Drag Queen Children's Story Hours in Public Libraries
by John Spritzler
July 23, 2019, updatedJuly 29, 2022
[The URL of this article is https://www.pdrboston.org/drag-queens-at-childrens-story-hour ]
Lots of good and decent people--such as the authors of this excellent Feminist Current article titled "Why do children need 'Drag Queen Story Hour'?"--think it is wrong to have drag queens reading books to children as is happening in the increasingly prevalent library children's Story Hours. But except for people in the far right, everybody who opposes Drag Queen Children's Story Hours is afraid to express their opposition now because they fear they will be accused of being a bigot.
The result is that the only organizations demonstrating against these Drag Queen Children's Story Hours are far right, often white nationalist and even neo-Nazi organizations. This is further polarizing the general public, something that the ruling class is working hard to foment, in order to keep us have-nots so divided against each other that we will not be a serious threat to the ruling billionaire plutocracy.
Across the country (U.S.) public libraries are inviting drag queens to lead a children's story hour. This is the latest divisive "social issue." Frequently, there are protests and demonstrations against these events, but also demonstrations in support of them. Based on some news reports, it seems the issue is dividing the population close to down the middle.
Liberals support the drag queen story hour because they think it is bigotry not to, that it is bigotry against people who just happen to be different, the way people of a minority race are different from people of the majority race, or the way people who weigh a lot are different from people who don't, etc. They think it is oppressive of drag queens to prohibit them from leading a children's story hour. And they think it is important that their children learn to tolerate and respect people who are different, and see that they can be nice people too. This all comes under the umbrella of "supporting diversity."
I think this liberal way of thinking about drag queen children's story hours is wrong. Here's why.
First of all, drag queens are not like people of a certain race or people who weigh a lot. Drag queens are not a group of people who just happened to be born a certain way. Drag queens are men who perform a certain way for an audience. Let's think about what kind of performance they perform.
Drag queens dress in deliberately exaggerated feminine attire, typically outrageously exaggerated. If you walked into a library where there is a drag queen who hasn't begun his story hour yet and just happens to be milling about with other people, would you have a hard time spotting who was the drag queen and who were just regular women? No! Of course not. The drag queen would stand out immediately. The drag queen's attire is not only exaggeratedly "feminine," but essentially a parody of female attire.
Furthermore, the typical drag queen performance entails a parody (if only by absurd exaggeration but often more than this) of female mannerisms. This is what the drag queen performance is all about.
If a man simply dresses like a woman in a manner that makes him actually appear to be a regular woman, and acts the way a typical woman actually acts, then he is not doing a drag queen performance.
What's Wrong with the 'Drag Queen' Performance?
The drag queen performance is a form of mockery of women. When white people put "black face" on, it's not to appear like and behave like a normal black person; no it's to do the opposite, to mock black people. When non-Native Americans put on a Native-style feather headdress and behave in some manner like an absurd stereotype of an American Indian, they're mocking American Indians. When middle class or upper class people dress like and act like Archie Bunker (you know, as beer drinking stupid racists), they're mocking white working class people.
I wonder how liberals would feel if their local library invited a non-Native person, who performed a mocking exaggerated parody of American Indians, to give the children's story hour.
How would liberals feel if some white people wearing "black face" who performed a mocking exaggerated parody of black behavior were invited to give the children's story hour?
How would liberals feel (especially if they lived in a white working class town) if some middle class or upper class people who dressed up like Archie Bunker and performed a mocking exaggerated parody of white working class people were invited to give the children's story hour?
Would the liberals think it was bigotry not to support these performers giving the children's story hour too? I doubt it. (Although, if NPR and the liberal mass media and the establishment Democratic Party liberals told them it would be bigotry then some, unfortunately, would believe them I suppose.) Would liberals (regular people, not establishment liberals) think these performers are providing a good role model to our children? I doubt it. Would liberals think it was important for their children to see that such performers can be nice people? I doubt this would be high on their list of concerns.
Liberals should re-think their opinion that it is bigotry to oppose drag queens giving the library's children's story hour.
We should not let the ruling class (and yes, the ruling class is always behind these divisive social issues, telling liberals what is bigotry) foment divide-and-rule with this latest drag queen story hour issue.
"But Hey, the Kids Enjoy the Show and Like Pretending"--So What?
Some people say, "Hey, when a drag queen leads the story hour the kids enjoy it and like pretending, and so it's fine to have drag queen story hours."
I say to this argument, "So what?" Al Jolson's black face performances (and many similar ones) were enjoyed by lots of people. Did that make it fine to mock black people that way?
Drag queens mocking women may do it in a very fun and entertaining way, and they may say it's all just in fun, and they may be very nice people, but so what?
Postscript: I found this article interesting:
Lisa Wade, PhD on July 28, 2015
One of the commenters in this article writes:
Danny — July 29, 2015
"If all you see in drag is men mocking women you are missing literally the entire point of drag. The point of drag is to mock the gender binary not women."
To which I (John Spritzler) might reply that good and decent people who don't want their children to be "entertained" by a performer who is mocking the gender binary are not properly characterized as bigots or bad people. I wouldn't want MY children entertained by the mockery of the gender binary.
Here are two other comments to the article:
Antonia Martinelli — December 13, 2015
"When I see a drag queen, I feel mocked. I'm a woman and my feelings can't be mansplained away by men even, gay ones. If drag queens want to continue to mock women that's their business, but they should know that's how many women feel when they see it. I have bore 3 babies, turning my body inside out, never to regain a form considered appealing by society, had foot surgery to remove neuromas from years of wearing heels to a job where it was expected ( the pain still persists) taken precautions never to look strange men in the eyes lest I draw attention as a target for violence, been used as masterbation tool on crowded trains. I know I'm privileged in other ways, but don't make a mockery of the aspects of feminity that put me physical danger."
Shelly Leit — December 17, 2015
"Men dressing up like what they think women look like is offensive to women, yes. It's making fun of what they think women are and it's rude and disrespectful. I hate drag queens as much as black people hate people who do "blackface"."
Postscript: Please read this article titled, "How drag degrades women: Sexism in a dress is still sexism" at https://thecritic.co.uk/how-drag-degrades-women/?fbclid=IwAR2Xug2RTqki9eSGW35MvRPX_vq8XQkjTykwmfo4GLNrT-ETynPH7mW8czw .