Victoria Sin is from Toronto, lives and works in London. She is a female drag queen using drag to think through femininity. Sin studied Drawing at Camberwell College of Arts and is now studying and MA at the RCA. She was featured in the Broadly Documentary “Can’t Drag Us Down” a documentary focusing on female-identified performers who are performing in exaggerated tropes of femininity to upend conventional notions of gender. Sin lives and works in London.
What does femininity mean to you?
Femininity is something that I was very strictly brought up with. It is something that has been policed in and on my body by my family and friends with good intention. I realise now that femininity also carries with it race and class connotations. It’s something that I enjoy partaking in sometimes, but not when people think it means they can treat me in a certain way. It’s something that can be empowering but for many people is not. It’s hard, to sum up what femininity means to me as it’s a lot more than all of those things, but drag is a way for me to perform it and think through it without being read as performing it to serve but rather to challenge the patriarchal gaze.
How do you distinguish femininity and womanhood?
Womanhood and femininity are linked and are both constructed categories. For example, for cis women, “woman” is something which you are categorised as based on your genitals by a doctor when you are born. Whereas femininity is what you are then expected to perform based on that initial process of naming. Because someone has decided you are a woman, your femininity will be policed and inscribed on your body while you are learning about yourself and the world and for the most part, for the rest of your life. This process is harmful to men and women, and especially so for transgender and non gender-conforming individuals.
What are the differences between being feminine on stage with drag costume/makeup and being feminine in public without the costume?
Specific to my experience, I think I kind of answer this above, drag is a way for me to queer the performance of femininity, to be able to embody it and think through it without performing it to serve but rather to challenge the patriarchal gaze. This isn’t to say that those performing femininity who are not doing drag are trying to serve the patriarchy. I often dress femme in an everyday context, but it’s the overblowing and the complete removal that helps me to explore and meditate on femininity further.
Do you think some of the drag performed by cis-men can be sexist/harmful to women? what are your views on this?
Yes absolutely. It can be harmful and violent (to people who have less of a voice in the LGBTQIA community) when people go into drag without the right intentions or awareness as to how certain people in our community encounter a lot of systemic violence, and from our own community and drag queens especially.
For example: Rupaul often says to detractors who criticise him about transphobic language he uses ‘some people take gender too seriously, and drag queens just don’t take gender that seriously’, but he fails to acknowledge that drag is something that you take off, and for him and most other drag queens, once the drag is off they go back to being cisgendered men, a privileged position. For most women, trans people and non-binary people, you live every day with systematic gender-based oppression.
It’s important to use the platform to challenge gender expectations rather than reinforce them and make jokes at the expense of people who are already underrepresented and systematically oppressed.
Do you think there are challenges you face as a person of colour (if this is something you identify with) which your white counterparts in drag might not experience?
I identify as a person of colour as someone who is half Chinese, but I also occupy a position of privilege as someone who is not black or brown. When I am in drag I am also completely erasing my Chinese features, because the ideal image of femininity in this and many cultures and countries is western and therefore white femininity. Like many women of colour I have experienced being spoken and glossed over, condescended to, exoticised, and othered, all my life, and have grown up with a white representation of ideal femininity which was contra to my ethnicity. However, I can recognise that whatever I have experienced others have experienced worse, and my aim as a drag queen is to deconstruct and challenge misogyny and racism in and outside of the queer community.