Blackface versus Drag: why one is acceptable and celebrated?

GrimReefer

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Sure it's only a bit of harmless fun!

Clearly I'm only pretending!

It's gas to dress up!


I personally have no problem with people dressing to represent races and cultures which they are not, I do abhor that white people coloured themselves to perform instead of black people because black people were prohibited from performing before or near white people, all that (unfortunate term) jazz. That and a bunch of other stuff that happened to black people in America for centuries.

For me the issue is decoupling. Is it ever possible? Will there ever be a possibility in which a white person can pretend to be a black person because it's fun to dress up? In much the same way that it was fun for Shawn and Marlon Wayans in their White Chicks movie? That was whiteface AND drag.

Drag is decoupled from the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about women presumably because the majority of drag performers are presumed not to be heterosexual men and really we are allowing them a form of identity expression to which we feel they are deserving and entitled. Maybe it's seen as a channel for youth to identify with a non-binary gender expression. The thing is, I get tied in knots when I try to "explain" it, surely it's just fun and funny and we leave it as it is, whatever you're into?

Farewell Lyons tea minstrels, I was always a Barry's tea fan anyway (didn't they have a black guy as well, with full regalia back in the day?). Farewell Golly bar, I had no idea what I was biting into back in the day.

Perhaps the issue is about privilege difference. Endemic, systemic privilege difference. As long as it exists for one group (which presumably will be forever everywhere) and the underprivileged can be clearly identified, portrayal of them by the comparatively privileged other group will be seen as crass, condescending and rubbing salt in wounds.
 


benroe

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Jan 29, 2011
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14,700
Sure it's only a bit of harmless fun!

Clearly I'm only pretending!

It's gas to dress up!


I personally have no problem with people dressing to represent races and cultures which they are not, I do abhor that white people coloured themselves to perform instead of black people because black people were prohibited from performing before or near white people, all that (unfortunate term) jazz. That and a bunch of other stuff that happened to black people in America for centuries.

For me the issue is decoupling. Is it ever possible? Will there ever be a possibility in which a white person can pretend to be a black person because it's fun to dress up? In much the same way that it was fun for Shawn and Marlon Wayans in their White Chicks movie? That was whiteface AND drag.

Drag is decoupled from the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about women presumably because the majority of drag performers are presumed not to be heterosexual men and really we are allowing them a form of identity expression to which we feel they are deserving and entitled. Maybe it's seen as a channel for youth to identify with a non-binary gender expression. The thing is, I get tied in knots when I try to "explain" it, surely it's just fun and funny and we leave it as it is, whatever you're into?

Farewell Lyons tea minstrels, I was always a Barry's tea fan anyway (didn't they have a black guy as well, with full regalia back in the day?). Farewell Golly bar, I had no idea what I was biting into back in the day.

Perhaps the issue is about privilege difference. Endemic, systemic privilege difference. As long as it exists for one group (which presumably will be forever everywhere) and the underprivileged can be clearly identified, portrayal of them by the comparatively privileged other group will be seen as crass, condescending and rubbing salt in wounds.
Well obviously you are speaking from a position of privilege, being a straight cis gender person presumably you have never been made fun of for being a man/woman, straight or white.
It therefore behooves us to not demean peoples racial or sex orientated traits by mimicking them, unless of course you happen to not be white, straight or cis gendered, then you can mock who you like, this is equity.
 

recedite

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The privilege thing does not apply, there are laws that see to that.
I think its just that nobody wants to be the butt of somebody else's joke. So Kerryman jokes are funny, except when you are a Kerryman.
So why isn't cross dressing seen as offensive? The answer is that men will never be offended on behalf of all men, because they don't identify as having much in common with all men. The same with women. But when you narrow down the criteria a bit more, people start to identify more personally with it.
Kerrymen will identify with other Kerrymen.
Blacks (outside of Africa) will identify with other blacks. Within Africa, not so much -there is no point when almost everybody is black. Over there they identify more with their own tribe or nation.
 

GrimReefer

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The privilege thing does not apply, there are laws that see to that.
I think its just that nobody wants to be the butt of somebody else's joke. So Kerryman jokes are funny, except when you are a Kerryman.
So why isn't cross dressing seen as offensive? The answer is that men will never be offended on behalf of all men, because they don't identify as having much in common with all men. The same with women. But when you narrow down the criteria a bit more, people start to identify more personally with it.
Kerrymen will identify with other Kerrymen.
Blacks (outside of Africa) will identify with other blacks. Within Africa, not so much -there is no point when almost everybody is black. Over there they identify more with their own tribe or nation.
That's a pretty convincing analysis
 

Mercurial

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Sure it's only a bit of harmless fun!

Clearly I'm only pretending!

It's gas to dress up!


I personally have no problem with people dressing to represent races and cultures which they are not, I do abhor that white people coloured themselves to perform instead of black people because black people were prohibited from performing before or near white people, all that (unfortunate term) jazz. That and a bunch of other stuff that happened to black people in America for centuries.

For me the issue is decoupling. Is it ever possible? Will there ever be a possibility in which a white person can pretend to be a black person because it's fun to dress up? In much the same way that it was fun for Shawn and Marlon Wayans in their White Chicks movie? That was whiteface AND drag.

Drag is decoupled from the perpetuation of negative stereotypes about women presumably because the majority of drag performers are presumed not to be heterosexual men and really we are allowing them a form of identity expression to which we feel they are deserving and entitled. Maybe it's seen as a channel for youth to identify with a non-binary gender expression. The thing is, I get tied in knots when I try to "explain" it, surely it's just fun and funny and we leave it as it is, whatever you're into?

Farewell Lyons tea minstrels, I was always a Barry's tea fan anyway (didn't they have a black guy as well, with full regalia back in the day?). Farewell Golly bar, I had no idea what I was biting into back in the day.

Perhaps the issue is about privilege difference. Endemic, systemic privilege difference. As long as it exists for one group (which presumably will be forever everywhere) and the underprivileged can be clearly identified, portrayal of them by the comparatively privileged other group will be seen as crass, condescending and rubbing salt in wounds.
As usual, Stock is harnessing the arrogance that comes from being a professional philosopher and opining about something of which she is almost entirely ignorant, and about which much has already been written. She can also leave out the misogynistic sneering at women who dress in ways she disapproves of:

"Far from drag queens making it more acceptable for men to exhibit femininity, in the UK at least it seems rather to have become more acceptable for young women to look like drag queens. I am not sure if that is much of an advance."

The answer to the question is straightforward (but that doesn't generate clicks): drag is not performed as a mockery of women or femininity but as a celebration of it*, while the same is not true of blackface.



*As with any form of art, there are of course ways to do drag that are misogynistic, but that does not make the form as a whole inherently misogynistic.
 

McTell

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Boo-hoo, some joyless marxist never got to dress up for the "wran, the king of all birds" when he was a kid.

So nobody else can dress up for the rest of all time. Point of it is to look different, to step out of yourself for a few hours. And feel what it's like to be different.

When I hear the wordy excuses rolled out like "cultural appropriation", I think how pathetic. If me going to a fancy dress as the king of siam is cultural appropriation, then a south american guy wearing a business suit is cultural appropriation. Or any asians or africans - guys, suits are my european culture.

Only, I choose not to take offence, because i'm busy and life is too short and too much fun. And i'm not a marxist control freak.

See how ridiculous it is?
 

fat finger

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No.
If the joke is funny enough, even a Kerryman will laugh.
We must continue to prize humour as a national value, there's even a thread on this forum for jokes that you shouldn't laugh at but still do.
Yes we should have laws to stop people gratuitously offending each other, but if the joker can make the butt see the funny side, then judge should throw out the case.

The privilege thing does not apply, there are laws that see to that.
I think its just that nobody wants to be the butt of somebody else's joke. So Kerryman jokes are funny, except when you are a Kerryman.
So why isn't cross dressing seen as offensive? The answer is that men will never be offended on behalf of all men, because they don't identify as having much in common with all men. The same with women. But when you narrow down the criteria a bit more, people start to identify more personally with it.
Kerrymen will identify with other Kerrymen.
Blacks (outside of Africa) will identify with other blacks. Within Africa, not so much -there is no point when almost everybody is black. Over there they identify more with their own tribe or nation.
 

irishmaninsalem

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If Black face is wrong, surely White face is also wrong.
Eddie Murphy doing white face and looking like Ned Flanders.
 

GrimReefer

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The answer to the question is straightforward (but that doesn't generate clicks): drag is not performed as a mockery of women or femininity but as a celebration of it*, while the same is not true of blackface.
So I guess you would describe portrayal of black people by white people (and really that's only done by blacking one's face) as something irredeemably a form of mockery?

I find it a pity that one might not be able to say "I'm Barack Obama!" in a fancy dress party and not somehow be celebrating blackness. After all, he is the first black president. Worthy of celebration. To portray Boris Johnson, you will absolutely need the shock of blonde hair, or you ain't Boris. So wig it up, if you're a ginger. Colour is part of our visual recognition of people. In fact, the more different the disguise, the more fun. People get to be someone briefly whom they absolutely are not. Maybe like straight men doing drag for a larf.

Perhaps blackface is best noted as not the same as costume portrayal of black people, as the colouring and style of "blackface" is fairly specific, and usually taken from the black and white minstrel look. That should be somehow distinguishable from me being the genie in the lamp wearing a towel as a turban and covering my face with polish, so I can be someone I clearly am not.
 

Mercurial

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So I guess you would describe portrayal of black people by white people (and really that's only done by blacking one's face) as something irredeemably a form of mockery?
Not necessarily mockery - it could express other negative attitudes as instead such as contempt, or simple carelessness.
 

recedite

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No.
If the joke is funny enough, even a Kerryman will laugh.
We must continue to prize humour as a national value, there's even a thread on this forum for jokes that you shouldn't laugh at but still do.
Yes we should have laws to stop people gratuitously offending each other, but if the joker can make the butt see the funny side, then judge should throw out the case.
Some Kerrymen will laugh. By the same token, I'm sure some black people will be amused by some blackface acts.
But we usually only get to hear the voices of the loudest ones, the ones employed by the media to do all the complaining.
 

livingstone

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Whenever this issue gets discussed, it inevitably exposes huge ignorance about drag and what it is, how the drag we know now originated. It is inevitably commentary by folk whose experience of drag is usually the straight-friendly comedy drag of the likes of Edna Everage or Lily Savage, which is not to say that drag is bad per se but it is a very limited slice of it. Even now that everyone thinks they are an expert in drag thanks to RuPauls Drag Race, even that show, while much broader than most drag mainstream populations will ever have experienced is still only a very narrow slice of drag culture, and with only fleeting references to its origins in the ballroom scene of the many US cities. The real gamut of drag ranges from pageant drag to comedy drag to fashion drag, it encompasses bio queens and trans queens and drag kings. It's focus can be to entertain or to challenge. Its skills can range from comedy and characterisation, to fashion and looks, to make-up artistry. So whenever someone talks about drag as if its one thing and that thing is just a bloke in a dress joking about his secret penis, ignore them.

I don't agree that drag is about celebrating women or feminity as such, I think it is as much about playing with gender norms, so can be a celebration of both masculinity and feminity, or a critique or both, or a critique of one and a celebration of the other. Some drag does celebrate strong women - Lily Savage was famously inspired by his hard as nails working class aunts, for example, and that is typical especially of the mainstream UK drag scene. And of course the point is that unlike race, no one has a monopoly on femininity or masculinity. Most of us have some combination of 'feminine' or 'masculine' traits - much of drag is about reclaiming those traits from societal mores that say that feminine traits belong to women and masculine traits belong to men.
 

recedite

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And of course the point is that unlike race, no one has a monopoly on femininity or masculinity. Most of us have some combination of 'feminine' or 'masculine' traits..
The same applies to race. Or do you claim to be a purebred something or other?
 


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