Republican lawmaker is about to regret messing with drag queens | Arwa Mahdawi

A Missouri representative has filed a bill that takes aim at Drag Queen Story Hour, establishes censorship and punishes librarians

Who’s afraid of the big bad drag queen? Missouri, apparently. A Republican lawmaker in the conservative state has introduced a bill that could jail librarians who host a Drag Queen Story Hour (DQSH) or let kids check out “inappropriate” books.

Ben Baker’s Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act, filed last month, would establish a panel of parents that would determine whether or not a book is “appropriate for children”. Books deemed to contain “age-inappropriate sexual material” would be moved to a restricted part of the library. Any librarian who allowed kids access to these books could get up to a year in jail; the library would also lose funding.

What might be considered “age-inappropriate sexual material” isn’t really spelled out in the legislation and it’s not quite clear what it would encompass. Sleeping Beauty features a non-consensual kiss; Beauty and the Beast is a paean to bestiality; the Frog Prince contains a slimy interspecies embrace. Would those fairytales be stuck in the restricted session?

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Unlikely. It seems what Baker is really concerned about is books with LGBTQ+ content. “What inspired this bill is … events like Drag Queen Story Hour, and materials that have a clear agenda of grooming our children for the LGBTQ community with adult themes and content that fit the description of a objectionable sexual nature,” Baker said on Monday.

If you’re unaware of Drag Queen Story Hour it’s basically exactly what it sounds like; drag queens reading books to kids. It was launched in 2015 with the aim of showing kids “people who defy rigid gender restrictions” and letting them “imagine a world where people can present as they wish, where dress-up is real”.

Baker is not exactly the first critic of DQSH; numerous conservatives have railed against the program, accusing it of “indoctrinating” children. In actual fact, of course, the opposite is true. DQSH is an anti-indoctrination program; a much-needed corrective to the gender norms that are pushed on kids from the moment they’re born. If you want to see what indoctrination looks like, then just walk around the kids section of a store and take a look at what’s in the boys section and the girls section; according to a study last year, the marketing of toys is more gendered now than it was 50 years ago.

Critics of DQSH accuse it of being “sexual” which is a reflection of how anything outside rigid heterosexual norms is automatically considered hypersexual. Weirdly, however, it’s not considered sexual for babies to wear onesies with things like “chick magnet” or “I’m a boob guy” on them. It’s not considered sexual for parents to make jokes about their little kids having a girlfriend or boyfriend. But someone in fabulous makeup demonstrating the performative nature of gender and telling kids that it’s OK for them to be whoever they want to be? Somehow that is considered sexual.

Drag queens aren’t exactly the most timid of creatures and I’ve got a feeling Baker might regret picking a fight with them. A call has gone out for “Queens, Kings & everything in between!” to protest at the Missouri state capitol on 7 March. I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be fabulous.

Mike Bloomberg has a history of anti-trans comments

I’m not sure how he feels about drag queens, but the billionaire presidential candidate doesn’t seem to think much of trans people. Bloomberg is currently facing a backlash over a 2016 video in which he described a (hypothetical) transgender woman as “some man wearing a dress”.

The “manosphere” is growing more violent

There’s been a spike in men joining violent online incel groups, according to a new study out of Binghamton University. Researchers studied men’s groups online (known as the “manosphere”) and found that, over the past decade, the number of men identifying as “men’s right’s activists” (MRAs) and “men going their own way” (MGTOW) has fallen while membership of the more violent “pick-up artists” (PUAs) and incel communities has grown. An analysis of the language used in these groups found that it has grown more hate-filled over time.

Finland offering fathers same family leave as mothers

The country’s female-led government has announced each parent will be granted nearly seven months of paid leave. The US, by contrast, is one of just two countries in the world without mandatory paid leave; the other is Papua New Guinea. Donald Trump called for paid family leave on Tuesday’s State of the Union but the bill he supports isn’t exactly progressive; it basically lets parents borrow from their future benefits.

UK names Karen Pierce first female ambassador to US

Her appointment comes after the previous ambassador, Kim Darroch, was pushed to resign after the publication of a leaked memo in which he described Donald Trump’s administration as “clumsy and inept”.

Kirk Douglas died at 103

And Natalie Wood quickly started trending.

Women are turning to Reddit for medical advice

It’s a sign that far too many doctors still don’t take women’s health issues seriously.

Britain faces a contraceptives shortage

Women in the UK have been struggling to access hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which is used to treat menopausal symptoms, for over a year. Now it seems that there are also shortages of some contraceptives.

Conservatives are freaking out about Shakira, Shakira

The highlight of Sunday’s Super Bowl was Jennifer Lopez and Shakira’s incredible half-time show. Alas, not everyone was impressed. A rightwing Christian activist called Dave Daubenmire wants to sue the NFL for “about $867tn” because he reckons watching two women dance “put [him] in danger of hellfire”. Sounds like he’s in danger of a hernia to me.

Christina Koch back on Earth after record-breaking mission

The astronaut spent 328 days in space, the longest continuous spaceflight by a woman. I’ve got a feeling that after one week of reading the news down here she’s going to be clamoring to leave again.


Arwa Mahdawi

The GuardianTramp

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