Mary Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president, openly compared drag to blackface in a Facebook post on Thursday. The openly gay Cheney expressed her opinion via a message on Facebook that was said to be visible only to her followers and those within her personal network. In the post, which was found by CNN, she questions why it is not socially acceptable for a white person to paint their face black and act out stereotypes, but it is not considered offensive for a gay man to dress in drag and act out stereotypes associated most commonly with women.
The fact is, the former vice president’s daughter wants to know why a white person is not able to put on blackface and go on stage to perform when it is considered perfectly reasonable for a man to put on high heels, a dress and makeup while then acting out offensive, perceived ideas of women’s behavior. Amongst the behaviors that Cheney believes men who perform in drag shows often showcase are the ideas of women being dumb, slutty and catty.
In Cheney’s comparison of blackface to drag, she asks why it is that society treats these two behaviors or activities so differently. She also wonders why both behaviors are not treated as being the exact same, when in fact they are – therefore, either both are acceptable or both are not. In Cheney’s opinion, blackface and drag are identical acts defined by people putting on costumes and acting out behavioral conventions often associated with a group of individuals being portrayed.
Although she is questioning these two actions, she was also quick to emphasize that she was not comparing white people who use blackface to transgender individuals. Instead, she wants people to understand that her questions pertain only to men who entertain others in drag. She says the question was raised in her mind after she saw an advertisement on television for the next season of the program, RuPaul’s Drag Race.
After Cheney posted her opinion on Facebook, she was asked via a message if she wanted a chance to clarify her statement. Her only response back was the word, “seriously?” This is not the first time that Cheney has shared her opinions via Facebook. The last time was in November 2013, when she responded to her sister’s opposition of same-sex marriage. At the time, she went on Facebook to address her sister and let her know that she was not only wrong in her opinion but that she would also be on the incorrect side of history in the matter.
While Cheney may have been using the comparison of drag and blackface in an effort to spark a conversation, the question has spread beyond a simple debate. There are some people who are questioning whether she is condemning drag or approving the use of blackface. Although the post was meant to start a conversation without a real opinion being expressed, some of the responses seem less than impressed with the topic or the comparison that seemed to be made.
By Kimberley Spinney
Photo By David Shankbone – Flickr License