Seattle University Found This Tame Drag Photo Offensive, and That’s the Real Offense

Seattle University Found This Tame Drag Photo Offensive, and That’s the Real Offense

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The 10th annual Seattle University drag show took place on Friday, April 13.

Though it’s a Jesuit university, the annual drag show has been praised for its inclusivity. But when the college newspaper, the Seattle Spectator, reported on it and gave the drag show its cover, the university administration objected. One professor even gathered several remaining copies to dispose of them.

The offending Seattle University drag cover

Photo: Samira Shobeiri/Seattle Spectator

Above is the “objectionable” photo, showing a Seattle University student in drag during his routine. The image is striking, and rather chaste. Though it could be argued that he’s showing off his crotch, with his leg drawing the viewer’s eye there, there’s nothing revealing about the image. We have trouble seeing a difference between this photo, and, well, just about any photo of someone kicking up their legs.

The article itself is also rather low-key. In addition to the Seattle University students performing, professional drag queens did as well, and the night was hosted by Abbey Roads, a local queen. The original article praised the show for its inclusivity and for addressing issues of gender head-on. One performance — by Ash Vera, a junior — discussed coming out as genderqueer and how drag helped them be proud of who they are.

Still, this article, and particularly the newspaper’s cover image, were too much. Almost 24 hours after the newspaper came out, surveillance footage showed a man removing stacks of newspapers. An investigation was launched, though a week later Fr. David Leigh, S.J., an English professor, confessed to taking the newspapers. He wrote:

I was offended by a recent edition of The Spectator, whose cover contained what I considered an inappropriate risqué photograph. A few days after the publication of that edition, I took the liberty of removing the few remaining copies of the paper from newsstands… Students and faculty had already picked up most of the copies, but I was concerned about the arrival of new students and their families for Accepted Students Decision Day. I deeply regret this action and have no further comments.

Seattle University President Fr. Stephen Sundborg, S.J., also objected to the photo, saying he was “very, very embarrassed and ashamed” and that he “thought it was indecent.” Sundborg added, “I thought it offended all dignity and respect of sexuality and of persons of bodies. I think it was a mistake on the part of the editorial staff to put that on the cover. I was offended by it …. Anybody who would see that who has a sense of propriety would find that offensive.”

Sundborg has since clarified that he had no connection to Leigh’s taking of the newspapers, and that he would never consider removing them. He said, “I tell you, if there’s any violation of the right of the Spectator to have their newspapers out, I would be very, very upset about that, and it would be a very significant thing to me because I think that should be protected.”

What do you think about the Seattle University drag show photograph? Let us know in the comments.

Featured image by Samira Shobeiri via the Seattle Spectator

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