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Subcultures started to emerge post-second war Britain, with the emergence of the “Teddy Boys” and “Teddy girls’; this was the start of youths creating their own new cultural freedom (Subcultures list, n.d.). According to Gelder (2005), subcultures are a collective of people straying from the mainstream in a non-normative way, by having specific interests, tastes, views and attitudes in their lives; Hebdige (1979) states that subcultures are “subordinate groups” within society. Williams (1965) also explains that people who are part of subcultures lead a shared lifestyle, for example they don’t just share specific values – it’s a whole way of life. In more detail Haenfler (2014) tells us the common ground shared between most subcultures; they all share specific vocabulary anything from slang or codes; share music and fashion interests (this is the easiest way to identify someone as part of a subculture); shared history and values that aren’t shared with the rest of society; they also offer a social support system with each other, offering a safe space community where someone feels cared for and valued. Within the mainstream society, subcultures link very closely to other social groupings, from social movements – animal rights and feminists to countercultures – hippies and queer cultures (Haenfler, 2014).
The modern-day youth subcultural society doesn’t appear as black and white as it used to be, Petridis (2014) says that there are only two dominant subcultures recognisable to foreigners out of the culture; that being “metalheads” and “emos” (Petridis, 2014). However, Barret (2017) argues that within the gay male community there appears to be subcultures within it rather than it being one individual subculture; few main ones are, Drag Queens, Radical Faeries, Bears, Circuit Boys and Leathermen. These subcultures mentioned (apart from drag queens) are known as sexual subcultures that Western homosexuals have developed (Rubin, 2002). These social or sexual subcultures have acted as a reclassification for the stigmatism that was stuck to the homosexual community (due to the aids epidemic) by shifting homosexuality from being a medical issue to a social embracement (Rubin, 2002). As well as this, gay subcultures may have their own sub-subcultures, for example drag queen subculture contains numerous of diverse sub-subcultures. Them being: glam queens, trash queens, clown queens and street queens (Barret, 2017).
To develop an understanding of drag culture through 1960 – 2017
The 1960’s was the decade in which drag culture had managed to establish a concrete infrastructure as an art form (Boyer, 2016). Racca (2017) explains that in the early 60’s a man had to be wearing at least three items of male clothing for him not to be arrested for being in drag. It wasn’t until the Stonewall Riots in 1969 when drag queens started to fight for their rights (Boyer, 2016). Barrett (2017) says that the Stonewall Riots was a symbolic period for gay culture and that it marks historical territory for the gay rights movement
During this time drag’s culture was formed through Drag Balls; these events were when women, however dominantly men, cross-dressed and took part in theatrical performance and fashion shows (Haggerty, 2000). The ball culture was made up of limited number of categories; most queens impersonated Las Vegas showgirls (Buckner, n.d.). Along with the Drag Ball events in the 60s, the community obtained unique values and social structures. Many of the queens involved weren’t able to freely express their gender identities or sexual orientations with their biological families, a lot of them had been kicked out on to the streets because of their sexuality (Paris Is Burning, 2009). This is where the drag community formed their own families or “houses” (Herzog, Rollins, 2012). A lot of queer youths had to join balls at a young age so that they had access to a safe space and sometimes live within the houses. The drag houses were ran by “mothers” either butch queens (gay men) or femme queens (transgender women) or “fathers” who are mainly butch queens or butches (transgender men); the parent of the house acted as a guardian for their “children” (Bailey, 2011), they are still going today. In Paris Is Burning Pepper LaBeija describes the houses as “a group of human beings in a mutual bond” (Paris Is Burning, 2009)
Drag and ball-culture didn’t thrive completely until the 1980s and 90s (Hash tag drag, 2013). Paris is Burning is a documentary that, explores, studies and depicts every aspect of drag from the 60s – 90s. Within it Pepper LaBejia, Doran Corey, Angie Xtravaganza and Willi Ninja are four Legendary Queens and “house mothers” who feature within the documentary. Doran Corey explains that the reason that drag progressed was due to the Drag Balls. As drag culture reached the 80s, the categories had become so fluid that there was a category that everyone would fit into; a few of the categories were: high fashion eveningwear, town and country, fem-realness, and many more. Willi Ninja also shares that the dance “Voguing” came from ball-culture; it came from queens throwing shade in the form of dance, and whoever had the better moves was throwing the best shade. The name of the dance came from the magazine Vogue, as some of the moves were poses from it (Paris Is Burning, 2009). In 1989 Susanne Bartsch held an event called the Love Ball, which was the first big Aids fundraiser (Maciejowska, 2017).
As the Drag Ball period was flourishing, along came RuPaul. RuPaul Charles” career started in 1982 when he sent a picture of himself to The American Music Show – a TV programme in which he hoped to appear on air; it didn’t take much time until he was on the series frequently with his band RuPaul and the U-Hauls (Biography, 2017). In 1989 RuPaul earned the title and crown “The Queen Of Manhattan” following this he achieved global fame with his first hit song, Supermodel (You Better Work); as well as reaching number 7 in the UK charts with his duet with Sir Elton John (RuPaul, n.d.). In 2009, RuPaul elevated drag by premiering “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to society through television, following that came 11 seasons, three spinoff shows and RuPaul’s DragCon (Fernandez, 2017). The show has even become the most efficacious LGBTQ reality TV program ever (Nichols, 2017). He’s also stated himself on “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” season two, “I marketed subversive drag, to a 100 million mother fuckers of the world” (RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 2, 2016).
To assess how men are represented within drag culture
Drag culture tends to be dominated by gay men dressing in women’s clothing, otherwise known as Drag Queens – the term “drag” has been around the performance art industry for centuries; it wasn’t until the gay population embraced this culture, that the term “queen” (which is an anti-slang word to describe a effeminate man) was added (Conger, n.d.). However, this hasn’t always been the case, straight men also take part in drag, and they label themselves as “female impersonators” or a “female illusionists ’(r, 2015
Within drag culture, gay men are represented highly amongst the community. However, there isn’t one clear representation, as drag queens absorb characteristics from both LGBTQ+ and heterosexual communities in order to create their persona on stage (Greaf, 2015). Their performances to most audiences, tends to represent queries of their own views on their personal gender identity (Rupp, Taylor, & Shapiro, 2010). Also, male Drag Queens are heavily represented through the show “RuPauls Drag Race’.
Straight men within drag culture have existed longer than gay men. During the1600s and time prior to this, teenage boys were cast to play female characters (Anagnoson, 2011). Still to this date, this is the case with Kabuki theatre in Japan; Kabuki theatre are all male actors, in which female personification is classed as an art form (Haggerty, 2000). With Kabuki theatre being 400 years old, men still hold a dominant representation in this area (Martin, 2010).
To generate a better understanding of women within drag culture
Women performers have found it difficult to be accepted into Drag Culture; Scriver (2016) explains that one women was told to get “the fuck out of the club” after having a drink poured on her head just because she was a women in drag . There have even been offensive names generated from a minority of the community such as “Faux-queen” (Newell, 2017). “Bio-queens” within the scene have even been accused as seeing drag as a “novelty” instead of appreciating its historical heritages importance as a social tool for the better of the LGBTQ+ community.
Controversially, amongst the community, some queens are embracing the fact that women want to take part in this art form. Gander (2016) explains that Mrs Kasha Davis (a contestant from RuPaul’s Drag race) invited her to piece together a drag persona and perform on stage at a show in which she hosted. Lady Gaga represents women within drag culture; on season nine, episode one of “RuPauls Drag Race’, she opens up about what drag means, “Drag for me has been an opportunity to leave myself when I didn’t wanna be me, I felt completely out of place in high school” (RuPauls Drag Race season 9, 2017). RuPaul also commented about Lady gaga “She felt right at home” around the “Drag Race” queens (Rudolph, 2017).
Within this culture there are also Drag kings; these performers are “exaggerated male characters” portraying hyper-masculinity (Honan, 2017). McMahon argues that females” involvement within drag is classed as “Rhetorical Drag” even though it is still gender impersonation it allegedly started when women’s narratives were very captive (McMahon, 2008).
The public’s interpretation of drag culture
The way in which drag culture is now perceived compared to how it used to be perceived in the 60s – 90s, has progressed. During this period of drag culture the whole gay community didn’t accept it – even though both sides were fighting for the same equal rights amongst the heteronormative society. Gelder (2017) tells us in an interview with Andrew Lumsden what it was like for him in that time period as a gay man; a gay-friendly pub within Notting Hill, London, had put forward a policy where people in drag would not be served, which he almost certainly knew was put into place at the request of the police. He even explains that it was common to be targeted and bullied by the police and by the rest of society for talking about who you’ve met or liked, if it related to homosexuality you’d be targeted – he even stated that the police were worse (Gelder, 2017). The 70s showed gender norms that appeared in films boundaries being opened up – “The Rocky Horror Picture Show’, even if this was shown through an antagonist role (The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 2006). In the 80s, the public were also showcased drag through popular films, with drag being the protagonist. Tootsie and Mrs Doubtfire started a lust for drag that was only ever going to flourish in the public eye; even though these versions of drag weren’t showcasing a sense of identity or breaking down gender, the fact they were both profoundly heterosexulised and comedic drag – it brought drag into a more positive light to the public eye (Stone, 2016). .
In the modern day world drag is now something that is globally known about and appreciated. It’s still a platform that performers can freely express themselves through the art form, challenge gender norms and political views. Now with the likes of RuPaul and his drag race winning two Primetime Emmy awards in 2016 and 2017 for Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition program; an OFTA Televison Award, Gold Derby TV Award and the Critics” Choice Award for again Best Reality Show Host (IMDb, 2018), it’s hard to say that he’s not brought a positive representation of drag into society. The show also helps brings Drag Queen contestants on the show, further into the mainstream, so they too, can also help bring drag further into the public eye. The four finalists of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 9 are all reverberating each other’s statements in a “Vice” article that drag is heading the right way in terms of becoming more accepted and embraced by the mainstream and the impacts that’s having on a straighter and younger audience (as well as the LGBTQ+ audience) is going to have a positive impact for the future of drag culture (Sasson, 2017). Even terms such as “throwing shade” and “yaas” have come from drag culture into the mainstream (Sasson, 2017).
Gender identity representations within drag culture
Whether you’re a Drag Queen or King, drag culture tackles gender identity to be quite fluid, meaning there are no boundaries of what it means to be male or female, masculine and feminine (Blodgett, n.d.). For example Drag Queens or bio-queens portray hyper-femininity, which is when performing within a feminine gender character persona (Matschiner, Murnen, 1999); and Drag Kings or “bio-kings” render a hyper-masculinity adherence when performing masculinity consistently of the “real man” (Bengtsson, 2015).
Within drag culture comes many different gender identity representations with it being part of the LGBTQ+ community. Different gender identifications include, Homosexual, Heterosexual, Bi-gender, Transgender (Male or female), Gender-Queer, Butch, Cisgender, Genderfluid, Agender, Femme, Intergender, and Nonbinary (Kelly, 2016). Though, drag culture tends to blur gender binary (Blodgett, n.d.) Within drag, there only appears to be issues relating to drag queens and transgender women, however this isn’t the dominant representation between the two. On Big Brother Season 14, there were two contestants; India Willoughby who is a Transgender woman and Shane Janek who is a Drag Queen called Courtney Act who appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 6. In the house on episode 6, India states that “Yano how some people are scared of clowns? Drag queens do that for me – just being honest” (Big Brother Season 14, 2018). Later on in the episode Courtney (Shane) says to India, “Today there’s a lot of trans-people who wanna break away from the LGBT”, she then goes on to talk about how, since India has had her sex change from a man to a women, that she is now benefitting from the community. However, India’s response is that she has nothing to do with LGBTQ+ at all (Big Brother season 14, 2018).You could…yes as these are views that are out there…
Secondary research was conducted through literature reviews in order to broaden knowledge and understanding of key issues relating to the objectives. The primary research was to investigate how men and women are represented in Drag Culture, as well as how they are perceived by the general public that are outside of the community itself. In addition, a better understanding was necessary to see what different gender representations within drag culture are and if this has an effect on how they perceive drag. For this study the two methods of research have taken place in order gain a deeper knowledge, one being the online focus group and one being the questionnaire.
The focus group was set up on social media allowing people to openly get involved if they wish; this method collected data in a group interactive way from a specific topic (Watson M, Peacock S, Jones D, 2006); thus topic being female drag queens. However, this could have caused ethical issues by using this particular method, a result of heated exchanges between participants and the potential of the topic changing meant the results could have been unreliable (Boydell, Fergie, McDaid, Hilton, 2014). To avoid these ethical issues emerging, the focus group was frequently monitored to ensure the group stays on topic, also as it was on Facebook, any comments that were malicious, or starting to get heated were removed and user potentially blocked. Controversially, the good weighs out the bad as reaching out to the audience in this way hopefully gathered a wide range of responses and also allowed peoples” passion for drag culture come through. There are also the identities of people who take part that cause ethical issues, however no names will be used and will be blurred out, if not erased, when it comes to analysing the results.
The questionnaire was anonymous, meaning the researcher was not able to identify the respondents (Vaus, 2002). This did mean that participants were able to answer the questions dishonestly, as the person who is analysing the data collected wouldn’t have any idea that someone has been untruthful, meaning the results could be unreliable. The questionnaire was sent out to various social media outlets, which may skew the results, as the average user age it initially reached would be dominantly 18 – 24; however, if the initial audience shared it, it had potential to reach all age ranges. As the survey was online, it ensured that the questionnaire could be filled out easily and quickly. Callegaro, Manfreda and Vehovar (2015) state that the average mail questionnaire is around a 50 a day turnover, whereas the online roughly has a 3-day turnover. In addition to the questionnaire being online people could complete it in their own time and personal space, hopefully this should have resulted in honest responses.
The report tackled a mixed method approach from both a focus group and questionnaire; Creswell and Clark (2017) argue that by not combining the two of both quantitative and qualitative research, can affect the results – this is because qualitative is needed in order to understanding the context and hearing voices directly from responses, whereas quantitative blocks any personal views and opinions from affecting the results. Meaning that the strengths of one method is the others weakness (Creswell, Clark, 2017). For the quantitative research, it was gathered from both of my primary research areas and used due to it being easy to compare, analyse and spot trends. For the qualitative data collected a thematic analysis method was used to extract dominant themes of the research.
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