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A British Olympian just compared drag to blackface and Twitter is having none of it

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Jessica Rapana
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Former British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies has been criticised after she compared drag culture to blackface in a tweet.

Drag culture in the UK can be traced back to Shakespearean times, but we need only look to the long-awaited arrival of RuPaul’s Drag Race this year to see just how popular the scene has become in 2019.

We are questioning traditional gender norms and toxic masculinity now more than ever, which drag, in no small part, has contributed to. In RuPaul’s words, drag is “a big f-you to male-dominated culture”.

And yet, Sharron Davies is clearly not a fan. The former British Olympic swimmer has come under fire after calling drag shows “a parody of what a real woman is” and comparing them to blackface.

“Am I the only person fed up of drag shows?” Davies, who won a silver medal at the 1980 games in Moscow, tweeted on Saturday. “A parody of what a real woman is, like blackface. Woman are juggling kids, rushing out a wholesome dinner, doing the laundry and cleaning, holding down a job with period pains and leaky boobs if breast feeding. Enough of the stereotypes.”

Davies’ tweet has sparked online consternation and garnered thousands of responses. While some followers agreed with her, many deemed her comparison of drag culture, something intended to be celebratory, with blackface, something viewed as having contributed to racial oppression, to be offensive. 

However, Davies later clarified that her comments were not intended to be racist. “With mixed race kids and loads of wonderful friends from all over the world don’t think I can be accused of racism,” she wrote in a subsequent tweet. “I’m not reducing anyone else’s struggled just saying promoting ridiculous stereotypes is dangerous, as is racism.”

Meanwhile, many people responded to her original comments on Twitter by championing drag culture and pointing out the majority of drag queens celebrate women and femininity. Others suggested Davies herself could be seen as stereotyping womanhood with her comments.

British television presenter Lorraine Kelly, who recently posed in drag on the cover of queer magazine Attitude, also weighed in. She tweeted that Davies had underestimated how drag “empowers people who often feel like outsiders”. She added: “It can literally save lives. And it’s such a lot of FUN!”

Stylist has contacted Davies for comment.

Image: BBC.

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Jessica Rapana

Jessica Rapana is a journalist based in London, and enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content. She is especially fond of news, health, entertainment and travel content, and drinks coffee like a Gilmore Girl.