While reading the economic news is like taking a trip in the wayback machine (house prices from six years ago! stock prices from the 90s! a contraction like the early 80s!), it’s nice to see areas of society where there is real progress.
Specifically, in homecoming queens. Apparently gender doesn’t matter the way it once did.
George Mason University, in Northern Virginia, just elected its first drag queen as homecoming queen. This is definite progress. Why? Well, for most women, just the phrase “homecoming queen” – part popularity contest, part beauty pageant – has a retro-sexist feel to it. It calls up images of cashmere sweaters over pointy-coned bras, pleated kilts with bobby socks, football weekends where girls work on their M.R.S. degrees. So it’s nice that the students have elected someone whose flaunting of breasts is a stereotype breaker.
The best part of the election of a gay man to represent the school as its homecoming queen is that it seems to have been done almost matter-of-factly on campus. This is a hopeful sign about the decline of homophobia and the possibilities for legal gay marriages. Some day, it just won’t be an issue and opposition to gay rights will be clearly ridiculous, although of course many activists would prefer to speed up that day (or not?). It sounds great for the man elected too, who is described as being thrilled with the election and who had some tough teenage years in his small town after he came out.
It’s a good sign for George Mason, too. For several years the school has been hiring academic big guns to try to boost its standing and respect beyond that of a typical community college – and doing a good job of it, too. Well, a drag queen homecoming queen catapults it up to the next level. Nothing says elite college more than a student body that applies an irony suffused, liberal-minded enthusiasm to traditional institutions (except of course for alumni fundraising and job networking, which are sacred rites at all institutions of higher learning).
Also, a man in full-on glamour drag points out, to me, the artificiality of some of the ideas about women’s beauty (not to mention serving as a reminder that I really should investigate some more proactive underwear). Homecoming queens, beauty queens, women’s magazines, fashion, Hollywood, and by extension, pretty much every time there’s public comment about a woman’s appearance, the idea is reinforced that women are on display and we should keep that in mind and keep our tummies tucked in and lips plumped out. Your average female homecoming queen is a depressing reminder that women are still objectified way too much and far too early in their lives. In that sense, George Mason’s move to choose a man carries a lot less baggage for women; sometimes wearing lipstick can just be fun.
But we’ll know things have really changed when a Miss America wins in drag.
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