On Misogyny, on drag, or how it became ok to say “drag them off by their saggy tits.”

Jane Sprocket
Aug 28, 2018 · 3 min read

I wonder often about misogyny. About violence and acceptance, about how blind we are to gendered norms. I wonder why the bearded lady in The Greatest Showman has hair free armpits. I wonder why people think liking pink is for girls. I wonder why it should matter. I wonder how it came to be that we have internalised these norms so much that we accept them. I wonder why the things we as women, as feminists, have rejected, are used by biological males as proof that they are in some way female. I wonder how much misogyny we see around us and how much we are desensitised to it. I wonder how it became ok for a man to threaten actual violence against actual women whilst preaching inclusivity and how normalised misogyny must be for him to say this on stage, fearing no backlash.

As a radical feminist I don’t believe in innate gender. It’s a cultural construct. Women do have body hair, they don’t all like pink and they very often do not like kittens or high heels. Or caring roles. But care we must, accept we must. Or too challenging to the notion of women we are.

This weekend just finished was Manchester Pride. A longstanding event championing same sex love, freedom and acceptance of difference. Or at least it should be.

Every year one parade group is awarded the “Spirit of Pride” award, and Manchester Lesbians Stand by Your Trans won for this year’s parade.

With announcing this, the compere started talking about inclusion and love (sounds great right?), as well as slagging off the women who protested at London Pride. These women were a group called ‘Get the L out’, lesbians who have had enough of trans right activists calling same sex attraction transphobic and who are defending their right to same sex love. Same sex love at Pride shouldn’t really be that controversial, but this man stated that women defending their right and pride in same sex attraction should be “dragged off” the parade “by their saggy tits”.

Just let that sink in for a moment. The vile misogyny. The body shaming. The advocating of sexual violence by men against lesbians. For defending their right to love other women. At Pride.

I saw very few women on the stage but many drag acts (this was Sackville Gardens, Manchester, on Sunday evening if anyone is interested or would like to add to my account. It wasn’t as the award was handed over but when it was announced). This was unsurprising as it was the stage associated with Sparkle, a drag and trans organisation, and OnBar, a drag night. I noticed no trans men (trans-identified biological females) on stage.

This only fuels the argument that drag is misogynistic. That it is sexist cannot be seen as controversial; it is ‘womanface’, a play on a crude stereotype of woman, a sexist trope. What is up for debate is whether this is harmful sexism or ‘fun’ and non-damaging. This rise from ‘fun’ to advocating violence against lesbians and their “saggy tits” does no good to the argument that drag is harmless. Drag queens never have saggy tits. They are not a depiction of anything real, but a “parody of a parody” as Judith Butler put it.

Beloved of the neoliberal third wave and trans rights activists, as a radical feminist I have always liked Judith Butler’s idea of gender as performance. Gender is not something innate, but something we inscribe into our bodies and personalities with millions of movements from childhood onwards, performed so many times they begin to feel natural, as if that is who we are. Gender is a parody of an ideal and drag a parody of that parody. A drag queen could not have saggy tits, or hairy legs or go without make up. What would be the point? Drag does not recognise feminist lesbians as the type of woman worthy of imitation. I am not worthy of imitation. But I am a woman.

This is why we need our own spaces. Because the men who think we should share would drag us out if them “by our saggy tits” to foster inclusivity. Nice.

EDITED TO ADD: part of the reason I wrote this was because people found it so difficult to believe that a person would say this, never mind in public, never mind on stage at Pride. However it has caused a stir and Tony Cooper himself has taken to twitter to talk about how he stands by this statement. In fact it’s an “accomplishment”. https://twitter.com/TonyDCooper/status/1034842336176611329?s=19

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