Paris is Burning: How Society’s Stratification Systems Make Drag Queens of Us All Notes (Ella)

Schacht, Steven. Paris is Burning: How Society’s Stratification Systems Make Drag Queens of Us All.” Race, Gender & Class, 2000, Vol. 7, No. 1, Sexuality: Toward A Race, Gender, Class Perspective (2000), pp. 147-166. Electronic.

**I feel like this article will be very important to my original research as well because I plan to show the film “Paris is Burning” and to analyze similar responses.**

  • “Not only does this movie inclusively explore the social categories of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, but it does so in a compassionate manner that frequently leads to students’ questioning many of the oppressive beliefs that they often complacently express and the corresponding actions that they undertake. Since the fil ultimately challenges the unjust nature of social stratification, it also demonstrates the need for a more egalitarian society.” (Schacht 148)
    • Social stratification: a system by which a society ranks categories of people in a hierarchy
    • Egalitarian: A society that lacks social stratification and with the exception of inequality based on ability and age, provides equal access to resources and prestige.
  • Journal author discusses the use of the film, Paris is Burning, in the setting of a sociology class he teaches (Schacht 151-2)
  • “The people in the show had many of the same desires and goals held by the majority of society. I think it was a surprise to many in our class that the goals of drag queens were much like the goals they have (Heidi, 19 years old).” (Schacht 153)
  • “The people in the movie Paris is Burning are really not that different from the rest of society. They have the same hopes and dreams as others, but society will not allow them to pursue them to their full extent. It is a shame that people are so hung up on certain aspects that they refuse to see the great people underneath all the drag (19 year old woman).”  (Schacht 153)
  • “Having worked my way up from a lower class childhood, I have learned to conform to what society expects of a lower-middle class person working my way up in society. Be educated, own nice cars, own a home in a middle class neighborhood is what keeps me going daily. These are messages I pass on to my kids. But if I was to think real hard on this I would have to say that I had a happy childhood for the most part, we were never hungry, and we always had a roof over our heads. Do I need middle class status to survive? Or do I need to be middle class to be happy? I would have to say the latter is what I’m striving for, but who can say they are truly happy with every aspect of their life, especially considering that being middle class is often so harmful to those in lower classes (middle-aged mother of two).” (Schacht 156)
  • “My social class allows me to have a better chance to go to college, viewed by the arrogant higher class as “a possible young man who has the option to make something of himself,” whereas those in lower class standings are “going nowhere in life.” This bias reinforces social order: if someone from my class is successful, they “attained it through hard work and dedication,” but if those from the lower classes show some kind of wealth they “made it illegally and didn’t attain it through hard work or using their brains.” Sadly, all of this is oblivious to the fact that whatever one does to earn money, they are doing it to fit into the white-male-affluent-world (20 year old Asian American).” (Schacht 156)
  • “I am White, and I act it. Most of my friends are the same ethnicity as I am. I live in a neighborhood where there are mostly White people, and I go to school where most students and faculty are White. The things I do are things that White people do. I stay mainly in areas where there are people of the same ethnicity as I am. . . Every time I act White, I am ensuring that Blacks and other minorities will still be treated as less than equal (20 year old woman).” (Schacht 157-8)
  • “I was born and lived all my life in northern Idaho before coming to school here. As you know, where I come from is almost entirely White. Growing up my friends and I would tell a lot of “n*gger” jokes even though none of us had ever met a Black person. As one of the students said in class, it’s pretty sad that people have to put down others just so they can feel good about themselves (18 year old woman).” (Schacht 158)
  • “The possibility of crossing racial boundaries stirs fears of the possibility of crossing boundaries of gender, and vice versa. What the ‘Black transvestite’ does is to realize the latent dream thoughts – or nightmares – of American cultural mythology as the manifest content of American life (Garber 1992:274).” (Schacht 158)
  • “Drag constitutes the mundane way in which genders are appropriated, theatricalized, worn, and done; it implies that gendering is a kind of impersonation and approximation. If this is true, it seems, there is no original or primary gender that drag imitates, but gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original, in fact, it is the kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of imitation itself (Butler 1991:21 – emphasis in original).” (Schacht 158).
  • “Moreover, in my own personal pursuit of living an egalitarian worldview, I have increasingly tried to reject personal identities such as male/female, Black/White, gay/straight and so forth and replace them with non-oppressive ways of being (Schacht 1998). And yet, if any of us were ever truly successful in rejecting these identities/performances, what would take their place?” (Schacht 162-3)

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