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Drag queen asks: Is drag degrading to women?




Drag queens Lil Miss Hot Mess (left) and Sister Roma join other activists for a news conference at San Francisco City Hall on Sept. 17 to speak out against Facebook's rule on using legal names for profiles.
Drag queens Lil Miss Hot Mess (left) and Sister Roma join other activists for a news conference at San Francisco City Hall on Sept. 17 to speak out against Facebook's rule on using legal names for profiles.
Eric Risberg/AP

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A debate about the significance of drag has been brewing on the internet since the beginning of the year and raising the question: is drag degrading to women?

It started when Mary Cheney, the openly lesbian and actively Republican daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, opined on her Facebook page, “Why is it socially acceptable—as a form of entertainment—for men to put on dresses, makeup and high heels and act out every offensive stereotype of women (bitchy, catty, dumb, slutty, etc.)—but it is not socially acceptable—as a form of entertainment—for a white person to put on blackface and act out offensive stereotypes of African Americans?”

The comparison roiled supporters of drag who see it as a subversive commentary that’s both a means of self expression and empowerment. But as the drag queen Miz Cracker recently penned in a piece on Slate, the discussion has raised “a question all queens and conscientious drag fans must contend with at one point or another: Is drag degrading to women?”

Has drag lost some of its shock value with shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race and is now a moment to ask whether drag performances truly celebrate femininity or mock it? Has the social significance of drag performance changed?

Guests:

Miz Cracker, writer and drag queen living and working in Harlem, New York; author of this recent piece in Slate’s Outward section.

Meredith Heller, Ph.D., Faculty member in Women's and Gender Studies specializing in drag and performance at Northern Arizona University; Her blog is called The Saucy Scholar.