Posthuman Drag

Human Drag: Performances that challenge of Gender, Family and Realness

Drag as I would like to use it during my project is a certain performance of gender that is used to criticize the current world dynamic. It is a form of art , that often uses a certain form of stereotypical performance, nowadays more known as a performance of gender. I think it breaches the barriers that we have put over gender and the construct around it: 

"gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceede; rather, it is an identity tenuouslyconstituted in time-an identity instituted through a stylizedrepetitionofacts. Further,gender is instituted through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be under-stood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self." (519)

If a repetition self-styling acts are to define drag personas certainly plays with that going back and forth between the on-stage performance and their life in which they are usually another person, blurring the lines of gender, or using the performance to criticize the current status quo of what someone of a certain gender should be like. Butler considers gender as a "corporeal style [...] which is both intentional and performative" (521). She distinguishes being a female and a woman. The former would have no meaning as it only refers to sex and the ladder would include a sense of becoming. She has a particular vision of the body and sees as something that is gendered by the will and the surroundings of the 'owner' of the body. Would drag be an art form, then, by being an act of gender if everyone performs their gender and that every act is not individual but collective in some way:

"gender is an act which has been rehearsed, much as a script survives the particular actors who make use of it, but which requires individual actors in order to be actualized and reproduced as reality once again. The complex components that go into an act must be distinguished in order to understand the kind of acting in concert and acting in accord which acting one's gender invariably is." (526)

Is drag performance useless then? If everyone is acting? I don't think so because according to me drag 'mocks' in a certain way these gender performances that are imposed unto us by society, our family, our experiences and try to challenge the rules that are input on gender performance. A very interesting point that Butler makes is that drag is accepted in certain kinds of ways only, during a show or when people expect to see it whereas it is more criticized in public:


"theatrical performances can meet with political censorship and scathing criticism, gender performances in non-theatrical contexts are governed by more clearly punitive and regulatory social conventions. Indeed, the sight of a transvestite onstage can compel pleasure and applause while the sight of the same transvestite on the seat next to us on the bus can compel fear, rage, even violence. [...] In the theatre, one can say, 'this is just an act,' and de-realize the act, make acting into something quite distinct from what is real. Because of this distinction, one can maintain one's sense of reality in the face of this temporary challenge to our existing ontological assumptions about gender arrangements; the various conventions which announce that 'this is only a play' allows strict lines to be drawn between the performance and life." (527)

This goes to show that other challenging gender binaries, transvestism (which is a part of drag, but I want to make sure I distinguish it because I don't want to reduce the art of drag to transvestism) also "challenges [...] the distinction between appearance and reality" (527). Indeed if gender is nothing but a performance it is real only as any performance is. Is gender false as a performance then? Maybe not because it is so inherent to our societies that even if gender is completely a construct, the reactions that we get from our surroundings make it very real and something that you need to apply to: "Performing one's gender wrong initiates a set of punishments both obvious and indirect, and performing it well provides the reassurance that there is an essentialism of gender identity after all." (528).

Challenging the hierarchy and the status quo is always something dangerous in a society because it usually is responded to by punishments. I think drag is about not being scared of these punishments and even denouncing them, making them heard through art that uses your body. I think this challenging of realness is really important to the rest of my project because challenging reality is a good way to face oppression: "Realness category allows poor, gay, often black or latino men to untangle for a moment the economic and social forms of oppression that stand between them and the so-called 'real world.'" (6) To perform sometimes certain kinds of Realness makes rejected people be part of a world that doesn't accept them by performing people that are integrated and that have a 'good' place in society. That is something that can be found in cosplay too even more than in drag, an intersection of identities: "Cosplay demonstrates that these signs, while all relating to aspects of identity, are not just signs of gender but also race (being Japanese) and reality (being unreal). In this way cosplay extends the possibilities for drag beyond gendered roles of kings and queens, to playing at being Japanese and playing at being unreal." (4)

Human Drag challenges more than only gender norms and realness, I think it challenges other components of our Western society, the concept of the nuclear family because they create new bonds, new relationships and use the terms for family to reconstruct a sense of family. This is something that is used, I think, mainly because in the LGBTQ+ community people are often rejected from their family because they are different from their kin's expectations. Indeed, heteronormativity in families is still something that is really present, because that is what is expected first. Sometimes when you comet to your kin, it doesn't happen well, they don't accept you and they don't want you to be too "queer" around them if they still tolerate you, a need to create a new family emerges: "Additionally, creating social bonds is often declared an important goal in the program, with RuPaul considering all participants their “children”. As Asia O’hara describes in season 10, “You are creating family outside your blood family”. Lastly I would say that drag gives power to the ones who perform it over how they want to express themselves which is not something that is given a lot out of a performance. 

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