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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Anna M. Bohach: It is time to take off the dress

By Anna M. Bohach 500 Mom Strong

I am the leader of 500 Mom Strong and yes, I did dare to compare drag queens to a blackfaced minstrel (“Drag is not blackface,” Shawn Vestal, June 12). I did so because it is true. In America, drag got its start in the minstrel shows of the early to mid-19th century. Blackface and drag were tools used to embarrass, shame and control black Americans and women.

For 150 years, from the start of the first minstrel shows, women have been portrayed by men in drag in demeaning, ridiculous and over-the-top performances. Bugs Bunny, Robin Williams, Tom Hanks and Dustin Hoffman have all performed in drag, providing entertainment in over-the-top, stereotypical and disgusting parodies.

Women to this day are murdered, raped, beaten, shamed and humiliated because of their sex. Women were denied the right to vote or hold property in this country until August 18th, 1919. From the dawn of time women have had little to no human rights. Even today, young girls are sexually mutilated and sold into slavery. Women are by far the largest group to be victims of domestic and sexual violence. I would hardly call that a “hangnail.”

All one has to do is watch an hour of the “Ru Paul Drag Race” show to see the stereotypical misogynistic depictions of women. We get to watch men wear tight seductive clothing, big bouffant wigs, fake eyelashes, and over-the-top makeup, all while calling each other “fishy.” “Fishy” is a term used by men in drag to describe a convincing drag queen, meaning they look so much like a woman their genitalia smells of fish.

Drag queens do not freak me out, they offend me to my core. Condescending remarks do not diminish the concerns of real women. Our concerns as mothers, daughters and sisters are valid and supported by history. Drag is a vestige of a bygone era where “the powerful punched down the powerless” in a time where women were treated as property.

When I first heard that the Drag Queen Story Hour was going to be at my local library my heart sank and I felt an outrage I have never felt before. My taxes were being used to display a demeaning and dehumanizing parody of women. You say “If I don’t like it, don’t go.” That statement is simple enough, but what does it say to my two daughters? If I see a group of teenage boys harassing a young girl, would you say to me, “If you don’t like it, walk away”? I will not ignore a sexist minstrel show that depicts women as foolish sex objects. I will show my daughters that their mother is willing to take a stand against a dark and twisted pageant of absurdity. I will teach my two daughters to never let anyone take away their power. I will teach them that no one can make them feel inferior without their consent.

Women have every right to be offended and outraged when a man dons womanface. How dare we compare it to blackface? We have no right to do so, you say? I think there are those out there who are scared. I think they are scared of free-thinking women who have called out the socialist patriarchy and called drag by its rightful names: misogyny, womanface and bigotry.

Let me say something about drag: a man can put on a dress, pearls and lipstick to gyrate and act like a fool to demean women. But at the end of the day he gets to take off the dress and be a man again. Women don’t get to just take off the dress. At the end of the day we come home and we feed our families, get our kids ready for bed, do the laundry and rock our babies to sleep. A woman never gets to just take off the dress; our day is never done.

Men have no right to silence women. The arrogance of male privilege does not scare us. I have an army of moms who will be standing with me at the South Hill Library on the 15th of June. We will be silent no more.

Anna Michelle Bohach lives in Spokane Valley.