When Britney released Work Bitch , it was obvious she'd got the song title from dipping into the drag queen vernacular. And who could blame her? The overt confidence, the acid wit, the fabulous hair; we could all learn a thing or five from a drag queen. The show has amassed a fierce and loyal following - last month it hit 1 million likes on Facebook - and its alumni including Sharon Needles, Jinx Monsoon and Willam Belli have gone on to achieve huge success. But there is a problem.
The first time they performed as a drag queen for an audience, however, was at the Glory Drag queens talk about their vaginas in east London. Tyra sparked controversy when she created a fake Facebook post announcing the death of Morgan McMichaels, who was very much alive. Laganja Estranja left and Nina West. Darienne earned a villainous reputation on Drag Race for her poor attitude and the snarky remarks she Naked virgin hardcore toward other contestants. A stupid person. Though devastated by two runner-up finishes on Drag Race, Raven went on to earn an Emmy nomination for makeup work on later episodes of the show. I was spending so much time responding to the online trolling. And like my grandma getting defensive over these old knitted golliwogs from her childhood when my mum told her to bin them, I'm sure veteran drag queens will be up in arms about being told what they can and can't say. Thus by enjoying and indulging in Vaginaz Race am I, as a feminist, Drag queens talk about their vaginas of supporting a misogynistic queend of women, what some deem the gender equivalent of blackface? Drag does parody women for entertainment, it can be intimidating and we might not always understand where its motives come from, but something like Drag Race carries an overriding message of self-acceptance and Im horny tonight, regardless of race, gender, and labels.
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When Britney released Work Bitch , it was obvious she'd got the song title from dipping into the drag queen vernacular. And who could blame her? The overt confidence, the acid wit, the fabulous hair; we could all learn a thing or five from a drag queen. The show has amassed a fierce and loyal following - last month it hit 1 million likes on Facebook - and its alumni including Sharon Needles, Jinx Monsoon and Willam Belli have gone on to achieve huge success.
But there is a problem. And, like all the scariest problems, it involves vagina. The culprit is a turn of phrase that is rife in the drag vernacular on the show. I hear it on TV and I hear it in real life. It is 'serving fish', and it is said without the faintest bat of a smoky eyelid. For those unfamiliar with drag culture, let me take you to the library. Serving fish is - to quote the reputable source Urban Dictionary - a term 'used in drag culture to refer to a queen that has a very feminine appearance'.
I would add that, from my personal experience, the term is also typically used as a compliment. This is the first definition on Urban Dictionary. The second and last definition of serving fish is this: 'When someone's vajayjay smells like it hasn't been washed for the past few days.
By synonymising vagina and fish, people using this term are reinforcing the offensive idea that vaginas smell like to an old haddock. Similar to wiping your accidental splashes of wee off the toilet seat you forgot to put up, the key is consideration.
Before her tongue went off the rails, Miley Cyrus wholesomely concurred that using 'gay' as a synonym for stupid was not okay, because it is ignorant of gay people's feelings. So when someone uses 'serving fish' to mean 'you look like an actual woman', it isn't considering actual women.
It is, in fact, belittling them. Thus by enjoying and indulging in Drag Race am I, as a feminist, guilty of supporting a misogynistic parody of women, what some deem the gender equivalent of blackface?
Well, not really, and here's why: drag isn't and was never going to be flawless, because it plays with gender. And gender, as we all know, is complicated, honey.
Drag does parody women for entertainment, it can be intimidating and we might not always understand where its motives come from, but something like Drag Race carries an overriding message of self-acceptance and self-love, regardless of race, gender, and labels. Men do not own masculinity in the same way that women don't own femininity. We all own both, and accordingly we should be allowed to play at being both, and this is where drag's significance lies: in gender play.
Because gender desperately needs playing with, because we need to stop taking it so seriously, and I actually think drag can help us in eliminating gender issues by raising questions about how we, as men and women, relate to each other and appropriate each other in order to define our own gender identities. I'm not saying we need to dismantle drag culture and reprimand queens guilty of saying hunty and fishy as vile misogynists of the patriarchal agenda god forbid , but I definitely am saying that if you're going to impersonate women, then it's only right to respect women too.
Sprekken zie drag might score you some club scene brownie points, but when it's offensive to something you're emulating then it's not okay. And like my grandma getting defensive over these old knitted golliwogs from her childhood when my mum told her to bin them, I'm sure veteran drag queens will be up in arms about being told what they can and can't say. But just because you've been doing it forever, doesn't mean it's right, and doesn't mean you shouldn't try and be a better feminist.
So stay fabulous, keep working, but ditch the fish. It's been flopping around for too long, and it's starting to stink. Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day.
Drag queens talk about their vaginas.
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Miss Malice is a female drag queen. While women have been drag kings for decades — women performing as men — female queens are a new-ish addition to the scene, who are peeling away layers of gender identity. These female queens are traversing gender boundaries as well as putting on outrageously entertaining performances, often in the face of prejudice and misogyny, even within queer culture.
She is also a dominatrix. She was also thinking about feminism, and what it had done for the idea of femininity. And these drag queens — Shirley Bassey, Dolly Parton — kind of kept it alive. In order to talk about female drag queens, though, there is a linguistic minefield to navigate. Trans women have female bodies, and female bodies can come in many forms. Crossdressing has existed for as long as dressing has existed.
He points out that, by the end of the s, drag balls were being held in mainstream venues in New York and attracting crowds of up to 6, people. By the 50s and 60s, television had brought drag queens into the living room. Where cis women come into the picture is less clear. San Francisco held its first Faux Queen Pageant in One criticism of drag is that it is misogynistic, that it mocks women and femininity by exaggerating them and turning them into the butt of the joke.
Both Miss Malice and Holestar are adamant that doing drag is absolutely, fundamentally, a celebration of femininity.
Holestar says she had to fight against those misconceptions from men and women, particularly when she started out. Questioning that so negatively is completely baffling.
I ask them to look a bit deeper. Look at my nose, look at my jawline, look at my hands, look at my tits. You can work it out. I want people to question the middle ground. At the Royal College of Art in Battersea, south London, Victoria Sin is showing me around Narrative Reflections on Looking, an MA showcase of four videos in which Sin, dressed in glamorous evening gowns, a fake nipple peering out from one side, face painted in thick drag makeup, narrates a story about desire and what it means to consume an image.
When you put them all together, the amount of labour that goes into doing drag — performing femininity, even — becomes very clear. A person can be a woman and not be at all feminine, they say. I knew I was gay, but I never had any window into gay culture.
Every Wednesday and Sunday there were drag shows at this one bar we went to, and it was my first close encounter with drag. I became really obsessed with it. After moving to London, Sin started to run club nights for friends and would dress in drag, get on the bar and dance.
The first time they performed as a drag queen for an audience, however, was at the Glory pub in east London. I give it to the audience to eat.
She was really doing it when nobody around her was doing it. Is it gay culture? Is it the culture of men? Because last time I checked, drag is performing things that are historically associated with women. I was spending so much time responding to the online trolling. Ever since gender existed, people have been subverting gender. For her, the overemphasis on the academic side of drag has taken the fun of subversion away. It should be fun. Can we not just have fun with it and play with it?
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