Wednesday, April 25, 2012

THE SUBVERSIVE DRAG QUEEN


The word 'drag' implies a conscious volitional act, the act of bringing into being, the act of creating, constructing and redefining. Drag is a movement across space and time, from one position to another, from one realm to another and from one one contingent mode of being to another. The irony is in the word 'being' which is not a teleological prediscursive space but a construction created by a hegemonic discourse to naturalize and validate gender dichotomy. That this polarization is the base from which possibilities of ruptures proliferate is undeniable and these fissures reveal a lacunae within gender construction itself.

Drag queen is the donning of an identity which is an act of political subversion. What you become and what you are becomes conflated, diffused and disorganized. You choose to become something you are societally not or you choose to become something you feel you are throws into peril the very notion of a unified, eternalized, immutable gender signifier. Yes, the drag queen operates within binary structures but by redistribution and reconstruction of its premises questions its ubiquity as suspect, a kind of cultural naturalization that masquerades as a natural fact of life.

More than the drag identity, taken on, defining itself against maleness and femaleness gender itself propagates its identity by not just defining itself but by marginalizing and ostracizing the other. Identity is exclusionary and is defined by what it is not because there are no preexistent telos that would give its definition of itself a quality of universality. The drag queen is forging an identity that dissolves the very notion of identity by making its notion polymorphous, fluid, permeable and protean. The drag queen is a lateral phenomenon coexisting with other sexual possibilities along a continuum of widespread gender configurations creating a dialectical space for questioning hegemonic premises.

Many would argue that the drag queen, butch femme are really appropriating already existing forms of gender positionings. But these are being reconfigured, being revealed not as universal realities but political, social, ideological creations designed to ratify a certain kind of sexuality from which iconoclastic, dissident forms are excluded.Neither fully masculine nor wholly feminine but creating a femininity demonstrates the essential fact that gender itself is an enactment of attributes assumed to be masculine and feminine. As beauvoir said 'one is not born a woman, but rather becomes one. Judith Butler points to the performative nature of gender and how by a repetition of acts it is consolidated. Gender , like the drag queen and the transvestite, to me reaffirms identity, however cultural its origins may be, as a form of personal coming into being. we are products of culture and are shaped and molded by it. It is equally difficult to imagine a state of things where this wasn't so, though it has been endlessly theorized. If the molding by culture is a palpable truth then equally valid is the  creation of a self within these interstices. Identity becomes all the more incandescent when it is wrested from power than conceptualized in an abstract realm. And the drag queen, is an iridescent, affirmative and transgressive ideogram of that.

3 comments:

  1. exceptionally well written Bharat! I have to read it once again.

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  2. Very well written piece, it is very much the issue of my dissertation. I also question the context of drag shows in cabaret and bars, discussing Bakhtin's theory of the Carnivalesque. I'd interested in your opinion on this.

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