Last Saturday, hundreds of Oxfordians got their glitter out. Pride was celebrated worldwide, and our town was full of flags, face paint, and lots of beer (lemonade for me, unfortunately)! I came face to face with my first drag queens, just as empowering off screen as on, and it was refreshing to see hundreds of supportive, friendly faces. I have to say, when an excuse to dress however we want comes up, the world looks a hell of a lot prettier.
However, it was about 2 minutes into La Voix’s act that I began to notice the irony of the whole idea. For what I thought was a feminist celebration, there was quite a lot of sexualising men going on. Not only were the ‘va va voom boys’ (La Voix’s male backing dancers) encouraged to remove more and more clothes as the songs went on, they also came on for the final song in only pink sparkly pants with about the same coverage as a pair of boxers. To contextualise just how inappropriate this is, let’s swap the genders. If this was a woman, who was being encouraged to remove clothes for the entertainment of the audience, how would we react? There would be many complaints and rightly so. The whole performance would be viewed as seedy and outmoded.
Objectifying men is just as outrageous as objectifying women, especially at an event that's purpose is to make everyone feel comfortable whatever their body parts. We assume that the whole celebration is empowering (which a lot of it is) and so we let these sexist issues slip. But maybe we shouldn’t. Pride is the perfect occasion on which to question idealised stereotypes, and not welcome them into this event. While the festival is advertised as a celebration of individuality and confidence, irrespective of gender, orientation, or identification, we saw seemingly perfect male dancers being sexualised.
One of the most shocking parts of this performance was the disconnect with how La Voix introduced her act: commenting on the diversity and beauty of the audience. This appeared to be a genuine attempt to build up the self-confidence within us all; however, this was immediately undermined by the entrance of two dench masculine figures, conforming to the unattainable ideals I thought I’d left by the entrance. Hang on, let me just go and find that self-confidence which crawled back underneath my stack of baggy jumpers.
While pride is very important to me and has achieved so much, we can’t assume that by going on these marches and buying a flag we’ve solved it all. It’s so easy to accept the way things are, but we cannot stop questioning whether things are right just because we are told they are. As a younger member of the audience, I was able to notice things that I would like, someday, to be proud of changing. There’s no doubt we’ve come far but being proud of that shouldn’t limit us to only seeing the issues we’ve already resolved. There’s still much work to be done; thankfully, seeing everyone at pride on Saturday assures me that we can together create a world where I won’t need to write this article.