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Experiments in Aesthetics and Politics

Drag King Workshop: Queer Anarcha-Feminist Practice

Published on: May 17, 2021
By: Allison Smith

On March 18th, 2021, Chiara Bottici gave a public lecture on anarcha-feminism for the West Hollywood Aesthetics and Politics (WHAP!) series, with co-guest speaker Boris Ondreička. The Spring 2021 Lecture Series, “The Game of the Real: Art and the Knowledge Project,” is presented by the California Institute of the Arts’ School of Critical Studies and the West Hollywood Public Library. The lecture was be held virtually and the recording can be viewed here. Chiara Bottici is a philosopher and writer, known for her philosophy of political imagination and for her feminist writing. She is Director of Gender Studies and Associate Professor of Philosophy at The New School and she is the author, among others, of Imaginal Politics: Images Beyond Imagination and The Imaginary (Columbia University Press, 2014), A Philosophy of Political Myth (Cambridge University Press, 2007), and Anarchafeminism (Bloomsbury, 2021).

In the following, I respond to Bottici’s WHAP! lecture and turn to two of Bottici’s essays: “Bodies in Plural: Towards an Anarcha-Feminist Manifesto,” and “Anarchafeminism: Towards an Ontology of the Transindividual.” I consider anarcha-feminisms in queer drag king performance as an alternative to hegemonic heteronormative, colonialist, and capitalist practices in contemporary popular drag. I aim to build away from a discourse on drag queens— cis-individuals who dress and perform in a camped hyper-form of femininity—to focus on trans-individualism, kings, and the wider experiences of lesbian, trans, non-binary, and gender-non-conforming performers in queer drag communities. In reference to Paul B Preciado, I use the format of a drag king workshop to deconstruct “the woman”—-to turn to an anarcha-feminist materialism and mutilation of the body.

Paul B. Preciado writes on his first experiences attending and hosting drag king workshops alongside sadomasochist workshops for lesbians on subjects such as fist fucking in Testo Junkie: Sex, Drugs, and Biopolitics in the Phamacopornographic Era. This already points to the important intertwined histories of drag performance in expressions of non-heteronormative sexuality and pleasure. To be clear, this workshop is not only for queer people who identify as a woman or assigned-female-at-birth (AFAB). Everybody should/can participate. It is not a question as to if “‘can heterosexuals be queer?,’ it is, ‘what’s queer about heterosexual practices or heterosexual modes of identification?’” (Jack Halberstam, 1998). Drag kinging is a historically queer practice about gender expression not limited to someone’s gender identity, sex, or sexuality (while it is important to acknowledge and learn the important role of drag in genderqueer, trans, and homosexual communities in order to avoid appropriative practices).

Worksheet #1 Introductions to Womanhood & Capital

Worksheet #2 Facial Hair & Hyper-Masculinity

Worksheet #3 Soft Packers & Shifting Weight

Worksheet #4 Picking a Drag Name

How do we move beyond a RuPaulian canonization of drag? What are the consequences of subcultures moving into mainstream media? (The consequences of a homo-normative drag that allows for an easily consumable/producible form of queer culture for a hetero-capital consumption—a bio-queenism that represents LGBTQIA+ drag communities in popular culture and media e.g. Madonna or Lady Gaga?) If kings were invited to be on RPDR, what would the consequences be? Bottici references Peggy Kornegger’s notes on anarchism and feminism, stating that: “feminism does not mean female corporate power or a woman president: it means no corporate power and no president.” (Peggy Kornegger, “Anarchism: The Feminist Connection,” 25). Rather than asking how can a king win a popular culture drag competition, the employment of queer and anarcha-feminist practices shifts the question to: How can drag kinging be translated to a tool of social force?

We must use these positions [as queer anarchists] to instigate breaks, not just from the assimilationist mainstream, but from capitalism itself. These positions can become tools of a social force ready to create a complete rupture with this world. (Mary Nardini Gang, “Towards the Queerest Insurrection”)

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