Judith Butler's writings on gender and performance have informed an entire era of questions around the subject of sexual difference. Post-modern or social constructivist theory has now pushed the idea that both gender and sex are essentially fictions, re-written in every generation. As burgeoning social movements attempt to upheave outdated ideas about what masculinity and femininity were and are, it seems apropos that drag has become a widespread artistic phenomenon. With the runaway popularity of RuPaul's Drag Race influencing an entire generation and catalyzing a sudden nightlife explosion, the general public is suddenly wondering: what's the difference between drag and other styles of performance art? Is drag just men dressing up as women — or is it something else entirely? Considering the growing gulf between the drag that's seen on TV and what once was observable in actual gay bars — and the political ramifications of the normalization of this once radical art form — it's time to assert that "drag" shouldn't be limited by Mama Ru's increasingly out-of-touch worldview.
In this Olio, we'll attempt to come up with an operational definition for drag. What does it mean to suggest that drag is an art form expressed in the medium of gender? If that's the case, then what traditional forms of art would be included in this expanded notion of drag? If the categories of "male" and "female" are obsolete, what function does drag serve in the world? Does the invention of neo-sexualities by Gen Z mean that gender is over, or just transforming into something new? Does drag offer a liberating political project, or do these new discrete gendered categories only offer new avenues for oppression?
Teacher: Eric Shorey
Eric Shorey is a freelance pop culture blogger whose work has appeared in Nylon, Vice, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and MTV. He covers a wide range of topics including LGBTQ+ culture, horror, hip-hop, true crime, fashion, style, music, and sports. He received his MA in Liberal Studies from The New School for Social Research in 2010.
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