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Where are the Drag Kings?

The reasons they are overshadowed by queens

By Buck HardcastlePublished about a year ago 3 min read
Top Story - May 2023
34

There's a lot of talk about drag queens, both celebration on shows like RuPaul's Drag Race and hysteria over drag queen story hours. It made me wonder, why you don't hear about drag kings? Women are out there dressing as men, but they don't seem to have anywhere close to the same cultural standing. (One thing I learned in doing research for this article is that who can be a drag king is a lot broader than just people assigned female at birth, but that is getting a bit beyond my scope here.) So here are some theories.

Women already wear men's clothing

By Microsoft Edge on Unsplash

If you're walking down the street and you see a man wearing a dress, that will probably catch your eye. However, if you see a woman wearing "men's clothing" you probably wouldn't think twice about it. It's easy to list examples of women's clothes: dresses, skirts, high heels, blouses, bikinis. It's harder to think of clothing that is exclusively male, modern women wear pants, shirts and even suits. Additionally things like makeup and jewelry are generally seen as feminine.

Why is it that skirts are feminine and pants are masculine anyway? If you were starting from a blank slate, you would assign skirts to the gender with external genitalia--they need the space more. In ancient Rome everyone wore clothing that was dress-like. However, you need pants if you want to ride horses. Being able to ride a horse is a civilizational game changer; a horse gives you speed, power and literally puts you above your enemies. Pants, which were empowering, became masculine. Skirts, which were limiting, became feminine. Just one of those funny coincidences.

But pants are generally seen as gender neural now. For a drag queen, there a lot of options to shock by subverting expectations. A woman wearing pants? Not that shocking. In this drag kings are actually kind of a victim of their own success. Afterall, who do you think first broke taboos about women wearing pants?

Drag queens stroke fears that drag kings don't

By Bret Kavanaugh on Unsplash

A stated fear of conservatives is that men are dressing up like women in order to gain access to women's bathrooms. This is pure horse hockey as there is no evidence this is happening. Because after all, why would anyone do that? Let's say you're a man who sneaks in to a woman's bathroom--now what? Are you going to stick your head under a stall door to see a woman peeing? I think people would catch on to that pretty quickly no matter how good your crossdressing game is. This is just not what sexual harassment or abuse looks like.

I think there is a real fear though that conservatives have a hard time vocalizing: the feminization of men. They panic that men can be turned into women. For most this is a fear of loss of power if patriarchy breaks down. For a few though, feminization is scary because it is what they secretly want.

Drag kings don't evoke same fears. A woman cannot be castrated. And conservatives are still too threatened by feminism broadly to be concerned with drag kings in particular.

Sexism

By Liza Pooor on Unsplash

It's a bit counter intuitive to think of sexism in this context. Its the reason cited by the drag kings in the Vox video above, and there is a logic to it. Even when RuPaul is wearing women's clothing, he still has a degree of male privilege. If the kings gain any privilege when crossdressing, it is not enough to give their art the same cultural cachet that the queens get.

What even is a drag king?

Above is an Instagram post from Landon Cider DragKing. It's fair to say that this is not a traditional display of masculinity. Landon's website self describes as a "Shape-Shifting Super Monster." Its not for me to say what does or doesn't count as crossdressing. I think it's clear though that being a drag king is more complicated than "woman wears men's clothing."

Culture
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About the Creator

Buck Hardcastle

Viscount of Hyrkania and private cartographer to the house of Beifong.

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Comments (14)

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  • Rick Henry Christopher 4 months ago

    Very interesting article. Thank you, Buck.

  • Gladys W. Muturi11 months ago

    interesting!!

  • Nathan Chen12 months ago

    Thats a great perspective as I have never thought of it. I wasn't even aware of the concept of drag kings until lately but you're correct. I would love to see more drag kings on tv and everything in general.

  • Ashley McGeeabout a year ago

    Thank you for writing this. It's true that drag kings don't spark the same kind of controversy. The patriarchy fears that by normalizing drag, trans rights, and same-sex marriage that people not assigned male at birth, drag queens, and gay men will treat them the way they have been treating women for millenia. However, all of this is not to say that drag kings are somehow more socially acceptable. You didn't see many women in suits at the Met Gala this year. I think you are right that the broader fight against women in general still very much has to do with controlling reproductive rights, but I don't think the masc female is at all welcome to the conservative platform and that society does draw a line between being masc and dressing in a gender neutral fashion, and there are certainly still moments in which presenting as too masc causes problems, especially where bathrooms are concerned. Shave your head one time and see just how accepting society is. Even better, do that and bind your breasts and put a face of makeup on. The patriarchy's issue is not that women wear men's jeans or oversized sweaters. The patriarchy needs to be able to identify women as women at a distance as form of entitlement to our bodies. Take that away, and they will crawl out of the wood work with some very unflattering names. My major concern is the lack of actual encouragement for women in male drag in the actual drag scene. Even in such a femme scene, women are still largely under represented. I think in the drag scene, presenting as masc just isn't welcome.

  • Leslie Writesabout a year ago

    This is really cool! Good for them. Great article 🙂

  • Heather Lunsfordabout a year ago

    Fascinating. You chose a topic I had never considered before. I love reading things that make me think. Thank you

  • Motunrayo Sabaabout a year ago

    👍🏻

  • Komalabout a year ago

    An incredible piece!

  • Gal Muxabout a year ago

    Wow! I have never really thought about this topic. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I'd also think it's because there's is a lot that women do to enhance their appearances that drag queens can copy plus there is a wide range of fashion choices for women too. + Women styles are very different across the board. Men styling and fashion is not too broad which narrows down what a drag King can do with their appearance without going overboard. Congrats on TP!

  • Linda Njokuabout a year ago

    Very very interesting topic

  • Awesome Article ❤️💯I like the insights...

  • Ash Digestabout a year ago

    This is an interesting topic, I didn't even know that drag kings existed until seeing this post.

  • Buck Hardcastle (Author)about a year ago

    Literally 3 minutes after I published this I found an image of Gillian Anderson in drag.

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