The Construction of Femininity Within Drag Communities: Analyzing the Perceptions, Constructions and Influence of Femininity Through Racial Identities and Social Hierarchy
The purpose of this study will be to investigate the construction of femininity through the gendered performances of drag queens from various gay/drag bars in San Antonio, Texas. By studying this process, we will be able to gain a better understanding of how racial and hierarchical influences impact the construction of gender, i.e. the construction of Femininity. This study will utilize several theoretical perspectives including theories of Social Constructionism by Berger and Luckmann, the theory of Intersectionality by Kimberlé Crenshaw, and the theory of Gender Performativity by Judith Butler. Ideally, drag queens from all levels of experience, various racial backgrounds, multiple sexualities and gender identities, will be selected to provide a wide range of variability through in-depth interviews and participant observation (public performance spaces and private dressing rooms).
Data were collected following the guidelines of constructivist grounded theory proposed by Charmaz (2014). Participants were recruited for in-depth interviews over a period of 3 months using both flyers and social media direct messaging. All participants consisted of drag queen performers who have exclusively worked/ performed within the San Antonio drag community. A second method was also used, participant observation, which allowed the ability to witness interactions of gendered performance, racial construction, and social hierarchy in a total of 6 observation sessions. Observation occurred both front stage and back stage with interactions occurring with a total of 21 drag queens. Field notes were collected during their performances, reflecting their individual performances and their interactions with audience members.
The findings suggested that gender performativity plays a vital role in the construction of feminine drag throughout systems of physical transformation, transgender historical influence, behavioral modification, surgical/hormonal enhancements and sexual performativity. Race construction is illustrated through participants’ personal experiences with racism in the community, the use of makeup to alter racial identities, and the production of racial stereotypes adhered to by drag performers. Social Hierarchy is validated through the stratification of drag performers through systems of power, popularity, and prestige. Analyses of hierarchy also displayed systems of corruption and dominance structured into the community.