Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

CON: Dragfest distracts from CAH’s message

Every year, we at Whitman celebrate the various incarnations of sexual diversity. We celebrate it for one week, and afterwards the community that brought us the informative lectures and the Saturnalia of music and dance in Reid disappears back into the obscurity from which it came. One wonders if Dragfest: and by extension, Drag Week: is effective, or if it has become another excuse to drink, be merry and, above all, be shocking.

The lack of gravity seen during Drag Week is indicative of this phenomenon. How many people can say they saw the speakers brought by CAH? How many Whitties went to the Drag Week Writer’s Colony? The events surrounding Dragfest: those that engage our intellect: are ignored. Dragfest, the one event all week that engaged our common licentiousness, garnered the highest turnout by far. The attendees of Dragfest were not engaged in critical or even thoughtful discussion about the lack of alternative sexual culture at Whitman. It’s possible that the thought of that absence crossed only a handful of minds during the course of the night. If the attendees were considering the issues CAH was hoping they would consider, they kept their thoughts to themselves, defeating the purpose of Dragfest altogether.

Some weeks ago, this periodical ran a series of articles about some of the issues surrounding GLBTQ culture at Whitman, and the facts contained in those articles pointed to the lack of “queer” culture at Whitman. Empirically speaking, Dragfest has not perceptibly increased the Whitman community’s exposure to the GLBTQ community.

Coalition Against Homophobia has sought to normalize the GLBTQ community and to combat what its advocates call “heteronormativity,” but Dragfest, unlike the rest of Drag Week, does not performatively uphold Coalition’s values. Dragfest has all of the color of the community from which it draws its name, but it fails to combat CAH’s anxiety over the overbearing “straight” culture of Whitman College. Instead, it reinforces it: for one night, dressing in drag isn’t just acceptable: it’s sexy. Instead of straight people coming to terms with their queer environment and learning to have fun, they have appropriated the atmosphere for themselves, eroding the character of their environment into something more akin to Beer Mile than a gay bar.

Perhaps it is this effect which causes the small, closely-knit GLBTQ community at Whitman to return underground in the morning. Dragfest has become the blunted spearhead of CAH, and the people it represents know Drag Week has only won them theoretical public acceptance.

Dragfest, despite its appeal to our sentiments (as opposed to our rationality), has been unable to generate critical significance, and while it has become one of the marked events of Whitman’s social landscape, it seems incapable of getting a real message across. Ineffectively communicated, Dragfest’s didactic purpose slips by the wayside, reducing the event to another excuse to party. While that isn’t necessarily harmful to anybody, it does render Dragfest virtually ineffective.

Thus the Coalition Against Homophobia finds itself in a double bind: should it drop the tradition of Dragfest, the event’s proponents would object, and for good reason: it annually draws attention to the goals and ideals of CAH, and people have a good time. But by continuing to champion an event that doesn’t help it achieve its goals, Coalition Against Homophobia will continue to play host to parasitic tradition.

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