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I critiqued Manila’s All Stars Snatch Game and the Internet was not happy

I critiqued Manila’s All Stars Snatch Game and the Internet was not happy

Last week, I wrote a piece for Jewish women’s website Alma about how Manila Luzon’s impersonation of Barbra Streisand rubbed me the wrong way. Since its publication, there has been a lot of blowback — including from Manila herself.

My Snatch Game reaction

As a Jewish woman, I was taken aback by Manila’s impression of Streisand’s nose. While Streisand’s nose has always been one of her defining characteristics, Manila took it to the extreme. Instead of trying to resemble the shape or size of Streisand’s nose, she donned a giant beak-like prosthetic that honestly looked more like anti-Semitic caricatures than Streisand. This stereotype of big nosed Jews has been around since at least the 13th century. It was used in Nazi propaganda during World War II.

I never claimed Manila to be an anti-Semite, nor did I assume she did this intentionally. In fact, I acknowledged that Manila is a Streisand fan and probably didn’t mean any harm by this impersonation. I also said that impact matters more than intent. And boy, was there impact.

Responses from fans

Among the first to respond to my article (and my Tweets on the subject) were cisgender gay men. In fact, one of them wasn’t even Tweeting about Drag Race except to attack me for being ‘too sensitive.’ However, some of the most visceral responses came from female-presenting fans of Drag Race, calling me a ‘bitch.’ I was not the only one who was on the receiving end of this vitriol. Other Jewish women who took issue with the impression were also bombarded with Tweets telling them to shut up, get over it, watch a different show. There was a lot of what I assume to be non-Jews deciding for us what is and isn’t offensive.

Screenshot of a Twitter conversation between a Manila fan and someone offended by the prosthetic nose

Anti-Semitism

It is clear that there is not a lot of understanding among the Drag Race fan community on anti-Semitism or how it works. Firstly, Judaism is an ethno-religion — not simply a religion. Jewish people belong to our own distinct ethnic group, what Hitler called ‘the Jewish race.’ Even non-practicing Jews like myself are subject to anti-Semitism. So what really struck me was the fundamental lack of care when it came to anti-Semitism (intentional or not) on RuPaul’s Drag Race. There have been countless thinkpieces about the show’s transphobia and racial bias. Queens themselves have even taken stands on these issues. But for some reason, when I brought up anti-Semitism, I was balked at.

Misogyny

Another thing that struck me was the misogyny expressed in response to my perspective. As mentioned previously, I was told I was ‘too sensitive’ and ‘too dramatic.’ I was called words like ‘bitch.’ I think this needs to be addressed. While I don’t believe drag to be inherently misogynistic, there is a huge misogyny problem among cis gay men. This seeps into drag in small ways, such as the way my opinion was treated by Drag Race queens and fans alike.

Responses from queens

Some queens responded to my article. For instance, Jewish RPDR alum Alexis Michelle. Alexis Michelle didn’t personally find the nose offensive, and that’s fine. Things like this are intra-community discussions (and it’s basically part of Jewish culture to express disagreement). But at the end of the day, it’s really not for non-Jews to decide for us what we can and can’t find offensive.

In the comments, however, I saw many people making personal judgments about me, including other Drag Race queens like Pandora Boxx.

Screenshot of a fan claiming I'm just a 'straight white girl'

Screenshot of RPDR queen Pandora Boxx agreeing that I only wrote the article 'for attention'

I can’t imagine people making similar comments if a black person was offended by a queen in blackface, for instance. There was also a lot of ‘whataboutism’ when it came to other problematic things on the show, such as Trinity’s impersonation of Caitlyn Jenner. Of course things like that (as well as Gia’s Asian stereotype) offended me, too. But I am not trans nor Asian. When writing opinion pieces, I try to stay in my lane — and anti-Semitism is in my lane.

Manila’s reaction

Ultimately, this controversy came to Manila’s attention. She made an apology — which I would love to include here, but it was on Instagram Live and no longer exists. It was an imperfect apology — with statements like ‘I have Jewish friends’ and ‘sorry if you were offended.’ Still, I don’t expect drag queens to be the arbiters of morality by any means. I was just happy to see Manila acknowledge this. So I messaged her on Instagram to let her know. What I didn’t expect was for her to reply.

Manila replies to my message thanking her for her apology by asking me to retract my article My explaining my POV to Manila and asking if she wanted to be quoted for this article Manila asking me if I'm Jewish

Her response to me, in my view, was pretty hostile. First, as mentioned, I never said she herself is an anti-Semite. Just that the big beak nose is an anti-Semitic stereotype. I then offered her a platform to issue a statement on this. She replied by asking me if I’m Jewish. When I responded, she read my message but didn’t answer. I messaged her again to see if she’d like to provide a quote for this piece. And again, she read it but did not reply.

I don’t think Manila even read my article, just responded to the headline. And I’m left wondering whether she actually cares about rectifying the harm she caused. Back on her original season, she got flack for using an offensive Asian stereotype in one challenge. Queens on the show, like Shangela, called her out for this. Still, she won the challenge and wasn’t forced to grapple with the criticism. Likewise, Manila won the Snatch Game episode on All Stars. And again can’t seem to fully confront the questionable choices she made.

Call-Out Culture

Look, I’ve been ‘called out’ on the Internet before. It’s not fun. I know it can put you on the defensive, which is how Manila seems to be acting. But at the end of the day, Manila is a public figure. And I can’t say I’m not disappointed in her reactions to my perspective.

Bitter feelings

This whole experience has really shown me that as much as I love RuPaul’s Drag Race, as a queer woman, I’m simply not welcome in that community. Though RuPaul himself has denied misogyny and transphobia, this whole community is set up explicitly as a space for cis gay men and continues to operate as such.

@discoxbloodbath