A while back I did a series of comics illustrating various men saying sexist things, and to demonstrate the weight of these remarks I had each man stand on a pillar composed of suffering women. Of these depictions my look at the world of Drag Queens was surprisingly the most popular and the most controversial.
I don’t feel the comic needs defending, and a big part of me feels that once it’s out there my work is done. But the recent hubbub over this comic is an opportunity to teach so here are my thoughts.
I love entertainers, in particular stand up comedians. I often spend more time listening to recordings of stand up comedians than I spend listening to music. Such is my love for stand up that it breaks my heart every time comedians make jokes that alienate or offend people.
I know what some of you are thinking, “they’re comedians! it’s a joke! they’re here to be ridiculous!”
Good comedians have power. They can captivate an audience and have each person hang on their every word, gesture, inflection. The audience will repeat the jokes they’ve heard to friends and family and pass on that love of laughter. More people would rather listen to jokes than the news, which is why The Daily Show or the Colbert Report have become so influential.
So when a comedian makes an ignorant joke? They’re not only perpetuating ignorance, they’re promoting it.
This power isn’t limited to comedians. It comes with the territory of all entertainers; whether they’re singers, actors, rappers, etc. I feel that people in these positions of power should engage responsibly with their audience. I’m not griping about hurt feelings, I’m talking about failing to bring people together.
A lot of comedians who are just starting out will stick with what they know works. That might include universal topics like farts, sex, or food; but it might also be jokes simply meant for “the majority” of their audience.
This is where we get the “Mexicans talk funny” jokes. The “my girlfriend is a cunt” jokes. The “retard” jokes. Immediately in spite of the laughter that these jokes produce there will always be someone in the audience suffering through it. It just sucks to participate in something you hope will entertain you only to feel shit on not only by the entertainer but the approval coming from the rest of the room.
I don’t feel that simply because you are an entertainer you get a free pass to say whatever you want without sharing in the consequences (just like how I’m not surprised when people dislike my own work). I won’t argue that ignorant entertainment is evil, but I would say it’s cheap. It’s easy to put people down, it’s harder to lift them up.
On Drag Queens:
Some people have asked what the difference is between a Drag Queen and a Transvestite. Are they Transexuals, Transgenders, Cross Dressers?
The answer is that they can be all of those things! I’ve met Drag Queens hailing from all walks of life, some of them were even Cis Women! But above all what makes a Drag Queen a Drag Queen is that she is a performer. It’s entertainment.
And what’s so special about Drag Queens is not only can they be comedians, singers, dancers; they can be all of the above! It takes tremendous courage, talent, and ability to really make it as a Drag Queen. Period.
Drag Queens possess a certain level of immunity when it comes to counter culture. Like artists, they’re here to provoke us and make us question societal norms. This is where we get amazing Drag Queens like Divine, Samantha Vega, and the recently blossoming Conchita Wurst; who serve not only to entertain but push the boundaries on our definitions of what is “beautiful” or “normal.”
Can you tell I love Drag Queens? Because I love Drag Queens. They are unapologetically here, and queer, and we should all get used to it.
So when I see a Drag Queen use racism, sexism, or ableism in their routine I cringe. Not only is it ignorant but it further serves to divide the Queer Community (which is precisely what some people want).
It’s just the same as any other performer. It’s cheap.
The goal of my little project was to highlight a different kind of sexist phrase/speech every day of the week. I wanted to provide a spectrum of different forms of misogyny. This is not to say that my seven example are ALL the examples. I could fill a book with them (and thought about it)! I chose to look at sexism within the Queer community because it is something that is almost never brought up.
The only thing that matches my love for people is the hatred for the social hierarchies we impose on each other. It robs us of our potential as a species. If we ever want to “move forward” we need to start eliminating these injustices by thinking, talking, and teaching.
I am happy that this exposé has been met with gratitude, but I also wish that anyone who took offense might think twice about what they find acceptable, and accountability.