Which of these entertainers makes his living by performing a caricature of an oppressed class? Why is one considered deeply offensive and the other considered acceptably amusing?
Okay. Going to disagree here. You cannot compare blackface to men dressing in drag. Blackface was used to completely dehumanize black people. I say this as someone who is both black AND female.
I respectfully disagree. At the time of Al Jolson’s heyday, he was considered harmless, amusing and funny by the dominant culture — a kind of clown — just as the exaggerated, sexist caricatures of “drag” and “trans women” are considered harmless, amusing, funny and even “glamourous” or “pretty” today. There is no substantive difference between the two. They are both a case of a dominant class (whites, men) performing a caricature of an oppressed class (blacks, women) in order to make light of the oppressed class and “entertain” the public at the expense of the oppressed class. (Of course, some also do it to sexually stimulate themselves, but that’s a different blog.)
You don’t see drag shows emulating Marie Curie, Mamie Eisenhower, Rosa Parks or Indira Gandhi, do you? They’re not emulating Margaret Thatcher or Clara Schumann. They’re not putting on woman-face to honor Mary McLeod Bethune, Ida B. Wells or Shirley Chisholm.
No, they’re performing a sexist caricature of the most extremely frivolous and superficial aspects of “femininity” and “womanhood”: big hair, low cut dresses, big boobs, slathered-on make-up, sparkles, heels, perfume and narcissistic vamping — usually with faux-feminine mannerisms and faux-feminine breathy, high-pitched voices.
Hmm, interesting discussion. I have no opinion on the matter since I only recently became aware of disagreements between natural born women and trans-women (did I word that correctly?).
But I’d like to know the thoughts of others. What say you, followers and random browsers?