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» Got Questions? Get Answers. » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Hardly a "Drag": RuPaul's Drag Race

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Author Topic: Hardly a "Drag": RuPaul's Drag Race
Ecofem
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I caught an episode of RuPaul's Drag Race the other day on TV. (By clicking on that link, you can watch the whole series online at Logo.) Already a fan of RuPaul since his Supermodel video days and his endearing performance in But I'm a Cheerleader, I immediately was interested in this reality show that bills itself as a contest to find the next "international drag superstar." The make-up may be caked on (or, should I say, applied impeccably!) and the female roles acting, but the emotion and personalities on the show feel 100% heartfelt and genuine.

I find the performance of gender roles in drag, be it drag queens or kings, to be very interesting and bring up a lot of questions. I wonder how gender identity fits into all of this. I believe a politically correct term, or at least one I've heard a lot, is "female impersonator." Then again, when I watched the show, I thought of an old song lyric from Hole; Courtney Love sings, "I fake it so real I am beyond fake." Well, it seems that you could even say that drag is about faking it so real it's beyond REAL. For example, while I'm someone who often dresses in a very traditionally feminine way (dresses and skirts and perfume and ruffles), I also have no desire to wear half the make-up or put on the get-ups the show contestants are wearing, although I certainly respect and appreciate their efforts and the result.

Using the show as a starting point but also seeking to go beyond to include all drag, I'd be interested in starting a dialogue on gender roles and drag performance.

-What do you think of drag?

- Have you ever seen any performances or performed yourself?

- How is drag "performing" gender/s and how does that differ from everyday life stuff?

- Etc.!

I'd love to hear what you have to say! I have a lot of questions and would appreciate hearing your insight and opinion. (Also, a gentle reminder: As always at Scarleteen, let's work on keeping the conversation respectful and inclusive. [Smile] )

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SnailShells
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I caught the first episode--it reminds me of a cross between America's Next Top Model and Project Runway, only a whole lot more interesting and with so much more personality [Wink] (I've always thought RuPaul was fabulous--he can work an Italian suit or a bikini [Big Grin] )

I think the concept of 'drag' is fascinating. The contestants are very passionate about their characters, which range from being very much like them to alter-egos.
I think if a man wants to dress is drag, that's absolutely his prerogative; a person should be able to express gender in whatever way feels most natural for them.

I haven't been to a drag 'performance', per se, a la 'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert' (one of my fav movies) but I have seen men in drag in person--I often mistake them at first glance for very glamorous, very tall and toned women. Not to mention, I'm sure I've seen men in drag I didn't even know were men in drag!

Am I curious--how does a desire to dress 'in drag' come about? [Smile]

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“I thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty.” --John Waters

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Ecofem
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Hey SnailShells,

Thanks for your quick reply and I'm glad you liked it! Yes, saying it's a cross between America's Top Model and Project Runway is the perfect description. I do agree that the contestants are very passionate about their characters, which is quite inspirational. I'm looking forward to future episodes and learning more about the people behind the costumes and personalities.

You ask some good questions here that I, too, would like to find out more about. I know we have some volunteers who are more knowledgeable in this department and I look forward to hearing what they have to say! [Smile]

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bluejumprope
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quote:
Originally posted by SnailShells:
how does a desire to dress 'in drag' come about? [Smile]

I can only speak for myself. I've loved dressing up in drag since I was in kindergarten. It was just an automatic, obviously fun thing to do. For a lot of girls, dressing up in princess gowns is an automatic, obviously fun thing to do. It's pleasurable and liberating to play dress up.

Why do people like dressing up in "appropriate" gender-normative clothes? I think it makes a lot of people feel beautiful, powerful and sexy and connects them with something authentic in themselves. For a lot of people, dressing in "drag" does the same thing.

In a culture where rigid gender norms are constantly enforced, clothes and mannerisms become very gendered and carry a lot of emotional weight. Doing drag can be a way of accessing and relaxing into aspects of ourselves that identify more with another side of the gender spectrum.

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without tenderness, we are in hell. -Adrienne Rich

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SnailShells
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Thanks Jumprope [Smile]

--------------------
“I thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty.” --John Waters

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Heather
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I do want to add one thing which is that it's always possible when anyone is seeing "men in drag" they are mistaking for women that they may be seeing...well, not men in drag at all, but transwomen.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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CJT
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Well, drag is certainly one way to perform gender. Some theorists argue that all of us are performing gender all the time. If you think about it, how did we ever decide that girls should wear pink and boys should wear blue? Gender can be pretty arbitrary when you get down to it.

It's pretty safe to say that many people who perform drag still identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. Many, but not all. I definitely know folks who just think that drag performance is a great way to have fun, to feel liberated, to poke a bit of fun at the gender binary and its ridiculousness, and to make a social statement. I also know other folks who have done drag who do NOT identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, but drag performances are the only safe way for them to dress to match their internal identity. There's a lot of variety.

But there are lots of reasons that someone might end up wearing clothes of another gender. Some folks will do it for performance. Some people will be turned on by it, or find it sexy. Some folks feel that their identities are more in line with dressing, acting, living in a cross-gender role. And with any of those options (and I'm sure there are more), there are different sets of motivation. And I would argue that if your core identity is that of another gender than what you were assigned, you're not so much doing drag when you dress that way...it's more an issue of being true to yourself and expressing that identity.

Lena, you do raise some really interesting points. So often in drag performances you'll see almost caricatures of gender. The femmiest femme. The butchiest butch. The manliest man. But there are so many ways to do gender, and so many intricacies, that it makes for pretty fascinating stuff.

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mizchastain
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I'm happy being female, but I'd really like to go out dressed as a guy just to see if I could fool people. I think it might be easier for men to pass as women, though, because people don't expect to see a man in a dress, but so many women wear traditionally-masculine clothing these days that people expect to see it ... I'm probably explaining this wrong, but you get what I mean.
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Ecofem
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The second season of RuPaul's Drag Race is here and I'm enjoying it! The good news is that you don't need a TV or the Logo channel to see it but the bad news is that I think you can only watch it in the US at this point. Here's the link if you're interested. The next episode is on at 9 p.m. EST / 8 p.m. CST tonight! [Smile]
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LondonBlue
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I love this show! I watched it from the very beginning last year and have been counting down the days until this season. It's just a lot of fun, and the contestants are inspiring in their creativity and confidence.

BTW, the first episode last season was also a costume-making challenge, but that was the only time they did it. They have all kinds of challenges--photoshoots, creating new personas, recording commercials, delivering lines in various venues, dancing. So it may not always be a Project Runway type show, but it will always be exciting. [Smile]

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Ecofem
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I enjoyed last night's too: I like how they're sharing more about their personal lives, like how two of them have sons (I think one is biological and the other is adopted.) A lot of times people will associate being a drag queen with being gay but that's certainly not (always) the case (of course you can be gay and have biological kids!) I'm looking forward to hearing more about all of that. And the various celebrity judges this time are seeming really interesting, too, because they're promoting their own stuff but are also supporting LGBT rights (the show being on Logo and all.) As always, RuPaul comes across like the most upbeat, supportive-of-all cheerleader, which I've heard he actually is in real life, too. A quote you'll probably remember, LondonBlue, "I'm sassy, not bitchy." [Wink]

Edit: Oh, and speaking of clothing, I was wondering how everyone could sew so well but this season they admitted it: many people just gluegun their outfits.

[ 02-16-2010, 11:07 AM: Message edited by: Ecofem ]

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