Everybody loves RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s touted as one of the most progressive reality shows to date, earning praise from the LGBTQ+ community and the straights. But as much as it’s making big leaps, the show took a step back when Manila Luzon opened up about being barred from wearing a “period dress” on the show.
The Filipino-American drag queen first joined RPDR in season 3. She later came back for All Stars season 1 (2012) and the latest season that premiered in November 2018. In the episode titled “Jersey Justice,” contestants were tasked to create runway looks based on the theme “Curves and Swerves, Padded for the Gods.” Manila shared on Instagram that she was supposed to wear a dress that’s shaped like a sanitary napkin with fake blood in the middle.
If you ask me, it’s a smart and unexpected execution that normalizes menstruation in a mainstream show. However, Manila was told the dress “was in ‘bad taste'” and producers told her to wear her backup dress, which is the quilted ensemble you saw.
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Ru said my ORIGINAL Curves & Swerves Runway look was in “bad taste” and production told me to wear my back up. I was really looking forward to wearing this gown that I think celebrates a perfectly normal human experience! Many of my fans are young women who may feel pressured by society to be embarrassed by periods. It’s empowering to teach young women about their bodies, encourage them to celebrate them AND to question people who tell them not to! My goal with this look was to normalize menstruation by looking sick’ning even if I was on my period! Instead, i decided to wear the beautiful quilted dress you saw in the episode because it is not my show, it’s Ru’s. But because of Ru, I have my very own platform to speak for myself and show you all my interpretation! ❤️ my Period Gown is by @theladyhyde
Manila expressed her disappointment for the decision because the dress was supposed to be a celebration “of a perfectly human experience.” “Many of my fans are young women who may feel pressured by society to be embarrassed by periods. It’s empowering to teach young women about their bodies, encourage them to celebrate them AND to question people who tell them not to!” she said on Instagram.
We agree with this sentiment. We often see how menstruation is portrayed as this easy, beautiful thing that women experience. It’s like there’s an unspoken rule not to show how bloody and painful it can be because it’s unappealing—even though that’s the truth.
We’re not discrediting RPDR‘s inclusivity in all the seasons they’ve premiered. That said, though, it confuses us that period blood would be the line that shouldn’t be crossed. I mean, Raja dressed up as Carrie in season 3, and the movie of the same name showed how the teen discovered she’s having her period while in the shower.
In fact, there’ve been several shows and movies that didn’t shy away from talks about periods—Friends, Game of Thrones, Blue Lagoon, and so on. Many didn’t show blood but at least it wasn’t censored because “it was in bad taste.”
Women have periods every month—it’s anatomy, we didn’t ask for this. If we could take away this monthly suffering, we’d take that hall pass. But as long as it exists, nobody should invalidate it or tell someone to hide something that portrays it like Manila’s dress just because they couldn’t handle a little menstrual blood.
If you’re still against the idea, here’s something to remember: If you can watch action and horror films with gore without flinching, then you’ll live. Stop making excuses.
Art by Marian Hukom
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