Through the viewing of the documentary Paris is Burning, I began to understand the context and foundation of what we see drag as today. My only experience with drag had been through RuPaul’s Drag Race around my middle school years. It was not until I had seen the Drag Show that Haven hosts each semester, that I experienced Drag in person. I never understood how much drag related to Muñoz’s ideas of the stage as an escape. After seeing how the people featured in Paris Is Burning would treat the Balls as an escape allowed me to understand drag in a different perspective. Pepper LaBeija said, “When I first started going to balls it was all about drag queens who were interested in looking like Las Vegas showgirls, back pieces, tail pieces, feathers, beads and all that… it started coming down to just wanting to look like a gorgeous movie star like Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor. And now they’re went from that to trying to look like models; like Iman and Christie Brinkley and Maud Adams and all those children.” This statement relates to the idea that partaking in the Balls helped make the disadvantaged participants feel like they were part of to social elite. A specific thing said in the movie that I remember was that the young people of color would feel like white executives by wearing fancy looking, upper-class clothing. I never had thought of drag outside of the context of pure performance. I didn’t see it as an encouraging place where anyone could be what they wanted to be. Drag used to be something that confused me, but after seeing a Drag Show for myself and watching Paris is Burning I understand that Drag holds an important place for those who feel like they cannot represent who they really want to be outside of a Ball, or the stage itself.
Fitting into the societal expectations of what is masculine and feminine is something that many people are constantly trying to do. In some point or another in someone’s life, some type of interest, hobby, or activity will challenge someones perception of masculine or feminine and have to question if a particular gendered practice is accepted by society.
Countless examples exist whereas men should’t dance, and women can’t have any interest in cars. Halberstein’s work, Female Masculinity addresses the fact that masculinity and femininity are not so black and white. A girl which possesses or acts on masculine traits is considered to be employing Female Masculinity. For example, an interesting analysis on tomboys is made in this work. Any masculine traits that pass beyond the stages of puberty for girls pushes into the territory of Tomboys. Personally, I didn’t encounter too many tomboys, but I did know boys that would be more effeminate as we aged. I’m not sure if there’s really a name for these types of boys that is similar to Tomboy, but I feel like this is a prime example of how society is more accepting of masculinity. A Tomboy is a pretty well-regarded term, that doesn’t have too much of a negative implication, but when female traits are shown in a young boy, it’s more common for offensive and crude words to be used (I’m sure many example can come to mind.) I remember growing up, singing karaoke was a big family activity. Some of my favorite songs were Aladdin‘s “A Whole New World” and the classic “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. When I was maybe 7 or 8 I was singing one of these songs when one of my uncles taunted me about how girly the act was. I remember being upset and not wanting to sing around my family much thereafter. So it makes me wonder about the flip side of Female Masculinity, where a young boy could be more feminine than society expects. Fitting into the expectations of masculinity and femininity is fairly hindering.
Throughout these separate works exists one common theme that has been spoken upon through different perspectives. The idea that feminism has more than one definition, more than one meaning, and more than one intention, is the notion that can be found throughout the works discussed in class. We can see the true effect of intersectional feminism through these works, as each one strives to include different types of feminists in mind. More specifically, Gay’s TED talk focuses on personal identifications with feminism, and whether or not they are good or bad in terms of conformity and standards. One of the main focuses of Gay’s speech is that feminism exists beyond the support for middle class cisgender white women. This brings me to note how a section of Sandberg’s work didn’t necessarily focus on the needs of all types of women, but more so just he two-dimensional, non-inclusive version of women that “mainstream” feminism would tend to support. This notion is countered in Hook’s essay that criticizes Sandberg’s work in Lean in when suggesting that the work does not focus on the other types of “women” and depicts how trans women and women of color are are even more unequal, “the reality was and is that privileged white women often experience a greater sense of solidarity with men of their same class than with poor white women or women of color.” Gay then tells her audience that to begin support all different types of women, that we as a society need to begin to support the idea of treating people as people, and less like objects. We need to support wholesome media that exists to raise the level of all types of women to the level that cis white men are at. Gay moves to change the “norm” of degrading music, and stop idolizing the athletes that treat their partners like punching bags. This makes me consider the different types of media that I myself consume that could be potentially adding to the problem.