Drag and Diva Femininity

Dressing Up: The Production and Performance of Identity Through Drag

Reviewed by Chris Meyer
March 15, 2015

Using extensive field research and nuanced analysis of the secondary literature, Rebecca Ewert has authored an impressive theoretical examination of drag performance and its role in gender identity construction. Ewert bases her analysis on the work of Judith Butler and other prominent figures in gender studies and sociology, using the concept of gender performativity as a theoretical linchpin for the rest of her argument.

Indeed, Ewert accepts that drag queens, through their exaggerated and sexualized performances, decouple gender from ascribed sex. In doing so, they demonstrate that gender is not something innate, but rather a set of practices and values members of a given sex are expected to perform. However, Ewert goes further than parroting Butler, arguing that drag performances produce a “framework of power and identity” called diva femininity. Although drag queens sever the connection between gender and sex, they do so by appealing to stereotypical norms of masculinity and, in the case of racial minorities, whiteness.

As a result, drag performances can enforce the same norms they are critiquing. This is a sophisticated conclusion for which Ewert deserves significant recognition. The only notable weakness of the paper is its tendency to drift into vague, occasionally ill-defined jargon, which can make it difficult for a non-specialist to follow the twists and turns of Ewert’s claims.

See the full paper here!

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