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Personality or Looks?

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Back in my str8 phase when I did the marriage thing and had kids I was sorta on the more feminine side, I think because that is what I thought I should be.

This relates to one of my favorite quotes from "Femme-dyke" by Arlene Istar, an article in The Persistant Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader edited by Joan Nestle:

"A few years ago, I baught a pair of warm winter boots. I worked in an agency where all the women wore heavy femme drag, and even if I hadn't been out, my differentness was apparant. I wasn't sure if the agency would even let me wear boots to work. I walked into my office, and two male co-workers immediately began playfully whistling. 'Ooh, new boots - how butch,' they teased me. Later that evening, I met my lover and another friend, both butch identified. They too teased: 'Ooh, new boots - how femmy,' they said. And I suppose that's what being a femme-dyke means. The boys think I'm butch, and the girls think I'm femme."

Similar to Arlene in the above quote, I'm more of a tomboy when I'm around my straight feminine co-workers, but I'm defininetely a femme when I'm out and about in the lesbian community. To me, that's what butch-femme is all about - being defined by your female, lesbian/queer peers. And NOT being defined by the hetrosexual roles that we were born into. Part of being queer is making your own rules and roles - so lets all enjoy them to the fullest! 

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i'm often fascinated by conversations about butch/femme labels. as a self-identified (stone)femme, it is not a word that is useful for me to use to describe my looks. we already have a word for that in english, it's 'feminine.' *smile*

femme has a different connotation, and also has historical connotations to our very queer past....not so far away past either. at one time, of course, when a woman came out she did not have much choice -- she was either butch or femme....and for those that sometimes switched it up there was the term ki-ki. certainly, when the feminist movement hit and butches and femmes were looked at with scorn for "imitating" straight people and perpertuating the patriarchy, it became less attractive to express this part of oneself, but they/we didn't disappear. maybe just went underground for a bit. and for those that felt freed by the feminist movement to now 'just be themselves' -- that's wonderful. but not everyone felt inhibited by butch/femme labels -- in fact, i'd say, some felt free within them. as i do today.

for me (and this my definition), femme speaks to who i am attracted to as it also speaks to that i am a feminine lesbian. it is, in a sense, my sexual orientation within the queer community. i am primarily attracted to butches, and also to FTMs/tg butches. i am attracted to those that possess masculine energy and a female body (or once female). not all femmes identify with this description, but again, it is what the word means to me.

so, i just wanted to throw that out there. not everyone dislikes labels -- and for me, being able to claim them has in fact made me feel more free than before i found them. it helped me to feel less alone, a part of something, and ultimately to develop into the woman i am today.

respectfully,

ladyk

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I actually have never heard of this Butch / Femme thing. well not in the uk anyway, but i guess i would be soft butch as i am tomboyish in one way but femme when i go out.

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hmmmm.....

This butch/femme thang has me in a quandry....i've been grappling with it for quite sometime....

I've been told that it's why i don't have many "dates" or other lesbians won't come near me....the "signals" aren't clear....huh??

i tend to wear pants (butch trait), and lipgloss (femme trait), dangly silver bits on the ears (femme), short nails (butch), body oils (femme), boots (butch)....i do my eyebrows (femme)....can put together PCs & stereos (butch?)....  (and, sometimes i have a walk that rivals John Travolta's in "Saturday Night Fever"! ) 

I'm about ready to give up!!! I think it's quite obvious to those who look at me that i'm not het.....

Personally, I feel I'm a fab blend of both....and that's absolutely the type of woman I'm looking for! 

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I can certainly relate to the womyn who consider themselves to be femme-dykes. I consider myself to be femme, but I do have my femme-dyke days/times. Like I love to play softball or some days I go to work in my sweat pants, a nice baby doll tee, and a baseball cap.

I just think that whatever you consider yourself to be just remember to be true to you and not change for anyone.

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as we're seeing, labels are a good starting point. but people are so much more complicated than the labels we have to describe them...

i went to a presentation at antioch college a few years ago that was part of a research project. the womyn showed dozens of slides of wimyn, and we were to rank each one on a butch-femme scale, like 1 to 10 or something like that (where one would be the most femme, 10 the most butch). we discovered just how subjective and relative these terms are...

i think butch and femme are terms that are applied in a certain context that have to do with degrees of masculinity and femininity. all people have masculine traits and all people have feminine traits. these characteristics may have to do with personality, they may have to do with manner, preferences, physical traits, cultural norms, etc...

i am femme because i know i have predominantly feminine characteristics, even though sometimes my hair is short, sometimes my legs are hairy, etc. to me, these things don't necessarily have to do with feminity. i once had a man tell me, 'for someone who tries so hard not to be, you are the most feminine person i know.' i also had a girlfriend once who wore lipstick, had long hair, shaved legs, etc. and she turned out to be WAY too butch for me.

i love femininity. that's why i prefer femmes. but i have also found myself intensely attracted to girls who have this really cute androgynous-punk sort of look. i think it's good to think about this stuff and not let society label us and all that jazz. i think it's also a good idea to let the thinking go from time to time and just sort of experience ourselves, people, life. the important things to know are what you are comfortable being and what kind of people you are comfortable being with, what attracts you, what you like. i'm starting to feel an edie brickel song coming on...

"shove me in the shallow water before i get to deep...

what i am is what i am, are you what you are or what?..."

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Hey all. I consider myself feminine by looks and personality, but I am not the type of girl to cry over breaking a nail or something, I am pretty down to earth. I find other femmes attractive, but not exclusively. I think having *some* labeling does help others understand a bit of what to expect, but going just by labeling itself and not getting to know a person for who they truely are does tend to miss something.

But anyways this being my first post- Hi all 

~ PetticoatLace

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very interesting thread. i have come up with a term actually a friend of mine did when we were chatting about identity one day- "Tweener" and to be honest i kind of like it LOL. While I personally would never be caught in a dress, I still identify as femme, I guess in the "straight" world i could "pass", at least on most days, but at the same time i like wearing mens jeans- they actually accentuate my less than feminine physique and make me appear more femme. On a sexual level i "switch" but conduct myself in a sensual way that i perceive as more femme,(note that femme does not mean sub, I can be dominant when i want to and still be femme) my preferences lean toward the more femm looking women at least on initial attraction. We are after all part of the animal kingdom and physical appearance is what initially draws us to each other- it's just that it varies from person to person regardless of sexual orientation, what we are attracted to.

I don't mind labels, they do serve their purpose (for me the only purpose they serve is when i am not meeting someone in person, and is mostly and initial impression) a label is a way to break the ice when online, but again what one labels femme another might label butch so it is still a crap shoot LOL. If i am meeting someone in person the label doesn't really matter- I am attracted to what i am attracted to initially, which leads to getting to know the other person to see if it will go any further and down what path further means, be it friendship or more.

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ok im new so take it easy!

ok so i think that butch and femme is just how u identify yourself also it makes it easyer to find out what type of lesbian you are into. my parents would call me a stone dyke, but myself i would call me a soft butch they just look at my looks and not at how my attitude is.... so it is a comination of both looks and attitude.... and that is my personal thougths on it

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To me, you just are what you say you are. It's an internal label, if you choose to put one on yourself. You can say "i'm butch," or "i'm femme" or whatever, or none.

Of course, then what everyone else sees can be different. If you have short hair, wear masculine clothing etc, probably someone else will think you are butch. If you have long hair, wear make-up, wear skirts, someone will probably see you and think you are femme. That doesn't necessarily mean you are, though.

In general, I think people portray whatever label they put on themself. If they want to claim butch of femme they give out a vibe, and/or show people that's what they are in mannerisms, and clothing etc. It's not always the case, so of course I'm generalizing.

To reply to the original question. To be butch of femme is both an inner feeling (personality) as well as how you show yourself to the world (looks) but not everyone will see the same thing, to include yourself. It's a personal label, which may or may not be different than the one that others want to put on you.

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To reply to the original question. To be butch of femme is both an inner feeling (personality) as well as how you show yourself to the world (looks) but not everyone will see the same thing, to include yourself. It's a personal label, which may or may not be different than the one that others want to put on you.

i agree. once i met this girl who insisted that i am butch despite me saying that i'm not. i was really quite flabberghasted because someone who didn't even know me was labelling me and telling me that she knew better than i did about who i was. i found that rather annoying. i think looks and personality, though linked on occasions, do not necessarily represent each other.

i guess labels are good for categorizing an individual but only to a certain extent because we are so much more than just one thing. i grew up in singapore and, from what i saw and experienced, labels played a huge part in the lesbian community there, to the point that when two individuals of the same 'category' (i.e. two butches) start dating, their attraction would be questioned. (things might have changed now, i'm not sure) i don't mind labels when they're used to describe, but i am against them when they become restrictive.

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Yeah the topic of bitch and femme labels is one I've really been struggling with lately. I just moved to So. Cali so I've spent more and more time on the computer meeting women in my area. Unfortunately, most of them have asked "butch or femme?" A question I really don't have a concrete answer to. Although I do believe it is an internal image/feeling that surfaces through appearance if the woman does identify with the label, I also think there is a question of "dominant vs. submissive."

Maybe I'm just crazy... when I'm around femme lesbians, I find myself (regardless of what I'm wearing) acting the "butch/male" role but when I'm around butch or masculine women, I immediately dissolve into a feminine puddle. ?!?!?! It's rather irritating at times. I guess I'm still trying to figure out who -I- am as a person... and even, as a label.

What do you think?

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It seems that everyone wants to put everyone else into this box of either Butch or Femme, when it comes to being a lesbian. But the thing is, I think there are very few who actually fit neatly into either role. The only way I think it really works is if you pick one to embrace for yourself. And well, I think that more often than not people DON'T pick one or the other. You shouldn't have to. Who you are is who you are. And if a label doesn't fit, then it doesn't, labels are broad reaching things not meant to fit each and every person.

Sometimes you're butch, sometimes you're femme. Who cares? It's not like you can't be both, you know? And anyone saying you have to pick is really quite silly. When someone asks, just say who cares? Does it matter? And those that are like, I'm only attracted to femmes, or I'm only attracted to butches. That gets a little tricky too, because what if you decide you only want a butch and then you pass over anyone with long hair. Who's to say they aren't butch and you couldn't fall in love with them?

Anyway, to sum it all up, it's all quite silly to me. If you WANT a label, then good on you and go ahead and pick one. But, if you don't want one, then don't feel obligated to pick one. Though, that isn't to say someone else won't pick one for you. But, them's the breaks sometimes, and then you deal.

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Hi girls! I'm kinda new at all this... I'm just admitting to myself that I'm a lesbian! and I do have to say... Don't let others define who you are and what THEY think you are! all I can say is I'm attracted to girls femme butch, girlie, not girlie, tomboyish not tomboyish... Really labels to me aren't cool at all! because what if someone is calling you butch and you think that's what your supposed to be all the time and you continue to be that when you know you can be so much more... or vice versa! if you all understand what I mean! lol...anyway I consider MYSELF! all of the above at different times and different moods because sometimes there is times I shouldbe femme and I feel like wearing something nicer and going somewhere nice and wearing makeup and all that... but than there's times I want to just play basketball! or just lay around my house in sweats and eat icecream!! ya know as girls I think we all feel like each of those at one time or another! especaially when we finally find that right girl! we might want to dress up for them one time to blow them away! or do something romantic for them when we are not usually that way! yup we are girls and we do have moods lol!!!

love ya all

~CHRIS~ 

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ok i wish i would have been reading this post from the beginning cause reading them all at once was a little overwhelming but it sounds to me like everyone has the same basic idea that we cant really fit ourselves into these labels so who exactly made them up... i think it was straight ppl trying their best to understand us and so dividing us into groups that they can analyze instead of trying to fathom us as a whole... i mean me i like to dress nice but i hardley ever wear makeup or spend hours on my hair and i wear a skirt or dress maybe twice a year... sexually im bisexual so i play a very meek submissive role with men but with my last girlfriend i was trying more dominant things in fact i strapped on for the first time  definitely a good thing lol... anyways im not at all sure what ppl either in the straight world or here where we live would percieve me as all i know is women are sexy whether they are butch or femme or tomboy or whatever... and sexual preference is just that personally i would rather be dominated by a woman but if its a very pretty woman with long blond hair and a sweet little voice then is she really a butch just cause shes in control im thinking not

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Ok I had to respond to this one because I recently got a crew cut, I usually do it every year to give my hair a break from dying it, but it seems very unsettling for those around me. I consider myself very feminine, red nails, lace panties and bra kinda gal. I love shopping and doing all the girlie stuff, I am attracted to femmes and some long haired, what some would consider butches, gals. I have been told I have a great face for this hair style, square jaw and all, yet most want to label me butch, hhmm.

Well if it was about attitude, then my take no shit from anyone attitude would be butch/bitch, but I wouldn't self identify that way. And now with the crew cut they again want to label me but this time as soft butch, because of the make-up and nails. I just say get a life or get to know me before you try to paste a label on me, cause tomorrow its high heels, dangly earings and a dress, the day after that is a tight sweater and cowboy boots, so if you want to keep track and try to label go right ahead. But just when you think you have me pegged, guess again.

Just my two cents worth.

CS

"Well behaved women rarely make history!"

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this is something i'm encountering for the first time. as i am re-entering the dating world i am discovering that things have changed since I was last single. the first thing most people ask now is butch or femme, and i am stumped. i do not identify as either, i am a tiny bit of each but mostly androgynous. i'm so frustrated with this that i'm putting my headlines on my personal ads to read "i'm not a femme...or a butch..." just to save everybody's time when so many are specifically looking for those things. as for me i'm looking for neither butch nor femme, just an intriguing personality and an interesting mix of traits... i'm probably dreaming the impossible dream!

truestorm

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I think what defines a butch to a femme is both personality and look. Someone can look femme, but act butch or vise versa or someone can look butch and act butch or vise versa.

It all depends on the woman.

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i say it should be a combination of the both.. i couldn't date a dull, pretty girl or an awesome girl that looks like a train wreck. now i'm not shallow but shes gotta have a little of each to get me 

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First I am thrilled that I am learning to navigate this site! I am even more thrilled to read that some of you have it all figured out and others are like me  I have finally decided to be who I am, and that is lesbian although I don't know what type I am. I suppose I love feeling feminine but I'm pretty athletic too. I don't dress like a princess, but I don't dress like a man either.

I want to find someone that I can take good care of and someone that will take good care of me and for once in my life, I don't want to have to be so damned strong. Being primarily with men (while finding a few sexual interludes with women on the side), I have come to realize that it will never work because, truthfully, they don't understand me and I despise what most of them stand for and how they view this world. I'm over it! 

I want to care for and be cared for like I never have been...I'm wounded and vulnerable and I guess over time, I will figure out what my preferences are, right? Please tell me it's okay to not have a label 

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We as humans need an identity! Theres no use having a identity crisis over whether your butch or femme. But to actually be someone besides other labels like... queer, bi- sexual or dyke is an understatement. I am a female (always have been) and am attracted to women. What type of women that I am attracted to and is labeled in society butch or femme is politically incorrect...Not all tomboys are butch, not all femmes are girlie. There is nothing wrong with being attracted to the same sex with or without labels. We can label ourselves butch or femme but I am just straight out gay.

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labels dont really bother me as long as they dont get too carried away. i would say that im definietly a femme both in personality, and looks. but for someone else, i guess you'd either have to ask them what they mean, or kinda guess. but you're right. my ex looks femme, but she says shes butch. i would call her tomboy. but i guess in everyones eyes they have a different view.

or maybe im a lipstick lesbian? haha. thats much too involved for me. all i know is i like women, and im a totally girly girl. 

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I think it really depends on the person. For me it's a bit of both.

Externally, I'm very much a diva. I'm into fashion/hair/makeup/general maintenance shenanigans.

Internally, I have the mind of a sixteen year old boy. I like dick and fart jokes, I laugh at poop or the mere mention of a dirty word. Beyond just basic immaturity, my actual thought process borders more on "manly" when it comes to relationships and the like. I'm not very emotional, I fail at romance, and I don't understand women at all. I tend to prefer the dominant role in a relationship, as well. I like sports, and camping, and hunting, and beer and titties.. Basically all your stereo-typical "man activities".

I joke around a lot about being a guy. I even changed my gender on Facebook to male (which is borderline hysterical, and confuses a looooot of people). But no one would ever guess any of that just by glancing at me.

I think the labels work for some people. And for others, they just don't.

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I'm not very emotional, I fail at romance, and I don't understand women at all. I tend to prefer the dominant role in a relationship, as well. I like sports, and camping, and hunting, and beer and titties.. Basically all your stereo-typical "man activities".

HELLS YES!

I like some labels, They can be a great way to describe yourself to other ppl. but I also think we've taken the label idea to far. I've read over 100 label definitions in the past wk and half made no sense and the other was boderline redundant. Personally I label myself as a hard butch/stud. It works, it's basic, and the most important part I know what it means lol.

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As far as looks go, I get called femme. I'm not ultra femme, and I don't look exactly girly, but I'm very feminine in everything I do. Internally, I'm a massive nerd. Btw, Pheonix... Something about your face reminds me of Ellen Page.

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