Drag is a form of art that transcends the boundaries of gender, expression, and identity. It is an emblem of freedom and liberation, where performers are no longer confined to their everyday persona but can transform themselves into any character they desire.
One of the most common terms in drag culture is “fish,” which refers to drag queens who embody femininity to such a degree that they resemble actual biological women. But what does fish mean exactly? What are the origins of this term, and how did it become so prevalent in the world of drag?
“Fishy” is used when you appear extremely female and just missed the AFAB label by a margin. -Rupaul
In this blog post, we will explore the multifaceted meaning of fish in drag culture. We will delve into its historical context, cultural significance, and social impact. We will examine the various ways in which fish has been interpreted and reinterpreted over time, from being seen as derogatory to becoming a term of endearment and empowerment.
We invite you to join us on this fascinating journey and discover the surprising answer to the question: What Does Fish Mean In Drag?
The Definition of “Fish” in Drag Culture
In drag culture, the term “fish” is often used to describe a queen who looks extremely feminine and resembles a biological woman. The use of this word has been adopted by the community as a way to celebrate femininity and beauty that are associated with female anatomy.
While some may find the term derogatory or offensive, it is important to note that within the context of drag culture, it is not meant to be insulting but rather as a compliment to the performer’s ability to embody someone from a different gender expression.
The concept of “fishy” has been around since at least the 1980s and can also refer to the style of makeup, clothing, and body language that creates an illusion of natural-born femininity.
The Meaning of “Fish” in Drag Culture
The meaning of “fish” in drag culture goes beyond simply describing a performer as looking like a woman. It is about creating an illusion and embodying femininity through exaggerated movements, mannerisms, and gestures.
A drag queen who is considered fishy is often highly respected and admired for their performance abilities, attention to detail, and dedication to their craft. They are able to create an illusion so convincing that even audience members who are aware of the artifice appreciate it as if they were watching a genuine performance.
Furthermore, being “fishy” doesn’t necessarily mean fitting into a cisgender normative mold of what a woman should look like. Instead, it celebrates diversity in femininity and allows for drag performers to showcase their own unique interpretation and expression of femininity.
The Importance of “Fish” in Drag Performance
“Fishiness” is an essential aspect of drag performance. In many cases, traditional notions of femininity, such as wearing high heels or having long hair, are exaggerated and celebrated to create an over-the-top performance. The ability to embody these attributes is what sets successful drag queens apart from their peers.
Embodying a highly feminine appearance also allows for performers to play with gender in interesting ways. It creates space for gender-nonconforming people to explore different expressions of themselves that may not be commonly accepted by society at large.
Additionally, seeing someone who isn’t typically associated with traditional femininity perform those roles can be empowering for audience members who also struggle with conforming to societal expectations based on their assigned gender at birth.
The Role of “Fish” in Drag Identity
For some drag performers, being fishy is an integral part of their identity both on and offstage. They see it as an expression of their true selves and embrace the term as an important aspect of their artistry.
Drag culture has a long history of providing a sense of community and belonging for individuals who feel marginalized because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. For many, adopting a persona that embodies aspects of traditional femininity provides a sense of comfort and validation in expressing their own identity.
Being fishy can also become a way for performers to reclaim power and control over how they present themselves to the world. It allows them to take something that is often used as an insult against them and turn it into a source of pride and celebration.
The Intersection of “Fish” and Gender Identity
“Fishiness” intersects with issues surrounding gender identity in several distinct ways. Firstly, it highlights the fact that gender is a social construct rather than fixed biological category.
“You have a lot of gay men out there that don’t look very masculine, and you have transgender people who may not identify as male or female. Drag has a way of taking these traditional gender boundaries and blurring them.” – Mercedes Successful
By celebrating performers whose bodies do not fit into specific gender norms, it creates space for individuals to exist outside of those categories.
Additionally, being fishy can challenge the idea that traditional femininity is something natural or innate in women by showcasing how much of it is learned behavior. It allows drag queens to push back against stereotypes surrounding women’s “natural” appearance and demeanor while also having fun at the same time.
The term “fish” in drag culture describes an important aspect of performance ability and identity expression within the community. It celebrates diversity in femininity while acknowledging the social constructs that shape our understandings of gender and beauty.
The Origin of the Term “Fish”
At its core, the term “fish” is used to describe a drag queen who convincingly portrays feminine features. The term originated in the ballroom culture of the 1980s and was influenced by African-American and Latino communities.
The word “fish” is derived from the phrase “smells like fish” which was a derogatory term for women’s genitals. In the drag world, however, it has been re-appropriated as a term of empowerment and celebration of femininity.
“‘Fishy’ or ‘serving fish’ describes when a queens looks very feminine all around – that includes having breasts, curves, soft skin, padding in certain areas, et cetera.” -Drag performer Trinity K Bonet
The History of “Fish” in Drag Culture
In the underground ballroom scene of the 1970s and 1980s, categories were created to challenge participants to embody different types of characters, such as “femme”, “butch”, and “executive realness”. These categories often required competitors to imitate heterosexual, middle-class roles that wouldn’t traditionally have been open to queer people.
“Fish” emerged as a category focusing on femininity above all else. Participants would be judged on how well they could pass as biological women, using makeup techniques, hair styling, and body language usually attributed to them.
Over time, the term became more than just a category and evolved into a cultural phenomenon arising largely out of the LGBTQ+ community-#Censorread-EonQsh9r, with popular TV shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race helping to spread awareness of drag culture outside of niche queer circles.
The Evolution of “Fish” as a Slang Term
The use of the term “fish” has evolved to encompass more than just drag culture, becoming part of queer slang vernacular in general conversation among LGBTQ+ people. It can also be used as an adjective to describe someone who possesses ultra-feminine qualities, or as a verb meaning to throw shade at someone deemed less female-presenting.
“I’ve had many conversations with straight, cisgendered men who have no idea what I mean when I say something ‘looks fishy’.” -Journalist David Grant
The Influence of the Ballroom Scene on “Fish”
Without the ballroom scene, it’s unlikely that the term “fish” would ever have gained as much widespread usage as it has over the years. This subculture created a space where members of the LGBTQ+ community could come together and express themselves freely without needing to conform to traditional gender roles. Categories such as “fish” allowed participants to explore femininity in a way that was entirely their own.
This influence is still being felt today; new categories are constantly emerging within both drag and non-drag communities, further expanding the reach and evolution of “fish”.
The Popularity of “Fish” in Mainstream Culture
While “fish” may have originated in queer and underground cultures, its popularity has spread into mainstream media and entertainment. It’s not uncommon for songs, movies, and TV shows to reference “serving fish” or refer to beautifully feminine looks as “fishy”.
In some ways, this evolution towards referring to femininity as “fishy” in popular discourse parallels the efforts of some advocates to broaden our understanding of gender beyond binary norms. Celebrating “fish” allows us to more easily appreciate and celebrate femininity in all of its diverse expressions, regardless of biological sex.
“As drag has entered the mainstream and, with it, much more discussion around gender identity, ‘fish’ can be seen as a way to celebrate being femme without erasing any trans identities.” -Journalist Michael Cuby
How the Meaning of “Fish” Has Evolved Over Time
The term “fish” has been used in various contexts throughout history, but it wasn’t until drag culture emerged that the term developed a specific meaning. Originally, “fish” referred to the smell produced by a woman’s genitals during her menstrual cycle. However, over time, the term evolved to represent feminine beauty and elegance.
In early drag culture, being “fishy” meant looking so convincingly feminine that one could be mistaken for an actual biological woman. This often involved wearing glamorous clothing, applying heavy makeup, and executing flawless movements and mannerisms. While the original definition may seem derogatory, drag queens were able to flip the script and redefine the term as something empowering.
The use of the term ‘fish’ gained even more widespread popularity thanks to RuPaul’s Drag Race, which has become a cultural phenomenon. The show’s host, RuPaul, often uses “fish” on the runway to describe contestants who perfectly capture the essence of femininity.
The Changing Connotations of “Fish” in Drag Culture
While the definition of “fish” has changed within drag culture over time, there is still much debate around its usage. Some argue that using gendered language like “fish” reinforces harmful societal norms surrounding gender and contributes to transphobia. However, others argue that reclaiming traditionally negative terms can be a crucial form of empowerment for marginalized communities.
As the LGBTQ+ community continues to grow and evolve, so does its language and terminology. It’s important to remember that language is constantly changing, and what may have been considered offensive or oppressive in the past is not necessarily applicable today.
The Impact of Intersectionality on the Definition of “Fish”
It’s essential to understand that not all drag queens are created equal, as the intersectionality of race and gender identity plays a crucial role in how different drag performers identify themselves. This means that while some performers may embrace the term “fish,” others might find it problematic due to its narrow definition of femininity.
Intersectionality is also evident in the context of regional and cultural differences. In certain communities, fishy queens may be highly respected, while in others, they could be dismissed as overly conformist or even ridiculed for their adherence to traditional beauty standards.
The Relationship Between “Fish” and Beauty Standards
“Some people prefer fishy queens, but I like when you can tell someone’s really playing with gender, pushing boundaries.” -Drag Queen BenDeLaCreme
In recent years, many drag artists have begun challenging conventional beauty standards by exploring more diverse expressions of gender through their performances. Drag has always been an art form that breaks down binary definitions of gender, and contemporary drag celebrates inclusivity in terms of body type, skin color, and various other attributes that make up our concepts of identity.
This phenomenon can be seen in the works of drag artists such as Sharon Needles, who challenges conventions surrounding beauty by incorporating grotesque elements into her self-styling. Nina West is another example of a queen who embraces quirkiness over flawless makeup looks, focusing on a playful attitude instead of always seeking perfection.
The Role of “Fish” in Dismantling Traditional Gender Roles
As society evolves towards greater acceptance and celebration of LGBTQ+ identities, drag culture continues to play an essential role in dismantling traditional societal norms around gender. Queens who embody “fish” represent one piece of this puzzle, showing that traditionally feminine presentations can be done by anyone regardless of biological sex or gender identity.
At its core, drag culture challenges definitions of gender and encourages everyone to explore their creative impulses freely. Drag encompasses a wide range of expressions that challenge society’s view on beauty and gender norms.
The term “fish” may have come from an offensive place historically, but it has now been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community as something powerful and empowering.
The meaning of “fish” within drag culture is complex and ever-evolving. While some see it as oppressive or stereotypical, others embrace it as a means of empowerment and reclamation. Regardless of how one views the term, the importance of understanding where it comes from and how it’s evolved over time cannot be understated.
The Significance of “Fish” in Drag Fashion and Beauty
“Fish” is a term used in drag culture to describe a performer who appears very feminine, often indistinguishable from a biological woman. This term has been used for decades and has become an important part of drag fashion and beauty. It represents the idea that the ultimate goal of drag performers is to create the illusion of femininity so perfectly that it’s hard to see through.
To achieve the ultimate fish look, drag performers have their own techniques of makeup application, clothing styles, and even body movements. Achieving the perfect fish look means understanding how every little detail contributes to creating the desired feminine illusion.
The Influence of “Fish” on Drag Makeup
Makeup plays a crucial role in the world of drag performance because it helps transform a performer into something new entirely. When it comes to getting that iconic ‘fishy’ appearance, there are several steps a drag queen must follow carefully.
Foundation forms the base of any good makeup routine, regardless of whether you’re doing a daytime look or transforming yourself into a flawless fish queen. After applying primer, foundation, contouring, and highlighting, the next step involves eye makeup. Winged eyeliner is a fundamental aspect of the fish look and requires enormous skill. Using false lashes with careful mascara application creates the dramatic final touch required for a perfect fish finish.
The Relationship Between “Fish” and Glamour
Glamorous aesthetics are essential aspects when creating the coveted fish look. Large hair dos, heavily built-on brows, and elaborately decorated outfits all combine to create a fusion of glamour and elegance within the look.
“Glamour only radiates if there is a sublime courage & bravery within: glamour is like the moon; it only shines because the sun is there.” – C. JoyBell C.
The queer community has been making strides in recent years, empowering people to feel confident and powerful enough to express themselves freely. These societal changes have opened up profound opportunities for drag race queens to demonstrate bold and compelling performances showcasing glamourous outfits, glittering array of makeup sets, and iconic hairdos that defy gender stereotypes and bend traditional fashion ideals.
The Importance of “Fish” in Creating a Feminine Illusion
The term ‘fishy’ is an incredible aesthetic style created by drag performers and provides room for performers to explore different looks creatively. Being able to create this illusion successfully determines a queen’s credibility within the industry as performers are expected to be high-efficiency make-up artists, costume makers, and show organizers.
Fish is also something like a Queen Stereotype, which when fulfilled gives rise to excellent comments and compliments about her look and makes her stand out more during performances.
“I think beauty comes from knowing who you really are and projecting your best qualities outward. Showcasing “fish” to every passerby opens doors beyond belief.” – Rupaul Charles
The significance of achieving the ultimate fish appearance style will always remain crucial within drag culture’s ever-expanding art form. This statement holds its ground simply because so much energy and effort go into developing distinctive styles that would enable them to perform better on stage than competitors. By breaking traditional boundaries not being restricted by their gender identity, these performers pave the way forward toward a new, inclusive world where everyone is welcome.
Why “Fish” is an Empowering Term for Drag Queens
The Reclamation of “Fish” as a Term of Empowerment
“Fish” has been used in the past as a derogatory term for drag queens who are perceived to be overly feminine or attempting to pass as cisgender women. However, in recent years, the term has been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community and transformed into a term of empowerment.
According to Sasha Velour, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 9, “‘Fish’ is about really flawlessly executing female beauty standards while also subverting them… It’s not something that every queen needs to be called, but if you do get that compliment it usually refers to your skills in being fishy.”
In this context, being “fishy” means embodying femininity through make-up, hair styling, and fashion choices. By taking ownership of the term “fish,” drag queens have transformed it from an insult into a badge of honor for their ability to skillfully execute traditionally feminine looks.
The Role of “Fish” in Expressing Individuality
For many drag queens, creating unique and individual looks is an important part of the art form. The use of “fish” as a term of empowerment allows drag queens to express their personal flair and creativity while still adhering to traditional standards of femininity.
In an interview with Paper Magazine, Drag Queen Kameron Michaels explained, “Some people see ‘fish’ as problematic, but we’ve been able to take it and turn it into a term of power. For me, being fishy means I can executive classic concepts like glamour and sex appeal.”
This redefinition of “fish” creates space for queens to experiment with their identities and provides a way for them to celebrate their individuality while still adhering to drag’s traditional emphasis on femininity and beauty.
The Connection Between “Fish” and Self-Confidence
The reclamation of “fish” as a term of empowerment has had a positive impact on the self-confidence of many drag queens.
According to Monét X Change, winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars season 4, “When you first start doing drag, everyone tells you that you’re not supposed to be called ‘fishy’ because it means looking like a biological woman. But after I started going out in drag and really growing into my craft, then being called fishy felt good…it just feels empowering.”
For many queens, being referred to as “fishy” is an indication that they have achieved their goals of portraying femininity through their appearance. This sense of accomplishment can ultimately lead to increased self-confidence both on stage and off.
The Importance of “Fish” in Celebrating Queer Culture
The reclamation of “fish” also emphasizes the importance of celebrating queer culture, especially within drag’s rich history.
In an article for Gay Star News, drag queen Trinity K. Bonet explains, “‘Fishy’ is interwoven with drag herstory and our collective experience in creating something for ourselves when we weren’t given anything by society at large. It’s a celebration of those who paved the way before us.”
By embracing this term and its role in drag’s history, current and future generations of drag queens are honoring the struggles of those who came before them and continuing to shape and evolve the art form of drag itself.
The reclamation of “fish” as a term of empowerment highlights the resilience and creativity of the drag community and serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of self-expression, individuality, and celebrating queer culture.