‘Drag Race’ Portrays Positivity, Breaks Down Gender Binary

By Kristen Magers

I’m a college student, so I have a lot of things to do. When I have a lot to do, I do what most other college students do – I watch television. I probably watch too much television. When I’m not watching The Food Network, one of my favorite things to watch is RuPaul’s Drag Race. It airs on LOGO and this season is also shown sporadically on Vh1; you can also watch it online if you miss an episode or do not have cable.

Almost everyone knows RuPaul. He is one of the most notable drag queens in today’s society. He has had his own talk show, music career, been in movies, and now has had wild success with RuPaul’s Drag Race. He is bringing drag queens to the forefront and giving exposure to a great section of the LGBT community. Of course it is a reality television show, so it is not perfect. At times the queens are portrayed as “catty” and any other adjective you can think of that would be used to stereotype gay men. There is competition, and there is a bit of sabotage that plays into almost every competitive reality television show. So what positives does RuPaul’s Drag Race bring to the forefront?

First and foremost, I think Drag Race brings acceptance. At the conclusion of every episode Ru says “if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” and then all of the queens dance together. What human being does not need reminded to love his or herself? Or does not need some time to forget stress and dance?

The next thing that I think RuPaul brings to Drag Race is exposure. Where else in the media do drag queens have an outlet for visibility? I can’t think of any place else. Although there are drawbacks to this exposure, is there not some power in just the mere fact of exposure? I think it says something that in 2011 a show about drag queens is in its third season with tons of loyal viewers, and I like what that says.

Of course, RuPaul’s Drag Race stimulates the intellectual section of the brain as well. Actually, Drag Race provides an illustration of Judith Butler‘s commentary on gender, so if you are struggling with her writing, put down that copy of Gender Trouble, and turn on RuPaul’s Drag Race to see those theories in motion. First we have RuPaul, who is the leader of demonstrating gender’s fluidity by appearing in drag in elaborate dresses and out of drag in dapper suits. The queens themselves appear in and out of drag. This is one of the most visible examples of how quickly and easily our notions of “masculine” and “feminine” can be destructed.

I talked with Women’s and Gender Studies professor Kim Little about Drag Race, which just so happens to be her favorite show, and she echoed these same sentiments saying “…it really exposes how much of what we think of as ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’/normative gender roles is artificial and, therefore, can be destroyed.” This visibility of these drag queens and their gender is necessary if we are to ever, as Dr. Little says, “crush heteronormativity and the patriarchy.” I like the way she thinks! These queens are crushing heteronormativity one lip synch at a time!

So the next time you’re trying to procrastinate writing that fifteen-page paper you haven’t even started, check out RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s wildly entertaining, and will stimulate your mind as well. It’s refreshing to see such a show on television these days and I can’t wait to see what Ru comes up with next!


About Ohio U Women's Center

The Ohio University Women’s Center serves and responds to the needs of OU women students, faculty, and staff, as well as members of the community. Founded in 2007, the center is dedicated to creating an inclusive and welcoming campus climate for all members of the community through programs, resources, referrals, advocacy, and education. Located in Baker University Center 403.
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One Response to ‘Drag Race’ Portrays Positivity, Breaks Down Gender Binary

  1. Jeanna says:

    Another excellent post, Kristen! I haven’t watched the show (yet), but I’ve heard so much about it. I think it’s really great that this show exists, and even that LOGO exists. In a class I took last semester, Psychology of Gender, a lot of the clips we watched came from LOGO and it really seems like that’s a great channel to have. Of course, it’s still up to the individual to watch (or not), but that’s true about anything, I suppose. I’m sure during one of my many procrastination episodes, I will tune in to this show and become one of the loyal viewers you mentioned! I can’t wait to read what you have to say next, Kristen. Great job!

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