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A Drag Into the 21st Century

Following last year’s announcement that the Hasty Pudding Theatricals would begin allowing women to audition for its cast, six women have been accepted into the famous acting troupe — achieving gender parity.

While the Hasty Pudding’s decision to admit women is positive, finally allowing women into an organization over 40 years after Harvard went co-ed is a decision that is long overdue. The Hasty Pudding has cleared a very low bar in doing so. While we applaud this step, we are not offering a standing ovation.

It must be noted that this change does not comes without much external pressure — and especially the advocacy efforts of women who refused to stay backstage any longer. From the women who boldly auditioned for the cast despite an enforced “no girls allowed” policy, to Hasty Pudding Woman of the Year Mila Kunis criticizing the all-male cast, we are struck by their tenacity and determination. Many of these women have since left Harvard’s campus, never to see their own name on a Pudding cast list. They have made this moment possible.

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Furthermore, we hold enormous respect for the six women who have chosen to break years of tradition by joining the cast. We hope and believe that the Hasty Pudding selected these women solely based on their credentials; it would be saddening if their presence onstage to be seen as mere tokenism. Their inclusion in the Hasty Pudding should be a testament to the overwhelming degree of talent and artistic skill present in Harvard women.

Around the same time as the Hasty Pudding’s announcement of its cast, the Din & Tonics also announced that they accepted their first female member. Much of our arguments above are applicable to this case — in particular, our belief that this member was admitted on her own merits. However, we find all-male singing groups less fundamentally problematic than an all-male performance that borrows heavily from exaggerated femininity. The Dins have not employed such tropes in their performances, and we commend them on their decision without reservation.

In its drag show, the Hasty Pudding performed a stereotypical vision of womanhood — sexualized dress, high pitched voices, heavy makeup — without giving female-identifying students a voice of their own. A show designed to play with gender that also discriminates on the basis of gender is unavoidably damaging.

As the Hasty Pudding moves into a more gender-inclusive era, its community members should ensure that its current female actors feel fully welcomed on and off stage. Moreover, we believe that the Hasty Pudding has more reflection to do. Drag was established as a space to celebrate queerness and communities of color. Students of these backgrounds should be given the opportunity to play a starring role.

This staff editorial is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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