Is Drag the Gender Equivalent of Blackface?

by Lucas Witherspoon

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Within the gay community, drag is sort of an inevitable cornerstone, so it begs the question: is drag anti-feminist?

On the one hand, I see how females could find drag insulting, because drag primarily relies on perpetuating gender stereotypes, but I can’t comprehend it being offensive. People pretending to be the opposite sex is an exhausted and, frankly, overused trope. I’m sure people like William West found blackface to be highly entertaining until the likes of Bert Williams came along to point out that it’s grotesquely offensive. The difference, however, is that drag isn’t innately meant to be insulting.

For the record, I see drag as an outlet that allows people of one gender to take on the features of another gender, as generic as those components may be. So, in that sense, I’d say drag is more about defying gender roles than portraying a caricature. Plus, let’s just state the obvious: Kim Kardashian wouldn’t have gone from looking like a video ho with heavy lip liner to being on the cover of Vogue had it not been for her makeup artist learning the tricks of the drag trade. Drag queens were contouring, snatching, and coiffuring to the gods long before it became a part of the mainstream. I won’t blatantly say that women should necessarily be thanking drag queens, but there should be an understanding that drag isn’t meant to be demeaning; if anything, there should be mutual respect.

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