Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The presidential race in high heels

30th annual 17th Street High Heel Race attracts political commentary from participants

Thousands of spectators gathered between P Street and S Street NW on Tuesday to witness hundreds of participants take on the 30th annual 17th Street High Heel Race.

Before the race, most of the participants walked up and down the six-block stretch for a pre-race parade at 7 p.m. Many took on the personality of the character they were dressed as and posed for photos.

Some participants took the race seriously and sprinted toward the finish line in hopes of first place, while others focused on their outfits or costumes and the photo-op. Even so, the participants that stood out the most were those who used the race as a platform to speak on the current election season.

The politicians that participants targeted ranged from Barbara Comstock, the incumbent congresswoman from Virginia’s 10th district, all the way up the ballot to the presidential nominees Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

A group of runners walked up and down the six short blocks and all claimed to be the congresswoman from Virginia, shouting, “I’m Barbara Comstock!” All the Comstocks were not there to support her though, but rather to bring attention to all the faults in her platform, as well as her public opinions the group deemed wrong. One of the Comstocks even said, “she wants to shoot us all,” in reference to her support of the NRA.

Another group of nearly 10 participants dressed as Women for Trump and marched down the street alongside a Donald Trump impersonator while chanting phrases like, “When they go high, we go down,” and “Lock her up,” referring to Hillary Clinton.

Women for Trump included satirical costumes such as a participant wearing a cheese hat and a picket sign that read, “Make America Grate Again,” and another that carried a stuffed cat and a picket sign that read, “Grab my pussy.”

Although the majority of the political commentary at the race was on Trump and his supporters, including a participant that carried a basket labeled “Basket of Deplorables” that contained both Sarah Palin and Ann Coulter’s books, there were also a few participants that chose to bring Hillary Clinton’s scandals to light.

One runner wore a Clinton mask and a tiara, and carried a sign that read, “Hillary Clinton, a.k.a Lady MacDeath. Queen of Regime Change for: Iraq, Honduras, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Iran, Palestine and endless war.” The participant did not speak to the crowd, but simply waved and posed for photos.

While some used this race as a platform to voice their opinions, others participated for fun. One participant, a 20-year-old drag queen who goes by Marianna Trench, said she has run in the race for two years now.

“It’s a D.C. tradition and I love doing it. I like putting on makeup and having people take photos of me. Vanity is one of my greatest skills,” Trench said. “[My favorite part is] not the running. Just the walking up and down and saying hi to people. [I like] making fun of people and how they look and how they dress.”

Two hours before the race, participants like Trench interacted with spectators that lined the street, often times acting as a character from a movie.

Among the spectators was Daniel Fitzgerald, a student in the School of International Service and a veteran spectator of the race. Fitzgerald said he has attended the event for three years now because it celebrates LGBTQ pride.

“After Pride in June, there’s a gap in really big pride events and, especially in D.C., this is one of the biggest pride events in the fall season where everyone can come together, have a good time, see all the fabulous costumes and see some men race in high heels,” Fitzgerald said.

The race is a celebration of LGBTQ culture and occurs on the Tuesday before Halloween on 17th Street, or Frank Kameny Avenue. The street is aptly named for Frank Kameny, a gay rights activist that was prominent in the District in the 1960s after being dismissed from the U.S. Army for his sexual orientation.

The 17th Street High Heel Race is many things: a platform for social and political commentary, a decades-old tradition, a celebration of pride, a fun parade and overall an actual race.

emartin@theeagleonline.com


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