A fellow went out on a bender
And woke up with his briefs in the blender
He turned off the lights
Pulled on his wife’s tights
And now feels more fluid in gender
|These shoes are not being sensible.
What follows is probably gonna make a few folks pissed. I hereby apologize in advance to those who experience any panty bunching while reading this particular post. I’m just thinkin’ out loud, Peeps.
So here’s the thing. There’s a long history of humorous cross-dressing and “drag” as comedy. Classic stuff. From ancient times, through all of vaudeville, to Bugs Bunny and good ol’ Uncle Miltie, to Bosom Buddies, to Klinger in M*A*S*H and well beyond. In fact my wife attended an Ivy League school that has a long tradition of ending every variety show with a Can-can style kick-line composed entirely of beskirted males. I’ve seen it at reunions and it’s a blast. Always hilarious. The point is I’ve laughed at this kinda stuff repeatedly over the years and have many friends in show biz (and out) who partook and still partake.
Hell, I’m even capitalizing on it with this post’s illustration.
All in good fun, and so forth.
But here’s what I think, when I think. There’s something deeply wrong underlying it. Why exactly do we find it hilarious when a guy dresses up as a woman?
Why isn’t it funny the other way around? When Marlene Dietrich wore top hat and tails it wasn’t silly, it was erotic. When Janelle Monáe performs in a suit & tie, it’s way hot. Face it, even “Mary Poppins” (Julie Andrews) in Victor Victoria was rockin’ the dude-wear. If some woman in a perfume ad wakes up and slips into nothing but her man’s dress shirt? Super sexy. Some man in a cologne ad shrugs on his lady’s frilly blouse? Not so much.
And, frankly, it often feels like there’s something deeply demeaning toward women when a male performer gets laughs simply by dressing himself up as a female.
Brace yourself because I’m about to make a really disturbing analogy. But I think it’s at least semi-valid. Here goes. Minstrel shows. We don’t allow them any more, thank God. Yet for years white male performers regularly dressed up as African Americans – a brutally oppressed, beaten-down group. They’d doll themselves up in the clichéd trappings of that group and prance about pretending to be a part of that “jolly” exploited underclass for our entertainment. They exaggerated every supposed characteristic folks of the time believed about people of color: shuffling walks, wacky patterns of speech, banjoes, watermelons, wild hair, massive lips, and blacker-than-blackface. “Look how silly and goofy them folks are! Ain’t it funny when I, a white male, pretend to be one?”
We all, hopefully, get how obscene and wrong that is now. But somehow it’s still okay nowadays for random gents to entertain the crowd by adopting exaggerated versions of all the stuff our society currently thinks of as “female.” These men pretend to be women (which – ahem – also happens to be an oppressed group, not coincidentally) by wearing gaudy dresses, overstuffed bras, huge wigs, fishnet stockings, gigundo eyelashes, and tons of ladled-on lipstick, all while teetering about on high heels, clutching handbags, and squealing in high-pitched voices. “Look how silly and goofy them women are! Ain’t it funny when I, a male, pretend to be one?”
Really creepy, when you think about it.
|Dietrich Does Drag. Because Damn.
Okay, so maybe I went off a bit on a tangent there with my minstrel show analogy. Harsh, but I feel it’s legit, at least on some level. I do, however, realize that some modern drag shows, particularly non-comedic ones performed by yet another oppressed group (gay men), can sometimes be more of a respectful celebration of “classic old-Hollywood feminine glamour” than an attempt to belittle and demean women. Understood.
Oh, and speaking of non-comedic drag that works, last summer I saw an amazing production of Richard III at the New Globe in London where, just as it was originally done, men played every role, male and female. It was subtle, beautiful, and brilliant.
Looks like I not only lost my train of thought there, but then missed the following train and was forced to take a cab home.
Okay. I’m back. My real point is: the clothing we as a society dress our daughters in is stuff we find hilarious when our sons wear, but not the other way around. And that’s fundamentally wrong.
I think it’s all tied in with how it’s still considered an insult to call a boy a “girl,” how a slang word for female genitals is still used in the locker room to call a dude “weak & cowardly,” and how it continues to be cruel to suggest a guy “runs like a girl,” etc. Girl-ness is still thought of as intrinsically inferior. Frivolous. And silly.
And therefore, when a guy pretends to be one, it’s funny. Ha ha ha.
Bottom line time. As a life-long feminist, I have to say that I feel like we will not have achieved true equality until the day comes when either women have largely stopped wearing the kinds of clothing that we find “hilarious” when men put on, or the day our attitudes toward so-called “girly” clothing has changed enough so it’s no longer funny for either sex to wear it. (The latter would be preferable because it’d suggest we’d’ve become a more accepting society in all gender directions.)
And with that (clumsily) expressed, this particular fellow who is (in spite of a last name that implies otherwise) of mostly Scottish descent, will straighten the pleats in his kilt, adjust his undersized sporran, and sashay off into the daughterset.