(Worldwide: Throughout History)
C. Todd White
A drag queen is a male who celebrates and impersonates the feminine aesthetic with grand and meticulous finesse. All motions, expressions, and articulations exude le femme. Fashion is on the cutting edge, complete with regal entourage. But a campy queen, sometimes called a "skag" or "transey" queen, burlesques romance and glamour, and even other queens. With her humorous observations she behaves as a wise fool or trickster, adding yet another dimension to her enigmatic gender role.
An affinity for camp humor pervades the homosexual subculture, yet camp is not an exclusively gay phenomenon. Bette Midler is one modern Queen of Camp, and before her, Milton Berle. Camp might be manifested in a janitor-ess, à la Carol Burnette or "Baby" Jane Hudson. Camp is not exclusively gender related. In Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America, ethnographer Esther Newton notes that "any very incongruous contrast can be campy. For instance, juxtapositions of high and low status, of youth and old age, profane and sacred functions or symbols, cheap and expensive articles are frequently used for camp purposes" (107). Susan Sontag illustrates how Art Nouveau objects such as Tiffany lamps are campy because they typically "convert one thing into something else" (279). However, though people and objects are often said to be campy, "Camp inheres not in the person or thing itself but in the tension between that person or thing and the context or association" ( Newton107). This is perhaps why Sontag calls camp a "sensibility," meaning that it should never be "crammed into the mold of system, or handled with the rough tools of proof" (276).