Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Freedom of Speech Week: Free Pride

Of course, by the time that I decided to wade into another subject that I have no authority to discuss, Free Pride had apologised for its decision not to book drag acts. Luckily, it provides plenty of internet chatter so that I can pick my favourite comments and pretend I know what I am talking about.

Let me try to sketch out the history. Free Pride is a response to the increasingly commercial nature of the annual Scottish Pride Parade. It has made statements condemning corporate sponsorship and the entry fee

It then decided not to book drag acts, as members of the group were concerned that drag might be seen as offensive to transgender people. 

The internet got involved, and Titti La Camp got angry. There were protests against the decision - including a very articulate explanation of drag's history by Sam Rowe on Free Pride's Facebook page. There was a comment on the irony that a Free Pride fundraiser intended to show a film about activist Martha P Johnson

Safe spaces, which is what Free Pride were trying to provide, are something I respect. Equally, I admire challenging people's sense of gender identity through a carnivalesque transvestism. Unfortunately, this event has provoked an argument that, once again, seems irreconcilable: the right to drag against the right to feel safe.

My opinion doesn't count here, but it's obvious that I would be on the side of the drag queens. Free Pride has been very quick to condemn ICON (quite rightly) for its use of black-face. No-platforming drag acts is not an act of inclusion, though. Free Pride talks about community (not a word I like, since I regard it as the commodification of the simpler 'hanging out', commonly used by arts groups who fancy a pop at funding) and inclusion. Not having drag acts excludes a bunch of people.

Admittedly, Free Pride didn't ever mind the audience doing drag, but drag is dynamic art form, and has been a visible part of the cabaret scene, as well as getting down with the activists

But I find a more abstract discussion more intriguing: the tension between the right of a group to define its own moral boundaries against the rights of members within that group to self-expression. It's the same problem I found in the What About the Children legislation: the people in an area would be given the right to prevent the arrival of lap-dancing clubs. Well, not the people, their local council. But that's representative democracy. 

No comments :

Post a Comment