September 14, 2019

"In essence, drag queens are clowns. They are not transgender (or haven’t been until very, very recently). They are men, mainly gay..."

"... who make no attempt to pass as actual women, and don’t necessarily want to be women, but dress up as a caricature of a woman. Sure, some have bawdy names, and in the context of a late night gay bar, they can say some bawdy things. But they’re not really about sex at all. They’re about costume and play; their clothes and hair are exaggerated, over-the-top parodies of women’s appearance; their makeup is often cray-cray, their wigs absurd. They also reinforce, rather than undermine, gender norms in a weird, over-the-top way...."

Writes Andrew Sullivan, opposing the opposition to the Drag Queen Story Hour some libraries have for children.
Children love drag queens the way they love clowns or circuses or Halloween or live Disney characters in Disney World. It’s dress-up fun.... And yes, Dave Chappelle, the sanest man in America at the moment, is right. Men dressed obviously as women are first and foremost funny.... These clowns read children’s stories to kids and their parents, and encourage young children to read books. This is the work of the devil? Please.
Anyway... bypassing most of that controversy (which I've passed on blogging many times), I just want to cherry-pick one issue out of that: Is it good to "reinforce, rather than undermine, gender norms"? And by good, I mean not anti-feminist.

68 comments:

chuck said...

> And by good, I mean not anti-feminist.

What is feminist these days? For that matter, what is anti-feminist. Maybe I should ask the trans-women.

Dave Begley said...

"Children love drag queens the way they love clowns or circuses or Halloween or live Disney characters in Disney World. It’s dress-up fun."

Who says?

I say there is absolutely no reason to expose young children to this sexual perversion.

What ever happened to an innocent childhood? Tell the kids that Santa isn't real about age two while you are at it.

What an asshole.

Earnest Prole said...

Men dressing as women have been a persistent feature of Western culture for five hundred years.

Ken B said...

The Red Queen defines good for us. After complaining that virtue signaling was too freighted a term.

buwaya said...

Gender norms are good for what has always been thought of as the purpose of existence, that is, to leave surviving progeny. Drag queens seem unlikely to lie, as in the apocryphal old mans wish, satisfied on their death-beds, surrounded by seven strong sons.

Lance said...

But they’re not really about sex at all.

So they're kinda about sex somewhat?

J Melcher said...

" Children love drag queens the way they love clowns "

Which is to say of many children: "They are TERRIFIED of these monstrous creatures. Children are scared of and fascinated by clowns, robots, gorillas, and drag queens because such beings are too like, and at the same time very unlike, actual human beings. Nightmares from the 'uncanny valley' haunt their dreams and warp their perceptions ever after.

Sullivan has a point, but perhaps not the point he intended.

mccullough said...

This is just gaysplainin or gay privilege. Let the transvestite speak for the transvestite. Being gay doesn’t give Sullivan special powers.

And someone who had children would know many children are afraid of clowns.

iowan2 said...

Normalize much?

msugi said...

Maybe I'm wrong, but my sense is that DGSH is highly politicized to subvert traditional gender roles by purposely reading books with that agenda to young children? It'd be one thing if it were DQs (not the soft serve franchise I wish we had out here!) reading established children's books, but seems more narrowly agenda-driven.

Anyway, I recall an interview of Mick Jagger explaining a video, I think, the Stones made for Honky Tonk Women, in which they dressed in drag. He said this was a common thing for British men to do...

Jason said...

Pederasts looking to desensitize victims to further exploitation rely on the clowns for cover and concealment.

The presence of children with naive and stupid drag queens will attract pederasts.

The Godfather said...

Does “reinforce gender norms” mean keeping men in their place?

tcrosse said...

Travesty has the same root as Transvestite.
In opera, a female artist can perform En Travesti, in a male role. It's seldom clownish.

Birches said...

It's funny he takes it from the clown angle because I agree with him on that and that's why I am against library Drag Queen Story Hours. Sullivan doesn't have young kids I'm guessing. I do. No one does clowns anymore for kids because we
recognize they're terrifying for young kids. No library would do a traditional clown story time and if they did, no families would show up. The only reason DQSH has any pull is librarians' desire to politicize.

And yeah, librarians have a very strong desire. Walk into any children's section and notice what books they feature prominently and which ones they don't. I AM JAZZ was front and center on Thursday when I was at our branch in exurban Atlanta. There isn't a great cry from the populace for transgender story books. Only with the librarians.

Shouting Thomas said...

Libraries are obsolete. I haven’t been inside one for 20 years.

My iPad is my library. I have access to everything.

My grandkids, I don’t think, have ever been inside a library, unless they spend time in one in school.

I’m not feeling this as a loss. The library in Woodstock, my old hometown, was an incredibly politicized, radical feminist run organization.

I worked in the University of Illinois library when I was in college and I learned a lot by working there. But, even then, the library was heavily oriented toward supporting the Democratic Party, as if that were a legitimate and necessary function for a library.

Birches said...

I actually thought our librarians in CO were bad. Now I realize they were kept in check by a very active conservative community who used the library often.

The libraries here are less used so the librarians are more radical in their purchase choices and what they feature. Most of the new woke books go unread while the old classics keep getting checked out. That's fine I guess. But there are a lot of new, interesting non political books that could be around instead of the dross.

Christy said...

Clowns can be scary. There exists a Southern Baptist clown ministry. Would that be equally acceptable?

Mark said...

Not transgender, but clowns. In other words, mocking transgenders.

Which is apparently OK if you're gay.

traditionalguy said...

Hmmm? We have three choices. Favor the women. Or favor the men. Or favor refusing to be either one.

D 2 said...

Good = not anti feminist
Good = feminist

Hey, we pay by the word in here!!

Roy Lofquist said...

About 50 years ago my blushing bride and I went to a show at Finocchio's Club, a drag queen tourist attraction in San Francisco. The show was top notch. The closest analog I can think of is a Minstrel Show.

Oso Negro said...

If good = not anti-feminist, can Shouting Thomas have a point?

n.n said...

Crossdressers are transsocial, and may be transgender (e.g. mental attributes), not limited to sexual orientation.

rcocean said...

Drag Queens are mentally ill. I feel sorry for them, and if they want to go somewhere and get together with their "fans" and have "fun" - go for it. But keep them out of school libraries and away from kids. Gregory Hemingway was a "drag queen". Or Maybe he was a "Transgender". That's not really clear. One thing is clear, he was mentally ill, and lied endlessly throughout his life - especially about his Dad. Would he have been happier - and less of a liar and manic-depressive - if his parents had indulged in his putting on women's clothes, instead of being horrified? Who knows.

Mica Vim Toot said...

Drag is blackface directed at women.

rhhardin said...

Milton Berle reenforced gender norms with his drag queen act.

In some contest about how had the bigger dick, it was claimed that he wouldn't even have to show the other guy the whole thing.

mikee said...

I had a friend in high school in the 1970s who came out as gay the summer after graduation, and then started working in a gay bath house and as a drag queen stripper/singer in a gay bar revue. Donna Summer was hot back then.

I knew nothing of this, first being terribly naive as a high school kid, having not seen him since graduation, and being away at college that fall. He wrote me a letter inviting me to drop by his workplace when I came home at Thanksgiving, with directions and an invite to dinner with him. No details. So I visited with him.

Which is why, decades later, my neighborhood book club in a Baltimore suburb was scandalized while discussing "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." All I did was ask, "Am I the only person here who has been in a gay bath house with a tranny stripper?"

I wasn't invited back to the next month's book club. And Jim, I hope you survived your amazingly promiscuous years without AIDS, although I seriously doubt you did.

Automatic_Wing said...

Do children love clowns? I think a lot of them find clowns to be creepy and terrifying.

Bay Area Guy said...

Andrew Sullivan - taking a stand against the modern-day sexual confusion and chaos that he helped spawn.

Good for him!

Unknown said...

I guess it depends on what you mean by 'feminist.' If you buy that women and men are different, different strengths & weaknesses, then blurring the lines degrades both men and women.

Brian McKim and/or Traci Skene said...

Just the other day, my wife and I were discussing drag queens (long story... we live in Vegas), and I said, "When you get right down to it, a drag queen is a clown."

Back in 2011, we wrote a book about standup comedy, and the publisher wanted a chapter on clowns, so we researched clowns and realized that there was much more of a direct and significant connection between clowns and modern standup comics. Since then I have been on high alert for clowns. (And not in a coulrophobic way.)

daskol said...

Fair point about drag, but isn’t the whole transitioning thing reinforcing a flavor of biological determinism that’s even more anathema to progressive ideology than cis-het gender norms?

ALP said...

I had many friends (gay male) into drag way back in the 1980's. There are two kinds of drag queens (at least at the time) - those heavily into it and 'living it' and those that only did it on Halloween. The former took it way too far sometimes - having hissy fits if you forgot to call them "Liza" and tossing shit across the room in anger, much like a 12 year old girl. License to be an asshole appears to be part of the culture, but it's called "drama". I can think of only **one** guy that maintained a decent adult persona while in drag and was actually pleasant to deal with. 99% of them were "I am TOO FABULOUS TO TALK TO YOU BORING NORMAL PERSON" while in drag.

The miasma of self absorption and the constant "look at me look at me look at me" shit is what is so off putting about most drag. And too many fucking Liza drag queens! We had several "Liza Minelli" drag queens in our small upstate NY city. OH NOW I've got the idea to put them all in a ball pit so they can fight it out until one is left standing. Why didn't I think of THAT back then?

Skeptical Voter said...

San Francisco's North Beach area. The 60's and 70's. Finnochio's drag queen show--it packed the house every night. I haven't been there since the late 70s and I don't even know if it is still open. But it was entertaining. Some of those guys could really sing.

ALP said...

I forgot - the "Halloween only" Drag Queens are THE BEST! The very best. They have not made the same crazy investment in garish clothing or lip syncing moves as the full timers. They simply hit up a female relative for clothing...with great results...looking like real women!!!

One of my favorite memories of my clubbing days is a Halloween party at a gay bar. Half of the patrons on the dance floor (lots of ABBA back then) looked like small town librarians, frumpy moms, or the dorky girl from high school. Now THAT'S DRAG!

Tom T. said...

Clowns are scary. Just saying.

Anthony said...

They're like clowns, eh? Probably why I think they're dumb and about as funny as a cat litter.

Anthony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eleanor said...

Drag queens are to women as blackface is to African-Americans. Would we entertain children with people in blackface reading Uncle Remus in children's libraries?

ALP said...

I used to work in agencies serving developmentally disabled (DD) adults. Some similarity to working with kids - both are seen as vulnerable populations that need adults hovering over them, curating what they see and hear. Any time a DD adult got wind of anything sexual or other taboo subject matter - all of the employees went into hyperactive protective overdrive. Example: a 45 year old DD female gets a glimpse of the penis of a 25 year old male DD client. You'd think a penis got cut off by the reaction.

Each and every time things like this happened, without fail, the DD adults were all shoulder shrugs and "whatever...I saw Bobby's peepee" or something like that. No big deal. Nobody freaking out...except the adult around them. This is what the Drag Queen Story Hour hysteria reminds me of. The kids are alright. I don't think **any** major aspect of a kid's personality if formed by a few hours exposure to a garishly dressed drag queen - unless the spark of wanting to dress in sequins is already there.

Sebastian said...

"Is it good to "reinforce, rather than undermine, gender norms"?"

Yes, provided they are the old, sensible ones. But I am not sure drag queens do any such reinforcing. By posturing as clown-women, they leave open what actual women can and should be, to be decided according to norms about which drag queens have nothing to say.

Male-to-female trannies, by contrast, claim actual womanhood and are trying to reinforce their prog gender norms, with the aid of the regular prog shock troops. Their claims constitute an attack on actual women, they undermine the sensible gender order, they open another front in the prog culture war, and they trigger fresh attempts at prog coercion.

Mark said...

I was going to say it, since incredibly no one else had.

Then Eleanor hits on it in the very last comment -- that gay drag queens are essentially the same as white guys in blackface.

And that's OK because?

Ken B said...

The blackface analogies are interesting and I think Sullivanhouse really does need to provide an answer. Not allblackface is minstrel Stuff, but it’s allcondemned. I am thinking especially of Northam style blackface where he dressed as Michael Jackson, as opposed to Amos n Andy stuff. Opera singers are getting attacked for wearing makeup now.

daskol said...

Cos-play. Drag is cos-play and trans, as Chapelle knows better than anyone, is not a laughing matter. I’d prefer they don’t let Bronies read to my children. They’re the creepiest of the mainstream cos-players. Even worse than regular furries.

Phil 314 said...

Ralph Northam was just clowning around at that Med school party.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

yes - lets confuse our kids even more.

I do think a guy who is obviously a guy, all hairy and stuff - dress as a woman and he's obviously a guy under all that - ok funny. Not sure I'd go out of my way to take a child or grandchild to see him.

Most modern drag queens actually look like women. Actual women.

narciso said...

yes, see pennywise and john wayne gacy, but the idea of using a library, a publicly funded venue is an endorsement of said behaviors and practices, so the wisdom of romans 1 is born out more and more,

Ken B said...

I knew a couple who were into BDSM. He led her around on a leash, whipped her, dressed her in skimpy leather.
Would it be Althouse-good to let them talk to kids in the library, and give demonstrations?
I knew a devout Muslim couple. He led her around, following a few paces behind. When he needed something he snapped his fingers and she came running. She wore a full burka bringing him drinks at the pool when it was 102.
How would the library feel about them telling kids this is the only decent way to live?

Louie Looper said...

"Is it good to "reinforce, rather than undermine, gender norms"?" Let me ponder that.

Is it good that society reinforces social norms? I think society generally consists of social norms. What kind of society would routinely undermine its own norms? Would that society survive? I suppose Nihilism would be the result. If you find nihilism as being appealing.

Matt said...

Now do blackface.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

Honey - lets take the kids to the library. It's S&M day. Funny stuff.
You prudes.

BleachBit-and-Hammers said...

I've been pals with gay men for decades. I'm happy to report they are not monolithic in their thinking. Which is refreshing.

What is stifling is the idea we must celebrate gay men at every turn, for any reason.
For crying out loud --gay men get an entire month of celebration. It's tiresome.

Ralph L said...

Moan Moan Moan. Always complaining.

earnestswalls@gmail.com said...

You've mostly avoided the whole mess professor and I totally get that. It's kind of gross if you really stop and think about it.

For me, however, I can't help but love watching this trannies v. feminazi death match any more than I could turn my head away from a literal train crash in progress.

CWJ said...

John Wayne Gacy comes to mind.

Phidippus said...

Clowns, yes. But there are funny clowns (I'm told), scary clowns, and disgusting clowns.

Men that dress up as women are in the latter category.

Unless they're lumberjacks, of course. Then they're OK.

Laura said...

How are the books the center of attention? The supposed point is to introduce children to a love of reading, not a caricature of sexuality.

Pinandpuller said...

Clowns are creepy. Who doesn't know this?

tim maguire said...

Err...umm...Earnest Prole is right. Men dressing up as women has been mainstream in entertainment for centuries. Probably millennia.

When Monty Python does it: hilarious.
When somebody suspected of being gay does it: dangerous. Hide the children! (Oops, Graham Chapman was gay. Oh well, we didn’t think about that.)

Is it anti-feminist to exaggerate gender norms? I don’t see why it would be. They’re not advocating enforcement in our everyday lives, and poking fun at norms used to be a big part of advocating change. Back in the days when things were allowed to be funny.

tim maguire said...

Women dressing up as men? Sexy if the woman is sexy, ignored if she is not.
Man dressing up as a woman? Dangerous. Hide the children!

jeremyabrams said...

The term feminist is irreducibly divisive. Just look at the term "masculinist" to see why. It sets one gender against another, and while the feminist movement didn't initially do that, the logic behind the movement (promote women' interests) inevitably led to that, once equality of opportunity, and the recognition of the equal value of women, by both sexes, was achieved, which happened long ago.

It's becoming a bit of an evil thing to call yourself feminist in a society where women are already flourishing and face no barriers, and men are collapsing and in crisis.

Jupiter said...

When I want Andrew Sullivan to raise my children, I'll chain him to a radiator in the basement.

Phidippus said...

Given your jovial sense of humor, you are well-named, Jupiter.

Craig Howard said...

I cannot see how pre-pubertal exposure to sex and sexuality can be anything but confusing and frightening.

It’s child cruelty. Educationally, it’s as useless as trying to explain algebra to a first-grader. His brain isn’t developed for that abstraction yet.

I sometimes regret the sexually-repressed era in which I came of age, but I’m grateful that, at least, I was able to progress at my own speed without do-gooder adults trying to rush the process.

MacMacConnell said...

I don't think children should be exposed to drag queens, they have the rest of their lives to be corrupted.
That said, the US military, fraternities and show business has a long history of drag. I've got lots of WWII photos of make shift Army Air Corp officers' clubs on South Pacific islands where the entertainment was men dressed in grass skirts and coconuts for breast.

My frat in the early seventies always had drag in our competitive skits. You can't do satire of popular films with out drag.

In show business it's already been mentioned.

The Jewel Box was a very popular bar on Kansas City's Main street, till the place got run down and the neighborhood declined ( got dangerous). The Jewel box had drag of popular movie stars of the time performing. My parents, uncles and aunts all raved about the place, all conservative Catholics, it was a go to place for drinks after dinner out.

Amanda said...

@MacMacConnell , corrupted ?

Tina Trent said...

Have you seen children's fiction lately?

Aurora said...

"Drag is blackface directed at women."

Exactly.