A public university president canceled a student drag show on campus Tuesday, and gave a fierce rebuke of drag.
Walter Wendler, the president of West Texas A&M University, canceled the drag show on Tuesday. He also sent an email to students explaining the reasoning behind his decision, which he also shared as a post on his blog. In the message, Wendler blasted drag shows, saying that they are degrading and misogynistic by their very nature.
“West Texas A&M University will not host a drag show on campus,” Wendler stated in the post, entitled, “A Harmless Drag Show? No Such Thing.” The event was scheduled for March 31 and intended to raise money for The Trevor Project, and LGBTQ advocacy group which claims to work to prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth. Wendler said the cause was noble, and that it is a tragedy for any person to consider self-harm.
Wendler went on, saying that each and every person has human dignity, and that idea is foundational to American Life; and that drag shows violate that dignity. “Does a drag show preserve a single thread of human dignity? I think not,” he wrote. “As a performance exaggerating aspects of womanhood (sexuality, femininity, gender), drag shows stereotype women in cartoon-like extremes for the amusement of others and discriminate against womanhood. Any event which diminishes an individual or group through such representation is wrong.”
“WT endeavors to treat all people equally,” the university president continued. “Drag shows are derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent. Such conduct runs counter to the purpose of WT. A person or group should not attempt to elevate itself or a cause by mocking another person or group. As a university president, I would not support ‘blackface’ performances on our campus, even if told the performance is a form of free speech or intended as humor. It is wrong. I do not support any show, performance or artistic expression which denigrates others—in this case, women—for any reason.”
Wendler commented that the West Texas A&M community should live by the Golden Rule, which he also called the law of reciprocity; he quoted examples of this rule from the Gospel of Matthew, a Buddhist text, and the Book of Tobit in the Hebrew Bible. He also compared it to Newton’s Third Law of Motion, “each action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
“Mocking or objectifying in any way members of any group based on appearance, bias or predisposition is unacceptable,” Wendler continued, noting that equality between the sexes took centuries of work. He also pointed out that the stated purpose of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and common sense reject acts of prejudice. “No amount of fancy rhetorical footwork or legal wordsmithing eludes the fact that drag shows denigrate and demean women—noble goals notwithstanding.”
“A harmless drag show? Not possible,” he concluded. “I will not appear to condone the diminishment of any group at the expense of impertinent gestures toward another group for any reason, even when the law of the land appears to require it.” Wendler again said that supporting The Trevor Project was a good idea; instead of attending the drag show, Wendler suggested that students donate to the organization instead.