Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Drag Race Without Kings

I love RuPaul and RuPaul’s Drag Race. The show is an interesting look into the world of gender impersonation and some of the issues associated with drag that most people don’t think about, such as tucking and making your own outfits. RuPaul’s Drag Race shows the contestants while they are putting on their personas, the in between stages if you will, which is often hidden from the public view. The show also features a spectrum of different racial and ethnic identities. While still on typically LGBTQ television channels such as Logo and VH1, RuPaul’s Drag Race provides an inside look into the idea of “doing” gender.

Well, one gender anyway.

RuPaul’s Drag Race just finished its second season in April. So far there has not been a single reference to drag kings. For those of you who may not be aware, a drag king is a woman who impersonates a man (typically as a performance). The contestants on the show are drag queens, men who impersonate women (also usually as a performance). Drag kings and queens have their own distinct issues. While some overlap, there are certain aspects of being a drag king that a show featuring all queens can’t hope to address.

The show started open casting for the third season in March. Even the casting page and application don’t allow much room for drag kings to apply. The description specifically calls for “Drag queens get ready to work, sew, glue gun, plot, style, smash and grab to win the title and prove once and for all you are the next fierce high heel wearing competitor.” And as much as I hate that forms often require you to choose either male or female, there’s not even the option to choose female on the application (which also asks for dress size, but not suit size).

RuPaul’s Drag Race isn’t the only reality tv show that hasn’t approached the gender gap in the first few seasons. Tool Academy (also on VH1) featured only male competitors nominated by their girlfriends for two seasons. Season Three had two female competitors (out of 10), one of which was with a female partner. The Bachelor ran for two seasons in 2002 before its counterpart The Bachelorette debuted in 2003.

While I still plan on watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, I can say that I am disappointed that there hasn’t been an effort to reach out to drag kings. I have performed as a drag king myself, and it was one of the best experiences of my life. Not only is it a vital aspect of drag culture overall, it could also really benefit the show and bring more viewers to it. I’m hopeful and believe that this disparity will be taken care of, but when is another question entirely. I will be watching for entertainment in the future, but I will also be watching for change.

Photo Credit to Jason Krueger, grandcamel on

(A little about me - I’m a new Feminist Majority Foundation summer intern, working on the Web Team and the National Clinic Access Project. I’m very interested in abortion access, LGBTQ issues, gender in society, and really any feminist issue. While I have my own blog, I’m still relatively new to it all so suggestions are appreciated!)

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