Is Drag offensive to women?


Fact Box

  • In 1867, the Hamilton Lodge in Harlem hosted the first “drag ball,” featuring both sexes coming dressed to compete for “best gown” or “feminine figure.”
  • With the dawn of the speakeasy, the 1930s is thought to be the ignition of gay nightlife and drag balls since Prohibition in the U.S. kicked many underground. With this newfound privacy to consume alcohol and enjoy themselves, gay men found space away from police detection. 
  • RuPaul Charles is considered one of the most well-known and commercially successful Drag Queens in America. 
  • Some mainstream feminists question whether drag is a sort of “cultural appropriation” of women by men.  

Jasmine (Yes)

We’ve come a considerably long way to empower women, doing away with archaic subdued ceilings in homes and workplaces; let’s not drag that away.

Drag is a parody of women. It fuels archaic stereotypes of women by focusing on the outer shell along with tight dresses, high heels, humongous breasts, and large amounts of makeup; eliciting a catty and bimbo vibe. Women are beyond this shallow ‘dressy’ portrayal. From multitasking life events to nurturing kids, leading competitively at workplaces along with doing daily chores, all the while undergoing menstruation and hormonal issues - women are more than sexualized objects. 

Drag is a business packaged as ‘liberation’. There is an absolute absence of exploration of femininity. Utilizing overtly sexualized images of femininity isn’t bringing any substantial value to anyone other than nightclub owners. There are innumerable instances of drag solely aimed to ‘woo’ and extract bucks, without empowering any females in particular. Going as far back as 1893, Jonathan Katz, a revolutionary gay/lesbian historian, even referenced the “drag dance” as “an orgy of lascivious debauchery.” RuPaul's Drag Race UK has received flak for ridiculing women, failing to actually represent women or the full spectrum of gay men.

The celebration of drag actually takes away the long-overdue, rightfully gained power from women, and what it actually means to be one. Drag may have begun with good intentions, but rather than representing an honest reflection of women or building a community to further inspire women, it has only become a misogynistic expression, utterly insulting. It simply draws a valueless, stereotyped, caricature of women, marginalizing.

Emma (No)

When talking about drag, people often treat it as simply a costume for the performer, nothing more than someone dressing up for Halloween. The current scientific consensus, however, is that gender falls on a spectrum and is separate from anatomical sex. Because of this, it is impossible to draw a line as to what is or is not an appropriate form of gender self-expression, and it is completely reasonable to say that a cisgender man could incorporate traditionally feminine things into how they choose to present themselves to the world while still being true to their identity, with drag included. Mainly, drag is not a costume, but a key part of someone expressing a piece of themselves that they otherwise don’t have an outlet for, as well as being a platform for people to explore their gender identities in a way that is celebrated.

Alternatively, people who claim drag is offensive often try to equate it to blackface. The key difference here is that when participating in blackface, the white individuals dressing up as black people are doing it with the specific intent to create a caricature of black people. The point is to push negative stereotypes and systematically oppress Black people. People who choose to partake in drag do it as a form of self-expression. It is a personal pursuit to be themselves and to express their gender identity in a way that feels genuine. The intent of drag is not to parody women. In fact, it has nothing to do with anyone other than the person making the choice to dress in drag.

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