Are Drag Shows Like Blackface?
College President has a point when he equates drag queens with black face entertainers. He refuses to host a drag show at West Texas A&M University.
Ed. Note: U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled on Sept. 21, 2023 that the LGBTQ student group did not have an inherent constitutional right to hold a drag show (which was advertised as being open to children) over the objections of the university president. He called drag shows “sexualized conduct” that can be regulated.
Walter V. Wendler, president of West Texas A&M University, stepped into a First Amendment quagmire this week when he announced the university will not host a planned drag show on campus on March 31 because it “discriminates against womanhood.”
“Drag shows are derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny… A person or group should not attempt to elevate itself or a cause by mocking another person or group,” he writes. “I would not support ‘blackface’ performances on our campus even if told the performance is a form of free speech or intended as humor. It is wrong.”
The scheduled drag show was touted as an effort to raise money for a suicide prevention project in the LGBTQ community. He urged students to forego the show and contribute to the LGBTQ fundraiser anyway.
Wendler has a point.
A drag show is a form of entertainment where men impersonate women, typically in a bar or nightclub but increasingly in public settings (ex. library story times). Men parody women, sometimes in exaggerated and extreme ways. Drag queens wear big bouffant hair-dos, lingerie, high heels, patterned nylons, etc. Some simulate sex acts and collect money like strippers with g-strings.
There are distinct similarities between drag queens and blackface entertainers.
Blackface is a form of theater where non-black people wear theatrical makeup to appear black and to caricature a black person. Blackface minstrel shows were popular until the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
Would a university found to be in violation of the First Amendment if it refused to allow a black face fundraiser on campus? That’s hard to imagine.
Silence of the Lambs
Oddly, feminists and progressives who otherwise object to blackface and the appropriation of themes and symbols in African or Native American cultures are silent with respect to male appropriation of female sexuality.
Legacy feminist groups today seem more committed to issues affecting the trans community than biological women. This is perhaps a consequence of the explosion in funding for trans causes that doesn’t exist for women’s causes.
A blackface charitable fundraiser surely would draw picket signs and protesters. The opposite is occurring at West Texas A&M, where students are protesting the cancellation of the drag show.
Pres. Joe Biden’s 2024 budget requests $3 billion to advance “Gender Equity and Equality Around the World.” Last year Biden allocated $2.6 billion, “more than doubling the amount requested for gender programs in the prior year.”
It is not a slam dunk if a group files a First Amendment lawsuit in this matter. Precedent is complicated and, like many issues today, the outcome may depend more upon the political affiliation of the federal judge who hears the case.
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