Both graduate and undergraduate students post commnets.
All of the articles have something in common this week: Drag Queens or Drag Kings.
When reading Thompson and Hilbert, both support theatrical productions in the 1970s such as the Cockettes. The simple atmosphere where gays could be supported in a community. In the 1980s, gays were shifting to AIDS awareness and as Hilbert put it, being in drag meant two things: a political statement, or for entertainments purposes only. Today, we see a greater dilemma, should gays be able to marry? The article, in a sense, points out that since the 1970s, the acceptance of the gay community has harshened. I disagree, besides theater, there still remains many popular bands that had gay members or gay lead singers…Culture Club, R.E.M., U2., Antony and the Johnsons, Extreme, etc.
When watching the latest episodes of Glee, we saw Kurt’s dilemma of being bullied for being gay, but then we see the newest member Unique, who’s whole persona is about the DIVA. He neither identifies with male or female but that his femininity/masculinity can be interchangeable. At times, we see Unique dressing up for pure entertainment but less about his desire for men. Keep in mind, a DIVA can be male or female that is usually an entertainer that is respected but overly rude and demanding.
Creekmur redirects our attention towards Drag Kings, in that in theatrical terms, a woman dresses up as a man. Unfortunately, in my opinion, this almost qualifies a woman to be lesbian or butch. With the reading, a woman has two options in that she can show a little bit of her femininity through the masculine disguise or she can project a believable masculinity. For me, I may buy nice shirts, but on my off days, I enjoy dressing in simple t-shirts and jeans. Although I am a woman, I don’t always like that I must project my femininity all the time. However, at the same time, I’m not wearing a wig, male clothing, or drawing a mustache on my face. Overall, the articles state that dressing in drag goes back to the 1850s or during Native American history. I can argue that it was long before that. During the Shakespearean period or even traditional Chinese/Japanese plays- all roles for male or female were played by men. It wasn’t so much that men wanted to do this for entertainment purposes but rather women were not allowed to dress like men and sometimes would be punished for doing so. Women were not allowed to act then. Remember, like John Berger said, “men act and women appear.” Yeah…male power.
There are a couple of female artists that have done documentaries on dressing in drag but mainly, I think back to the website that we were shown in class by the photographer (I forget her name) that took pictures of different women in cultures that had to dress in drag for political reasons such as being the head of the household.
I found myself really frustrated after reading Judith Halberstams reading titled “Female Masculinity”. I am not sure why, but I think i anticipated that it would discuss gender fluidity in a different way from how it did. Dressing in drag can be seen as gender fluidity, but the article then goes on to theorise this ‘fluidity’, which to me seems to go against this idea. Everything appears to come back to the white male as the ‘main gender’, and the female/ those who dress in drag then stem from this particular gender. It would appear that all gender identities discussed are all caught up in heterosexual gender performance. Even when trying to escape ones own gender; one is tied to another gender through another series of theories.
I found it really interesting to compare the performance of masculinity (‘Drag Kings’), with the performance of femininity (‘Drag Queens’), and how this confirms the idea of masculinity being the definitive gender, which femininity then stands in opposition to. As described in the readings, the performances of Drag Queens are more theatrical in comparison to the performances of Drag Kings, which supports the idea that femininity is a performance, rather than how someone genuinely is.
All the discussions in the reading, in one way or another, stemmed back to the fact dominance still lies with the white, heterosexual male.
The Halberstam article while very interesting and poignant on many levels conveyed a certain tone of hostility toward the gay male population at least in contrast to the lesbian community. Halberstam discusses what are termed gay monopolies and infers that lesbians are a disenfranchised group within the LGBTQ community especially in comparison with the gay community.
This betrays a sentiment within the queer community that somehow a new hierarchy arises within gay culture and that is perturbing to me. While I heavily resist the notion that this could be the case, upon reflection I must admit that while such a hierarchy might never be loudly and seriously admitted by members of the queer community. There probably is an inherent desire to create hierarchies and they would probably preserve known structures (at least to some extent) taken from mainstream culture.
I would hope that queer individuals who have suffered the disenfranchisement and abuse from mainstream culture would band together and affirm all members of the community. I would hope that the desire to find acceptance and fulfillment would encourage all queer people to be accepting themselves. However, I know that we are dealing with human nature and rather than helping others feel accepted, far too often individuals try to convey their superiority in contrast to others’ so-called deficiencies.
The result of this introspection makes me realize that to some extent Halberstam’s frustration and bias against gay male culture is warranted. However, it is not fruitful to the evolution of queer culture to emphatically maintain malice against the supposed top tier of this community. I don’t know what to think. I am sick of being the villain in this story.
The western is typically thought of as a man’s world, so the idea of homosexual characters in a Ford film had never really crossed my mind, especially not before this class. So when I first read Creekmur’s point about Wyatt and Doc in the balcony on their first “date,” I wasn’t entirely sold. But reading further I see the underlying meanings (Champagne it is, Doc). It all comes from the post-war era, when what it meant to be a man was in question. There’s somewhat of a homoerotic tension between all of these soldiers who literally risk their lives for their fellow man. Doc and Wyatt play on this tension. While I’m not incredibly knowledgeable on the classic westerns, usually I think of American ideals when I consider the genre and don’t apply worldwide events. I certainly will now.
A couple weeks ago I saw “The Counselor,” a movie from Ridley Scott starring Michael Fassbender, Cameron Diaz and Javier Bardem. The film features a now-infamous scene in which Cameron Diaz spreads her legs across a car and masturbates on the windshield. The whole thing is looked at scientifically, as Bardem, who is in the car while this happening, said it was like watching an uncomfortable gynecological exam. Diaz appears to throw her sexuality around to drive men crazy. It’s also suggested she flirts with lesbianism in scenes with Penelope Cruz.
However, Diaz is also the mastermind of a plot to kill some of the main characters and take millions of dollars. Although her motivations are never really explained, she’s clearly smarter than her male counterparts. Beyond this twist, the lines of gender are clearly drawn here: the men use their phallic guns to assert their dominance, but Diaz doesn’t have to use anything symbolic. She can just penetrate a car. It appears to be okay when the men dominate the women, as Michael Fassbender does to Penelope Cruz at several points in the movie, but when the women try to dominate it’s looked at in a weird light. The whole movie was out there, but Diaz’s scene in particular highlights the film’s weird approach to dominance.
I apologize for my brief response this week, but A.) Media Ethics exam and B.) horrific allergies.
Doty ponders different notions of queer studies. One is the form that marginalizes the gay audience as all the same people with the came interests based on the WASP capitalist gender binary society we live in, and the other based the resistance to this, with queer as the title of this movement. This is not unlike how offensive words are used to take the offence out of them such as with racism or sexism. It also gives a sensical unifiers, being as humans all in the queer movement would naturally want rights.
Cohan goes into this with Queer Eye on the Straight Guy. On one hand it is a capitalist effort from Bravo to get money based on the queer movement. However, it is progressive in that it does not focus on the Fab Five’s sexuality, but rather there careers, thus refusing to show them only for their sexuality. It also acknowledges the performance of masculinity by depicted man willing to manipulate said rolse for there wives interest, and even at times enjoying it, such as when one cries and says he is a new man. This takes away the assumption of it being just natural.
Rainer echoes Doty when she says lesbian is not just a sexuality, but a less privileged way of life. This is because what comes with lesbian is the judgement of ones characters and thus lack of safety. This makes sense, because the reason to label homosexuality throughout the ages is to demonstrate something “other” than the fabricated gender binary, and since a harder life comes with that it is just as legitimate a part of being a lesbian as is the sexuality.
Roughgarden (who I suspect is the worlds toughest gardner) confirms this with science. She points out that there is no norm and that we are a rainbow of people rather than a binary with odd people out. She also clarifies what terms actually mean, such as sex being the mixing of genes, female meaning producing a bigger gamete (egg) wile male means producing a smaller gamete (sperm). So men can quit measuring cause biology proves they lost! (Sorry, bad joke I know.)
While western are known for stereotypical notion of masculinity and femininity, Creekmur notes that Ford is on to masculinity being a role, making My Darling Clementine similar to Queer Eye on the Straight Guy with this notion. It is about Wyatt Earp learning to be a man outside of the war, starting off with him picking up a man at bar, and act with homoerotic subtext. It eventually goes into him learning how to be a man for Clementine, a Christian woman who bring civilization to a wild man, showing these roles are learned.
Thompson shows the gender binary is fabricated by noting that drag queens for treated differently in the past, some as well respected shamans. This is also different from drag queens today, showing that they are dynamic and not given to a static gender binary.
Hilbert goes on to prove that not all “others’ are the same as are gender binary would like us to believe. There are split up in the drag queen movements. Some want to just entertain, and others want to get political. It also notes change, such as rather than dressing like female celebrities, drag queens have invented their own personas.
Halbertam talks about drag kings, women who dress like men. While this has gone on for a while, it has caught less attention than drag queens. One state reason is that this is a product of us seeing men as just natural, while women are performative, meaning there is believed to be no real show. Another reason I think they get less attention is that they are acting as me. Since men are believed to be “better”, some might right this off as them being “better”. This is of course non-sensical, since no gender is better than the other, and masculinity has been shown to be as much as a performance as femininity.
Jeffrey Hilbert’s article was an interesting peak into the Wigstock generation, a new wave of drag culture that has its origins in 1980s New York East Village and a drag festival called “Wigstock”. It seems this generation is heavily defined by sociopolitical issues, in particular discrimination and the aids epidemic. Early in the article, Hilbert suggests that there are those who take on drag with political motivations and those who perform purely for entertainment. This seems to me a binary classification, as it leaves out others, such as those that perhaps perform for self-fulfillment. The article mainly discusses those that are engaged in it as activists. I’m interested in a couple of things–firstly, what are some other reasons people engage in drag and, secondly, is donning drag inherently political? In today’s culture, slowly evolving, but remaining quite heteronormative, appearing in drag could be considered innately subversive, a rejection of societal expectations. However, many drag queens are able to seamlessly appear as part of the opposite gender and therefore, if they decide not to announce themselves, can effectively ‘blend in’ to hegemonic culture. I wonder if awareness on the part of the spectator is a necessary element of drag. In other words, how does one not knowing they are looking at someone in drag speak to the concept of being ‘in drag’?
Media: Recently I watched Steven Soderbergh’s “Bubble”, a sort of experimental production where he took to the road with a small crew and found himself in a small industrial town in Ohio. There, he recruited the locals to act in a thriller that was being improvised based on the location and the residents’ real lives. The film blurs fact and fiction as the locals are playing slightly fictionalized versions of themselves. Due to the nature of the circumstances, Soderbergh is able to draw out incredibly believable performances from everyday, blue-collar workers with no acting experience.
The main character, Martha, is very much unlike your usual leading lady–she’s seems to be in her 40s or 50s, is heavyset, and not conventionally attractive. Unlike say, the immensely popular Melissa McCarthy, her body is not used as a source of comedy. There are no “fat jokes” or things like that. In fact, she is not necessarily portrayed as asexual either–a frequent attribute of bigger bodied women in mainstream cinema- as the plot hinges on her attraction to a young male friend and co-worker. She’s portrayed as an incredibly real American woman and very compelling to watch. As there are other female characters of different types, I was very impressed with the film’s complex portrayals of femininity.
I thought it was interesting in the Thompson article how he explained the history and intention behind drag culture, which I wasn’t aware of until I had read the article. I had always assumed that men did drag because it was how they felt the most comfortable, and the shows were a just a way they figured out how to monetize it. I had no idea that there was any sort of political message behind any of it. After reading about the intent to introduce more people to the concept of gender fluidity and show people that it was okay to go outside traditional gender roles it makes a lot of sense. However I have to wonder if that message is coming across now like it did then. While I am not the best barometer for what is popular and well known within my age group I would bet that most people my age wouldn’t understand the message behind drag culture unless they read an article like this one. The only real exposure I can think of that I would have had to drag culture would have been RuPaul’s drag race, which seems to focus more on passing as well as each man can rather than breaking out of the gender binary.
Media: Neither the fantasy genre nor video games are known for their good portrayals of women. The game Dragon Age: Origins which happens to be both often zig zags between offensive and progressive. However for all the things wrong with the game where women are concerning I think that the game did one thing very right that other RPG games could learn from. It gave it’s female characters, especially the characters of Morrigan and Anora, their own agenda and goals that they wanted to achieve outside or even against the player character. No matter what kind of character you chose to play, man or woman, friend or enemy, their world does not revolve around you even if that’s what the player is used to. Anora wants to retain her title as Queen and keep her father alive. If she thinks that you’ll work against her in either of those regards she will betray you. Morrigan wants the power that the dark ritual will gain her. She will offer the ritual to you no matter what she feels toward the player character, will always leave your party if you refuse, and will always disappear after the final battle if you accept. Even if you have entered into a romance with her she will not let you come with her. This is something really different from what I usually see in games that have party members like Dragon Age: Origins where it feels like there are little to no consequences to how you treat your party members who will just go along with you no matter what.
This weeks articles dealt with dressing in drag again, and went into the history of gays in how they fit into the communiry. In the 70’s and 80’s the views on homosexuals switched largely due to the rise in AIDS patients. The article was actually a bit sad to read as it went it the idea of how views on the gay community have harshened since the 1970’s. It seems that no matter how far we come as a society, we’re still bogged by negativity.
I did like reading about other discussions in the articles such as drag being a way for one to shed their image and really find their core.
Someone brought up the episode of Glee, where a student wanted to dress in drag and be their true self, Unique, who does have a diva persona. I want to bring up Glee as well, but thie episode, the one where Kurt is dancing singing a duet by himself playing the role of both male and female. i found that moment to be so powerful. Yes, it’s fun and silly to watch but its also incredibly touching because it brings up the idea of an individual at war with themselve.
The feeling of being a man trapped in a woman’s body, or vice versa, it must be heartbreaking when someone tells you to act like you should and do what’s acceptable. Thankfully, these days we’re more excepting of gays and dressing in drag so we can allow the individual to be act how they should act- as themselve.
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