Well, it sometimes doesn’t take much for male drag performers to secure audience approval. I’ve seen male queens with merely a bit of eyeliner, any sort of wig, and one item of “feminine” clothing win the whoops of club crowds for a few simple dance moves. Now, I’m also a professional drag performer, so don’t want this to come across as an attack on UK cis-male drag queens (of which many are sensational and sensitively celebrate femininity). However, I’m often disappointed by how a lazy gesture towards femininity from male queens– a bra, some lipstick –without a reflection or interrogation into the constructs of femininity, suffices for an audience to celebrate this performer as “transgressive.”
Let’s think about Victoria’s “milking it” performance within this context. In enacting an everyday activity on stage in high drag, Victoria opens up a question: if a man can get celebrated for their “femininity” through a tokenistic gesture, then why is femininity performed by women not given the spotlight. When I speak to Victoria, she tells me: ‘being a woman, I perform feminine labour everyday, the emotional labour and violence that comes with how people treat what they see as feminine presenting people in an everyday context and how it is policed on our bodies. I do this shit EVERY DAY, and often when cisgender men perform femininity on a stage – sometimes actually in a quite misogynistic and lazy way – they are much more readily celebrated.’
In transforming her already “female” body into an exaggerated image of femininity on her own terms, Victoria’s performances demand we watch her do nothing. For she is highlighting that the daily performance and labour of being a woman in our society needs recognition too.