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I was thinking that it may not be ideal to compare womanface to blackface.

Given that TRAs readily use black women and segregation to point-score, I am worried that the above comparison comes across similarly.

The basis for the comparison is valid and obvious: the mockery of a different group by wearing a skinsuit, and "punching down" by doing so.

But I do think there is a different history of drag to blackface, and from TIMs to blackface. The motivations are different. The black and white minstrel shows were purely a punching down form of offensive comedy, with the subject of the comedy purely being race. The mockery was intentional and the primary motivation.

Whereas drag acts are for the most part mocking their own femininity, or femininity in general. There is definitely a misogynist undercurrent in this, and often overt misogyny. But if you asked them, they would probably not think of themselves as mocking actual females. It is not the primary motive. That's not to say it's not offensive in its own important way, which deserves discussion in its own right, but I personally think it is not that similar to blackface.

TIMs dressing up as women is even less similar, because they are deadly serious, and are not consciously mocking women at all. Which makes it even worse: they are so absorbed in their narcissistic sex fantasies that they lack the self-awareness to see the mockery they are making of us. In my opinion the mockery of girlhood and womanhood is a very valid thing to be concerned about, yet it utterly pales in significance to the fact that their actual motivation is a very public sexual fetish for autogynephiles, and still sexually motived for HTSTs who wish to attract straight men. (Edit: just to clarify, I'm not trying to say that womanface is worse than black face, I was just conscious that I didn't want it to seem like acknowledging TIMs' lack of purposeful mockery of women negates what they're doing)

There are also non-offensive versions of dressing up as women, such as pantomime traditions, whereas there are not any (to my knowledge) well-known inoffensive traditions involving racial cosplay.

I think the difference in motivations and history between womanface and blackface are significant enough that it is not really right to equate the two.

It is worthy enough to discuss the mockery of females without also mentioning blackface. It doesn't add weight to it, in my opinion it cheapens the credibility of the valid point being made, and seems like desperately using black people for point scoring.

There are also enough separate issues with woman cosplaying that are not found in blackface, and are important enough in their own right to discuss without bringing anything else into it.

This is just my opinion, I am aware that we are policed a lot as it is without adding to it. My intention is not to police but contribute to discussion on how to be most effective with our arguments, and how to avoid causing unnecessary hurt or offense.

Also, I'm not black, and it may be that I'm totally off-mark. I would be very interested to hear what black women think about this comparison.

What are your thoughts, everyone?

I was thinking that it may not be ideal to compare womanface to blackface. Given that TRAs readily use black women and segregation to point-score, I am worried that the above comparison comes across similarly. The basis for the comparison is valid and obvious: the mockery of a different group by wearing a skinsuit, and "punching down" by doing so. But I do think there is a different history of drag to blackface, and from TIMs to blackface. The motivations are different. The black and white minstrel shows were purely a punching down form of offensive comedy, with the subject of the comedy purely being race. The mockery was intentional and the primary motivation. Whereas drag acts are for the most part mocking their own femininity, or femininity in general. There is definitely a misogynist undercurrent in this, and often overt misogyny. But if you asked them, they would probably not think of themselves as mocking actual females. It is not the primary motive. That's not to say it's not offensive in its own important way, which deserves discussion in its own right, but I personally think it is not that similar to blackface. TIMs dressing up as women is even less similar, because they are deadly serious, and are not consciously mocking women at all. Which makes it even worse: they are so absorbed in their narcissistic sex fantasies that they lack the self-awareness to see the mockery they are making of us. In my opinion the mockery of girlhood and womanhood is a very valid thing to be concerned about, yet it utterly pales in significance to the fact that their actual motivation is a very public sexual fetish for autogynephiles, and still sexually motived for HTSTs who wish to attract straight men. *(Edit: just to clarify, I'm not trying to say that womanface is worse than black face, I was just conscious that I didn't want it to seem like acknowledging TIMs' lack of purposeful mockery of women negates what they're doing)* There are also non-offensive versions of dressing up as women, such as pantomime traditions, whereas there are not any (to my knowledge) well-known inoffensive traditions involving racial cosplay. I think the difference in motivations and history between womanface and blackface are significant enough that it is not really right to equate the two. It is worthy enough to discuss the mockery of females without also mentioning blackface. It doesn't add weight to it, in my opinion it cheapens the credibility of the valid point being made, and seems like desperately using black people for point scoring. There are also enough separate issues with woman cosplaying that are not found in blackface, and are important enough in their own right to discuss without bringing anything else into it. This is just my opinion, I am aware that we are policed a lot as it is without adding to it. My intention is not to police but contribute to discussion on how to be most effective with our arguments, and how to avoid causing unnecessary hurt or offense. Also, I'm not black, and it may be that I'm totally off-mark. I would be very interested to hear what black women think about this comparison. What are your thoughts, everyone?

32 comments

Also not black so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

I think it’s an accurate comparison. The oppressors mimicking and mocking the oppressed with ugly and offensive stereotypes. I don’t really see any distinction between the two except for one is (rightly) frowned upon and the other is celebrated.

I find drag horribly misogynistic and ugly.

[–] Maplefields 12 points Edited

Whereas drag acts are for the most part mocking their own femininity, or femininity in general.

If that’s so, then why the heck are they wearing hip and breast pads and tight corsets to mimic the female form? That’s not femininity. That’s straight up parodying our bodies. Oh, and I forgot the chest contouring to fake the cleavage.

Edit: I just remembered another incident. A restaurant was holding a family friendly drag event. The drag queen showed up in bouncy silicone breast prosthetics, doing bouncy moves that would have been very painful for a woman with breasts that size. He stopped and covered the nipples once he saw there was a little girl in the audience. Then continued dancing and ended the dance by slapping the prosthetics.

Edit 2: I found the video. Thank you, LibsofTiktok. https://twitter.com/libsoftiktok/status/1537512879301177344?s=21&t=-so5l8J12xCQp3n9WnTlYQ

Exactly this.

Wearing the stereotypical trappings of femininity = okay we can maybe have a discussion here about gender roles and subversion and such

Wearing fake breasts and hip pads and calling each other "fish" = go fuck yourself

Right. I acknowledged straight after that snippet that there are undercurrents of misogyny, and often overt misogyny in drag. But why can't this be criticised without comparing it to blackface? That was the entire point of this discussion. Drag is already worthy of criticism in its own right, we don't need to bring blackface into it when the history and motivations are so different.

[–] Maplefields 1 points Edited

But why can't this be criticised without comparing it to blackface?

Can’t acknowledge the problem when the other side doesn’t see the misogyny. Drag is celebrated. So we need some way to get the idea across. People respond well to comparisons of concepts they’ve already encountered. It easily sets up the situation in their head and they can better understand your point or idea. It becomes problematic when the comparison is false equivalency.

we don't need to bring blackface into it when the history and motivations are so different.

History: both have been enslaved and trafficked as property and have not been treated as equal citizens. And sex slavery is still ongoing in the West. Women are being treated as breeders in the West as well (abortion ban in the USA and surrogacy all over the West). I’m not even going to touch on what’s going on outside of the West.

The motivations are not so different. The goal is to derive entertainment from dressing like a caricature of a class beneath you, racism for blackface and misogyny for womanface.

I dunno, I still think it's pretty apt. It's using exaggerated stereotypes (one set based on race and one set based on sex) to "entertain." It can't help but come off as mockery in both cases. With TiMs, it's both mockery and worse--because they do know at some level that they're making a mockery through extreme stereotypes, but they also get violation thrills because they are appropriating what does not "belong" to them and no one can say boo.

I feel it's equivalent to blackface. That said, I am not black myself so I will probably never use it as a key point in arguing, because I simply can't know what it feels like to be black and witness blackface. I would like to see more black radfems' perspectives on whether or not they feel the analogy is appropriate

lots of black people, as I've seen, has come forward about how they feel uncomfortable with the blackface comparison. it was part of what drove them away from Ovarit, especially after the ban of RadfemBlack.

Who is RadfemBlack? I hadn't heard of this incident. Thank you for sharing

RadfemBlack was a black radfem on ovarit, I'm not entirely sure why she was banned, I think by the time I joined, she was gone.

Whereas drag acts are for the most part mocking their own femininity, or femininity in general

What exactly is "feminine" about guys who do drag?

Usually the fact they are gay.

[–] SecondSkin 4 points Edited

Well that’s homophobic.

Being gay does not equal being feminine and being feminine does not equal being gay.

Performative femininity is inherently degrading and ridiculous, but most of us recognize that only when it's done by men, because of the novelty factor. I have enjoyed drag that points out the absurdity of performative femininity, even while acknowledging the performer himself may well be a raging misogynist. I am speaking of old-timey drag, decades ago, where performers lip-synched Judy Garland & Diana Ross tunes.

Were I to witness a drag show today, there would be no pleasure, as all I could think of is the performer is probably AGP.

I always find the argument about drag being womanface difficult to comprehend. I personally don't find it as much of an offensive caricature, in fact, I kinda enjoy the artistic interpretation behind it. On one hand, I can see why it would be similar to a minstrel show, but on the other hand I can't fully see it that way. I honestly look at it as a way for those men to embrace and enjoy all things feminine, even if they are stereotypical, but at least they aren't claiming they are women. If my years of remembering RuPaul's Drag race from when I was a teen, I usually hear the men appreciate various women figures with the whole "queen this" and "queen that".

[–] SecondSkin 2 points Edited

Older drag, say the character of Angel in rent, wasn’t always sexualised or demeaning to women (outside of the term drag and what was at that time an affectionate and not literal adoption of she by his friends-neither which are ok in hindsight). The way it is now.

Angel is a flamboyant colourful character, who wears women’s clothing.

No skin on show at all, no fake breasts or hips or teeny waist or sexualised clothing at all. Bright make up, but not the over the top suggestive lips and eye lashes etc that are a feature with drag today. He dresses like a character from yo gabba gabba or the tiddly boos (I think..) from iggle piggle. Yet makes it look like a creative art student look.

So it’s completely possible for a man to enjoy feminine stereotypes this way without it being a sexualised degrading parody of womanhood- the way drag race most definitely it. Or it was, at that time.

And true parody works just fine without being demeaning also- Kevin and Perry would be an obvious one (I can’t recall the actress’s name who dresses as a boy in this) or the likes of lip sync battles. Just straight forward parody from what I’ve seen. Not sexualised or mocking. (Although tbf I’ve only seen a few).

Men who know they are men and aren’t cross dressers (fetish) expanding the band with of what it means to be men is fine. Nicky Wire in a skirt and eye liner, clearly male jacket/T-shirt/boots etc on stage was just about rock and roll, pushing back against stereotypes. Which is easy to do for the class with all the power, but still all good.

But drag as it is now, and forever will be-because the cat can’t be put back in the bag- is fake breasts and hips and teensy tiny waist. Because women must live up to unrealistic body expectations because we exist for men to find attractive. It’s ridiculously high heels, because women can’t be comfortable or able to out run a predator. It’s fishnet stockings and suspenders on show, tiny skirts, corsets, because women just exist to be sex objects for men. It’s grotesquely over the top make up, lips to be fuckable for men, eye lashes and time consuming make up, because women are all so superficial. It’s hey bitches as a greeting, as if women enjoy being demeaned this way, and fish as an insult, because men love to shame us for our bodies and find a way of making it into a joke.

Todays incarnation of drag takes the means by which we are oppressed and makes a mockery of it.

Then these men can take off their woman face in a way we can’t. Because we are oppressed when we perform sex role stereotypes and oppressed when we don’t. Men get to dress up as our oppression and then go back to their lives. Which, imho, is the exact same fucking thing as blackface.

Men take everything and anything and ruin it.

Once it’s seen it can’t be unseen.

Angel in rent, imho not offensive or sexualised or demeaning to women. Yet sadly not ok now gender ideology has made it solely into that:

https://youtu.be/gBo9L82LXf4

And it’s really sad that they ruined rent, which started as an 80s broadway show that had real diversity, unheard of at that time. And went along way towards de stigmatising aids.

Fair. I guess I never really paid much attention to the hypersexual figures they present as "feminine" since I've been more interested in the performances and costume designing. I honestly think they can be really creative and that's the only thing I enjoy. I do realize that yes, their personalities are all the same cookie-cutter "that bitch from highschool" which is very unflattering. But then again, that could be just more of a "them" personality thing rather than one they give to their "persona". As for the body thing, I understand that the whole point of drag (at least modern drag) is to emphasize the extremities of femininity hence why you see the over the top makeup and body prosthetics, however I can say or respect any woman's opinion that it makes them uncomfortable. I personally find the make-up unflattering despite who wears it and the body proportions laughable because of how ridiculous they are. I've never seen drag as it was before and I've only been exposed to it on TV watching it with my mom, but taking your word on what it used to be, it is pretty sad how it evolved to what it is today.

It’s clear you hold a lot of internalized misogyny if you are here defending drag.

Please. Push back against her argument, if you will, not against her.

How?? All I said was that I like the artistic expression (mainly through their outfits/costumes) and how some of them enjoy femininity. I even said how I can see why other women don't like it in general. If anything, I'm more indifferent with drag in general.

[–] Maplefields 3 points Edited

How about this “family friendly drag show”? (Warning: NSFW) https://twitter.com/libsoftiktok/status/1537512879301177344?s=21&t=-so5l8J12xCQp3n9WnTlYQ

I've never said drag was family friendly. I don't know where you're pulling that statement from.

Sorry for the confusion. It’s the title of the video on twitter. You said

I always find the argument about drag being womanface difficult to comprehend. I personally don't find it as much of an offensive caricature, in fact, I kinda enjoy the artistic interpretation behind it.

I want to know if this still holds true after seeing this video.