Posthuman Drag

Objects: Extension of the drag body, Thing Power, Affect

"The notion of bodily extensions in performance offers further disruptive potential; augmentations unsettle the seemingly given, prompting new ways of seeing and thinking thebody." (154)

There is a really interesting way in which objects are involved in drag, because usually they are part of how the drag persona develops and shows themselves. Drag without objects wouldn't really be drag as we know it today: drag performers live with their accessories, their clothes, their props, their make up. Matter is fully part of a drag's persona. Indeed I think that drag uses matter as an extension of the self, of the body and of the persona. This is something I explore in the origins of the word drag, because it often implies an object itself or an object being dragged, sometimes the origin of the use drag for drag queens is believed to be from the fact that dresses would be dragging on the floor.

"drag is about materiality—about making the unreal real through cosplay. Through the use of costumes, cosmetics, and other accessories, cosplayers are able to bring to 'life' a figure that was once considered artificial or 'unreal'[50]anime, manga or gaming characters [...]  Through the acts of constructing and wearing a costume, the fan constructs his or her identity in relation to fiction and enacts it.'[51] Therefore, just as drag is typically thought of as enacting a gender role, so here cosplay is about enacting a fictional character, where the costume and the player provide material form for the behaviour and narrative of the immaterial character."  (5)

Drag performers are known to use matter to enhance their gendered performance. Indeed, many drag kings and queens use objects to add some socially imposed gender body traits. Thus, some drag queens use some paddings to enhance what their vision of a woman is and what vision of femininity they want to give by adding more hips, more shape, more bust and giving a Femme Realness. On the other hand, some drag kings add what they call packing, which is a penis illusion, but also fake hair . Another thing drag performers do is, sometimes, to hide the parts that has been constructed as being assigned to one gender, like breasts or the penis and testicles by using duct tape to conceal so that their performances feels more real. However some drag personas choose to not do it because they are against the idea fact that body parts are symbolizing gender whereas some performers even go as far as doing some surgery to give more credibility to their drag personas and this gives a sense of adding to the body in order to make in more 

To go further into my understanding of how objects play an important role as a part of the Drag persona I want to use some examples in cosplay presented by Bainbridge and Norris which claim that the:

"'set of clothing,' functions as a suture not just between the unreal character and the real performer, but also between the real performer, the larger cosplay community, the performer and the spectator. Importantly this set of clothing is created; the authenticity of the costume very much depends on the craft that goes into its making, bringing to the fore skills in needlework and design. It sutures the cosplayer to a larger community because costumes are often created through the assistance of online forums, cosplaying sites (for example and other peer communities devoted to assist in the creation and craft of costumes." (2)

Materials are fully part of the performance, they are the medium of a drag persona or a cosplayer to play with boundaries, that is what they use to express their art and to express their messages, the objects start having a certain affect and take over a part of the performance. Through make up, pieces of clothing, artifacts they try to capture a certain feeling. There is a notion of self-styling in fashion used by everyone, however performers use it to another level, to present themselves under another light, to send messages other that the emanation of one's own identity. Objects in a cosplay become part of a multi-identity that embody and play with different kinds of binaries and by the affect they transmit, gender performance through matter sometimes always gives some sense of powerfulness, this is something that according Kumbier is acquired through objects. She says that her relation with what she calls her technologies, both as a drag queen and a drag king, affect her and others.

She gives us two different examples in her text, which show how much objects are important in here relation to gender and power: "By wearing that dress, I embodied and performed my femininity in contrast to my usual gender-neutral presentation. I experienced myself as aggressively, pub- licly queer and feminine, and felt empowered that I could be both at the same time." (194) Here she chooses to showcase a part of her that she has never really shown. As a queer woman it is hard to be able to affirm your sexuality and your gender at the same time, because they are disconnected to what society expects of you. The fact that she only chose what she wanted others to see of her, presenting a single side of her identity for a night, was very important to me. It made me think of the time I went to my own prom, with a friend, who is a girl and went there expressing a masculinity that wasn't especially mine. I wish I would have had her courage to be able to show both my queerness and my masculinity, not imposing a divorce and having to choose between both of them, because accepting both would fight against prejudices against queer men: "If we can communicate this choice... in a visually accessible but complex and possibly confusing way [...] we are publicly altering the definitions of gender" (195). Objects help us by their affect to communicate a message that would be hard to communicate on her own, and to challenge actual binaries in society. This is something that is explored in Bennet's Vibrant Matter: "Thing power: the curious ability of inanimate things to animate, to act, to produce effects dramatic and subtle" (6).  Kumbier talks a lot about the other affects of her tools on the performer and on the audience, she says that she uses tools that are inherent to the straight female identity imposed on women in a different way to advocate for queerness in femininity: "Instead, these performances were about taking that standard and challenging it, so that the same combination of tools (lipstick, mascara, nylons, lingerie) would produce wildly different results." (195).

One of the most interesting part of her essay is when she talks about her relation to phallic objects and the power that is attributed to them by associating them to masculinity can empower a woman who performs as a drag king or that is fan of a drag king: "because for the drag king fan, the possibility of desiring and owning that phallus, that masculine energy (carnal or otherwise) is much more real. Watching women perform convincingly as men, working their dicks and getting tips stuffed in their pants by adoring audience members, fe- male fans are empowered with the knowledge that (with practice and some technological assistance) we, too, can posses that dick, can be- come the performing subjects of our desire" (197-8). It gives the power to someone that has always been oppressed by patriarchy, even in the world of drag, to go against it, to mock it and to have the sense that they are living it. A simple filled sock between their legs or a dildo can help someone feel really powerful because they feel as if they are part of the dominant group for a moment, they feel as entitled as someone from the dominant group and they confuse people and go against gender norms. 



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