According to Kathy Peiss, in “Making Up, Making Over” (1996) the critical new element that enabled a ‘painted face’ to be seen as acceptable for respectable women in Western countries like America was
- the historical emergence of sexual liberation for women
- the historical acceptance of prostitutes as legitimate sex workers
- the idea that in the public sphere there were times and places when a more dramatic enactment of one’s ‘true’ identity was appropriated.
- the trailblazing of African-American women and their black-defined beauty standards
In the account of “Womanliness as a Masquerade” by Joan Riviere (1929/1986), the intellectual woman in her case study looked for compliments and sexual attention from men in the audience after giving a public lecture most importantly because
- it turns out she knew her husband had had an extramarital affair, and was looking for another husband to replace him
- she was consciously anxious about being good enough in her field at a time when women were disadvantaged in university education
- she was unconsciously anxious about stealing ‘masculinity’ and facing reprisals
- she was disguising the fact that she was really homosexual and not at all a successful heterosexual
According to Judith Butler, in ‘Bodily Inscriptions, Performative Subversions’ (1990), the drag queen (or drag king) act is best understood as illustrating gender as performativity in its characterisation as:
- ‘performance’ – only with the kind of authenticity, in its imitation (of femininity or masculinity), that reveals that the gender chosen by transgender performers is not fake, but rather is normal in the sense of natural, or just as original as the femininity or masculinity of the audience.
- ‘project’ – only with the kind of mastery, in its imitation (of femininity or masculinity), that reveals the radical will of a transcendental consciousness to overcome its given body, and raise its psychological ‘core’ to the status of an ontological gender, one that is not fake, but rather is normal in the sense of original.
- ‘pastiche’ – only with the kind of humour, in its imitation (of femininity or masculinity), that reveals to the audience that their own femininity or masculinity may be fake, and that there is no normal in the sense of natural and original.
- ‘parody’ – only with the kind of (self-)satire, in its imitation (of femininity or masculinity), that reassures the audience that their own femininity or masculinity is not fake, but rather is normal in the sense of natural and original.