation of some of the concepts I mention: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXAoG8vAyzI

    • amongster

      “gender” is a hierarchy, even if you want to see it as a scale it is one that is not horizontal but vertical, obviously with masculinity on top and femininity on the bottom. women can do whatever they want, conform to femininity or not, they will always be the oppressed as long as “gender” exists. doesn’t matter how many identities you make up, patriarchy doesn’t care about them.

    • Laur

      Do you think in a sex equal culture drag would exist?

      And when you say “their” gender identity, where does this come from? Are some people born drag queens and others, well, not?

  • marv

    Your point is redundant. It has already been made in the comments above. The video was tiresome and superficial. Several billion gender boxes are still boxes.

  • Here

    Just putting my two pence in here. i;’m from Scotland, a medical student in Edinburgh and a drag artist in my spare time. My character “Lucia Vaughn Trapp”, is simply a character. Do I wear a Dress? Yes. Do I wear Breasts? No. (Partly because they’re expensive and partly because sometimes I like to work the androgyny angle). I personalty don;t define my character as any gender, they are simply a vehicle for which to entertain. Some people use she, some use he, I personally use they. I do not make jokes based on gender, most of my jokes are based on the audience (and only if they volunteer, I wouldn’t make jokes about unwilling participants) Even through I wear a dress, and tuck, and show of my legs. Does that cause me to mock females? No. Because, as stated, the societal construct of gender is should not exist (Although the mental gender is a definite thing)their are queens who mock femininity, and I disagree with that. However most of that comes from mocking their own character, and even more than that comes from mocking their own failure to become feminine. I personally don;t see drag as mocking feminine people.

    • Terrie

      No ”mental gender is *not* a definite thing but an artifically created thing!

  • Rosemary
  • Cynthia Longerthanu

    As a drag queen and an aspiring feminist, I want to point out that none of my performances have the intention of mocking women. She’s a means for me to look and feel beautiful, and act over the top and make jokes. She is upfront about her sexuality (a woman’s sexuality is to be celebrated not judged) but I wouldn’t make a joke about fishy vaginas, for example, as they have the negative connotation and victimise the woman. Also, as gay men, we have grown up having people pointing out female qualities in us and shaming us for them. This is a way of celebrating those. I quote BenDeLaCreme “As a feminist and an advocate of trans rights, a man in a dress CAN’T be a joke. Wearing beautiful things and telling jokes are two ways I get to make the world closer to what I want it to be. To me, drag is the perfect vehicle for comedy not because “HA-HA MEN AREN’T WOMEN,” but because of the camp tradition.”

    • Meghan Murphy

      The mere fact that you think you get to have any say or opinion on women’s sexuality or that you get to define what women’s sexuality is or should be kind of shows how problematic drag queens and drag queen culture is.

    • amongster

      There are no “female qualities”, there are human qualities that get gendered into feminine and masculine by a misogyn society. It’s very obvious that most men who like to be drag queens don’t have much understanding about the oppressivness of gender and perpetuate harmful stereotypes.

  • Allen Jeffrey

    Well, most obviously, black skin is a biological trait of black people. Blackface has a history. It wasn’t worn merely for accuracy of appearance. It was worn explicitly to perform characters who displayed the negative stereotypes of black people, the implication being that those features—stupidity, vulgarity, indecency, violence, and so on—are intrinsic to blackness and to black individuals. In other words, blackface perpetuated an incredibly oppressive, violent, insidious racial essentialism.

    Big colorful hair, ridiculous makeup, glamorous dresses, and highly affected mannerisms are *not* biological traits of women. Those are, instead, all aspects of a socially constructed gender. There is no essentialist implication here. Perhaps importantly, there was no equivalent history of the vicious oppression of women by openly gay men, who were an ostracized sexual minority.

    Also worth mentioning is that notions of femininity and masculinity and the society that defined those, produced and reproduced them as norms, and punished deviance/deviants were not content to leave male-desiring male bodies alone. Those notions shaped those men, were projected onto those men or stripped from them, and the result was not trivial.

    Finally, a gender role is not a culture and so citation of hyper-feminity is not cultural appropriation. First, femininity is not the culture of an other when gay men are concerned (see above). Second, we are *all* involved in masculinity/femininity. Femininity does not belong exclusively, consistently, or uniformly to women. Third, note that you don’t call it cultural appropriation when Native Americans wear jeans or business suits. Cultural appropriation involves, in other words, massive *cultural* power dynamics.

    All that said, I think there are problematic elements. But these issues concern trans women specifically, not born-female women in general.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “…note that you don’t call it cultural appropriation when Native Americans wear jeans or business suits”

      Because who cares if an oppressed group ‘appropriates’ the ‘culture’ of a dominant group? Get it? Men are the dominant group, white people are the dominant group.

      • Andrew Wale

        Gay men are not the dominant group – anywhere.

        • Meghan Murphy

          1) Are all drag queens gay?
          2) Are gay men not men?

    • Scott

      “Second, we are *all* involved in masculinity/femininity. Femininity does not belong exclusively, consistently, or uniformly to women.”

      Allen I think you are missing a key point of radical feminism here. Radical feminism seeks to dismantle masculinity/femininity. So drag queens and kings are problematic because they reinforce these sex role stereotypes. It is even more so for the drag queens because it is men reinforcing the feminine stereotypes. I do think your first point is valid, but there are some similarities between the two, and Meghan has stated that she means no disrespect to the Black community by making this comparison.

    • marv

      “Well, most obviously, black skin is a biological trait of black people. Blackface has a history. It wasn’t worn merely for accuracy of appearance. It was worn explicitly to perform characters who displayed the negative stereotypes of black people, the implication being that those features—stupidity, vulgarity, indecency, violence, and so on—are intrinsic to blackness and to black individuals. In other words, blackface perpetuated an incredibly oppressive, violent, insidious racial essentialism.”

      Your extreme male bias prevents you from admitting gender roles are patriarchal cultural constructs as race roles are patriarchal white societal formations.

      A more astute comment from you would have said:
      “Well, most obviously, female bodies are a biological trait of female people. Drag has a history. It wasn’t worn merely for accuracy of appearance. It was worn explicitly to perform characters who displayed the negative stereotypes of female people, the implication being that those features – sexiness, stupidity, vulgarity, indecency, beauty obsessed, submissiveness, frivolousness, artificiality – are integral to femaleness, to female individuals and that men can appropriate them for fun and entertainment or to make a transgressive statement. In other words, drag perpetuates incredibly oppressive, violent, insidious sexual attitudes and dispositions.”

    • Missfit

      ‘Femininity does not belong exclusively, consistently, or uniformly to women.’

      Men can perform the social construct of femininity if they want. But when they pretend they become women by doing so, there is essentialist implication here. Men can have big colorful hair, ridiculous makeup, glamorous dresses, and highly affected mannerisms if they want. But when by doing so, they also put on fake breast, use female pronouns and female names, they definitely appropriate femaleness.

  • Ashley

    I agree with most of your points in this article when applying it to cis men doing drag but not ever to trans women as many of the comments mistakenly seem to conflate. I hope to get across to you Megan that we are not the same. I may have been born with a penis but I AM female and always have been. It’s not an Identity or a feeling it’s a reality. A horrible reality that I wish wasnt true because it’s fucking hell and in no way fun or happy play time like it seems to be for drag artists. I think some radfems and all terfs seem to conflate gender roles and gender. Those two are not the same. As a feminist woman who happens to be a trans I despise gender roles with all my heart. I want to shatter the glass ceiling and destroy all forms of misogyny and oppression towards woman. Gender roles and prescribed femininity is absolute bullshit. There is no article of clothing nor action nor role that is inherently female. Just like cis women trans women can be femme or butch or anything inbetween or outside artificial boxes.I am not a man who is sympathetic to women nor a non male as others here have suggested. I am woman in the truest sense of the word. I hope others can understand the difference between trans women like me and drag queens and understand that we face the same issues as our cisters and merely wish to march in line against oppressive gender roles and other assorted patriarchal bullshit with them.

    • amongster

      When you have been born with a penis you are male, have been male and always will be male. Your biological reality is what it is. Being female is not a feeling but a biological reality as well and you can call me TERF all you want, that doesn’t change the fact that you are male, that I am female and that your trans ideology about gender identities hurt real biological women aka females. When you really want to stop the oppression of females, stop calling yourself female. That would be the first important step and it only means to acknowledge reality! I’m not cis just because you are trans.

      • Ashley

        That is incorrect. My biolite a reality is that I’m female nothing more or less. I know you can’t accept this but I as amuch much a woman as any other woman who happens to be born with a vagina. Thinking othwrwise is far worse as it reduces women to nothing more than genitals and we are so much more than that sister! TERF ideology hurts us all and keeps us held back while cis males take everything they can and think it their just due. The idea itself that penis equals male and vagina equals female is something that only benefits cis men. I hope you can understand why such outdated standards of classification are incorrect especially since they were devised by and for the patriatchy! This is not ideology it is reality!

        • Meghan Murphy

          Female isn’t only about whether or not one has a vagina… It’s a person who has two X chromosomes. Generally females DO have a vagina, uterus and ovaries (unless they’ve had hysterectomies or were born with some kind of genetic defect or something, I suppose). You are welcome to change the pronouns by which you refer to yourself, of course, but you can’t literally become a female if you are male… That isn’t a statement of opinion or one that bears any judgement, it’s just a fact…

          • Ashley

            That is an irrelevant way to view this and the only reason to bring it up would be to cause psychological damage to a trans person. That’s just a fact. Gender is far more than chromosomal makeup, private parts or reproductive organs.

          • Meghan Murphy

            But gender is not sex. Are we talking about gender or sex? Because you said “female,” which refers to a person’s sex, not their gender.

            Is Wikipedia a ‘TERF’ because they acknowledge that biological sex is a thing that exists?

            And I’m sorry but I fail to see how acknowledging that biological sex is a thing that is real causes ‘psychological damage’?

        • Morag

          “I know you can’t accept this but I as amuch much a woman as any other woman who happens to be born with a vagina. Thinking othwrwise is far worse as it reduces women to nothing more than genitals and we are so much more than that sister!”

          Oh, stop boring us with your silly “reduces women to nothing more than genitals” crap. Only a sexist man would think that the REALITY of genitals is a “reduction.”

          That is, only he would do the reducing. Stop projecting your shit onto those of us who do have vaginas, Ashley. People with vaginas are female human beings. If you can’t see beyond the vagina, that’s YOUR problem, not ours.

          • Ashley

            You are the only one being reductive here and by doing so you are acting like a transmisogynist to me and a transphobe to trans men who are men after all! What I speak of isn’t silly this all perpetuates the overt hatred and oppression trans people suffer and die from every day. By the hands of both cis women and cis men. If you hate patriarchy so much then stop being a tool for the patriarchy by helping them oppress your sisters just to make yourself feel better or vindicated or whatever you feel picking on a woman like me.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Are you just trolling us? What you are saying doesn’t make any sense. You aren’t actually responding to anything anyone is saying here — you’re just making a bunch of irrational/irrelevant accusations.

          • Terrie

            There is no such thing as ”feeling like a woman or man” either,especially by nature!

          • Morag

            Who is the tool of the patriarchy, here? You dismiss feminist theory, analysis, thought, and argument as “picking on” little old you.

            You reduce women to their biological capacities and then tell US we’re being reductionist. That’s gratuitous aggression, by the way.

            You tell us that “female” is whatever a man feels inside, and that those feelings must be validated and protected by women, otherwise trans people will die. That’s emotional blackmail.

            You tell us that vagina, uterus, ovaries, etc. have no meaning, so that “female” will have no fixed meaning, so that females can’t identify as a discrete class of people against oppression. That’s erasure.

            This is all privileged male behaviour, gas-lighting and aggression. You’re a tool. Of the patriarchy.

          • http://www.vanillarosetangents.blogspot.com Ms Vanilla Rose

            Sigh. So, what is your take on female to male transpeople, Morag? Are you going to dismissively
            call them male, despite their XX chromosomes.

          • Morag

            No, I call women “female.”

          • http://www.vanillarosetangents.blogspot.com Ms Vanilla Rose

            So you don’t respect their right to define themselves.

          • Morag

            Respect? What the heck are you talking about? People can play make-believe about male and female if it makes them happy, but other people are not obliged to play along. Do transgenderists have respect for the intellectual integrity of people who know the difference between male and female? No, they do not. Do not talk to me about “respect.”

          • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

            “the overt hatred and oppression trans people suffer and die from every day. By the hands of both cis women and cis men”


            Can you please show us the incidents (of which there are obviously many if it’s happening “every day”) of biological women murdering trans people.

        • amongster

          Your delusion is what hurts females.

    • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

      “I am woman in the truest sense of the word”? What sense is that? Serious question.

      • Ashley

        I am not trolling you and I am actually answering your questions. They may not be the answers you expect or want to hear. They aren’t accusations they are long standing struggles with a type of oppression that has lasted well over 40 years now. Just hoping to help see how you might be unintentionally causing your fellow women harm.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I’m causing women harm by acknowledging that being female is a real thing?

        • Morag

          You’re not a fellow woman, you’re a fellow. And like many of your fellow fellows you’re “just” telling feminists that we’re doing feminism wrong. By asserting that female people are people who are female. We understand that you want the definition of woman to be wide open so that men can come up with their own ideas about what a woman is. Too bad. That’s why we’re feminists.

        • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

          Ashley, you are reading a lot into my question despite the fact that I qualified it. I appreciate your expression of comradeship in the fight against patriarchy and I have no reason to think that you are insincere.

          One very important aspect of fighting patriarchy is exercising stringent self-awareness to determine where we – all of us here – have been shaped by, carry and reproduce patriarchal values.

          I asked you what you mean by being a woman in “the truest sense” because I didn’t understand what you meant by that. I was born with a full set of female reproductive organs that all developed much like the majority of female humans do. I have the biological ability to produce a human being, I bleed once a month, I can lactate and feed a baby if that’s the direction my life takes. I am aware of how my sex organs respond physically and sensually when I feel sexual attraction for someone.

          However, I have not got a clue whether I feel like “a woman” in my soul or in my mind. I have nothing to compare to, having never been anyone else. So I don’t understand what you are saying and I must approach your certainty about exactly what “being a woman” is with caution. You’ve since written ” I am female in my mind body and soul.” and with respect, you are not female in body. That is a material fact, no matter what interventionist alterations you might make. And I don’t really believe that anyone on earth can definitively say what having a female or a male soul or mind entails or how that is defined. If you have any insight to share beyond simply stating your sex as a fact (as per my original question) I am interested to hear it.

          Here’s another honest question: if you are female in body as you have stated, then what language do you use to describe my own physical body, with the operation of my sex organs as I described above? Surely there is a categorical difference between my physical development and yours (along with a difference in the psycho-social implications that we are subject to as a result).

      • Ashley

        That I am female in my mind body and soul.

        • C.K. Egbert

          What does it mean to be female under your definition? We are talking about “gender” as the social construction of sex-roles, differential socialization, etc. for the purposes of domination and subordination. That is what gender is and how it is used according to a feminist analysis.

          Based upon your responses, being female
          1. Cannot be having a vagina or uterus or anything else, because you claim that “female” is not based upon biological characteristics (or is itself a social construction)
          2. Cannot be the experience of being female-bodied (having a vagina, uterus, etc.)
          3. Cannot be the experience of being raised and socialized as female

          So, I’m guessing that you mean one of the following:
          1. You experience body dysphoria because you feel that you should have female genitalia and secondary sex characteristics.
          2. You believe you have some other characteristic which actually defines femaleness, such as “brain sex.”
          3. You identify with female sex-role stereotypes.
          4. You identify with some sort of “female essence” or “eternal femininity”.

          If it is (1), then it seems that your body dysphoria is based upon the idea that to be female is to have certain sex characteristics. (2) is very dubious (see Cordelia Fine), but even if it were the case, that is not the basis for sex-based subordination, so we would still be talking at cross purposes.

          You reject (3) above. If it is (4), you would need to define the content of a “female essence.”

          • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

            Great comment. You could not be more clear.

          • http://goingradical.wordpress.com Ella Hawthorne

            I keep coming back here to see if there is a comment from Ashley responding to this excellent inquiry. Please answer, Ashley.

        • Mar Iguana

          “…males take everything they can and think it their just due.”

          That includes you, Ashley. You are merely one more delusional man trying to co-opt what they think is the female mind body and soul.

          Patriarchy came up with the constructs of masculinity and femininity, not the biology of male and female. You can cross dress all you want to, but you will always be male, stuck with that pitiable little “y” chromosome.

        • Terrie

          No you are as comedian Elaine Boosler said back in the 1980’s I’m only a person trapped in a woman’s body! There is no such thing as a ”woman or man’s mind and soul,and there is plenty of research studies decades worth by many different psychologists,that has found the sexes are much more alike than different in almost all of their psychological,traits,abilities and behaviors and that there is a large overlap between them.And that most of the large differences found are *individual people differences!*

  • Mark

    “There must be a reason women don’t do this to men — turning masculinity into entertainment or a joke, that is.”

    Hate to break it to you, but just like drag queens are men dressing up as women and performing, there ARE drag kings, who are women who dress up as men and perform. Maybe you should have done even the slightest bit of research on drag before writing an article like this.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Drag kings don’t mock men and turn them into trashy, cartoonish, “sluts” and parade around in ridiculous outfits. Also, men are not an oppressed class so the context for women dressing up as men is different than the opposite.

      • Jackie

        Reality check, Meghan, gay men ARE an oppressed group….

        • Meghan Murphy

          So that gay men also suffer under patriarchy gives them free reign to be sexist??? How does that work, exactly?

          • vagabondi

            No, he means that its not OK how women are always dressing up as gay men, to demean and dehumanize them, of course. Because gay men are oppressed by other men.

            OK, so how about we’ll stop if you do? Oh, wait, we don’t do that. So we’ll start, we’ll invent a so-called art form, make up (ha) elaborate justifications for it, and then we’ll stop when you do.


      • Morag

        Heh. Along with the standard, boring, and very tired “you should do some actual research” have you noticed that “I hate to break it to you” is also very popular? And it’s always used to introduce information that is pretty much worthless to the discussion.

        For comfortably sexist men, who could never be bothered to understand a feminist analysis before they jump in to explain why it’s wrong, It’s a stock phrase that they use for its own sake. “I hate to break it to you” simple means “I think women are dumb.” It’s the beginning, and the end, of their “argument.” Anything in between those two points is tripe.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I know, like ‘whaaaaat”??? Drag KINGS, you say???! They think they’re awfully original don’t they — blowing minds across the internet.

    • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

      “Hate to break it to you but Occasionally Occurring Exception!!”

      Hate to break it to you Mark, but the existence of drag kings whose numbers are minuscule in comparison to drag queens and whose hold on the culture is non-existent in comparison to Drag Queen culture (se Ru Paul’s Drag Race) has no impact whatsoever on the issues Meghan has raised.

      Hate to break it to you Mark, but you look like an asshole when you post a comment ordering a woman to do “research” when, if you got off your lazy ass and did a bit of research on you own, (like perhaps reading more posts on this blog and actually applying some honest intellectual energy to what has been written) you’d know that Meghan’s analysis is always well-researched.

      Hate to break it to you, but your comment is trolling 101 and is as status-quo and unoriginal as they come.

      Nice try.

      • Morag

        Yes! “Hate to break it to you” can be used for intellectually honest purposes, and for legitimate mockery of intellectually dishonest trolling.

  • Jackie

    This is precisely why the world has turned on feminism… women like this.
    I’d way rather be a woman moving through this world than a gay man. You people really have no clue what they go through, do you? Drag performances depict bold, brave, fearless women. These men, who are otherwise treated with contempt and disgust by so much of the world, use the mask of the female form to empower themselves and find their strength. Anyone who finds that offensive is an imbecile and really needs a reality check.

    • Meghan Murphy

      OH MY GODDD. FOR THE MILLIONTH TIME: MEN DON’T GET TO DECIDE WHAT WOMEN ARE, WHAT WOMEN SHOULD BE, WHAT WOMEN SHOULD LIKE. You people are all so fucking entitled and self-absorbed it’s incredible.

      The reality check is the number of drag queens and gay men who have shown up on this post — who clearly have never read a thing on feminism, but are here to defend their entertainment — and are ordering women to respect what they do because REALLY it’s a compliment. YOU need a fucking reality check. Like, outside your drag bubble.

  • Andrew Wale

    The author of this article doesn’t appear to have spoken to any drag queens or looked beyond the performances themselves in to the lives of the men behind them. I am not a great lover of drag, but I know that much about women is celebrated with it. There are also many different forms of it from pointless, offensive rubbish to serious political commentary. This article seems to me shallow and under researched.

    • Meghan Murphy

      What difference does it make whether or not drag queens think they are being sexist? What does it matter what the lives of the men behind the performances are like? Should I ask a porn producer whether or not he thinks porn is misogynist in order to know for sure whether or not it is? Should I ask a pimp what his perception on prostitution is to really get the full story on whether or not prostitution is feminist? Should I ask a white person whether or not they think blackface is ok before deciding whether or not it is truly racist?

  • wyatt

    I think you’re wrong. The only drag queens I’ve been exposed to are the ones on Rupauls dragrace. It looks like it depends on the queen. Some do it because they are trans, some do it because they are super “fishy” and they love the look and feel of being a heteronormative women. Some do it to feel accepted and comfortable with themselves. Others do it as an act. The current winner is an insult comic. A really funny one too. Most queens just want to entertain people. If they do that dressed as women and impersonating women and in the mindset of a women I don’t buy that as a brand of sexism for women if anything you could co-opt it in femenisms favor. I always thought it was a feminist idea to begin with, one of the few parts of femenism I actually enjoyed. I don’t think any of them do it to make fun of women. They mostly do it to celebrate women.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Are you actually using the term ‘fishy’ to describe feminine-looking men and then telling us that drag isn’t misogynist??

      • Morag

        Well, he HAS done a lot of research. Into “femenisms” and fishy men.

        I hate to break it to you, Meghan, but men are real smart. So maybe we should listen to his opinions on where “femenism” has gone wrong.

  • Eric

    Ladies, I don’t really know how to answer this article. I think some interesting points are brought up, but not all drag queens portray women in such negative ways. Also…have you heard how we as gay men talk to one another? Drag is about being who you want to be, some wise words from RuPaul.

    Before you hate on drag,I suggest you all go and properly educate yourselves on drag history. Just because you’re a lady doesn’t mean you know our culture and our history and our struggle. If you think drag is coming from a dark place…then girl, you might want to get some thicker skin. If you want to see some hate, lets talk about black face. THATS hateful.

    Dressing up like a sickening lady, hair done up, painted to high heaven, and strutting around being fabulous…those sound like positive things. I’ve always thought of drag of being a celebration of who you want to be, the freedom to express and be beautiful, whatever that means to you.

    Also, you don’t bring up drag kings, at all. If drag queens are mocking women…are drag kings mocking men? Naughty drag kings, how dare they try to feel beautiful (or handsome I guess).


    This video is a video RuPaul made for Mary Cheney, its never to late for a Her-story lesson.

    • Meghan Murphy

      LADIES. Ladies. Listen up, LADIES. We’re flattering you. Now shut up. Ladies.

    • Morag

      “…are drag kings mocking men?”

      I should hope so, but I’m not really sure. I think the girls-in-drag are trying to prove that they are “equal” to men.

    • http://johnstompers.com/ insolence

      “hair done up, painted to high heaven, and strutting around”

      That sounds like a whole lot of expense, artificial masking, and exhibitionist work to get to a feminized true self.

      Said Dolly Parton, a woman expert in womandrag, “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”

  • http://None TonyG

    Just wow. The conversation here is so very intolerant with so many disrespectful responses that lack even an attempt to seek an understanding.

    The equation of drag and blackface can be facile if it does not explore the particular and separate histories and manifestations of each. Too, my experience, organizing in NYC in anti-racist and anti-sexist organizations and direct actions is that feminist and queer critique of drag has been common where I am from (New York City).

    I believe it is important to not stereotype drag performers, drag queens, or those who employ drag (both male and female drag) as if those who engage drag are a monolith with singular motivations to denigrate.

    I am African American and queer-identified, and I would have to say that the history of drag culture is much more nuanced in terms of performance, intent, motivation and as a tools of oppression vs. liberation.

    It’s not that drag does not exist in terms of oppression, it is just very different from that of blackface in terms of its political force which includes measurable attempts to question and support feminism, women’s rights, activism in liberation movements, including LGBT rights, where as blackface utterly lacks this history in terms of its political agency to engage in attempts to undo discrimination and upend stereotypes.

    Whether one likes drag queens or drag kings, or not, drag as cultural expression includes a political agency that has been real in the United States in terms of empowerment of queer culture, questioning stereotypes, and giving agency to those whose lack voice because of their inclusion in a class of people who are discriminated against because of their gender, gender expression, and gender identity.

    Again, I cannot say the same about blackface, rarely, if ever a political or social force for undoing racist manifestations of power that subjugate.

    While the history of drag is mixed on this front, I would have to acknowledge that it is, at the very least, mixed. I would acknowledge both its positive and negative consequences in terms of attempting to dismantle sexism as opposed to reinforce it.

    There is so much for all of us to learn by listening to a different perspective, but how we do it, says just as much as what we say.

    • marv

      Glib, stale and contradictory reasoning. Those who defend blackface use the same rational as you do about drag. They say it is a mixture of racism and “questioning stereotypes, and giving agency to those whose lack voice because of their inclusion in a class of people who are discriminated against because of their” RACE.

      You warn against stereotyping drag performers because of its nuances, intents, motivations and liberatory potential for women. Blackface on the other hand is dismissed outright for these qualities in reference to overcoming racism. Why don’t you show more tolerance to blackface instead of failing to be more receptive/listening to a “different perspective”? Where is the open mindedness you champion now? Double standards.

      In truth blackface and drag are about racist and sexist ideology and conduct: whites deciding for blacks and men for women.

      If you really cared about understanding you would have read all the previous comments which addressed your points numerous times instead of being monotonous.

    • christa.

      “empowerment of queer culture, questioning stereotypes, and giving agency to those whose lack voice because of their inclusion in a class of people who are discriminated against because of their gender, gender expression, and gender identity.”

      aka men get to decide where and when it’s ok to put on womanface.
      when a man decides to dress up as a woman, it’s ok because he’s doing it because reasons.

      what stereotypes are being questioned, exactly? were women asked if this was an ok method to use to do this questioning? who is gaining agency by impersonating/mocking/”complimenting” women? why is it ok for them to gain agency via caricaturizing women? is it not possible for this class of people who “lack voice” to gain their agency in ANY other way that doesn’t involve playing out offensive stereotypes of women? is it men’s place to appropriate anything from women’s culture for ANY reason, no matter who these men are?


      you know who is discriminated against because of their gender and/or gender expression? WOMEN. yes, some groups of men face a form of discrimination because of failure to adhere to masculinity. they don’t get to use WOMEN’S oppression to ameliorate or anesthetize their own.

      basically all i am reading in these comments defending drag is that women’s opinion doesn’t count, PERIOD. but it also doesn’t count because women’s oppression isn’t real. and it also doesn’t count because women’s oppression is real but not AS REAL as various men’s oppressions. and women’s opinions don’t count because they didn’t ask the men first re: what opinion women should have. and women’s opinion doesn’t count because drag isn’t offensive (oh, ok, all these women are wrong i guess). and also women’s opinion doesn’t count because drag is a CELEBRATION, ladies!! don’t worry your pretty heads about it.

      • Morag

        Exactly, christa. It’s almost as if women weren’t real people. Therefore, neither are our experiences and opinions. Gee, it’s almost as if Woman was just a costume. A costume, perhaps, that is temporarily infused with humanity and “agency” when men wear it.

      • http://None TonyG

        First of all not all feminists are women. You can try to dismiss me because I am a man, but good luck with that.

        Never in the history of blackface has it been used in terms of liberation of black people and became accepted in a liberation movement as an agency of change. Drag has been utilized and accepted in that manner by queer culture.

        I have never ever seen blackface utilizeas a systematic empowerment tool, in a movement, or otherwise, to uplift Black folk. It has not happened. An individual may claim that for himself without the reality of it being part of an anti-racist movement, organization or institution, but s/he would stand alone in that regard.

        Drag by men and women has long been a part of, and played an existential, even powerful role in the liberation of gay men, lesbians, transgenders and questioning people.

        Show me where blackface has been used during political events, rallies, and movements participated by Black folk as an empowerment tool that has been accepted by those Black folk it has claimed to uplift. It has not happened. Manifestations of drag have proven itself as a tool of empowerment and uplift for queer men and women. Historians consider those who engaged drag not as a form of entertainment but as an expression of who they were inside to have been a main, if not THE salient, revolutionary impetus at Stonewall in New York City for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Movement that planted the liberationist seed that bloomed into the modern day lesbian and gay civil rights movement, marriage equality moment, and a movement that has seen the United States enact laws that protect gender and transgender expression.

        That cannot be said of blackface whose agency for social change has been weighted unquestionably to subjugation and ridicule.

        One cannot provide evidence where blackface has in actuality been a force for black liberation. To even suggest such a thing is ludicrous. There is no evidence of it whatsoever. Nor is there evidence that blackface has been accepted as a form of expression that Black culture in the United States has embraced. Again, drag culture and expression is different, and has found a place of acceptance as part of queer culture to such an extent that it is, in fact, inseparable from the queer liberation movement.

        One can try toas if using a cookie-cutter, simply to place blackface in the same category of drag, but that is a fallacy. It is a decidedly tunnel-visioned and uncritical look at American history.

        Drag is part of queer culture. Drag queens and drag kings, some feminist in perspective and their life’s activism, can and do use it as an expression of challenging gender norms and gender stereotypes and do it in ways that do not succumb to sexist stereotypes because it is an expression of their gender and how they live every day in their lives, not as a costume to perform or belittle.

        Just because some do not believe these people exist does not mean that they do not. And as far as drag’s role in gay and lesbian liberation, one cannot unwrite that history. It will forever exist.

        • amongster

          “First of all not all feminists are women. You can try to dismiss me because I am a man, but good luck with that.”

          This makes clear that we should definitely dismiss men who claim to be feminists.

          “Drag is part of queer culture. Drag queens and drag kings, some feminist in perspective and their life’s activism, can and do use it as an expression of challenging gender norms and gender stereotypes and do it in ways that do not succumb to sexist stereotypes because it is an expression of their gender and how they live every day in their lives, not as a costume to perform or belittle.”

          This is why “queer culture” mostly sucks and is totally unhelpful to the liberation of women. And those feminists “with perspective”? No feminits at all but handmaidens.
          Gender is a social construct to force women into submission, it’s not a toy even if privileged men like to play with it.

          “Just because some do not believe these people exist does not mean that they do not. And as far as drag’s role in gay and lesbian liberation, one cannot unwrite that history. It will forever exist. ”

          Unfortunately there is no doubt that these people and their oppressive behaviour exist. I cannot unwrite this history of oppression but I will definitely try and put an end to it.

        • Laur

          “That cannot be said of blackface whose agency for social change has been weighted unquestionably to subjugation and ridicule.”

          It has been weighted this way because black folks understandably find it disgusting. And women, including lesbians, are saying we find drag disgusting, a mockery of our daily existence. I know that many gay men love drag and find drag revolutionary. But just because you adore something and it was part of a movement that was revolutionary does not mean its existence is not appalling and sickening to women.

          And bringing up drag kings as a way to say that both men and women do drag, is silly. Most people don’t even know there are drag kings. When you talk about drag’s historical use, you are talking about men.

          Today we regularly have drag queens as hosts at LESBIAN night clubs. The women there don’t care for that, but since gay men, lesbians, and transgendered folks are all lumped together, the particular wishes of lesbians are not taken into account.

          And finally, can I say just how offensive I find it that men in drag are referred to as “she”?

        • Morag

          “First of all not all feminists are women. You can try to dismiss me because I am a man, but good luck with that.”

          Gosh, Sir, I would never dream of questioning your authority. We girls and women are so lucky that you’re a feminist.

          This is what every liberation movement really needs: a member of the oppressor class to act as its spokesman, to keep tabs on the unruly oppressed class, and to make sure we aren’t getting any funny ideas.

        • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

          No one is dismissing you because you are male. We’re saying your argument is not compelling for a number of reasons including the fact that you refuse to acknowledge your own advantaged position in the hierarchy as a male. We’re also noticing that you are making straw arguments and not addressing what has actually been written. Meghan did not “place blackface in the same category of drag” in the way you depict it in your post. Race and gender oppression have similarities and differences. To dismiss an apt comparison because it does not have an exactly parallel history is weak gruel.

          There may be a few historic instances where men performing our culture’s tropes of femininity has been used to defy heterosexist normativity, and I do wish you had provided evidence of how drag has been an effective strategic weapon in the struggle against the oppressive effects of the gender binary rather than just stating it as a given.

          And nobody said that blackface has been a force for black liberation (Spike Lee’s treatment of it in Bamboozled notwithstanding) so why have you taken up so much space countering that non-existent position? Do you honestly think that drag is free of misogyny? Or are you just here to put us in our place?

        • C.K. Egbert

          “Not all feminists are women.”

          Not all civil rights activists are black either; don’t you think it would be offensive if a white proclaimed themselves an anti-racist and then lectured you on why blackface is liberating?

          “Again, drag culture and expression is different, and has found a place of acceptance as part of queer culture to such an extent that it is, in fact, inseparable from the queer liberation movement.”

          We are specifically talking about the liberation of women. Just because it is used as part of “queer culture” does not mean that it is not oppressive to women. There are elements of many minority cultures that are extremely oppressive to women (including “queer culture;” just look at the “cotton ceiling”).

          “Drag is part of queer culture. Drag queens and drag kings, some feminist in perspective and their life’s activism, can and do use it as an expression of challenging gender norms and gender stereotypes and do it in ways that do not succumb to sexist stereotypes because it is an expression of their gender and how they live every day in their lives, not as a costume to perform or belittle.”

          The idea that this genuinely does “challenge gender norms and stereotypes” is precisely what we are arguing about it. HOW is it challenging stereotypes and norms while avoiding a mockery of women?

          “Just because some do not believe these people exist does not mean that they do not. And as far as drag’s role in gay and lesbian liberation, one cannot unwrite that history. It will forever exist.”

          I really don’t understand why whenever a feminist critiques someone, they get accused of thinking that “these people don’t exist.” Why would we be critiquing something nonexistent exactly? Not agreeing with what you do or the political implication of what you do is not tantamount to claiming that you don’t exist.

        • http://goingradical.wordpress.com Ella Hawthorne

          “First of all not all feminists are women. You can try to dismiss me because I am a man, but good luck with that.”


          But seriously though, how entitled is this douchebag that he thinks women need to defer to his opinion on our own oppression, and that he’s not going to go away even after he’s been dismissed?

          “And as far as drag’s role in gay and lesbian liberation, one cannot unwrite that history.”

          As a lesbian, I’d like to state for the record that men’s drag performances have had zero positive effect on my liberation.

        • Morag

          Another short-hand term is entering the radical feminist lexicon: “dragsplaining.”

          I think everyone will enjoy this very relevant blog post, “Double-standard Face.” (You, too, TonyG!). An excerpt:

          “You would think, that of all people to understand the parallel of blackface and womanface, it would be a black male. But apparently not, if you have made your entire career out of it. Misogyny, the game that males of any colour can play.”


        • http://johnstompers.com/ swan princess

          What is inaccurate is that you keep replacing the actual feminist movement for women’s rights with “queer movement” as if they are the same. They are not.

          Gender itself is inescapably a sexist stereotype. What you call “gender expression” is impossible without sexist stereotypes.

          There are no examples of a man’s performance of womenface that has advanced women’s political, economic, or social standing.

          You remind me of men who say Hustler’s (ab)use of black women was a liberatory action for black women. It was not.

          • Meghan Murphy

            And of Hugh Hefner claiming to have liberated women with Playboy.

          • Morag

            “There are no examples of a man’s performance of womenface that has advanced women’s political, economic, or social standing.”

            Yes. Right. Exactly. It’s all for them, at our expense. This is why they can’t understand us. Scratch that. This is why they can’t even HEAR us, which is a precondition for listening, and listening is a precondition for understanding.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I think you really touched on something key here, swan princess… I think it is kind of taken for granted, by many, that ‘queer politics’ and the feminist movement are one in the same. And they are not at all. I wish they were, but they aren’t. People in the ‘queer movement’ (whatever that is — anyone care to explain what they mean when they say ‘queer culture/movement/poitics’? Because to me it just seems like mostly parties with vague S&M themes/burlesque/drag — and I like parties, but they don’t constitute any kind of ‘movement’) seem to think they are doing ‘feminism,’ often without really understanding what feminism is…

          • Morag

            “I think it is kind of taken for granted, by many, that ‘queer politics’ and the feminist movement are one in the same.”


            All one has to do is head over to the conservative/libertarian-type blogs when something hot and topical is happening — say, transgender civil rights activism. Listen in for a while, and it becomes very clear that most people view queer politics, liberal feminism, and radical feminism as one and the same.

            In fact, when “bathroom” polices are passed here and there (e.g., allowing males into the ladies’ room because of sacred “identity”) conservatives will lay the blame on feminism and feminists. All social changes regarding sex-roles are considered “radical” (wrongly synonymous with “extreme” or even “extremely weird”) and therefore radical feminism is considered the queerest of them all.

            Of course, in the rare cases where people further to the political right DO know the difference, they hate us all equally! The point is, though, that they don’t know the difference — and they can’t be blamed for this. Queer politics, culture and activism, because its leaders are male, is mainstream and in everybody’s face. They have hijacked the term “feminism” for themselves, which leads to feminists being blamed for many of the very things we are fighting against!

            Quite simply, we are not heard. Even if we, for example, dropped “radical feminism” and went back to using “women’s liberation” to describe and articulate our goals, the postmodern/queer/sex-positive/porn-lovin’/genderist brigade would just continue appropriating, misrepresenting and doing their best to make us invisible.

        • marv

          TonyG’s patronizing rationalism has another counterpart in the use of American Indian insignia and stereotypes by the mascots of some NFL and college football teams.

    • Laur

      TonyG, I don’t believe most male drag performers MEAN to denigrate, but the end result is still a mockery of what it means to be a woman.

      • Morag

        You know, Laur, I agree with you here. Most likely don’t know it’s mockery, and most probably don’t intend to denigrate women. In fact, I have seen certain, very particular, intelligent drag performances that I actually found to be almost sensitive to the reality of women’s lives (some Kids in the Hall skits come to mind).

        What is outrageous is this. A feminist taps a drag queen on the shoulder and says, “Hello Mr. Queer Man who is also oppressed, but in a different way, by this heterosexist-patriarchal shit pile we call society. I was wondering if I could talk with you about the ways in which drag culture mocks womanhood under this heterosexist-patriarchal shit pile? I don’t think you’re aware.”

        And THEN — all of the sudden, he becomes a manly man, he disassembles, he disintegrates, he demands her silence and leaves puddles of stinking, misogynist goo all over the damed place for us to clean up. It’s like, we women don’t really know how fast a man is speeding, drunk on his privilege, until we ask him to please slow down, and he just runs us over instead. (Ugh, sorry — metaphor soup).

        Anyway, they really show us who they are, and what they really think about women. Gay men — and the straight ones who call themselves “queer” — are no different from straight men of any political stripe or colour or class. The are all united in a basic kind of woman-hating. They do not regard us as people worth listening to.

        Well, it’s all good to know, good to know. Not that we didn’t know! But, it’s a reminder, right? Men cannot be feminists. They can either get over themselves, and get out of the way — or not.

        • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

          I would have thought they outgrew that “no gurlz aloud in teh treehowse” bullshit when they were ten. Apparently not.

    • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

      It’s always more nuanced when it shits on the ladies, has anyone here ever noticed that?

      I stopped being a member of the SPLC when their newsletter ran a story about a black woman who was sexually assaulted by a white man and white woman and the story stated that the situation was “complicated” by the fact that the white man was the black woman’s ex-boyfriend. Excuse me? There is NOTHING complicated about that. Rape is rape. All done. Bye.

    • Samantha

      Where/when has drag supported feminism? It seems that these movements have been pretty antagonistic toward each other since at least 1970, if not before that. I’m honestly curious–searched online & couldn’t find any examples at all. I’ve never personally witnessed this either and I’ve been active in LGBTQ issues for over 10 years (which, yes, is a relatively short time)–assisted with political campaigns, fundraising at drag events, HIV+ outreach, etc.

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  • Caleb

    First off, you begin by stating that you do not have a lot of direct experience with drag culture. This becomes very apparent as the article progresses. You seem to have a very warped idea of the history, intentions, and cultural realities of drag. It is deeply problematic – and outright false – to suggest that drag is simply a satirical jab at women. I can see how at a glance, the art form could be interpreted as nothing more than privileged men making a colourful joke out of the act of trying on oppression for size and perpetuating stereotypes. I can see that. However, one need not look very deeply into the drag community to see that this is a warped and incorrect interpretation.

    Drag cannot be simply viewed as “men dressing as women.” Drag is gender-bending. Gender is a socially constructed category that is intensely fluid, deeply personal, and cannot easily be bracketed off into fixed categories. Most drag performers do not feel that they are “men dressing as women” – they are people experimenting with gender expression. They take on names, pronouns, and identities that they connect with. Gender expression is something that everyone should be free to modify as they see fit. You do not need to have a certain fixed identity (like male or female) to be entitled to express your gender in a way that feels powerful to you. Therefore, people who do drag are not appropriating anything – rather, they are challenging the gendered restrictions that have been placed on them and finding a creative means to express their personal relationships with gender.

    Since the eruption of this debate, there has been a lot of comparison of drag to blackface – and I feel that the counterarguments I’ve seen floating around have been inadequate. What the counterarguments seem to be omitting is the role of history. Blackface is offensive. This is obvious. But there is more than one reason for this. Yes, it is offensive because it perpetuates cultural and racial stereotypes and makes a laughable caricature – an unacceptable mockery – of a real racial identity. We know this. What this article does not address is that fact that part of what makes blackface so hurtful – so intensely demeaning – is that fact that it is steeped in a deep and painful history of oppression and injustice. This matters. When someone puts on blackface, they are not only taking a harmful swing at oppressed groups today, but they are willfully discounting the weight of a long and horrific history that is attached to that action.

    Drag does not work the same way. The history of drag in the queer community is a history of liberation, acceptance and empowerment. It is a history steeped in the casting off of restrictive gender roles, the embrace of difference, the breakdown of societal norms, and pride in identity. Equating this with blackface is just not fair to the history that brought us here.

    I take particular issue with this quote:
    “All the things I have shunned as part of the ancient ‘cult of womanhood,’ all the superficial, commercialized, and fake aspects of ‘femininity’ that I have fought to be freed from, these men were embracing as their ‘womanhood!’ Tons of make up, huge dyed bouffant hair-dos, binding lingerie, heels, nylons, shaving…and these men in drag who were supposedly acting like women, also acted giddy, stupid, shallow…it is odd to me that this could be seen as anything but blatant sexism”

    The problem I have is this: how exactly does the fact that you have rejected certain expressions of femininity entitle you to declare those expressions unacceptable for anyone else? There are many different ways to celebrate femininity – and that is what drag queens are doing. They are not attempting to demean it – they are attempting to explore and appreciate different ways of being feminine. Suggesting that some forms of femininity are somehow less legitimate than others is downright offensive.

    Lastly – I was very taken aback by your utter ignorance of the existence of drag kings.

    “There must be a reason women don’t do this to men — turning masculinity into entertainment or a joke, that is. Why is it funny for men to dress up as women and not for women to dress up as men?”

    There are plenty of women who engage in drag performance by taking on male characters and experimenting with masculinity. The fact that drag kings are not so heavily featured in the public eye is indicative of another separate set of problems.

    I would suggest that you familiarize yourself with drag culture in greater depth. I believe that you really do genuinely want to understand – and I think the best way to do that is to engage with people for whom drag is a part of their lived experience. Drag is a complex and rich art form, with and equally complex and rich history and culture. I think there is much we can learn from it.

    • amongster

      “Drag is gender-bending. Gender is a socially constructed category that is intensely fluid, deeply personal, and cannot easily be bracketed off into fixed categories. (….more nonsense)”

      No, no, no. NO! Gender is NOTHING YOU SAID. Nothing. And if you had actually read ANY of the comments here you had already understood that gender is an oppressive system and not some feelings.

      I would suggest YOU familiarize yourself with feminism and gender abolition and actually READ WHAT BASICALLY EVERY FEMINIST IS SAYING HERE before you tell us that we can learn from you or some dude with lipstick on.

    • Meghan Murphy

      “First off, you begin by stating that you do not have a lot of direct experience with drag culture.”

      What the fuck does that have to do with anything?? Like, do I need to be a porn star to critique porn? A capitalist to critique capitalism? How much more drag do I need to watch in order to form an opinion?? This argument — that one has to BE _____ in order to critique _____ is illogical and anti-intellectual.

      “Drag is gender-bending.”

      Wait. So it drag a representation/performance of women/femininity or not? Why dress up as women if the intent is not, in fact, to perform femininity? It is NOT ‘gender-bending’ — gender is something that is imposed on males and females in a patriarchal culture — not a temporary ‘fun’ performance you wash off at the end of the night. “Gender” has very real impacts on women, under patriarchy. It is oppressive. But how nice that you can play at it for a moment for laughs! HA!

      “The problem I have is this: how exactly does the fact that you have rejected certain expressions of femininity entitle you to declare those expressions unacceptable for anyone else? There are many different ways to celebrate femininity – and that is what drag queens are doing.”

      Oh cool. So now dudes get to decide what ‘femininity’ is and how we should ‘celebrate’ it? Wow. WOW. This is what male entitlement looks like.

      “Drag does not work the same way. The history of drag in the queer community is a history of liberation, acceptance and empowerment.”

      I don’t CARE whether or not “queer culture” feels liberated by drag. I care about ending sexism, misogyny, patriarchy, and violence against women. That is what feminism is and does. Whatever you think “queer culture” is may or may not have anything to do with feminism. If whatever it is you are doing perpetuates misogyny or sexism then it is oppressive to WOMEN. Your male-centered movement centered on identity politics and debauchery has nothing to do with feminism. Clearly.

      “Lastly – I was very taken aback by your utter ignorance of the existence of drag kings.”

      How many times to we have to go over this?? I am aware of drag kings and have seen drag king performances. What does this have to do with drag queens and their sexism?

    • Morag

      Caleb, I would really suggest that you educate yourself about radical feminism and what sex roles (aka, gender) really are. I would really suggest that you put down your Judith Butler, and can the queer theory, because it’s not only misogynist, but idiotic. As if you would do that, right? You’re very comfortable right where you are.

      Take this tripe:

      “Suggesting that some forms of femininity are somehow less legitimate than others is downright offensive.”

      Once people understand what femininity actually is, they will realize that it is never, ever legitimate. Because it’s enforced. Because it is the other side of masculine domination. It’s imposed. Whether a woman complies, or resists, there it is: a standard of measurement, a bulls-eye painted on her back. Or on another part of her body — depending upon how un/lucky the woman is in her life.

      Femininity is submission, you offensive asshole. Femininity is a collection of signifiers that mean “do it to her, that’s what she’s for.”

      Femininity IS NOT a game that men can play for fun and entertainment and sexual kicks. Femininity is not something girls and women choose, you twit.

      Femininity means not being taken seriously, it means harassment, poverty, abuse, incest, and rape. Female genital mutilation. Honour killings. Not being believed. Being ridiculed for having breasts, for being fuckable and impregnable — or, conversely, for not being these things. Femininity starts at birth and ends at death. It means that your everyday condition of never really being heard, or understood, is naturalized. Just the way things are.

      You’re big on naturalizing femininity, aren’t you, Caleb? It’s really nifty for the men who are not born into the feminine class to play around with it, and claim that they really feel girly sometimes, eh? As long as it’s just mascara and heels and sparkles, right? But not the really messy stuff. Leave that shit to the cows.

      How fucking dare you tell us what our own lives mean because some men think imitating womanhood makes for some good, fun, liberating times?

      Enjoy the liberation you find in mocking the lives of people about whom you know nothing, you selfish, arrogant, audacious, smug Narcissist.

    • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

      I wouldn’t be surprised if some white dude somewhere has whitesplained blackface in nearly identical language. Congratulations.

  • christa.

    does it strike anyone else as arrogant that, after 290+ comments, men are coming on here to mansplain to women about drag. i wish i grew up with all that male socialization and male privilege that tells me my opinion is unquestioningly correct and couldn’t have possibly been stated & refuted already. and also tell women that they’ve got it wrong about their own oppression.


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  • Shannon

    I find this very interesting and I don’t think that women should be so ridiculed and mocked for a performance. That being said, it seems I’m seeing a lot of feminists group drag queens and transgender women together, or even flat-out misguider trans women and say really terrible, transphobic things. All I can say is, I have NO time for your feminism if you don’t respect the identities and rights of trans women. While I’m a young cisgender women myself and I can’t possibly understand the experiences of transgender women, they ARE included in my feminism because they ARE women. Intersectionality is mandatory.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t understand what your comment has to do with the post at hand or what you are even responding to?

    • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

      I don’t give two shits about “your” feminism. I have my own.

      I also don’t care what any person decides to wear or call themselves, but I am not going to call a man a woman and welcome him into our bathrooms and locker rooms and changing rooms. I just got treated by someone in my friends list to a nice little series of links to news stories about “cis” men sneaking into women’s bathrooms and peeping where they were not welcome, if not outright attacking the women. The only difference between them and a trans “woman” is how they “identify”.

      I don’t think most guys who were allowed into a women’s bathroom would do anything wrong while in one, but there’s always that one guy who has to be the asshole. So that’s why we don’t let them in, because the assholes don’t come with identifying marks. Forcing me to accept someone as a woman who’s quite clearly male but just has a different “identity” means I am more likely to be in danger from a male in the room when I’m at my most vulnerable.

      For crying out loud, if I go to a male doctor he has to have a female chaperone in the room with him for any exams. Who’s gonna be my chaperone in the bathroom or in a locker room?

      Yeah, didn’t think about that, did you?

      And then they’re yelling and screaming about not being invited to a music festival or to a Dianic ritual or whatever. I don’t go around to every party in my city screaming at the homeowners that they didn’t invite me over. I just get on with my life.

      I don’t have to welcome people with that rapey kind of attitude into my politics. They have entitlement issues and they’re probably mentally ill too, and in a way that isn’t just quiet and different and off to the side but rather in a way that’s a clear and present danger to my and my daughter’s safety. No. Nope. Go have your little trans politics and trans parties somewhere else, I’ll just stay over here out of your way.

  • Bio queens

    I’m doing some research on feminism and drag queens, and I would like to ask you ALL a question:
    How do you feel about Bio-queens?
    Bio queens or faux queens are biological women who perform as drag queens or females who impersonate female impersonators such as Miss Holy Mcgrail.

    http://missholymcgrail.tumblr.com/post/11810424743/how-to-become-a-fierce-faux-queen-like-holy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZB6qKBIXzO0

    • marv

      It’s like feminist porn. Both glorify femininity and women as sex doodahs. Drag is sexist in spite of who is performing it, though men are by far the worst culprits.

    • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

      Part of me says it’s “turnabout is fair play” but of course drag queens wouldn’t take it like that, they’d just find it amusing.

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  • Aretam

    Yet another man commenting to your dismay ladies.

    I am a gay male, and I come from a background where being gay and being a ‘feminist’ gets a death penalty (the middle east). The first concern I heard when I came out to male friends is..’are you gonna start acting like a woman’?

    Opposite to drag:
    Women are expected to be quiet (her loud voice is a sin), to be a symbol of sainthood (expected to be the better half of the man), to be only sexual to her husband and to make damn sure she annihilates her body in public (walk in a black burka), meek, not an authority figure (forbidden by religion), and when she is a witness to a crime, one woman’s logic is not enough. If she is a ‘slut’ in anyway everyone wants to see her dead. People prefer sons as children because they are afraid of the shame a woman can bring if she misbehaves, a song misbehaving? boys will be boys, if anything he is a man he is supposed to be rebellious..in a manly fashion of course. He is supposed to be an alpha, not a beta.

    When I moved to the west, and started to participate in gay culture, the drag phenomena was quiet puzzling to me. In my religious background we were taught that being in drag is forbidden, because you will end up offending the other gender and confusing people’s expectations of what gender should be. Men have to be men, and women have to be women.

    Now obviously being gay/feminist is not exactly religious, but I was surprised that it is such a gay males thing to watch men dressing up as women and being all…over the top, not only them but women, a lot of women love it and even bring their daughters to watch it. Also gay men love over the top women in general and that’s where they draw inspiration from. They love a strong woman who is sexually blatant and an aesthetic fiasco with a sharp stabbing wit. Quiet the opposite of what I am used to what a woman is allowed to be from my background.

    I think some people feel that drag is an empowered woman, unlike where i come from, women can wear what they want, they can be as sexy as they want and they can utilize their sexuality without fear of being punished for being sexual. They can run their mouth however they want and be nasty and raunchy, which again is punished in a lot of different cultures that demands the woman to be a saintly virgin, who lives to serve her husband. Drag usually demonstrates a woman who can sleep with whoever she pleases, and if she doesn’t have a ‘man’ she doesn’t care, she demands and insults and looks her version of ‘fabulous’ doing it (opposite of burka, most straight men actually don’t like the over the top make up and call it ‘woman logic’).

    Now I understand in the west women feel oppressed by the expectations of men for extravagant looks on the other hand, or that only if a woman is raunchy and utilizing her sexuality is she a’female’ however they still want them desperate for their cocks and pleasant and quiet this is not what drag is.

    I really think the reason gay men love those ideals in there drag, is because it frees them of what men demand of men to be. To hate anything womanly in themselves, to only want women as sex machines/pleasant mothers not as colorful funny personalities, to not like dick sexually, to not be emotional and flamboyant, to wear manly clothing, to not like flowers or jewlery, to grow facial hair and have muscles and be a ‘man’, to be emotionally controlled and calculating. It is their escape from being a man, its a man’s rebellion to men’s ideals.

    Most gay men including my self, found more acceptance from women who are like that they are representing in drag. (Even though a lot of women don’t actually like gay men they just like how gay man can’t get enough of them/their albums), I think gay men who do that are rebelling against what men demands them to be, and women who hate drag are rebelling to what men demands to be as well. We have a common pressure that demanded us both to conform and be oppressed or die. So I think it is really important to understand where they are coming from.

    Your right maybe drag is not a ‘feminist’ thing, but it is a ‘freedom of expression’ thing, cause unlike black face, you don’t take off your blackface and go back to a world where women are washing your laundry, no you go and have a dinner with your women best friends, and cry with them, and confide in them and ask them for their advice.

    I understand that things can look the same (gay/pedophilia what is the difference), but as you said your self you don’t actually go to drag shows, and you probably don’t know any drag queen personally. I understand some of you ladies think that men should be quiet on the subject, but gay straight male female whatever race, the goal is to co-exist, so yes we have to to talk things out unless one is planning to to wipe the rest.

    • amongster

      You seem like you haven’t read one single comment otherwise you would have realized that all your “points” have been addressed already. You do not say anything new and your apolitical view is not going to convince anyone.

      Drag is not a “freedom of expression thing” otherwise men would not have to pretend to be women to express themselves. They would not support the system of gender by gendering certain kind of behaviour and clothes. They would simply wear what they want, act like they want and call themselves men while doing so instead of hiding behind a role and mocking women.

      Drag queens actually *do* take off “female face” and stop wearing what is considered women’s clothes, they stop behaving over the top feminine once the get off the stage so, yes, it actually is a lot like blac face and crying with or confiding to women has nothing to do with the role as a drag queen.

      Men’s “freedom of expression has always meant the dehumanization of women – look at porn as the best example of “freedom of speech”. If you believe that drag will free men from their rigid gender role and not perpertuate these roles even further you are mistaken. But I guess you are not interested in real freedom anyway as long as there is still a class of people you can mock and exploit for your own laughs.

      Also, stop calling women “ladies”.

      • marv

        Precisely amongster. What he said was common senselessness, repeated myriad times in this conversation field alone. Too shiftless to read commenters think they are offering something original and expect politeness discourse in return.

    • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

      I don’t know why you think gayness and pedophilia look alike but I assure you that from my perspective they do not.

      And you could get the same freedom from constraint by merely cross-dressing.

  • http://jasonparent.bandcamp.com jessica murray

    the comments on this blog seem to completely ignore the third wave criticism of agency involved with accepting “patriarchal” norms of femininity, or the female power that comes with accepting them. instead, they view women as this monolithic entity that all thinks the same way and has the same opinions. what that does is erases identity in favour of a different kind of oppressive paradigm – one where women are merely chained to a different collectivist ideal. it’s no solution, it’s just a new type of oppression.

    now, certainly a lot of women profess a lot of discomfort at being unable or unwilling to uphold these expectations, and a truly free society would acknowledge that and lift those requirements. i’m going to skip over my anarchistic opposition to a portion of this thinking; if the argument is about how to climb the hierarchy, i need to interject that we ought not have a hierarchy at all. but, this is in some ways “next level” and beyond any kind of immediate concern.

    what needs to be addressed is why so many women *don’t* feel such a violent reaction. and, on a base level, it has to be acknowledged that it couldn’t continue without mass consent. at some point, you need to concede that the reason that so many women are so ok with this is that they are really ok with this. not due to biological determinism, and only partly due to conditioning – mostly due to conscious, individual choice. that doesn’t negate your own personal reaction, or delegitimize your own desire to get out of it, but it does necessitate a level of mutual respect for the opinions and desires of others.

    when you get to that point, it’s no longer such a jump to see how some people born with penises can identify with some concepts of traditional femininity. it’s a social construct, disconnected from biology. if people born with vaginas can identify with it, it follows that people born with penises can, too – and that is base, egalitarian logic. it doesn’t all come bundled together, of course. i don’t make any sense when pushed into a male role, but that doesn’t mean i’m going to let myself get chained to a kitchen counter and make sandwiches on command. rather, i’m going to uphold the same concepts of female empowerment that my third wave allies uphold – i’m an individual person with individual opinions and individual aspirations. it just happens to be that, when compiled together, those opinions and aspirations fit into one arbitrary binary partition far better than the other one.

    none of this applies to drag queens, who tend not to transition for this precise reason – they don’t find themselves on that side of the arbitrarily constructed binary, they just like to put on a costume from time to time and pretend they’re somebody they aren’t.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t understand what this sentence means:
      “the comments on this blog seem to completely ignore the third wave criticism of agency involved with accepting “patriarchal” norms of femininity, or the female power that comes with accepting them.”

    • marv

      ” needs to be addressed is why so many women *don’t* feel such a violent reaction. and, on a base level, it has to be acknowledged that it couldn’t continue without mass consent. at some point, you need to concede that the reason that so many women are so ok with this is that they are really ok with this. not due to biological determinism, and only partly due to conditioning – mostly due to conscious, individual choice. that doesn’t negate your own personal reaction, or delegitimize your own desire to get out of it, but it does necessitate a level of mutual respect for the opinions and desires of others.”

      Chattel slavery was legal for thousands of years not solely because of brute force. Slaves were trained to think of their status as natural. We are facing the same dutiful obedience to capitalism. It’s obvious and tragic that people can learn to accept their own subservience and even take pleasure in it.

      Many opinions don’t warrant respect because they condone structural inequality.

      • Meghan Murphy

        False consciousness is an unpopular concept in today’s ‘Agency is Everywhere!’ neoliberal culture, but it’s still a real thing. Plenty of oppressed people are seemingly content with their own oppression, women in particular.

        • https://jasonparent.bandcamp.com Jessica Amber Murray

          i’m glad that you know what i want and should want, meghan. what should have i for breakfast tomorrow?

          • Meghan Murphy

            I have no idea what you want. But that’s not what is being debated here… Whether or not any individual ‘wants’ masculinity or femininity is irrelevant. Both remain part of an oppressive hierarchy that hurts women.

          • https://jasonparent.bandcamp.com Jessica Amber Murray

            the oppression is the enforcement. would it shock you if the enforcement were removed and women made these choices anyways? woman telling women what to be, what to want, how to live, etc is not different. i’m not going to enforce that on you. i expect the same in return. i have agency. i make these choices. telling me (or other women) otherwise is doing exactly the same thing that you’re criticizing.

            and, it’s why you have this cis distinction. i’m not going to pretend i was born with a uterus – i’m transgendered, i’m not schizophrenic. i’m not going to stand up and talk about contraception, or any of the other things that are inherently specific to the biological female sex.

            but, excuse me for pushing back against the idea that my thoughts are not my own. it’s pretty patronizing.

          • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

            The enforcement has not been removed. In fact, you’re adding to it. A very male thing for you to do, incidentally.

          • will

            No one cares a pin what you eat, what you wear, or what you think, Jessica.

            All you are adding to this discussion is evidence of narcissism and incoherence on the part of people who attack feminists in the name of trans politics. So far you have failed to address anything Meghan has written, made it all about you, and taken up space with your boring bafflegab.

      • https://jasonparent.bandcamp.com Jessica Amber Murray

        i don’t think you understood what i typed. please try again.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Perhaps if people are having trouble understanding what you typed, you might consider making your points more clear. I’m having trouble deciphering your arguments, as I mentioned earlier.

          • https://jasonparent.bandcamp.com Jessica Amber Murray

            i think i dropped a few words from the initial post , but it was clear from context.

            “the comments on this blog seem to completely ignore the third wave criticism of (how second wavers deny the) agency involved with accepting “patriarchal” norms of femininity, or the female power that comes with accepting them.”

            if you’re still not sure where i’m coming from, i’d suggest reading up a little on it. i can’t outline the entire third wave criticism in this post. i meant to reference something that was already understood. but, i took your post as a facetious grammatical attack.

            as for this post, i’m trying to get across the idea that you’re erasing agency – and the response i’m getting is to erase agency. again: it’s incredibly patronizing to tell people that their thoughts are not their own.

            and i need to reiterate: this is a point that rad fems are going to have to eventually concede. you can’t hold on to this forever, in the face of so many women pushing back on it. you’re just isolating yourself.

            what you can say is that *you* reject these concepts. what you can’t say is that *women* reject them – or at least not all of them. we’re all going to accept and reject different aspects. liberation is the ability to make those choices, and live freely within them. and, once you take that step, the trans issue clarifies itself…

          • Meghan Murphy

            Hmm so no… The commenters on this blog are fully aware of how the third wave has trashed our second wave sisters. This is why we believe the third wave to be part of the backlash.

            This paragraph right here:

            “if you’re still not sure where i’m coming from, i’d suggest reading up a little on it. i can’t outline the entire third wave criticism in this post. i meant to reference something that was already understood. but, i took your post as a facetious grammatical attack.”

            …I hope that is some kind of joke. If not you are an incredibly ignorant, offensive human being.

            I suggest you stop suggesting to feminists that they ‘read up’ on things they have read and written about extensively for years because you are too lazy to do so yourself.

          • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

            We do not derive power from doing what men have wanted us to do since at least the Bronze Age/agricultural revolution if not earlier. While they were wanting these things from us they were restricting our freedom and treating us as brood mares and chattel slaves. Fuck what guys want. It’s time we thought more about what we want. They make sperm banks now y’know. Not that you’ll ever use one.

            We’re well aware not all women reject their own cultural slavery*. Harriet Tubman could tell you a few things about another group that also did not all reject their own material slavery, if she were still here.

            [*A whole different animal from material/physical/legal slavery, but still limits us and our potential. I am NOT just a hole for a guy to fuck or a baby machine to make him some offspring. NONE of us are.]

          • polina

            You should form a movement for equal objectification and advocate for the right to being exploited.

        • marv

          I don’t think you understood what you wrote.

          You never asked my opinion about breakfast but I can’t resist since it relates to postmodern bafflegab. Avoid animal products. Contrary to received opinion nonhuman animals are actually harmed by eating them, materially speaking. I would suggest a green smoothie for your own health too. Bon appetit.

        • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

          I don’t think YOU understand what you typed. A lot of million-dollar language and pseudointellectual blather designed for one purpose, to intimidate all the “TERFs” into shutting up. Whoops, it didn’t work.

    • Anna

      This whole comment makes me sad. I bothered to type out a response that points out the glaring inaccuracies and erasure, but then I realized: this person doesn’t care. If they cared, they would never have posted such an ignorant, offensive comment in a feminist space. They would have read the words of the women here, and analyzed their own position. But they didn’t do that. Instead, they either ignored the words of the women here, or they read them but disregarded them. And then they gave us paragraphs that others before them have written here, paragraphs that have been disproved and refuted.

      So, I’m not giving this person the benefits of my time and effort today, because it will be wasted. It’s too bad they keep making the points for us: talk over women, ignore women’s words, downplay/disregard women’s experiences, tell women what’s the correct way to do gender, etc. etc.

      Poor thirdwavers, can’t see the forest OR the trees, just the pretty branches.

      • https://jasonparent.bandcamp.com Jessica Amber Murray

        see, i don’t really consider you rad fems to really be “feminists”, because you don’t seem to understand equality – you just want to enforce your warped concepts of masculinity on women, and entirely erase femininity in the process. you seem to think women would behave exactly like men if they weren’t brainwashed otherwise, that women exist in some kind of natural hobbessian state. i actually find this very misogynistic; it’s typical right-wing bullshit, hidden in the typical foucaldian conservative disguise. you don’t seem to want to liberate women, you seem to want to destroy femininity.

        i’ve read your words and decided you’re not just incorrect, but you need to be debated and ultimately held accountable for your oppression in denying and erasing my identity. you do not have a monopoly on womanhood because you were born with a vagina. rather than pretend you’re beyond criticism, you need to open your mind and listen to what *i’m* telling *you*.

        and, again: this princess complex you’re demonstrating is not feminism. it’s misogyny.

        • https://jasonparent.bandcamp.com Jessica Amber Murray

          i should be more precise: who is the topic of conversation here? it’s not you, it’s me. that means you need to listen to me, not that i need to listen to you.

          • Meghan Murphy

            HA. You are ordering feminists to listen to nonsensical, uneducated, ignorant comments why?

          • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

            No one here needs to listen to you. You need to go away with Ms. Hubbard up there and have you a conversation somewhere else.

          • Anna Krowsky

            It’s not Ms. Hubbard, it’s Mrs. Hubbard. I know her; she’s nice. (Directed me to this conversation.) Not transgender; neither of us are. Not that it should matter.

        • Meghan Murphy

          See, no one here really cares what anti-feminists think is feminist. Seeing as you don’t actually understand feminism, nevermind the words coming out of your own mouth, I suggest you go back to the books before hopping into this space and making insane demands and nonsensical statements.

          Unless this is some kind of MRA parody, in which case, good one.

          • Morag

            “Unless this is some kind of MRA parody, in which case, good one.”

            Most likely this is full-blown, text book narcissism. A common disorder amongst male transgenderists. What a horror “Jessica” is.

          • Elizabeth Hubbard

            Seriously, Morag, how many transgender women do you know? It’s ridiculous “a safe feminist place” allows for the rampant bigotry against the TQ part of the LGBTQ community.

        • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

          Why in the world do we need to save femininity? What’s it for?

          And let me guess. You’re trans. So we’re MANsplaining too.

    • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

      So the only reason any social thing still exists is we all consent to it. Really. So that’s why we still have, say, child molestation and rape-of-adults now? Or war? Because everybody wants it, or most people want it? Really?

      You are not as individual as you think you are. You’re not totally separate from everybody else. That is an ILLUSION. Maybe someday you’ll figure it out.

  • Elizabeth Hubbard

    The reason why they escape critique is that men in drag are more likely to be beaten to death than women. Men in drag are expressing the over-the-top feminine part of their personalities. In real life, when not in costume, they get beaten and sometimes even raped (the stories I’ve heard in real life) for appearing gay. It sickens me how much hate the genderqueer community gets on all sides. People in drag are the Q part of LGBTQ.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Um, no…. That is not true at all. Have you ever looked up stats on violence against women?

      • Elizabeth Hubbard

        The stories I’ve heard in real life were absolutely true, actually from a guy who wanted to dress in drag but was afraid because he was already so ostracized merely for having a feminine personality. And, yes, I have seen many stats about violence against women, and per capita you’re more likely to experience murder as a genderqueer man. The fact is, just because I am a woman does not mean I cannot empathize with a drag queen. If you have never conversed at length uncritically with a drag queen, this would be a good time to start.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I empathize with them, but the problem is that you and they do not empathize with women.

          • Anna Krowsky

            I see no indication in this woman’s comments that she doesn’t, and have yet to run into a male cross-dresser who wasn’t extremely respectful to women. (The idea that all cross-dressing males go around disrespecting women and calling them sluts is an outdated stereotype based on a very small subsection of the community.) I can say this with experience; I even used to date a male cross-dresser. (I’m an ostensibly straight female, LGBTQ ally.) It’s a cultural phenomenon that havers of XY chromosomes in women’s clothes (this to be inclusive of cross-dressers and transgender women) have a high risk of being murdered. There are no statistics on cross-dressing men, but there are on transgender women (and, like it or not, they are often treated the same by bigoted people). If you are a transgender woman, you have a 1 in 12 chance of being murdered. If you are a transgender woman of color, you have a 1 in 8 chance of being murdered. If you are a woman, you are 1/4 as likely as a man (cis-gendered) to get murdered. Keep in mind, the average person in the Americas has a 1/6,100 chance of being murdered. So, being on the transgender scale, you can see your chances of being murdered gets hiked up from 1/6,100 to 1/12, 1/8 if you are trans and African American. Seeing these statistics, you can see why it is the duty of good people not to add to the incessant bullshit these gender-non-normative people get. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd/2012/05/murder-statistics-of-transgender-people/ http://www.economist.com/news/international/21600713-un-offers-some-hints-how-avoid-being-bumped-dicing-death

          • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

            Men don’t listen to what feminists say anyway. It is not going to make them any more likely to murder a trans or gay person just because we’re questioning womanface. But nice try.

          • Anna Krowsky

            And, for the record, dressing in drag doesn’t make a person gay or straight. It has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Bunch of ostriches commenting on the state of penguins, when they’ve never met a penguin.

    • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

      Women are beaten and raped just for being women and it doesn’t matter what we’re wearing. And last I checked it’s not *usually* women doing the beating and the raping of “Q” people. Although last I knew, most drag queens are gay, which would actually make them Gs.

      • Anna Krowsky

        You won’t see me saying, “This person getting raped and beaten and murdered is okay, because these other people get raped and murdered and beaten.” A transgender woman of color has a 1/8 chance of being murdered, and a 1/2 chance of being raped, as opposed to the average cisgender female (let’s just assume she’s white) who has a 1/369 chance of being murdered and a 1/4 chance of being raped. So, if you are a transgender woman, your chance of being murdered is 45.125 times as high as a white cisgender woman. If you are a transgender woman, your chance of being raped is twice that of a cisgender woman. http://www.rrsonline.org/?page_id=944 But we’re so much more oppressed than them, so we should be telling them what to wear, because it’s our business how other people clothe their bodies. Right.

        • will

          “But we’re so much more oppressed than them, so we should be telling them what to wear, because it’s our business how other people clothe their bodies.”

          What a dishonest representation of the feminist critique of trans politics.

          • Anna Krowsky

            It’s all ad hominem argument and no substantive point on your end, Will. This would be an easy time to point our you’re mansplaining. Though, frankly, if you’re on the end of people being able to freely express themselves as individuals, you’re on the progressive end of history. If you’re on the end of telling people what to do with their bodies, you’re on the regressive side of history. Transphobia is an extension of religious patriarchy. Not like they can help it. Here’s the scientific proof, with the Human Genone Project to back it up: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7689007.stm

          • Meghan Murphy

            Freedom will not come from “people being able to freely express themselves as individuals.” Freedom will come from ending oppressive systems of power. And I fail to see how Will’s response constitutes “mansplaining.”

          • Anna Krowsky

            Currently, you all are an arm of the oppressive systems of power, having set up things so in favor of girls that they do better in school (because they are graded differently, because the boys who could do awesomely in school are immediately medicated for made up problems, in ways that will actually make them more female-shaped [just research Risperdol]), so that women are much more likely to graduate from college. Now you’re using your power to try to intimidate girly men into acting like manly men, not that you’d like them either way, just now they wouldn’t confuse you with their individuality.

            And Will is mansplaining by trying to explain to a grown woman how she should feel about gender politics. Furthermore, he didn’t add anything to the conversation; I wasn’t being dishonest. I was being brutally honest. Excuse me if I refuse to group-think about why an actually more oppressed group of people should do what I say with their lives. Excuse me if I refuse to be offended by stuff that doesn’t affect my life at all. Reminds me of the Westboro Baptist Church people, protesting people being gay or in the military.

          • Meghan Murphy

            “Currently, you all are an arm of the oppressive systems of power, having set up things so in favor of girls that they do better in school…”

            Did I read that right? So you’re an MRA then?

          • Anna Krowsky

            Nope; I’m anti-label. All of my personal philosophy is on the basis of thought and observation, not textbooks telling me what I should believe. Anyway, though, I have a son who’s very bright and public elementary school at the time seemed to be overtaken by pharmaceutical reps who wanted sales on kids; made the learning environment very hostile towards him because he wasn’t an easy drug sale (or one at all). Also, I went to school, myself, and a teacher or two could get away with being openly misandristic. Anyway, though, I was a staunch feminist for many years, so I saw all the numbers that were at odds with the narrative and ended up being anti-label because, in all honesty, all the feminist and MRA stuff really started to seem like a giant who-is-the-bigger-victim contest. But we are, doing better in school, graduating college in higher numbers, not earning as much but spending more (they fixed that in Sweden with paternity leave), and able to not work and not be judged for it, should we even choose that, while they’re not doing well in school because it’s a giant medicine trap with repercussions for not taking ill-prescribed drugs, and while they’re committing suicide 5 times as much as we do. I’m not even close to being an MRA; I just think it’s important for people to care about each other, regardless of gender, race, etc., for the survival of the species, humanity.

          • Meghan Murphy

            Hmm… The feminist movement is not about “textbooks.” Though understanding how to think, as well as understanding history and ideas, or studying ideology is not a “bad” thing. In any case, I think we’ve given you more than enough space here considering that you are an anti-feminist MRA. You have letf comments in other places online that literally ay that women have more privilege than men. Perhaps you might find another forum that can accommodate your views better than this one.

          • Anna Krowsky

            Did you read the article? Human genome mapping has proved that there is a transsexuality gene that most people don’t have. Asking people to act against their genetic expression, when it doesn’t harm anyone, is tyrannical. Maybe you feel uncomfortable when you see a man in a dress, or when someone identifies as female who looks male, but it still doesn’t affect your life, in any way stronger than it would affect your life to have a neighbor who worked in an interesting new field of technology. Some people are uncomfortable when they think they see someone gay in public; that doesn’t mean we should outlaw people being gay.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I would never ask anyone to act against their genetic expression. I don’t feel uncomfortable seeing men in dresses at all. I feel uncomfortable watching men mock women in misogynist ways. Transsexuality and drag are, as I understand it, not the same thing so I fail to see what it is you are arguing with me about anyway. Certainly I believe sex dysphoria is a real thing. I do not, though, believe that gender stereotypes or sexism is a necessary or “natural” phenomenon. Please stop putting words in my mouth, it gives the impression you are just trolling.

          • will

            I’m female. And you seem to have a problem with my free expression of my ideas.

            No one here is preventing anyone from “freely expressing themselves”, nor are they “telling them what to wear”. That is not happening. No one gives a fuck what you wear. In fact, that is my and many others’ position: that one should present how one wants to without demanding that everyone subscribe to one’s personal construct of how the world works. Free expression includes freedom to criticize – preferably in a considered, intellectually invested and evidenced way.

            This is a feminist forum. We discuss feminist critiques of current social phenomena. If you put forth an opinion on a such a forum, you risk people arguing with that opinion. If you cannot acknowledge the substance of what has been said in response to your comments and you instead misrepresent what has been said, you’ll get called on it.

            It’s not silencing. It’s not oppression. It’s argument. Deal with it.

  • Plsno NoPls

    This article was clearly written by someone looking in on drag culture with little to no experience or true understanding of Drag and drag culture. Where is comes from or what it has evolved into in it’s many facets. Just by reading the comments on here you can see people lumping cross-dressing and Drag together, please educate yourself on both subjects, seriously do it. Do not drag (pun intended) drag culture under a “feminist-agenda-driven” bus in order to make points you could do so by illuminating more serious issues. Firstly I do need to write that there are so many types or drag that it would be unfair to try to speak for them all under one umbrella but I will try to explain some simple truths for you. Drag culture has really only been exposed steadily in the main stream media recently thanks to exposure from things like “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. However drag culture, even among the gay community; in the past has been put down and snubbed. There is your real article. Why (even among gay men) has drag been looked down upon? Why is it wrong for a man regardless of sexual identity to inspirit femininity and womanhood? If anything Drag culture is extremely feminist in it’s approach, even if that approach is often misjudged or too tongue in cheek for dim wits. Drag is not about realistically portraying femininity in a exaggerated manner in order to poke fun at it. No, it is quite the opposite. Drag takes societal and culture jabs at the way woman are expected to look/behave, and then says “Fuck that” “Be who you want to be and be the most of it”. They also celebrate femininity in variety of forms. Some drag performers live to embody femininity, worshiping it in a palpable fervor, paying homage with painted faces,done with surgical precision. Donning their feminine regalia literally transforms them to a goddess like entity, free of their definitive gender and all the shackles society places on it. Some even wear beards to play even more on the “screw gender” attitude, to show that the very notions of “Masculine” and “Feminine” are silly and that when we pair both together into a single entity it can often become something more, something beautiful. You also totally only took what you wanted from that Divine documentary? did you even watch it yourself? Selective journalism is not good journalism. I could write so much more, I want to write so much more, but honestly the points will likely be lost. It just seems like the writer is a dog with a bone, unfairly piggybacking their ethos on a subculture that really is that last one to deserve it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I think you’re missing the point. This isn’t an article about understanding drag culture. It’s an article about sexism. We understand sexism, as women. We don’t care about understanding a culture that perpetuates gender stereotypes and misogyny. This is the exact same argument made over and over again whenever burlesque is critiqued. Women are allowed to be critical of things that contribute to their oppression — they don’t have to join that “culture” in order to do so. Also, what is clear is that, by “understanding,” you actually mean “participating in, uncritically,” thereby endorsing said “culture.” Is there no way for women to understand misogyny unless they participate in it, uncritically, themselves?

      • Plsno NoPls

        “This isn’t an article about understanding drag culture” correct, but if you are going to write an article about something the least you could do for the service of others is to educate yourself on the matter. This way you can construct a well rounded and informative article. You didn’t really answer my critical viewpoints on your selective style of journalism. Also you are the one who pointed the scope at drag culture, but yet you want to write a article about something you seemingly couldn’t be bothered to educate yourself on? This is about responsible journalism Meghan not what you could or couldn’t be bothered to research.

        ” Women are allowed to be critical of things that contribute to their
        oppression — they don’t have to join that “culture” in order to do so.” Correct again, however when you piggyback one subculture in a attempt to smear it for your own person “greater good” motives onto another issue then you yourself come off as bigoted, and close minded. i want to give you more credit than that. I want to give this article and the points it was trying to make more credit than that. I think I get the point quite clearly.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I did research. You just don’t like or agree with what I found. Calling feminists who challenge gender stereotypes “bigoted” is unlikely to persuade them to stop.

          • Plsno NoPls

            Meghan, I understand what you were trying to say in your article . I can most certainly see how you might have arrived at the place you did based on the little tidbits you put in it in-order to solidify your claims. I just cannot in good conscientious come at it from such a absolute and dogmatic direction. I cannot condemn and subjugate an entire subculture based on the misgivings of a few. Does dressing in feminine associative clothing give a person permission to act wrongly? No of course not! But it also doesn’t mean you can then brand an entire group or people based on those singular persons actions. You and I both know the dangers of such a thing. We have seen it time and time again.

            I cannot speak for the motives behind your article and how you came to feel that it needed to be brought to attention. I can say though that I as a reader have the right to assess whether or not the article itself is a fair and well rounded piece. Built on a clear and absolute knowledge of all the article entails. Supported by fact, documented research, and more than just a biased opinion. This is not about feminism or drag queens. It is about you and your responsibility for the articles you write. Words can carry a lot of weight. Your viewpoints and voice are something I honor and am glad you have a way to express them. I just hope that when you do choose to share them with us we are getting something truly poignant ( I mean that archaically) and ethically sound. I feel in this article you sold both you and I short. I do thank you for allowing me to take a closer look at the issues you pointed out in your article, so consider that success. All the best on your future endeavours.

          • Meghan Murphy

            You know what? I’ve seen many drag shows, many burlesque shows and many strip shows. Every time I critique any of these things I’m told I haven’t seen enough to make a fair assessment. What about porn? How much porn do I need to watch to be qualified to say it is misogynist? How many episodes of Game of Thrones must I watch to be qualified to critique it? It never ends. #notalldrag, sure. But when everything I see mocks women and perpetuates gender stereotypes and/or is outright misogynist, I think I am qualified to say as much.

          • Plsno NoPls

            “You know what? I’ve seen many drag shows” or “I don’t intentionally go to many drag shows. Not as a political or even personal decision — in fact, it’s not really something I’ve thought about all that much. I suppose that form of entertainment simply has
            never interested me.” Which one is it because it can’t be both.

          • Meghan Murphy

            I don’t intentionally go. They just happen to me. Much like burlesque is just imposed upon us. Also, both drag and burlesque are mainstream entertainment and you’ll see it on TV and in movies regardless of whether you want to or not.

          • CarbonAxiom

            Since I’m wondering if there is a way to break the deadlock here, I’m posting a comment in the hope that I can provide a change of perspective.

            To borrow terminology from economics (only because I can’t think of better terms at the moment), there is a macroview and a microview in regards to the stereotyping within drag culture. I loosely define the microview here to mean the intentional subordination of women by a specific person, and the macroview to mean the subordination of women as perpetrated by a group of people or society as a whole, ‘groups’ and ‘society’ being subsections within macroview.

            My impression is that Plsno NoPls is offended by the implication (whether real or perceived) that there is a microview attack in the article on specific individuals who engage in drag and are part of drag culture, a view caused by the implication that there might exist some number of people within drag, perhaps holding significant influence, who are involved in drag due, at least partially, to an intention to oppress women [this implication is caused most explicitly by the following sentence in the article: “To be clear, I don’t think that drag queens are all intentionally
            working to subordinate women (but who knows, I’ve never asked any), nor
            do I think your enjoyment of drag performances (if you do indeed enjoy
            them) make you a necessarily Bad and Wrong, misogynist person.”].

            I’m assuming that Plsno believes that all involved in drag culture, or at least the vast majority, are not in any way attempting, or even thinking of, causing any harm or perpetuating any form of subordination towards women. I would also assume that Meghan didn’t mean the above quoted sentence to be interpreted in the way Plsno is probably interpreting it, since it was the only place in the article where potential blame towards individuals is stated (other than Daytona Bitch, who is blamed for reasons only tangentially related to this topic). But despite all this, the issues related to the macroview still stand.

            In the macroview, Meghan is stating that drag culture is perpetuating the oppression of women. If both sides agree that the vast majority, if not all, of people involved in drag are not attempting to oppress women, then by logical extension it means that the section of the macroview pertaining to groups indicates that there is no oppression, or at most, little oppression taking place at that level. But that would still leave the issue of societal oppression. Within the macroview section of societal oppression, a case can be made that a continuation of drag culture reinforces both conscious and subconscious oppressive behaviors in all individuals within society. This means that, even if drag culture is innocuous and even helpful at the individual and internal group levels, it causes overall harm at the societal level.

            In conclusion, the debate to be had is whether the benefits that many individuals attain within drag culture are worth the harm it might be causing to society by perpetuating stereotypes.

          • marv

            In keeping with your economic terms of reference, it doesn’t really matter what the intentions are at the general or particular levels. Capitalism oppresses workers regardless of motives or benevolence. Drag has a similar impact on women as a group. Why would we need to debate whether the advantages gained by the few outweigh the losses suffered by the many? A socially just society requires that collective liberation trumps the privatization of power and wealth in all spheres.

          • CarbonAxiom

            In that case the issue would jump to one of pragmatism vs. radicalism (despite that being a false dichotomy). Pragmatically, you would want to fix social issues and changing the problems within drag culture while somehow retaining the good features that it provides to those who engage in it.

            Whether such a thing is possible, and how to accomplish it if so, is the question. Radicalism, defined here as a movement that believes in the necessity of bringing about societal change as quickly as possible, would state that the above balance isn’t possible, so we should just focus on fixing the overall social issues and ignore the casualties along the way. I described this as a false dichotomy above because this is only true if one looks at things from a short term perspective. The longer your time frame, the more pragmatism starts looking like radicalism, except more stable and longer lasting.

          • marv

            ‘Pragmatically, you would want to fix social issues and changing the problems within drag culture while somehow retaining the good features that it provides to those who engage in it.

            One of the reasons feudalism, monarchism and slavery were legal for so long was because of reformism. The positive features they offered to the power holders was the reason legislated abolition was delayed. Drag is an invention of men in a male monopolized world. It doesn’t benefit women. Drag queens could hardly be considered ‘casualties’ if drag ended.

            ‘The longer your time frame, the more pragmatism starts looking like radicalism, except more stable and longer lasting.’

            We have had pragmatic revisions to the white male colonial state and capitalism for centuries but none of them have corrected fundamental injustices towards First Nations and labor. Renovations lead to more normalization of social pyramids rather than deliverance. Patriarchy has followed the same pattern. Drag is one example.

          • CarbonAxiom

            “We have had pragmatic revisions to the white male colonial state and
            capitalism for centuries but none of them have corrected fundamental
            injustices towards First Nations and labor. Renovations lead to more
            normalization of social pyramids rather than deliverance. Patriarchy has
            followed the same pattern. Drag is one example.”

            I suppose this is where we enter into a true disagreement. The fundamental injustices you’re referring to aren’t a large monolithic thing that one can point to and say “here it is, it remains unchanged, get rid of it”. When one does that, what is being pointed to is a part of the complete injustice, not the full thing. To my knowledge, there has never been a study that even claims to capture the full picture of fundamental injustices in society without missing anything.

            In truth, what has been happening for centuries is a slow but steady weakening of parts of those injustices, or perhaps even full removal of specific parts (we can’t be sure of full removal of such, since that would claim to know that such injustices no longer exists anywhere). To argue against this would either be to say that such changes were not of fundamental injustices, in which case we would have to attempt to fully define fundamental injustices, which as I said above has not been done with any degree of certainty, or to say that there really haven’t been any changes at all in the past few centuries.

            Either way, it’s important not to do an analysis of the long term through the limited scope of a short term perspective. Long term changes don’t help people in the short term. Changes in the short term are certainly possible, but the tools we have to inflict such are far less precise than those capable of inflicting long term change. Revolutions invariably cause both benefits and chaos in the short term by definition, and are largely irrelevant in the long term except in terms of being possible sparks that cause pragmatic long term changes.

            Note that, as hinted in the previous sentence, I’m not exactly against radical ideas, or the concept of revolution, especially if it leads to a much more efficient and equitable system. It’s just that the severe limitations of such must always be well understood before engaging in it. To blindly believe that one’s methods will only lead to beneficial results is to ignore the needs of at least some part of the extremely complex society being engaged, and that leads to a less effective implementation of one’s ideas.

            Getting rid of drag would help women, and help society. But it would hurt specific individuals engaged within the culture who claim that it helps them cope with the very injustices that are part of the same web of fundamental injustices. If they are not really casualties, then they are either lying about being benefited from drag culture, or their thoughts on the matter simply don’t matter. If it’s the latter, then I’ll give my thoughts on why injustices persist in some way or form despite many decades and centuries of attempts to fix it all: they persist because the issues of certain individuals are ignored in favor of the majority or those in power, despite there being no societal need to ignore them. It’s a harsh reality, but even the thoughts of the cruelest of individuals must be understood in some way, or else we harm our ability to prevent such individuals from rising again.

          • marv

            You are arguing from a liberal ideological stance, generally espoused by elitist white males and females. Liberal political theory lacks a political analysis of patriarchy, race, economic divisions and speciesism. It refuses to see them as foundational class injustices on which society is built. Because liberals don’t/won’t see these class structures as unethical social creations rather than natural ones, they are content with tweaking the system. They are obsessed with protecting the sovereign individual while remaining short sighted to the male capitalist nation states in which we are forced to reside.

            To put it succinctly, the male gods of the religious conservatives have become the secularized theology of the liberals in the form of pornstitution, capitalism/ consumerism and the state. Whether conformity to tradition or reform, hierarchy is sanctioned, social imagination stifled.

            How we see things is drastically influenced by our vantage or disadvantage point. Come down from on high where abstractions reign and social consciousness is dead.

          • CarbonAxiom

            It’s fine if you want to attach such labels to my point of view. I won’t argue against them since it would probably require me to write an entire book to do so.

            My only question regarding what you said is as to what you would replace the current system with. Is there a detailed design of a system you have made or support that you feel work much better than the current one? I would genuinely like to know, and I wouldn’t mind a link or reference to a work where such a system is laid out.

          • marv

            There you go again with privileged liberal idealism: this time, one or more individuals designing a
            political/economic system in their heads.
            Sounds like you live in a mountaintop textbook world. Social change plans have to be a collective
            endeavour bringing together feminists, anti-capitalists, people of colour, aboriginals,
            white allies, refugees, migrants, the disabled, environmentalists,
            anti-militarists/imperialists, animal rights advocates, etc. These groups create awareness by educating the
            public on how oppression works, by protesting and by pushing for legislative and social policy revisions like the Nordic Model and guaranteed livable income. These are some of the means to developing democratic and
            egalitarian alternative systems. If you
            are not engaged on the ground with feminist social movements you can’t
            understand what I am talking about.
            Staunch liberals are an obstacle to liberation but they will never admit it. They do love to endlessly debate however.

          • CarbonAxiom

            All I’m asking for are details about what those egalitarian alternative systems would be like. Are you saying that it isn’t possible to know such details until the means toward change are already being carried out? Though I see that you mentioned the Nordic Model. Is that the beginning of what you would like to see?

            I ask because, as I mentioned before, the methods and implementation of a new system are as important as the desire for change.

          • http://thismagpie.com/ Magpie

            Honestly, I do get what you mean, but some forms of drag do critique misogyny so eloquently and ultimately drags provides the only opportunity for people to turn gender on its head (or at least it used to until recently…:-/). A recent example is the BrewDog #DontMakeUsDo promo video which has (inadvertently) highlighting how absurd the whole “choice” argument on prostitution, this week: “activists” are already frothing at the mouth about it citing the various *phobia “offences” in a petition to try to get it taken down… Personally, watching men do drag has given me a lot of light relief from the attacks on feminism lately; drag queens can get away with making fun of all the ludicrous people who de-platformed them from Glasgow Pride; Drag performers are a parody of gender inequality where men and women are expected to dress to a certain way. Drag exposes the fallacy of gender stereotypes.

            I don’t see why anyone would see anything “bigoted” about a feminist journalist (or any other interested party) critiquing the forms of drag which do express misogyny or to otherwise mock women which we all know exist though. That’s ridiculous! It should hardly be a surprising thing to see on a feminist website! You really have to wonder what motivates some people sometimes…

        • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

          You’re a funny one to call someone bigoted and closed-minded when we’re talking about a culture that throws one marginalized group under the bus to make another marginalized group feel better about itself.

    • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

      Meghan came out and said she’s got zero experience with drag culture. That was in the very first few paragraphs. Why are you acting like you caught her out in a lie or something? Grow up.

      • Plsno NoPls

        And from reading your comment on the article you have just as much knowledge on the subject. Heresay should not be the foundation on which one forms their own opinion of something. You should know better but I guess you don’t.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Hmm… I wrote about drag I’d seen. Just because I don’t frequent drag shows often doesn’t mean I haven’t seen drag shows. Why would I be angry about sexism in drag if I hadn’t seen sexism in drag?

  • http://www.danaseilhan.com Dana

    I did hear an interesting argument once from a gay man on my FB friends list that basically, gay men dress up like this to make fun of straight men’s stereotypes about them. I guess if that’s true I can kind of understand that, but it still comes across like they’re throwing us under the bus to make a point.

    And there *is* such a thing as a drag *king*, but that doesn’t seem designed to make fun of men so much as to play with masculine energy, as it were. I could be wrong, I’ve been even less exposed to drag king culture than you’ve been to drag queens. (It probably doesn’t help that I’m straight.)

    • http://thismagpie.com/ Magpie

      Apparently, “drag kings” are quite popular in San Fransisco… Anyway, I quite liked Eddie Izzard’s take on it (though this is no endorsement of his politics more generally): “They’re not “women’s dresses. They’re my dresses. I buy them. It’s like when women wear trousers. They’re not cross-dressing, they’re not wearing men’s trousers.”

      That’s kind of how I have always sort of seen the principle of drag myself too, but then I have never felt particularly defensive of dresses, makeup etc. I can’t deny there is a lot of misogyny in the LGBT scene and I suspect forms of misogynistic drag to be a symptom not necessarily a cause.

      With that said, men sporting fake breasts, tucking their “manhood” in etc, could arguably be compared to “blackface”, since that’s entering the realm of parodying physical characteristics in an analogous way, so I guess when they do that and wear dresses etc I can see why that might seem like adding “insult to injury” somewhat… In any case, I personally think there are much bigger fish to fry right now. The problem is these delusional men who are wear dresses and forcing everyone to pretend that this somehow *re-defines* what it is to be woman, since that’s a very serious, legislative threat to human rights, particularly for women as well as scientific progress and democracy.

      Whatever. However feminists may have felt about drag in the past, the fact is that right now, men who wear drag make the imposters uncomfortable for a reason and I’ll tell you what: if anything can expose the growing fallacy emanating from delusional men who have infiltrated their way onto the LGBT platform, the drag performance debate can – I know which side of it I am on.[1]

      [1] http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2015/07/20/pride-event-bans-drag-queens-in-case-they-are-offensive/

      • Sabine

        I agree with you about Eddie Izzard. He has never come across as even remotely trying to impersonate a woman. When he does wear “women’s clothes” he’s basically a bloke in a dress and he knows it!

  • Jo

    No drag queen that I’ve heard of have ever done it to “mock women” as you put it. Drag is used as a way to bend the gender binary. Since you yourself have said that you do not know much, about it you’d know that they’re are drag queens who don’t wish to look like women, but instead more avant garde, or more humorous. Its not an appropriation but more of a way of expressing yourself in a way considered feminine by society. And also, there are people called drag kings, who are mostly women who dress up as men.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I understand what many drag queens would like to *think* they are doing, but that does not necessarily mean that is what is being conveyed. I actually know plenty about how femininity and sexist representations of women harm women, thank you very much.

  • Lucia Lolita

    I find drag performers to be lovely and entertaining, but I also see them for what they are, which is an exaggerated presentation of what a patriarchal society has determined “feminine”. It is a kind of appropriation, a form of entertainment, meant to express what a “woman” is. While saying it’s a kind of “black face” can be off putting, I do agree with the assertion. It is.

    I have come across commentary containing terms like “fishy bitch” when with drag queens. I was told to lighten up when I pointed out how insulting this is. I was also expected to shrug it off because this is supposed to be a compliment of some sort.

    Say what?

    I feel I am held to a standard of what quantifies as intolerance from the perspective of a select group of people who have determined I come from a place of privilege simply because I am “cis”. How many times do I need to point out I have no “privilege”? None. How can I be made aware of something I have never experienced, as a female?

    Being a female all my life has set me back in ways I am still battling against as a young person trying to carve a career for herself. Both because of the socialisation I’ve been exposed to growing up a girl, and as the adult I am today in fighting to be being treated equally to men in my field. We all have our burdens and I certainly am aware my burden can be considered less than others, but please don’t dictate to me what “value” my burden has, just like I would never attempt the same to another person’s. There is presentation and there is spectacle, and drag queens (and kings) lean to the latter. However, in the instances of drag queens, we are dealing with this extreme form of socialised “femininity” which historically represents a sex that has been oppressed and persecuted for millennia.

    This is worth acknowledging and worth discussion.