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Performative Tensions in Female Drag Performances
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Performative Tensions in Female Drag Performances, Kathryn Hobson Ph D. Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, khobson bloomu edu. Using an intersectional queer theory lens I employ critical performance. autoethnography to argue that female drag performances do the work. of oppression and social justice simultaneously to question whether. queer spaces are actually places of freedom and liberation First I. explore existing literature of drag female masculinities and femme drag. performance second I detail intersectional queer theory and critical. performance autoethnography third I offer my autoethnographic. narrative from the site of a drag performance because it is imperative for. problematizing female drag performance and the perpetuation of whiteness. and misogyny in drag performance finally I offer remarks for further. justification for intersectional analysis for female drag performance. Keywords Intersectionality Queer Female Drag Performances Sexuality. In the vein of Bryant Alexander I begin with a confession Performing. Black 100 I have often both dreaded and loved attending drag shows Drag. queen shows highlight my appreciation of perfect makeup glamorous outfits. and killer calf muscles while drag king shows titillate excite and anger me. As a white queer cisgender 1 femme 2 theorizing through my performances. of race class gender sex and sexuality sometimes when I go to a drag. show where the boys look like girls and the girls look like boys I get all. 1 According to Julia R Johnson If one s sex identity matches her his morphology. then s he is cissexual If one s gender identity aligns with sex morphology s he is. said to be cisgender 138 Whereas transgender is An umbrella term for persons. who challenge gender normativity which includes persons who identify as. transfeminine transmasculine transsexual Two Spirit cross dresser genderqueer. same genderloving in the life female to male FTM male to female MTF. intersex and more 138, 2 Drawing on Brushwood and Camilleri I define femme As femininity gone wrong. bitch slut nag whore cougar dyke or brazen hussy Femininity is a demand. placed on female bodies and femme is the danger of a body read female or. inappropriately feminine 13, An earlier version of this paper was awarded with the 2011 Top Paper Award for the. Performance Studies Division at the Western States Communication Association. Convention The author would like to thank Bernadette Marie Calafell for her. encouragement and thoughtful editing The author is also grateful to the reviewers. who provided her with thoughtful feedback Many thanks to the editors Matt Foy. and Benny Huang LeMaster for their support and work with this piece. Kaleidoscope Vol 12 2013 Hobson 35, hot and bothered and I can forget how to be critical There is so much flesh.
I want to know intimately, I desire the raw kind of drag that showcases the liminal space between. tender and tough pain and pleasure masculine and feminine In my. experience drag kings tend toward this type of drag more than drag queens. but generalizations are almost always problematic I am also a sucker for. clever choreography good song choices and costumes that express the drag. personae a performer is performing Mostly I want drag performances to. offer new insights for the potential of queering gender sexual racial and. class expressions I want drag to challenge and subvert our notions about. normativity and all of the racist capitalist classist sexist misogynist systems. that place demands and regulations on certain bodies to dress in certain ways. relate with certain people marry those people and reproduce new people. I want drag to pull back the veil of mystification regarding intersectional. identities so that everyone is expressing their gender authentically being. aroused sufficiently and liberating themselves appropriately. Instead I find drag king performances as sites filled with tension. glorifying a white masculine expressing butch or tomboi3 aesthetic at the. expense of drag kings of color lower class kings femme drag performers. and burlesque queens who often occupy the same stage Some performers may. argue that drag is just for fun or just a performance but it is inevitable that. audience members and other performers will receive ideological messages. from these performances and the performers who embody them Performance. is truly theory and method Conquergood Madison and as such we learn. our identities including gender sexuality race and class through seeing. doing watching and participating in performances that showcase various. ways of embodying these differing identities, Utilizing a methodology of critical performance autoethnography I. examine a drag king performance at a gay bar in a midsize Midwestern city. Although I have performed in femme drag before I was solely an audience. member this night watching and learning Although this project is about. drag kings and the experience of those embodying female masculinity. or masculinity without men Halberstam Female Masculinity it is just. as much about femininity and the rejection of it and misogyny because. of the rejection of femininity and it is also about racism and classism. and white and middle class privilege It is about access and bodies and. different access to different bodies This essay explores the performative. tensions inevitable in gendered drag performances and asks the audience to. consider how drag teeters a jagged line between our normative ideological. assumptions of gender sexuality race and class and the performances that. resist those norms, 3 The use of the term boi is used in queer female circles to denote a younger. tomboy aesthetic affectations and behaviors In some cases boi may refer to a. lesbian dyke queer transgender genderqueer or intersex individual. Using an intersectional queer lens I argue that queer drag king. performances do the work of oppression and social justice simultaneously. To demonstrate this I first examine existing literature of drag female. masculinities and femme drag performance second I explore intersectional. queer theory and critical performance autoethnography third I offer my. autoethnographic narrative from the site of a drag performance and explore. how utilizing the lens of intersectional queer theory is imperative for studying. drag king performances in critical and intersectional ways finally I offer. remarks for further justification for intersectional analysis for drag king. performance and the implications such performances have for communities. invested in social justice Those in queer communities should not settle. for misogynistic racist classist drag performances that privilege certain. identities and aesthetics at the expense of others Using an intersection queer. lens can account for multiple intersecting and conflicting identities that are. often overlooked when focusing solely on gender and sexuality As such this. analysis opens up discussion for those from multiply marginalized identities. to speak rather than reinforcing dominant queer ideologies. Drag Performance and a Subversion of Gender Norms, Drag is often complex fun and exciting for performers and audiences. alike What drag is not usually is simple Judith Butler discusses drag. as a subversive practice that denaturalizes the supposed congruency of sex. gender and sexual orientation or desire Butler articulates that all gender is. drag performance not something that can easily be put on and taken off but. is constituted by a set of re iterative performances that can prepare someone. for the theatrical stage or the stage of everyday life Roger Baker writes. about the possibilities offered for understanding gender performances more. broadly through drag performance Baker primarily refers to drag in terms of. aesthetic stylings of the body emphasizing that what one wears challenges. cultural norms of gender and sexuality Butler has noted the ambivalent. nature of drag asserting that it Reflects the more general situation of being. implicated in the regimes of power by which one is constituted and hence. of being implicated in the very regimes of power that one opposes 125. This suggests that drag simultaneously denaturalizes gender while at the. same time reinforces it, There is no such thing as one drag performance The choices a.
performer makes depend on race and cultural affiliations class gender and. sexuality as well as the personality politics and the drag traditions and. lineages of the performer Both inside and outside communication studies. several scholars theorize an intersectional conception of drag Alexander. Queerying Queer Moreman and McIntosh Mu oz Rhyne There are. nuances in the ways different drag performers do drag As Moreman and. McIntosh explain when white drag performances occur it is in order to. use camp and irony to exaggerate gender performance whereas Latina drag. Kaleidoscope Vol 12 2013 Hobson 37, queens focus more on mannerisms and mimicry of the personality being. portrayed Importantly Rhyne points out that all drag performances including. those performed by white drag performers are intersectional performances. of multiple identities In queer communities of color drag performance has. been widely utilized as a disidentificatory tool to subvert oppressors in terms. of gender sexuality and race problematizing racial stereotypes as much as. gender ones For example the documentary Paris is Burning details the ways. that men of color in New York City collectively organized around houses. named for famous designers forming the drag ball culture of the 1980s. Although drag queen performances have been widely theorized drag king. performances do not have the same cultural saliency Taylor and Rupp Del. LaGrace Volcano explains that a drag king is anyone regardless of gender. who consciously makes a performance out of masculinity qtd in Halberstam. 16 Although de la Grace s may appear too expansive a definition for drag. king like femme drag there must be room for those expressing a cisgender. identity to queer play with and drag the gender norms associated with their. identity Halberstam one of the foremost theorists of female masculinity argues. that drag kings perform a parody of masculinity that subverts dominant notions. of hegemonic masculinity as something that is natural but there is little that is. natural for masculinity or femininity men or women Masculinity is often seen. as naturally occurring the norm for gender from which femininity deviates. Nestle Howell and Wilchins, Halberstam critiques the naturalization of masculinity and argues that. masculine gender is not natural but like femininity is a performance of. adopting masculine signifiers and constantly reiterating them Female. Masculinities For drag kings this may occur in binding breasts or having. them removed adding facial hair or allowing one s facial hair to grow. cutting hair or finding ways to make it appear shorter and also comes in the. form of adding or alluding to a phallus whether a sock or a soft packer 4 But. drag kings also use physical gesture and embodiment to signify masculinity. something as simple as smoking a cigar taking up a lot of stage space moving. smoothly swaying to music lip synch crooning into a microphone like a. lounge singer grabbing the crotch or placing audience members hands on. their body or placing their body parts onto audience members Alexander. notes The drag king s performance is a performance of absence signaling. what is not there magnifies the potency of what is an organic masculinity. Performing Black 118 A grab of the crotch the bulge of a sock all suggest. that while a phallus may or may not physiologically be there something. definitely is perhaps sexual energy desire and potential. Less theorized than either drag queens or kings are the performances of. femme drag performers Deanna Shoemaker calls this female to femme drag. 4 A soft packer refers to a phallus like object worn in the front of the pants to give. the impression of male genitals It is often used by female to male transgender. people or those wanting to bend and play with masculine gender expression. The idea that a female marked body can consciously and. critically drag femininity in performance potentially. problematizes oppositional and heteronormative categories. of masculinity and femininity and contests the tradition. of drag and camp as primarily gay male practices 319. Feminine drag consists of a cisgender female woman adopting the. stereotypical traits of femininity in order to critique and denaturalize the. performance of femininity as tied to any specific body In Disidentifications. Mu oz uses the performances of Cuban femme performance artist Carmelita. Tropicana to demonstrate the ways Tropicana challenges racial gender and. sexual stereotypes through an exaggerated feminine performance of the. highly sexualized Latina vamp archetype In popular culture Latina women. are often overtly heterosexualized Merskin but Tropicana defies this in her. performances In one performance she makes overt sexual advances toward. other women who are locked in a prison cell with her. As this previous literature suggests drag is not just one thing as different. communities and identities employ drag in differing ways Though all gender. might be drag as Butler argues intersectional drag scholars demonstrate that. Performative Tensions in Female Drag Performances Kathryn Hobson Ph D Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania khobson bloomu edu Using an intersectional queer theory lens I employ critical performance autoethnography to argue that female drag performances do the work of oppression and social justice simultaneously to question whether

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