Oct 24 2006


Uploaded by Twisty

I’m giving up feminism. In its place I propose to espouse a new dialectic of radical taco enlightenment. But first, here’s what I did this weekend: Drag kings!

On Friday I sprinted along to Emo’s, Austin’s premier dudely rock club, to document the open-mic segment of the International Drag King Expo (Stingray reported asinine “Whaa? Chicks dressed up like dudes? That’s sick!” behavior from Emo’s staff). Anyway, behold the results, wherein I inaugurate the generic Photoshop-generated slideshow. Uh-oh, some of it’s kinda Holga-esque!


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  1. Just more evidence that everyone is having a hellova lot more fun than I am. I need to get out.

  2. norbizness.com

    But when you explain to the Emo’s staff that a similar conceit was used in Twelfth Night, they nod with understanding.

  3. Wait, I don’t think that educational tool is supposed to be used like that, in that context.

  4. Giving up feminism? Too late for that.
    “You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

  5. I do so love a good drag king show; sadly, our local troupe is fairly inactive these days. A couple of my newly Austinian friends got to go to this event. Thanks for the photos!

  6. faultline.org/place/toad

    Wow, you even got one’em sennnnsitive types. Oh the angst. The shadow shots are oddly cool.

    So was this, like, karaoke or something?

  7. Alright, obviously the idea of women dressing up as men is going to confound and/or gross some people out, but what the fuck is up with the negative reactions I’m seeing from people who are totally down with drag of the queen variety? The gay nightclub my aunt has been working at for the past 15 or so years finally had their first king revue and she thought it was totally weird. It sounds like overall the crowd was not very receptive. Drag queen parodies of female stereotypes seem to be much loved by everyone and their grandmother these days, yet you can’t trivialize male machismo and expect a laugh.

  8. saraarts.com

    Doesn’t “sick” mean “cool” now in youth parlance?

  9. You can trivialize male machismo and get a laugh, just look at Private “Bob” in Blackadder’s WW1 send up. The problem may just be that Drag king parodies have not yet matured enough to reach the level where they trivialize male machismo intentionally as well as men do unintentionally.

  10. I personally don’t understand negative reactions to drag kings. But in the preceding 30 seconds I have haphazardly thought out a theory as to why women dressed as men tend to be less well received (at best) than men dressed as women. Since this is the web and the real estate is free, behold my bumbling articulation of my theory, and feel free to rip it to shreds at your leisure:

    (1) The content of a drag queen show elicits more excitement because our conditioning and socialization beckon us to respond favorably to sequins, false eyelashes, glittery makeup, big hair, and all other things porn-tastic and “girly.” A drag queen is a walking collection of fetishized feminine paraphernalia, and so powerful is this symbol that it the pageantry dominates the other gender-y issues at hand.

    (2) In a patriarchal world it is inherently threatening, both to men and to women who embrace the patriarchy, to see a woman adopting masculine clothing and posturing. It is decidedly less threatening to see the dominant gender “downgrade” because it is patently ridiculous for those people to conceive that an identified male would want to be anything other than “masculine.” Thus, drag kings are scarier and the comfort level is lower.

  11. shatterlands.com

    or, they’re worried the drag kings might be edging into their territory a little too well. hawt.

    that, and it’s harder to masturbate to women not only not needing you, but replacing you with their own versions of masculinity.

  12. Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”

  13. alphabitch.org

    Uh-oh, I think I have a crush on Norbizness again.

    Highly excellent slideshow, Twisty: good selection of photos, not too long, no bandwidth-sucking special effects.

    I’m very amused by drag king revues, much more so than the drag queen variety. Amused and more than a little uncomfortable sometimes — not a bad thing in my view. It’s much easier and more profitable, I think, to parodize the creepy-guy machismo, the tacky Elvis-impersonator posturing, etc., especially in the drag-show format. It’s supposed to be cheesy and funny.

    But it plays with some deeper things, I think.

    Once upon a time, the woman who would later become my lovely ex-wife picked me up for a date in full bad-boy drag, complete with an extremely realistic fake moustache, leather biker jacket, mirrored shades in the dark.

    I threw her out of my house and wouldn’t let her in until she’d removed the ‘stache.

    We of course had to Process My Issues around it later, and it finally boiled down to a visceral version of Mar Iguana’s M. Atwood comment. She freaked me out not because she looked so much like a real guy (she did), but that she looked like the kind of mean-ass guy who could hurt me and might even dig it when he did. Not, in other words, what I was looking for in a date. Not someone with whom I was willing to be seen in public. But the worst part of it for me was that even as a creepy-ass guy she was way way hot, and as a Serious Lesbian I was not willing to own up to that.

  14. hackenblog.com

    Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… radical taco enlightenment… sounds good to me. Where do I sign up?

  15. When I go to a Drag Queen show, I always end up feeling like, “Damn, why are they having more fun being a woman than I do?! That’s not fair!!”

    Somehow I suspect that no man who has ever witnessed a Drag King show ends up wondering why they’re having more fun being men – although I bet they do have a hell of a lot more fun.

    I have finally moved to Vancouver and the group here is called Three Dollar Bill. Y’all have inspired me to go check them out sometime soon.

  16. Sara,

    Yes. And you’d be on the money if you were describing, say, the Twistymobile to your young petrolhead mates as:

    ~ Check out that bitch’s ride. It’s fully sick, maaaate.

  17. piigpen.blogspot.com

    I’m not so sure I buy the drag king as sociopolitical critic of masculinity idea. None of the drag kings I’ve encountered gave a rat’s ass about the sociopolitical ramifications of masculinity. They were all about “just having some fun.”

  18. Wow, drag kings! I am both enlightened and entertained byt this notion. Hey, one of those girls looks alot like I did in middle school, you don’t suppose? Hmmm, I’ll have to process my issues around that later.

    Meanwhile I have to agree with Piig, it’s probably prudent not to read too much into the motivation of the average drag king. That path is riddled with disappointing possibilities.

    Whenever I see things like this I’m reminded of a little girl who used to live down the street from us. At the tender age of 4 she was utterly convinced that she was a boy and fiercely defended that position from anyone who dared to doubt it. I often wonder what happened to her.

  19. My take on the drag king thing not being as popular or well received as drag queens is that women are not entitled to mock or imitate men. They do not have the authority in a patriarchy.

    Also, I’d venture that men’s sexual/social uniform is more focused on natural characteristics which women have a hard time emulating, such as body shape or size, skin tone and texture and of course, voice inflection.

    A man can mask their human identity well enough by donning the patriarchy’s version of feminine attire to the hilt. Of course, when they speak, or when a massive jawbone juts out, we may experience some cognitive dissonance, but the many accouterments of women’s attire make them more able to hide their physical features — and also, us more able/willing to ignore them. Like someone else here said, we have internalized ourselves to focus on the pageantry of women more than the woman herself.

    Which then of course, speaks volumes about how women actually do hide their natural bodies and selves under layers and layers of costumery, body preparations and alterations.

    Easy to fake something that is faked already.

  20. I disagree. I saw a woman do a hilarious portrayal of a guy in a play once, and all it took was an “I own the world” saunter, and a “harrumph” tone whenever she responded to the ideas of any of the other characters. There were some physical details, but those weren’t what put it over. What put it over was the things about men that are fake, an act.

    There may be a lot less physical fakery for men, but the ‘tude they are expected to put on is no more honest than that of a lot of women. Often less honest.

  21. buttercupia.blogspot.com

    i’d love to dress up as a man and go out sometime. shame my darlin’ hubby, (who would probably go along if I asked him), would be so very, very uncomfortable about it. maybe i’ll go without him, he wouldn’t mind. now, how does one go about finding a drag king contest?

  22. unsanesafe.blogspot.com

    I went to a party, once, where the men were dressed as women and bemasked. I found the peculiar and exaggerated female affectations to be very much a turn on. I was quite suprised at myself. I think it’s very flattering to have someone mince up to you and act aggressively bashful, with an overt sexuality which nonetheless is all channelled into the display, rather than being too simple and/or direct. I found this version of masculinity to be suprisingly refreshing, and indeed masculine — which is to say, different from myself, rather than similar. I think male sexuality comes across in quite a nice form when it is disguised as something else. There’s also that extra element of personality which you don’t expect from traditional, gruff, “take it or leave it” masculinity. So, I have to say that my one experience with heterosexual drag queens was exceedingly enjoyable.

  23. Drag Kings don’t do it for me. Women aping the saunter, clothing and mannerisms of men is pretty common. When I see a gal with a crewcut, wiping her nose on her sleeve, I just figure that she is an insecure person being as butch as possible. Nothing subversive about that. Women of all orientations can take refuge in a masculine appearance. There is a SAFETY in adopting a boyish demeanor, whether you are straight or lesbian. I feel that there is a mindset that if you become one of the boys, you’re no longer a target of the patriarchy. We see Drag Kings everyday at Starbuck’s, because “womanly” is equated with weak. THAT, my comrades, is indicative of a problem.

    Men: I’d rather beat ’em than join ’em.

  24. thefemmedyke.com

    Judith Halberstam has a really fantastic article on the development of the Drag King scene in New York through the 1980s. Of course I can’t remember the title and can’t seem to drag my frozen New England ass out of bed to look for it, so this is a slightly useless comment.

    I personally love the drag king scene, though our local troupe seems to have gone dorment. As a decisively femmey mc femme to the max there is something very liberating about the concept – it’s not that I find these knights of gender transgression attractive (though in their way they are ever so compelling), but rather, that I’d like to be one. Just for a minute though, I swear.

  25. I’m threatened by dayglow in the dark evil green.

    antelope: “What put it over was the things about men that are fake, an act.”

    Masculinity itself is an act, poseur on the hoof. Their enforced inauthenticity makes them hollow, riduculous, parasitic, plug uglies, always on the hunt for the power rush they suck off women that requires daily replenishing, frustrated because they can never, ever get their gluey hands on that essence that makes women the magical beings they are.

  26. “just having some fun”

    Not to get too heady about it, but…

    Pretty much everything that humans do in the name of “fun” has a winner and a loser attached. It wouldn’t be fun for the winner if there wasn’t a loser.

    In sports, for example, we accept that one team is going to lose that day in the name of fun.

    Dressing up in exaggerated costumes of the opposite gender might indeed be done for fun, but make no mistake, there’s a winner and a loser in the scheme.

  27. Scratchy,

    interesting musings. I’ve always wondered why I find men in skirts and other traditionally female attire appealing. It always gives me a little thrill to see it. Don’t know exactly why, don’t wish to analyze it too much, but I just love those hairy muscled legs in a nice skirt. Don’t even get me going about kilts.
    I find women in “masculine” clothing pretty nice also. Eowyn or whatever her name was in Lord of the Rings was so much better in warrior attire than in her dresses.
    I’m not seeing any winners or losers in these little thrills, but just my own little thing. Which has been in place from when I was a wee, pre-analytical being.

  28. politblogo.typepad.com

    frustrated because they can never, ever get their gluey hands on that essence that makes women the magical beings they are.

    What is that essence?

    I’m sorry, I’m going to be totally honest with you: my brain is playing Dr. Strangelove again.

  29. disgruntledamazon.blogspot.com

    I’m sorry, I’m going to be totally honest with you: my brain is playing Dr. Strangelove again.

    It’s okay. Mine did the same thing.

    WoMen, er, men sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandos …but I do deny them my essence.”

  30. flyinfur.blogspot.com


    There’s always a winner and a loser in fun? What the heck are you doing for fun?

    My bike rides (not races), swims, scuba, walks in the park, coffee with friends, books, artwork, and sewing don’t have any losers that I can see (except for that one time that I sewed right over my finger).

  31. “There were some physical details, but those weren’t what put it over. What put it over was the things about men that are fake, an act.”

    Actually, driving home tonight I thought about my comments and I sort of wanted to back pedal or re-adjust based on this same thought. Men can be satirized pretty easily, because actually, men’s behavior is full of pomp, machismo and bravado that is easily laughable.

    I thought of a satirical drag king with muscles, a big ‘package’ and lots of bloviating asshat attitude. Or, on the obverse, a saggy, middle aged, butt crack king. But then, who wants to be an unattractive person?

    I dunno.

    Femimom said: “Women of all orientations can take refuge in a masculine appearance. There is a SAFETY in adopting a boyish demeanor, whether you are straight or lesbian. I feel that there is a mindset that if you become one of the boys, you’re no longer a target of the patriarchy. We see Drag Kings everyday at Starbuck’s, because “womanly” is equated with weak. THAT, my comrades, is indicative of a problem.”

    I have a real problem with that take on women who don’t doll it up everyday. I don’t. I don’t because I work in the trades, because I want to have the higher earners that the trades afford. I can’t work in the trades, be taken seriously and work well and be worrying about broken nails, wearing ‘cute’ shoes and certainly, one cannot wear skimpy outfits, for OSHA reasons, much less one’s sanity.

    So, I am quite conscious of the many women judging me, as your comment did so well, as inferior or messed up in the head because I am not donning ‘womanly’ attire. That I must ‘put on’ to be seen as a complete woman and if I don’t, then I am somehow wanting to be a man.

    And THAT is what is fucked up my dear friends.

  32. have the higher earners was supposed to read: have the higher earnings

    A woman can have all the higher earners she wants by playing the ole game. To BE a high earner by using legal and fulfilling/stimulating profession is another thing.

  33. “My bike rides (not races), swims, scuba, walks in the park, coffee with friends, books, artwork, and sewing don’t have any losers that I can see.”

    Nobody lives in a vacuum.

    Somebody made your bike, somebody has to clean the pool, tend the park, make you coffee, write you a book, spin you some yarn. Very, very few people are completely self-sustained. And, even when they think they are, they’re taking up space on the planet we all share, using resources that someone else might need, too.

    There’s nothing we can enjoy that doesn’t come at a price. In my mind, it’s all about whether that price is fair.

    (Subjective call, of course, and I do try not to judge.)

    What was the point again?


  34. flyinfur.blogspot.com

    But don’t the people who make the bikes and the coffee, write the books, etc, aren’t they getting a reward, either in money or in satisfying work? I find my own work rewarding, and it’s considerably nastier and/or dangerous at times than cleaning pools, writing books, or making coffee (all of which I have done). And yet, I do my job and I enjoy it, and others get value from what I do.

    When I read what you originally wrote, I assumed you saw all fun things to do as being competitive in nature (which to me is a very sports-oriented view of the world and untrue, at least for me).

    I think what we have here is a difference between pessimism and optimism, maybe? Or a difference in whether or not work is viewed as valuable to the person who does it?

  35. Good grief! Finnsmotel! I’ve worked in a coffee place, and made people coffee, and no it wasn’t the greatest job in the world, but I was paid fairly and it didn’t degrade me in any way. As for the book, I would say the person who wrote it and got it published is probably very happy to be a working writer. The idea that all of life is a zero sum game may be philosophically intriguing, but it tends to lead to either greed ( “someone’s gotta win!”) or apathy (“all is woe and thus it will ever be”)
    To lump the child slaving in a sweatshop with the guy tending the park in the same vast vat of losers, even though you might say the pool isn’t losing quite as badly, might cause us to throw up our hands walk away.
    Did anyone here ever read Camus’ The Plague? (Of course they did!)
    This doctor dude realized that he couldn’t do much of anything about the freakin plague, but still, the only thing he could do was carry on helping whomever he could. Even if it was all for naught.
    Dang, I’ve lost my point also.
    Here’s to fun! I myself couldn’t get through the day without it.

  36. Ooops. I certainly managed to drop-kick my credibility far into the blurry distance. My previous post is practically incomprehensible. I meant to say the “guy tending the park” rather than “the pool”
    I blame The Coffee.

  37. Zero sum, life needn’t be, of course.

    But it would be extremely naive (and even blameworthy) to prance about on an insane “best of all possible worlds” model in which work is usually fairly rewarded, either materially or spiritually. I would argue most is far and away NOT. Its not that I dont respect low-prestige occupations or value that work, its that we live on a planet in which most people work extremely hard and live in poverty. Even just in the US, wages are low and dropping; workload is extremely high and rising. This has been true for my entire lifetime, and its a problem for the work as rewarding exercise notion posted above.

    Not knitting, though, is no kind of answer ;)

  38. Maybe the words “winner” and “loser” are too strong.

    I’m just sayin’

    “All in the name of good fun” is usually a shield for some behavior that gives pleasure to the receiver at the expense of someone else. In some cases, the expense may be quiet bearable, so it doesn’t seem so bad.

    But, I believe it to be irrefutable that there’s an energy transaction in all human interactions. And, inevitably most are inequitable. Sometimes due to larger amounts of greed in one than the other. Sometimes due to larger need from one than the other. But, the equation is rarely balanced by any standard of measure we’ve come up with so far.

    We’ve even taken to naming the imbalances with romantic names, like “love,” “fun,” “faith,” etc. But, if you look closely, most times, the giving has an expected return attached.

    Sorry if that sounds cold, but, it appears to be a plain fact.

  39. typo: quiet should be quite

  40. joolya.blogspot.com

    Damn. I think it would be most amusing to be a drag king for a day, but the closest I can get is “drag 13-year-old boy”. Which is the polar opposite of hot. And fun, for that matter.
    Oh well.

  41. faultline.org/place/toad

    I’ll back up KTal here, while I’m waiting for my hair to dry. Crewcuts don’t belong to men; they belong to anyone who wants to wear a crewcut. (I’m told it’s nice and cool in the summer.) Plaid flannel, pants, suit-n-tie, etc., ditto. “Woman” isn’t something you dress up as, and it’s pretty clear that a woman wearing a crewcut isn’t, in fact, safer than she’d be in curlycurls unless she’s in intimate contact with dangerous whirling blades or open flame.

    Wiping one’s nose on one’s sleeve is equally disgusting no matter who does it. Come on, we don’t really own the patent on basic sanitation.

  42. Y’all have probably moved on from this thread by now, but I’ll throw this out there anyway.

    So I did go see the Three Dollar Bills, and it was not all that entertaining. I think the reason is because most of the tunes they covered were by Eminem & Ludacris and the like, and frankly, the way those guys move is already very feminine. The diva model, not the fainting flower model, but feminine just the same, so there was nothing remotely strange about watching women do it.

    On the other hand, the best show of the night was a queen (trannie? not sure) doing Tina Turner, even though Tina strikes me as having more of a masterful strut as compared to the silly prancing of the hip hop boys. Why is a guy doing a masterful strut entertaining and a woman doing a silly prance just old hat? Maybe I just like Tina better as a musician and a personality and there is no grand theory here. Maybe it’s what someone said upthread about men’s clothes being genderless, especially the baggy hip hop clothes. Not that I want them to go back to codpieces or anything.

    Now Tina was dressing like a slut back before slutty was a raison d’etre, and yet it’s difficult for me to think of her as a tool of the patriarchy. Not once she got past 40 or so anyway. I wonder how much of her expert manipulation of ideas about race and gender and power was conscious and how much was subliminal?

    Heh – I can wander because everyone is on to the next post anyway.

  43. In fact – while I’m meditating on the awesome and inspiring mess of contradictions that is Tina Turner, it occurs to me that Tina in her heyday is sort of person the modern-day empowerful women are trying to emulate. The whole reason they can pretend to be empowerful is the notion that slutty outfits give them 1/10th of the oomph that Tina had.

    Not one of them comes close.

    Surely that can’t be the only possible path to having oomph. And yet, I crave more oomph myself, so the impulse to go after it is understandable.

  44. KTal – my point was that there is an attitude that it is “best” if we NOT go too femme, even if we like it. We make ourselves vulnerable. We contribute to our own oppression. We impede women’s rights. Whatever(!)
    Like you, I have done work that definitely calls for a sturdy uniform. I don’t wear high heels and I am not asking you to do so, either. But why is it that I feel a cold gaze from my peers (feminist & lesbian & academic) when I dare wear my pirate-style blouse or the color pink? They wouldn’t be mean to my brother if HE wore these items. “Gender-neutral” has a different meaning depending on your gender. For women, it means “dress like a frat boy”. THAT is why Drag Kings are not pushing any boundaries.

  45. Twisty

    They are pushing boundaries by revealing that masculinity — far from being some innate genetic advantage — is all just a matter of costume and posturing.

  46. Drag kings I like, drag queens tend to make me uncomfortable. Part of it is the minstrel-show effect, the feeling I’m being made fun of by members of a more privelaged class. The other part, if there is one, I’m not quite sure of.

  47. crazyindustry.blogspot.com

    Finssmotel, I’m pretty sure you’re speaking dogmatically, so there’s not much point in my arguing, and you’ve hedged with a “usually” here, but the following still seems somewhat … overly absolute:

    “All in the name of good fun” is usually a shield for some behavior that gives pleasure to the receiver at the expense of someone else. In some cases, the expense may be quiet bearable, so it doesn’t seem so bad.

    Let’s look at one of my favourite pasttimes: social dance to live music. The musicians play for dancing because they love the music that we dance to, and they get paid (not enough to make a living from, but they do get paid). The dancing is communal, and best when everyone participates and helps everyone else out.

    And yes, a custodian has to care for the space that we use, and in winter the space is heated, and the heat has to come at the expense of some fuel. But the custodian is paid, and they’d have to heat the space whether it was used for “fun” or for “work.” The dancing does not take place at anyone’s expense, though it’s not free to participants (an evening costs $8, which might be prohibitive).

    The activity is not inherently costly to anyone. Nobody loses. Nobody really wins, either. It’s a non-competitive activity.

    Granted, some people may find participation in this type of dance very challenging—certain physical disabilities would not work for some types of dance, and as a community, we’re not as good as we could be at adapting what we do to accomodate people’s physical limitations, though we’re happy to take suggestions—but not being able to do something is not the same as having that thing happen at one’s own expense.

    And that something requires effort in order to happen doesn not mean that those expending the effort are losing something, at least not in the “someone wins/someone loses” sense.

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