Drag Queens Taught me More About Female Empowerment Than Any Woman Ever Has.
Female Empowerment has always been somewhat perplexing to me, Drag Queens haven’t. Empowerment is a concept I fully believe in but every time I investigated or tried even to participate, I found it fraught with difficulty. It seemed to me that female empowerment had so many many rules and was very narrow and prescriptive. I wrote about the experience here. Most female empowerment left me disempowered, none of it seems to match even halfway what I believed and I was left feeling like perhaps I was the only person who thought the way I did.
That was until I discovered the world of Drag Queens.
I remember having a lot to do with the world of drag in my twenties. I spent a lot of my time in drag clubs in London, mainly because they were places we could go without getting harassed by men. But somehow I had forgotten this empowering experience.
Fast forward to me feeling a little low and deciding to immerse myself in Rupaul’s Drag Race. I’d got through a whole 7 seasons in the blink of an eye before I realised what I loved about it so much. It was finally making me feel empowered as a woman. A bunch of queer guys dressed as woman made me feel more womanly than any female empowerment course even had. Yes there is banter, yes they dish the tee, but all in all these are Queens who lift other Queens up. It was liberating, uplifting and seemed to echo all I believed about female empowerment.
- You can wear what the f*** you want and no one has the right to judge what that means!
- You are beautiful whatever your size, race, sexual orientation or gender!
- Your job is to build each other up, not knock each other down!
- If you want to do the washing up, go supermarket-shopping in your ball gown, who gives a crap!
- We are all just trying our best!
- We are all different, unique and fantastic in our own way; we don’t have to compete, we just have to be ourselves!
And to put it in the words of Taylor Swift…
And we see you over there on the internet
Comparing all the girls who are killing it
But we figured you out
We all know now, we all got crowns
We all got crowns baby!
The drag community has had it difficult; most of them have experienced ridicule, bullying and discrimination of some type and perhaps that is what makes them the best people to empower females. All of their difficulties have perhaps allowed them to fully understand what the female experience is like. They understand the patriarchal system like no others, in fact, they smash it and I for one adore and love them for that.
And above all, they don’t take themselves too seriously. I aspire to be as confident in my female self as these drag queens are and if I ever need an empowerment boost its the drag queens I turn to, not the female empowerment gurus, who in my opinion actually don’t know shit about what it is to be a female, other than the one they think you should be!
To me, it’s the difference in saying, “A woman should be able to wear whatever she wants and not have to worry about what that means to others!” and saying, “Women should be aware that what they wear might encourage male attention and dress accordingly”.
The problem isn’t how women dress, it’s how men think about women, and if you can’t get that then move aside.
But it’s not just the drag queens who have helped me, can we just talk about Queer Eye? Man, I love them. They have taught me so much about the constraints of gender, what gender means and how much it imposes on us. Jonathan and his gender-bending ways have me adoring him and how Bobby talks about male and female colours and style being a made-up construction of society makes me think. Due to these two I am unpacking years of gender norming and I love it. Plus the amount of times they say you are beautiful to the people they work with has me constantly crying. Can I spend a day with them, please!
And that brings me to Florence Given, a 19-year-old who has helped me unpack the patriarchy and not feel apologetic for how all my life I have been made to feel bad for calling out patriarchal shit. Florence single-handedly calls women on the ways they continue to allow men to degrade them, how we allow men to continue propping up the patriarchy, and how really as women we don’t owe men anything. I adore Florence; I wish I had her in my life when I was young. She is helping me to do a lot of unlearning and it’s liberating.
Before I found myself looking for different forms of empowerment I had found myself going around and around in circles, arguing, discussing and often getting quite exasperated with how most people feel about female empowerment. I thank each and every one of these people for their difference, for their voice and for the extraordinary way they look at life.
To put it in Ru’s words, “We are all born naked and the rest is drag!”