As a professional drag performer, it’s hard not to feel the impact of RuPaul’s Drag Race everywhere you turn. Undoubtedly, the reality show, in which drag queens compete to be the last contestant standing, has catalysed the mainstream cultural appetite for drag performers – but it has also limited conceptions of what drag can be.
When people find out that I’m a drag performer, one of the first remarks I get is: “You should so go on Drag Race,” and this is without having seen me perform. The truth is I really wouldn’t want to, and nor do I think it would celebrate my take on drag. I started drag long before watching the show, and whilst I enjoy tuning in, I’m not creatively or politically aligned with it. The show is not a ubiquitous demonstration of what it means to be a drag queen, and does not represent the zenith of success for all aspiring drag performers. So I was disappointed to read this weekend’s Guardian feature celebrating Drag Race as a truly subversive “F-you to male-dominated culture”.
Decca Aitkenhead’s frustrating write-up short-sightedly platforms RuPaul’s problematic viewpoints, many of which reject what should be drag’s inherent inclusivity. For instance, in a piece arguing that Drag Race is a critique of male-dominated TV culture, it simultaneously proliferates RuPaul’s misogynist belief that drag is at its best when it’s a men-only sport. He is quoted saying: “Drag loses its sense of danger and its sense of irony once it’s not men doing it, because at its core it’s a social statement and a big F-you to male-dominated culture. So for men to do it, it’s really punk rock, because it’s a real rejection of masculinity.”
This is enraging. How can it be that only men have the privilege of irony and transgression when it comes to gender identity? The idea that the social critique of male patriarchy can only really work when it is enacted by men is nonsensical and offensive. Read more via the Independent