MoFems, Drag Queens, and MusingsSunday I let myself do something I usually try to avoid. I commented on one of those facebook threads where you know your differing opinion is going to ruffle some feathers. I'd had too much coffee and was perhaps feeling a tad aggressive. So, typa-typa-typa, enter.......regret. Anxiety. Frustration. Making me late for a family birthday party because my nerves were all frazzled. Why do I let myself get sucked in when I know it makes me feel so yucky? When I know I am very unlikely to change any minds? What can I say, I have a lot of religious friends on my newsfeed, and when something concering women goes viral with them, my blood pressure ususally goes up.
In this case, a friend posted an article written by a blogger who'd heard of an upcoming protest to be staged outside the LDS General Conference. These Mormon Feminist protesters want to be given the priesthood, something that currently only men hold in the LDS church. The blogger was "infuriated" with this news and went on to explain why she did not support these women. I really don't care what this blogger believes, nor am I interested in the doctrinal discourse to be had. What bugged me was her portrayal of what these protesters were all about. Mind you, I don't count myself as a Mormon feminist, but I am sympathetic to their cause as I feel I have been in their shoes at one point in my life. This bloggers piece was rife with straw man arguments and ridiculous leaps in logic. She used the kind of religious rhetoric that has been thrown at women's right movements throughout time: Women have a special role as mothers, why can't they just love being feminine, yada yada yada. Typical and misinformed.
Anyway, the one thing that really stuck out to me in the bloggers piece was the suggestion that the modern feminist movement wants everyone to be the same and doesn't allow or acknowledge that we are different.
I couldn't disagree more. And here's one reason why:
You're confused, but hang with me. Fast forward to later that Sunday evening, and me and my female family members piled into the car to go to the first ever Drag Queen Pageant in Utah County. You'd have to live here to appreciate that this was kind of a ground breaking event for one of the most conservative counties in America.
We got there late, navigated through the crowd till we found some seats. We'd missed most of the show, but got to see a few performances while the judges were tabulating their scores.
A beautiful, latin looking Queen with lucious brown hair and leopard print dress came out on stage and performed to "Who You Are" by Jessie J. (Seriously listen to it above, it's beautiful.) On the stage with her was a small table with a little mirror on top. The performer proceeded to slowly remove their drag costume as they lip sycned to the song. But this was no burlesque strip tease. More like a weary soul shedding the facade one puts on to feel okay, to feel beautiful, to feel accepted. First the gold chain belt, the jewelery, the shoes. Off came the wig, revealing a hair net over closey cropped hair. He pulled out the false booby pads and looked at them with a small shake of his head. When he pulled down the top of his dress it was a little startling to see his nipples, you had to remind yourself his pecs weren't culturally taboo. There was something very raw about his flat, male chest in contrast with his womanly attire. As his dress came off the rest of the way, his hip padding popped out. He pulled off his false eyelashes and tossed them on the table. Stipped of his drag in nothing but boxers, he stretched his arms out wide, as if presenting who he really was behind the ruse. Just a man. He then sat at the table and scrubbed off all his make-up and then hastily pulled on a suit. He was transformed into a clean cut young man you might see on any given Sunday as the music played in the background: "Seeing is deceiving, dreaming is believing, it's okay not to be okay. Sometimes it's hard to follow your heart. But tears don't mean you're losing, everybodys bruising, there's nothing wrong with who you are."
You couldn't help but be moved by the story his peformance seemed to tell. The bravery it takes for a young man to live his truth, to pursue his interests that are so counter-culture in a place like Utah. He was different, and he was beautiful. He was vulnarable, but courageous. He could be the dapper young man in a suit, or he could be the vixen in leopard and stilettos. Who was the real him? Do we need him to be one or the other to be comfortable, to enjoy his art? Or can we we look past the trappings of gendered window dressings to see the light within?
The morning after the drag queen show, my mind went back to that blog piece I'd been sucked into. The one that suggested that somehow, the cause of equality erases our differences, and ignores our gender indentity. I'll agree that there are real differences between the sexes, obviously. And even I can concede that some stereotypes about men and women can ring true. But if we become fixated on those ideas we risk becoming blind to the individual. We risk sending them the message that they should snuff out there light, buff off their unique edges so they can fit into our mold. There is arrogance in insisting our definition of their gender trumps their own self-determination.
Variations and contrast, the things that surprise us. Hot pink against gray, a flower growing through a crack, or a male nipple behind a leopard dress...that's where you find beauty, that's where you provoke thought. That's where the magic is.
Enforcing prescribed gender roles? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt with cap sleeves.
If I choose to be a mother, credit that to me, not my sex. If I am a good mother who is nurturing and loving, credit that to me, not my gender. If I am intuitive, creative, and thoughtful, credit that to me, not my biological parts. If I am catty and passive aggressive, that's me, not all my female friends. Conversely, if I am none of those things, if I don't want children at all, if you find my attitudes and beliefs to be uncharacteristic and unattractive for a female.....I am no less a woman. No less a capable human being who can contribute wonderful things. I am uniquely me, and I want the freedom and opportunity to be me. To realize my potential, even when it may contradict your expectation of my gender. That's equality.
Whether it's a boy who just wants to put on a dress and lip sync to Celine Dion, or a woman who wants to be part of the clergy in her church, it's not "sameness" they're after. It's freedom to be different.
My advice to traditional Mormons who think these feminist protestors are off-base? Be glad these women still want to fight for their faith. Be glad they still want to stay engaged with your church, rather than just walking away. (Because this here heathen would tell them to do just that.)
"When women start to speak, it'd be nice if you'd realize just how silent they've been instead of complaining how loud they are." -@ferrethimself
Last modified: 2019-02-19 08:48:50
Name: Greg Bramwell (249 weeks, 1 day ago) gregbramwell.com
I love your writing Hillary, and your feminism :)
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