I am a little confused as to the definitions of butch and femme. I am assumming that we are speaking in terms of physical appearance.
Hi Teoria, nice to see your posts around! This place needs more prolific writers :)
The idea of "butch/femme" seems to be used in an extremely wide variety of ways. Yes, some people (especially younger lesbians, especially recently) definitely use it to refer simply to physical appearance... and in fact to many different kinds of physical appearance -- which can make it hard to figure out what the heck people are talking about when they say it!
But there are other uses as well. Particularly, it was an extremely important idea to many lesbians who were out before the 2nd wave of the women's liberation movement. To them, it was a complex way of creating culture and identity, not just a way of looking. In some ways it incorporated aspects of what are traditionally thought of as "masculinity and femininity", and in other ways it was totally different. It was a huge source of conflict between 2nd wave feminists and earlier lesbians. It's an incredibly complex thing that's still sort of not resolved, so I won't try to do it justice here. But a couple of good books that may shed some light on it are Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinstein and Zami by Audre Lorde.
I think it's really useful to distinguish between "masculine/feminine", which i take to mean all the cultural ways we distinguish men from women, and "butch/femme", which has some parallels but is really its own whole separate thing.
so although i wear clothes/haircuts/whatever that society says are supposed to be "boy" stuff, and work in a field that is traditionally considered to be "men's work", i don't consider that to make me "butch" in the "butch/femme" sense. i don't look like a butch dyke. sometimes i do look "like a guy" though. (actually i prefer to consider that guys look like me ;) )
Maybe it does have to do with the fact that I look like I fit into their little worlds. Then again, I have encountered criticism b/c of the way I look from other lesbians.
huh. that's really interesting (and really sad, too). what kind of attitudes have you encountered?
Everyone wants to know "Butch or femme?" Does it matter? Will it change anything? I just don't see the point in the labels.
*nod* yeah, i know what you mean. it's one thing to be free to identify as butch/femme/whatever as we choose, but it bugs me when people assume that everyone falls into that system somehow. I was just wondering about this in my last post. Do you find that this is increasing? When did you first notice it happening?
Nor do I understand how identifying with and embracing the softer side of being a woman makes you a supporter of the patriarchy.
*nod* for sure. Was this one of the criticisms you were mentioning above, or is this something you've read here on the board? i'm wondering where this comes from...
why do women feel they have to act and look like men to succeed.
hm... which women do you think feel this?
as far as connecting it back to the butch/femme thing, i definitely don't think butch women do it "in order to succeed". in fact, as you've mentioned in your message, it may sometimes be easier to succeed when we *don't* look butch.
What is wrong with looking femme?
nothing, as far as I"m concerned! In fact, I think that's why zami started this thread -- in support of how hard it can be for femme lesbians to get the recognition and support they deserve (because people, sometimes even in the queer community, assume they're straight).
And if we have to have labels, can we devise more appropriate labels? Butch and femme leave out so many things.
*nod* Just because some people use these labels, and find them helpful, I definitely don't think we all have to! There's absolutely nothing about claiming one identity that means another one is wrong. As someone who identifies as neither butch nor femme, I definitely support you in carving out whatever space is just right for you -- with or without labels.