CANYON, Texas (WTVO) — A public university president canceled a planned drag show at the school, calling the event degrading and misogynistic.
The March 31st event was to raise money for LGBTQ advocacy group The Trevor Project, which works to prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth.
West Texas A&M University President Walter Wendler sent a letter, titled “A Harmless Drag Show? No Such Thing” to students, explaining his decision.
“As a university president, I would not support ‘blackface’ performances on our campus, even if told the performance is a form of free speech or intended as humor,” Wendler wrote. “It is wrong. I do not support any show, performance or artistic expression which denigrates others—in this case, women—for any reason.
“As a performance exaggerating aspects of womanhood (sexuality, femininity, gender), drag shows stereotype women in cartoon-like extremes for the amusement of others and discriminate against womanhood. Any event which diminishes an individual or group through such representation is wrong,” Wendler continued.
“Drag shows are derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny, no matter the stated intent. Such conduct runs counter to the purpose of WT. A person or group should not attempt to elevate itself or a cause by mocking another person or group,” he said.
The letter went on: “Mocking or objectifying in any way members of any group based on appearance, bias or predisposition is unacceptable. Forward-thinking women and men have worked together for nearly two centuries to eliminate sexism. Women have fought valiantly, seeking equality in the voting booth, marketplace and court of public opinion. No one should claim a right to contribute to women’s suffering via a slapstick sideshow that erodes the worth of women.”
Wendler went on to say that “Supporting the Trevor Project is a good idea. My recommendation is to skip the show and send the dough.”
Wendler’s decision sparked backlash from students and advocates, with a Change.org petition to reinstate the performance saying its cancelation was an indirect attack on the LGBT+, feminist, and activist communities of the WTAMU student body.”
The petition also claims the comparison of blackface and drag performances was a “gross and abhorrent comparison of two completely different topics” and “an extremely distorted and incorrect definition of drag as a culture and form of performance art.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression said canceling the performance violated the First Amendment, saying in a statement that “Wendler can criticize this particular drag show, or the existence of drag writ large. No reasonable person would argue that public university administrators personally endorse the views expressed at every event hosted by every student group on campus. But as a government actor, President Wendler cannot co-opt state power to force his own views on the WTAMU community,”