Thursday, 21 June 2012

Racism on the gay scene:Gollywog in the Drag Ball

Very creative

Two friends of mine headed out to Horse Meat Disco for one of their infamous drag balls. I actually considered going, drag balls sound like a lot of fun! Only it wasn't FUN they experienced but disbelief in noticing a white man in drag... As a golliwog. The costume "good golly miss molly" attracted the attention it sought to create. But not the negative attention you would expect. It was met with laughter because it's funny, right? I mean look, he can't be racist can he? As you can see from the above photograph-some of his best friends are black. In fact when he was challenged on his choice of attire his monotone response was "that's nice" he didn't give a shit. Good for him, because of course-all us black women have alien eyes and lips so big we feel the need to decorate them with haberdashery related items. Oh... and beards.

This costume is offensive beyond belief and speaks a lot for the institutional racism prevalent in LGBTQI society. The fact this photo was printed in QX Magazine speaks volumes and the only thing I can deduce from this is the fact they must of found it funny too. Bad QX Magazine, that was not okay because guess what? There are a number of black queer folk you have offended. How is this any different to historical characters such as; Jim Crow, Sambo and all the other stereotypical portrayals of black people denounced en masse as deeply offensive decades ago? With the recent controversy about the Swedish cake eating incident is this a sign of things to come? To all the people who don't see a problem with it, let me give you a little history lesson.

The term Jim Crow is most commonly known as a collection of etiquette laws (Jim Crow Laws) with the sole purpose of  cementing the status of white supremacy over blacks in America. The term was derived from a character created by struggling actor Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy" Rice. Rice is said to be one of the first men to black up and perform theatrical skits based on negative stereotypes of black people. Some say he based his character on a slave who walked with difficulty others say it was based on a raggedy black stable boy. In this he finally found the success he craved performing sell out shows all over America, London and Dublin. Aside from "Jim Crow" were counterparts Jim Dandy and Zip Coon. White audiences greatly received the highly stereotypical depictions of blacks as inferior, singing, wide grinning, dancing fools. These caricatures would spawn the minstrel shows which were very popular in the 19th century. These shows added fuel to the fire of discrimination as blacks were not only used for economic gain but for entertainment too. On an interesting side note when I went to see Young Soul Rebels at a gay film fest. In the film, following a particularly harrowing scene the same black people that were previously crying/despairing were shown to be grinning and dancing in a way that didn't make sense since they had been traumatised only the minute before-this portrayal still exists, though it's a more subtle affair. Anyway I digress... To dress up as a golliwog is not okay especially since the racial slur "wog" came directly from the name of that offensive doll.

Jim Crow

Dear man who thought that costume was okay. Your costume does nothing but give credence to the idea that black women are ugly and subhuman. Black women are not tools to mock and belittle. You let yourself down. I'm only to assume that you're uneducated, lack respect, racist or all the above. You let yourself down even if you're too stupid to realise it. You deeply offended my friends, one is black the other was white. Although, you already know this since they were the ONLY people in the ball who took offence. Horse Meat Disco do not come off very well either. When one of my friends posted on the Horse Meat Disco wall the comment was removed. Why is that? What exactly are you censoring? Is it to preserve the idea that racism is okay and any oppositional view must be covered up? Is your club a safe haven for racism? Thanks for making people angry because had you opened up a dialogue with the offended parties it could've been contained. Now it will not be. Ignorance is neither bliss nor a defence..

Sirena Reynolds

P.S There's a link to the article on QX Magazine below. I don't want to give them traffic but it must be seen to be believed


  1. Miss, I believe you are being TOO SENSITIVE!!

    You think "TOO SENSITIVE?!?!? This is racism!!"

    This is a guy having a good time with his friends. Worrying about stuff like this and taking the time to write an article is why racism is a problem in America. Dave Chappelle/Waynes Bros/David Allen Grier can all wear white faces and you don't see the white community up in arms about it.

    Think how stupid it would look if you had a white boy in the snack isle at the grocery store, he over hears a black family discussing what graham crackers to buy and he gets upset because someone said "cracker" and wrote a blog demanding that they change the name because of the possible racial ramifactions. Stupid right?

    Please pick your fights and try and battle the racism that plagues the black community before you try and tackle the microscopic amount of whites that are openly racist.

    Remember, it is 1000 times safer for a black/mexican/asian to be at a KKK rally than it is for them to be at a gas station in a primarily black neigborhood.

    Focus on that problem and you will actually be doing the world some good

  2. So let me get this straight - people pointing out racism is the cause of racism?? Maybe you don't see it the rest of the time, as your perception that is just the way things are is so entrenched, it appears neutral, but there are people who actually live it see it everyday, so much so most don't have time to take on every battle, but sometimes something is so wrong that something needs to be said.

    Both your examples of the 'reverse situation' are BS, and classic case of false equivalence, because racism is not just about nasty names and hurt feelings but systemic power. So if a black person makes fun of a white person or uses slurs, it might not be very nice but that's where it ends. Racism on the other hand taps into a reinforces real inequalities and power differentials. So the costume above, yes that might just be one idiot, but it taps into a wider set of assumptions that have been used to dehumanise black women for centuries. It is reinforcing real power and supremacy, not just being not very nice. Also, your graham cracker argument doesn't compare anyway, as that is talking about a word used in a different context that has other connotations, where as this is clearly and explicitly meant to mock black women.

    Who the hell are you to say what is a legitimate battle for POC to fight? As I said, this is just one extreme example of a much, much wider and deeper problem. Racism is alive and well, and sometimes perpetuated by people who are not 'openly racist' as you say (although there are many of those too), but people who have internalised damaging assumptions about POC. Your snide comment about black neighbourhoods being a case in point.

    1. So you have a veil of intangable illusions of what racism is but you cannot answer why it is safer for a black man at a KKK rally then it is for him to grab a gallon of milk in a neigborhood of his peers.

      Do whites have much of the power through out the world? Yes. In the last 200 years has any white country risen to power by stealling it from an ethnic country or race?

      Has the white man in America not done more to repent for our for fathers sins that any other culture in America?

      When is enough, enough?

      When will people stop acting oppressed and forge their own path to greatness?

      Racism to me is being made to feel guilty for crimes I did not commit.

      Blacks and Hispanics want to not all be viewed as criminals even tho prisons are filled with both. Well I don't want to be labeled a racist if I point out the problem of crime in the ghetto or if I call someone out from another race about being rude.

      The social equalities need to happen before we as PEOPLE can forge equalities in goverment and laws.

    2. The reason alot of hispanics/blacks are in jail has alot to do with institutionalised racism. Peter explained this well but you failed to understand. Maybe it's you who should pick your battles so you don't end up coming across like a moron.

  3. I can see that the costume and the response by QX are offensive, Sirena, but I do think that your reaction to the image, and your attempt to historicize it, oversimplify what we are looking at.

    In the first instance, we do not have enough information about the image to be sure about the kind of racism we are looking at. It it racist to put on the costume? be photographed in it? be photographed next to a black man, who happens to be wearing a different kind of drag? The man in the costume appears to have fair skin underneath the stocking face, but is he 'white'? what if had a Jewish mother, or were Hispanic etc? We just don't know yet what we are really looking at. You mention Makode Linde in your post as if his art work were a part of a racist trend - wasn't part of the controversy here related to the fact that once opponents of the artwork were alerted to the artist's mixed race background the very tenor of the racism he was using became much more complicated and muddled with the more earnest and relatively uncomplicated stance against female genital mutilation. Linde produced that piece in order to explore dehumunizing and 'defaming' images, via a character from Astrid Lindgren books, and then to involve a politician who had a reputation for not supporting women orientated policies in Sweden. Linde was attempting to do quite a lot of different things in that piece - I do not think that it is fair to see it as being simply 'racist'.

    I am not elevating the QX image to the level of performance art, but drag is a performance and it always has been. Drag is also not 'nice' and it never has been. I am not justifying it, but 'female' impersonation is a satirical form that parodies femininity and if you do not accept it as that you are basically shooting fish in a barrel. Also wearing a costume like that at Horse Meat is very different from wearing it at an English Defence League demonstration or in the heart of Cornwall. The costume is conceptual drag in the tradition of Leigh Bowery - it is being racist, but it is also highlighting,via the haberdashery in a very literal sense, the way racist stereotypes are constructed - made and made up. It is a preposterous costume - it also very creative. I do not think that in this case you can draw such a direct line between this drag outfit and 'Jim Crow' images. The tone and context are different.

    What concerns me about your outrage is that there is an assumption that people who have dissident desires and sexualities are subliminally united in their apparent disadvantages and so are obliged to be inclusive and understanding, kind and caring. I wish that were true, but when has it ever been?

    1. I wish I physically had the time to go into more detail but this was an opinion piece-not an essay. I have taken some of what you wrote on board and agree. I understand the context is different-how can it not be? It's a different era and time always changes things. However I see it as the social evolution of bigoted thought and therefore still intrinsically linked. I would say that I find this more surprising in a nightclub then some racist rally where it would be expected and not really worth my time. On a final note I find what concerns you most rather perplexing. Although I know a shared experience of bigotry won't unite, that will not stop me holding people up to the standard of treating those as you'd like to be treated. I don't see how that's concerning at all and I am a confirmed pessimist. It won't change the world but it will keep mine hopeful.

  4. As a black woman who attended the Horse Meat Disco Jubilee Ball I saw this character in the crowd and found it a brilliant drag ‘costume’ to the point where I had my photo taken with him. As much as I appreciate your p.o.v on this ‘costume’ I think you really need get a sense of humor and understand that in no way was this supposed to ‘offend’ any race or person of colour (I also spoke with him about this and it certainly was not what I would consider a racist statement). If I had decided to go dressed as a white woman would I also be seen as racist? I find it more interesting that you saw this over the top muppet cartoon like character as a black woman (!?) when I look in the mirror I certainly don’t look like that! Did you also find all the other gay men dressed in drag as women misogynistic and woman haters? I know I didn’t, but then maybe I know the difference between something coming from a place of hatred and something as ‘dressing up’ for fun. Maybe before we point an angry finger at one gay man at a Drag Ball, maybe we should consider the bigger picture and look at societies portrayal of black women in music videos, advertising, etc, a far bigger and more warranted cry for reform!

    1. Your whole response is idiotic. You assume I have no sense of humour because I find a white man dragged up as a gollywog offensive? You think you have a GSOH because you find this funny? How do you go somewhere dressed as a white woman? I guess you could white up your face though if you did that people would think you were a clown. As for your view on whether I find it offensive for a man to be a transvestite re-read the article. I have no problem with drag. I do, however, have a problem with racism. As for you knowing the difference between something coming from a place of hatred and a place of fun. I highly doubt that. It is society's portrayal of black women that allows the guy in the photo to think he can get away with this. He can indeed whilst having black women like you defend him. You saying it's an "over the top muppet character" does not correlate with the evidence. The outfit was called "Good Golly Miss Molly." Am I missing something? All you need to do is read a couple of the comments above to realise racism is alive and well on the scene.

      You want to defend this? Good luck with that...

  5. One day Miss you will grow up and realize that your anger towards something that doesn't matter is exactly that, it's really doesn't matter. Good luck in your journey.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. BTW: your comments regarding tattoos (in May) are rather comical given your response to this drag performer, try switching your views from 'ink' to 'drag' and re read your so called 'words of wisdom'...

    "I'm a very openminded, non judgmental, clever, creative and emotionally intelligent human being. I value not only my diversity but everyone elses. Judging people just because they have tattoo's (or because anything else) is wrong and you do not have a right to judge just because we chose to look this way. Please think before you speak because you might be hurting someone's feelings. We must have a basic respect for people no matter what. Projecting ignorance on others is not attractive."

    Hear Hear!

  8. I am not angry. I do not have to be angry to be offended or to think something is wrong. I understand you want to project that onto me as it makes it easier for you to dismiss my views if you see me as highly emotional. Oldest trick in the book. Saying I need to grow up is patronising and says more about you then it does me. I put forth some questions that you ignored and decided thinly veiled insults would be the best response from an amazingly intelligent woman such as yourself? Okay.

    When I grow up I aspire to be just like you :)

  9. If this doesn't matter why comment in the first place? I'm clearly not going to agree it doesn't matter just because you say so. Maybe you should re-learn your own "wisdom."

  10. P.S. Tattoo's and racist costumes are not comparable. You cannot cut and paste a paragraph I wrote about something specific and it be applicable to every topic. That would be ridiculous.