Jenny Purr, along with Chardonnay, Lola VonHeart and many other drag performers, come together in Femme In – Unity, the first ever all-female drag show in Iceland.
Tonight, Thursday, September 19, at Gaukurinn, the women of the ever-growing drag scene of Reykjavik will stand fierce in the spotlight to show off their talents and raise money for survivors of sexual assault. Jenny Purr, also known offstage as Kristrún Hrafns, tells us more about the origin and purpose of the upcoming event.
Can you describe Femme In – Unity in a nutshell?
“The show will be just like any other drag show – except the whole cast is female. We have so many diverse and talented women in the drag scene so the whole show will include drag queens, kings and anything in between or outside the gender binary. There will be comedy, drama and most of all female-empowerment!”
Only women will perform in this drag show. Is this a first in Iceland?
“There was a show with drag kings which I loved. However, Gógó was hosting it (Gógó Starr, a male drag queen, ed.). But Femme In – Unity is a show exclusively with female drag-performers, hosts and female technicians, organized and managed by women. So I think that‘s a first.”
“There will be comedy, drama and most of all female-empowerment!”
Where does this idea of having an all-female cast come from?
“The drag scene has been thriving lately and so have women stepped on stage expressing themselves. We noticed that our sisterhood has gotten bigger, so it was all a matter of when we would gather our forces together and make something fabulous happen!”
The event is subtitled: ”drag show for Stígamót”. Can you tell us more about that?
“Stígamót is a counseling center for survivors of sexual assault. They offer free counseling, in total confidence, for both men and women. Getting this kind of help free of charge can be life-saving and even though they are supported by the government, we do want to show our appreciation and gratitude for their services. That’s why all the proceeds from the show will go directly to Stígamót.”
Clubs and bars are often described as a hotbed for sexual violence. As a drag performer and as a woman, does the nightlife scene feel safe in Reykjavik?
“As a woman, out of drag, I’ve experienced harassment but thankfully Icelandic women are usually quick to jump in and help each other out of a dangerous situation.
As a drag performer however harassment comes from both genders: whether it’s drunk men trying to grope me, shouting homophobic slurs at me or women grabbing my wig or face, it’s a violation my personal space or consent.
Iceland is more open-minded than other countries, but I do hear the horror stories of my drag family members being attacked verbally or physically after gigs on the streets. That’s why I feel safer strutting around in drag when I’m at a venue where it’s expected or normal to see drag. For example, if Jenny Purr, my drag persona, is confronted by an aggressive bystander at Gaukurinn after Drag-Súgur then she has dozens of people ready to cut in if they suspect that she is in danger.”
Reports show that LGBT+ people are more likely to face sexual violence. As queer women, is that something you and other performers can relate to?
“Sadly, yes. I don’t want to out anyone, but most of the performers have either been sexual assaulted, mentally or physically abused by men and/or women. Obviously I wished none of them had to have these traumatic experiences, but I’m fortunate to be able to talk to them about my trauma and overcome a certain stage of feeling like I’m alone in this.
“As a drag performer however harassment comes from both genders: whether it’s drunk men trying to grope me, shouting homophobic slurs at me or women grabbing my wig or face, it’s a violation my personal space or consent.”
Members of the LGBT+ community go through a lot of struggles and it’s important that we come together and remind ourselves that we’re not alone and your pain is valid despite what the prejudices from the heteronormativity might make you feel.”
What would it take in your opinion to create a safer environment?
“I can think of a few things all of us can do: calling people out on their predatory and harassing behavior and stoping them right away; not taking ”being drunk” as an excuse for violent actions: holding aggressors accountable; also knowing that your safety matters and that there is no shame in speaking out.
Besides, as drag performers, we have felt safe at Gaukurinn for the longest time, because their policy is clear in the entrance that hate-crimes won‘t be tolerated. So having staff that prioritizes your safety is a start.”
In addition to raising money for Stígamót, what kind of impact would you like the show to have?
“Hopefully we can showcase the diversity of women in the drag scene and even make people rethink that men are not necessarily the default, but thinking of women as equally valid performers.”
Where can we find all the details about the event?
“You can follow us on Instagram @femmeinunity and of course our event is on Facebook.”
Photoes / Lovísa Sigurjónsdóttir