Texas College Bans Student Drag Show As Denigrating To Women

Walter Wendler, president of West Texas A&M University, is being called out after cancelling a student drag show charity event comparing drag shows to performing in blackface.

Walter Wendler, president of West Texas A&M University, is being called out after cancelling a student drag show.

In an email addressed to students, faculty and staff, Wendler compared drag shows to performing in “blackface.”

He also declared that such performances are not only degrading to women, but are “derisive, divisive and demoralizing misogyny.”

The event, planned for March 31, was to be a charity fundraiser for The Trevor Project, which works to reduce suicides in the LGBTQ community.

Walter Wendler, president of West Texas A&M University

In his letter dated March 20, Wendler said that he believes drag shows do not preserve “a single thread of human dignity.” He added that such performances, in his opinion, “stereotype women in cartoon-like extremes for the amusement of others and discriminate against womanhood.”

“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.”

“No amount of fancy rhetorical footwork or legal wordsmithing eludes the fact that drag shows denigrate and demean women—noble goals notwithstanding,” Wendler said at the end of the letter. “A harmless drag show? Not possible.”

Related: Anti-Drag Protesters Vandalize NYC Councilman’s Office & Home 

But university students and First Amendment lawyers say Wendler’s description of drag shows is off base and the cancellation violates not only First Amendment rights but a state law which protects free-speech rights.

In a statement posted on Change.org, where an online petition has been launched in support of the drag show, students say Wendler is violating university policy by suspending the drag show.

From The Texas Tribune:

Prior to working at West Texas A&M University, Wendler was the chancellor at the Carbondale campus of Southern Illinois University. He was ousted from his position after allegations of plagiarism, and speaking out against giving employee benefits to same-sex partners because it would encourage “sinful behavior.”