no longer active member

Femme Invisibility and Butch Marginality

32 posts in this topic

Ok. So this is stemming from another post which (I think) was trying to get at femme invisibility. As someone who does NOT identify as femme, this is probably not my place to write about this (the experiences of femmes), so folks can step up and tell me to go away and I totally understand.

So what about femme invisibility in queer communities? Is this of concern to folks who ID as femme? Do you think your gender expression gets appropriated by the mainstream? How about passing privilege?

And how do non-femme identified folks feel about this? Maybe we can also talk about butch marginality (which I could definitely add to) especially since many butches have their sexuality (or assumed sexuality) read off of their bodies in non-queer spaces, and don't necessarily have the passing privilege that femmes could have. But perhpas this is one of those double edged sword privileges for queer femmes, as they may 'pass' in the straight community which therefore translates into being invisible in the queer community (i.e. you are not really queer as you are supposedly falling into patriarchy's trap and ascribing to mainstream notions of femininity <-- just for the record, I don't believe this). Not to mention all the assumed sexual stereotypes which go with gender presentation....

Of course, all this is mediated by gender identity, class, race, age, ability and also geographic location. I realize that femme and butch in Toronto, Canada may not be femme and butch in Sydney, Australia etc.

Share this post


Link to post
Join Amazon Third Party Video Subscriptions Free Trial

Cool. I don't know how I missed this thread before. This are really great inquiries.

I agree that there is femme invisibility and butch marginality as I have experienced both to some degree. I kinda fall in the middle I think. I don't like people assuming that I am straight and similarly I don't like people questionning my female-ness because I'm gay. With my limited POV I would submit that it definitely is a double-edged sword. It's a gay thing, and it's a woman thing (and certainly the other mediating factors).

I'm anxious to see what others have to say about this specific issue.

Share this post


Link to post

Hmm...since I am new at least to the gay scene I am not really sure I know what you mean. However I do enjoy not being assumed as a lesbian by the masses...maybe that is because I am not yet comfortable with it enough myself. I am on the femme side, a sporty femme of sorts is what I have been told and I don't think I would strike anyone as a lesbian, but I also don't think it would surprise anyone either. I went through the butch phase when I was younger, but now I embrace my femminity and enjoy makeup and my curling iron. When around other lesbians I don't feel invisible at all, but when I am at a gay bar people usually ask me if I am a lesbian before too deep in conversation, so maybe that is what you mean.

Share this post


Link to post

So what about femme invisibility in queer communities? Is this of concern to folks who ID as femme?

Good question. Can't speak from personal experience, but my partner definitely wrestles with this. Just from hearing her stories, it definitely seems to me that this is a very different question for people coming out today (she's 29 and has been out for about a year) than for people who came out even 10 years ago (as I did).

In the communities i participate in, i feel like we're at the crossroads of "lesbian mainstreamification" and "transgender oblivion"... which means, progressive mainstream (read: straight) communities seem to be taking a sort of "sexual-orientation-blind" approach that mirrors the false "peace" of "colour-blindness". meanwhile, tranny issues haven't taken hold enough to really shake people up and start the community asking hard questions again.

and i think that that denial of difference really depends on queers not pushing the envelope too far (especially around gender ambiguity). as someone who is usually read pretty clearly as "not female", i definitely feel that i make some people (even in the queer community) pretty uncomfortable (don't rock the boat -- especially now when we've almost got gay marriage in the bag!). but i suspect it also puts a lot of pressure on women who are assumed to "look straight" (at least relatively), to represent queerness as palatable.

of course, on top of all this, none of the historical issues around gender presentation ever seemed to get resolved... so there's still lots of "you should dress better to prove that not all lesbians are mannish truck drivers!" to go around *grin* not to mention that whole "butches are buying into the patriarchy, you macho asshole!" stuff. it feels like an archeological dig -- layers upon layers of contradictory orthodoxies.

anyway, too tired to conclude anything useful right now, but this seems really interesting.

til next time,

troublemaker

Share this post


Link to post

ugh. just reread my last post and realized it was pretty unclear... "my communities" means Halifax, Canada... tiny city on the east coast, no large queer community for 1000 km in any direction. Also when i mentioend "passing" i meant passing as straight, not genderqueer (probably obvious from the context, but anyway).

in the meantime, it's occurred to me that the conversations in this forum so far strike me as really ironic... that whole "androgynous", "i don't do roles - i'm a feminist" birkenstock-overalls-haircut #2 look that represented such a rejection of butch-femme culture in the 70's seems to now be read (by young women at least) as... "butch". *laugh*

i'd be interested to know what people think about historical continuity, how and whether queer stories/experience are getting caried forward. women's history has been so erased/ignored, and i wonder if we're seeing another wave of that, especially around butch-femme issues. i mean, these conversations (especially disrespect of butches) are, as zami said in another thread, "way old". are butch marginality and femme invisibility being worsened by historical illiteracy, instead of alleviated through alliance-building and education?

the world is a strange place.

troublemaker

Share this post


Link to post

sometimes i really just wonder if i should get *queer* tattooed on my forehead...

Share this post


Link to post

Quote
i'd be interested to know what people think about historical continuity, how and whether queer stories/experience are getting caried forward. women's history has been so erased/ignored, and i wonder if we're seeing another wave of that, especially around butch-femme issues. i mean, these conversations (especially disrespect of butches) are, as zami said in another thread, "way old". are butch marginality and femme invisibility being worsened by historical illiteracy, instead of alleviated through alliance-building and education?

 

Word...I wonder myself and I must also say that my knowledge of butch/femme culture came from reading tons of stuff and listening to my lesbian 'elders' so to speak. For me, listening to the experiences of black butches and femmes (mainly in Toronto where I live and also reading stuff from the US) and hearing about their history really has made the difference in understanding and critiquing Lesbian/Radical "it's all about the patriarchy" feminists of the 70s...and now on to the present day....

I find it interesting that 'butch' is dissapearing in the eyes of many and being replaced by "boy". When I say 'in the eyes of many' I'm NOT talking here about folks who self identify as FTM, genderqueer, gendervariant, genderquestioning and their allies, but those who ID usually as femme who are interested in mainly femmes (as per the conversation in the other thread). I'm concerned mainly because of the border wars (as you probably know a lot about Troublemaker). I'm concerned because many many butch lesbians don't ID as men and many many FTMs don't ID as butch OR lesbian. It is the automatic equation that doesn't work for me. And then of course, there are many who just have no idea that there is a difference at all, therefore marginalizing the masculinities of transmen by seeing them as "some kind of" butch woman...(but this is a tangent).

It feels as if dogging the butch presence in the community is a new age lesbian thing - as per the reasoning, "why would I want to be with a guy? I want to be with someone who looks like a woman". I've seen the younger crowds at clubs/bars essentially *push out* the older, usually butch identified folks (who, if we are talking historically, have also been mainly represented by working class and/or of colour folks). I mean, if those dykes are not around in my scene, I feel like something is off....

I remember a conversation online recently about the dearth of butch IDed folks - perhaps because of this historical illiteracy you speak of? In the other thread Troublemaker, you pointed out that perhaps the "butch=patriarchy has won" equation is more palatable to newly emerging lesbians (feminists)? To lesbians who ascribe to biologically based ideas of gender difference? And then I'm thinking about garbage and LizzieLou's statements - how garbage does NOT want to be read as a lesbian, and how Lizzielou does and does not like her femaleness questioned...

I'm rambling and have no point here, but maybe something will be useful. I guess I wonder about how we negotiate these spaces as trans identities are being more recognized (and I mean recognized by being talked about NOT that that transphobic oppression is being recognized) and butch identities are being forgotten? And of course, the ultimate question is...this binary is soooo false, right? We all don't "fit" in one or the other, you know, due to personal self-identification and those other mediating factors I keep adding on to the end.. (race, gender ID, class, ability...)

Share this post


Link to post

Quote
sometimes i really just wonder if i should get *queer* tattooed on my forehead...

I think a lot of people dont know that I'm interested in women. This is probaby partially because I'm only out to my friends, not my family. But also I think my looks may have something to do with it. Apparently I dont put out the "gay vibe" I'd like to learn how to do it so I get approached by more women!

Share this post


Link to post

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. I honestly could not tell you exactly where I fall. I guess you could say I look femme. People who don't know me are suprised to hear that I am gay, yet those who know me are not surprised. In reference to your invisible question, I suppose that I am invisible to some degree. I can blend into either gay or straight worlds. Although as soon as I open my mouth, I stand out in a crowd as being just me. I think every woman blends in to some degree. I mean there is a little butch and femme in all of us (unless you are a Barbie doll). I find that looking femme makes it easier for some people to accept that I am gay. I don't know why, but it does. 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. Everyone wants to know "Butch or femme?" Does it matter? Will it change anything? I just don't see the point in the labels. Nor do I understand how identifying with and embracing the softer side of being a woman makes you a supporter of the patriarchy. I see this as embracing the beauty that is woman. I mean we are different from men (still equal (if not at a slight advantage), but different), so why do women feel they have to act and look like men to succeed. Why can't we embrace our natural strengths as women. What is wrong with looking femme? And if we have to have labels, can we devise more appropriate labels? Butch and femme leave out so many things.

Share this post


Link to post

In the other thread Troublemaker, you pointed out that perhaps the "butch=patriarchy has won" equation is more palatable to newly emerging lesbians (feminists)? To lesbians who ascribe to biologically based ideas of gender difference?

hm... not sure which quote you're referring to here... that does make me thing of something though: first of all, i want to say i have no problem with legitimate critique of butch/femme culture: i *don't* see it as

perfect and unproblematic, any more than i see any culture that way.

but butches have always ended up getting put down in some special way, and I don't think that's a coincidence. it used to be "you're automatically a sexist asshole." but i actually think i'm encountering less and less of that. the new way to put down butches seems to be "you're ugly"!!! it's the same fear, but repackaged in a newly apolitical way. significant?

whether the sexism charge is more common among younger or newly emerging lesbians /feminists than among older folks, i don't know... but my sense is that young lesbians are actually increasingly interested in the ideas of butch/femme. i remember starting to notice this about 3 years ago, and it seemed to be starting in the big cities and filtering out... like it was the new cool thing to try on for size. and now i find that women who are just coming out are extremely likely to at least try to fit themselves into one of the two.

maybe it's become a spectrum, instead of two incontrovertible opposites, but it's still saddled with all that old baggage about "you have to fit into this schema somehow." (note other threads on this board where amazing linguistic contortions actually distinguish "butchy-femme" from "femmy-butch"). yet only recently the whole idea was seen as hopelessly old-fashioned. some kind of retro trend, like bell-bottoms??? anyone else notice this, or am i totally out to lunch??

I remember a conversation online recently about the dearth of butch IDed folks - perhaps because of this historical illiteracy you speak of? ... [snip] ... I guess I wonder about how we negotiate these spaces as trans identities are being more recognized (and I mean recognized by being talked about NOT that that transphobic oppression is being recognized) and butch identities are being forgotten?

i think this is a really important point... butch/femme is understood less and less, even recognized less and less these days, while transsexualism and genderqueerness are gaining recognition (both in a restricted way, mostly in large urban areas... ). You wrote earlier about the worry that FTM transfolk would be read as "some kind of butch", and i think the opposite danger exists: that butch women are in some ways getting lumped in as "some kind of tranny." anyone else see this?

hope others will contribute -- one's perception is a tricky place in which to dwell.

Troublemaker

Share this post


Link to post

Quote
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)

Quote
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?

Quote
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?

Quote
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...

Quote
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.

Quote
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).

Quote
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.

take care,

Troublemaker

Share this post


Link to post

Okay Trouble in responce to your question concerning the criticism from other lesbians. I have had an experience where my sexuality was questioned based on my appearance. I was waiting at a bar while my (at the time) girlfriend was in the bathroom. We had just gotten there and I these two women were staring at me so finally I asked if I could help them. They wanted to know if I was gay or straight. I wasn't quite sure that was any of their business but pointed out that the girl I was there with was indeed my girlfriend. They stated that they just weren't certain and were wondering. And from there the conversation digressed after my (at the time) girlfriend returned. Somehow the conversation got going on norms and Sara (who of course couldn't resist the challenge) and I were accused of contributing to the insecurities women feel as a result of trying to fit into an image created by the male dominated media. From there the conversation went on to eating disorders and politics. It was a very long and drawn out debate. I just remember that I was initially drawn into a conversation where I was forced to defend myself against something I am against b/c of the way I look. I never forgot this conversation b/c it ticked me off.

It wasn't the questions that bothered me as I am open to any debate. It was the way the questions were presented and the general body language of those women. They had no right to judge me b/f they got to know me. The funny thing is that I have seen them around a few times since then and they have been pleasant. Maybe they had too much to drink by the time I showed up or maybe it was b/c I hadn't had anything to drink yet or maybe I showed up in the mist of a conversation and fit the physical description of the subject. But they soon found out that there is nothing superficial about me and that I am very secure and comfortable with who I am (so was my date, who decided we should accept the challenge. I always loved how we usually meant me with her support...Sorry, I digress). Anyhow, that is the story. Other instances are more inquiries and not neccessarily criticisms, they want to know how I identify (bi/straight/lesbian). I guess I didn't fit their stereotypical profiles. They usually would conclude with sentences like "Oh really, I wouldn't have guessed." But most women don't care or don't ask. They either assume I am or I am not or that are not interested, so the details are insignificant.

And one last note re my last entry, by "act and look like men" I meant gestures and verbalessences not neccessarily physical appearance. This was a preface to my next statement that women need to get in touch with their inner beauty and strength and that those two things contain the key to attaining whatever you desire. I know several very successful women, who got where they are b/c they are women not in spite of being a woman. I don't mean that they were handed the positions just for "wearing a dress" -so to speak. What I mean is that in the work place most women are afraid to be feminine b/c femme traits are considered weak and powerful, so they try to be "one of the boys." I don't even think this is a conscious decision. In the financial industry, there are people who refuse to work with a woman b/c they are not considered as financially minded or stable as men. This always made me laugh b/c most households I spoke with where headed by the woman. Actually, women were the greatest discriminators.

But even in an industry such as this one, a woman can succeed. Many have and do everyday. The most successful ways to counter something like that is not by trying to play on the field wit them. Admit that you are a woman. This will throw them off. That is when you turn it up a few notches and prove you are better for the job b/c you are not a man. This is why I don't understand why women try to hide the fact that they are women. It doesn't take a genius to figure out we are women so we should embrace it and enjoy it.

That is why I prefer women. I enjoy good company and want to embrace the wonderful nature of being a woman. Among other things of course.

Share this post


Link to post

Quote

whether the sexism charge is more common among younger or newly emerging lesbians /feminists than among older folks, i don't know... but my sense is that young lesbians are actually increasingly interested in the ideas of butch/femme. i remember starting to notice this about 3 years ago, and it seemed to be starting in the big cities and filtering out... like it was the new cool thing to try on for size. and now i find that women who are just coming out are extremely likely to at least try to fit themselves into one of the two.

 

Here's my 2 cents for what its worth, and please realize I'm NOT bashing anyone here, just giving my perspective as someone who's been out for a relatively LONG time. 

Coming from an "older" lesbian who's been out since the mid 70's (and who vaguely actually remembers the Stonewall Riots), I can tell you I've seen the trends come and go a LOT in the last 25+ years. In fact, this was just the discussion a group of us had at a 'new' woman's bar that opened here in Baltimore a few weeks ago. The bar is actually one that was open over 30 years ago-closed in the 90's- and reopened by the original owners who saw a need for a 'safe' place for older lesbians to socialize. Many people MY age (early 40's) cant stand the 2 woman's bars partly BECAUSE of the assumption of roles that is pushed on us by the younger crowd, that is the 18- say the 28 year olds....usually either just coming out, or "playing" at finding out who they are. At one 'woman's' bar in particular, the crowd is usually 18-25, and bi, and they bring their straight boyfriends who spend the evening getting drunker and drunker, and end up in arguments with the older lesbians......usually the ones they admittedly refer to as "dykes", or "butches", and actually think its acceptable to refer to us that way before they know us. The women that own that particular bar would say to us that they wanted us to come there, and what could they do to make it a more pleasant place for the older women too? ....... hmmmmm...... okay, that's a totally different subject delving more into age and morals than butch/femme.

When I was coming out in the mid 70's, the only women in my area that really identified as 'butch' or 'femme' were the older women, the ones that came out in the 50's or 60's, so much of what I knew about it, I knew from them.....from their spoken history's, and from books like Stone Butch Blues and Ann Bannon novels. I've always thought of the labels as something that originated out of a necessity, a means to be out and survive with minimal harassment from the 'straight' world, especially in the 50's and early 60's. By the time I came out, it wasn't "cool" to identify either way, not out loud anyway. AND this could have been just a local cultural thing too. But all in all, it wasn't something that we really talked about other than in passing. Not that appearances didn't put some kind of a label on us, but ........ it just didn't matter. My ex was a gorgeous (to me) shorthaired, muscular, tattoo'd carpenter that rode a motorcycle. First glance said "butch", but DAMN that woman could wear a dress! And people that knew her (or took the time to get past the surface), knew this, and never said one word one way or another. Maybe it was the era of NOW and ERA, but .... nobody gave a shit.

I too have noticed this trend lately to the younger crowds showing more interest in bringing back the butch/femme thing. And personally.....I don't like it much. I guess I think that among my age group, it was always that we went toward whatever our features carried best and our comfort level as to our style of dress, and if we're talking about couples (as in "one person butch the other femme), it wasn't something assumed, it was just natural that sometimes one had a more dominant personality. Didn't mean that was the "butch" one. Does that make sense? Now, from what I'm seeing (again, this is just MY perspective), I'm seeing women that are absolutely beautiful and femme, going out of their way to be "butch". Shaved heads, wifebeater tanks, big pants around the butt, 'tough' speech..... its like at first glance, they're TRYING TOO HARD. It looks forced, often phony. And this isn't just my perception, its the perception of many older lesbians in my area. Its like, they're not being who they are, they're stuffing themselves into some weird roles, and it leads me to believe that this newer generation of lesbians are going to end up more fucked up and confused than my generation ever was, and that's a shame. NOT to mention, that it perpetuates the stereotype that is repugnant to many gays and lesbians that are trying to become respected and accepted in the hetro society. Assholes like Bush will point to this kind of thing as one of the reasons to NOT accept us into the mainstream (like we're not already there.....) I guess I just personally think that the roles that some younger women seem to want to FORCE themselves into will hurt them in the long run.

Now realize please that I'm not saying that roles don't have a 'legitimate' place in the gay/lesbian society. They do. But back in "the day," it strikes me that they were more personal, as were the reasons for them, as opposed to the modern way of "making a statement" that is my perception now. And my perception may be completely messed up, being that I have little regular insight to the younger groups way of thinking, but it IS my perception. Hope I havnet gone off on too much of a tangent, and that I at least gave SOME kind of new insight to the subject,

Share this post


Link to post

I'm getting a bit of a feeling from this thread that a lot of people feel as though labels present something of an automatic 'requirement' for you to measure yourself against them. If someone says the word 'butch', you must attempt to measure yourself against the 'criteria' of butch and fit yourself into a perceived spectrum. Take offence or act like there's something strange going on if you don't fit neatly into the categories.

To me that totally defies the purpose of labels. Labels make me hot because of the element of choice. I know that a person has the choice to identify as any particular word she wants to identify as, or a string of them, or none of them at all. Her *choice*, her consciousness of her identity, is what makes those identities special. There is nothing special about an identity imposed from the outside, or one you are awkwardly trying to force yourself into.

As a femmie femme from the land of femme, who adores (among other things) butch women (not butch-looking women, but women who deeply identify themselves as butch), I get kind of protective of my labels and the labels of my lovers. I don't want anyone who doesn't genuinely feel like a butch or a femme to go around labelling themselves as such because I feel like it detracts from what those words mean.

I would never, ever call someone butch unless they had called themselves that first, likewise femme. I don't think there is any meaning whatsoever to be gained by trying to force yourself into the spectrum, i.e "I am a femmey-butch... no! Wait! I'm a dykey butchey femme..." unless those words actually resonate with you.

I'm really interested in this topic. As a terribly young femme (I am twenty one) I find myself turning constantly to older lesbian communities for the respect and understanding lesbians my age seem to have not discovered yet. People who understand the meanings of labels beyond them being the current toy of the moment, like a fashionable brand name. I want to hear more.

N.B: I did not just 'come out' and try to fit myself into this category. Finding it and loving it has been a long and complicated adventure, one that I do not believe is ever complete.

If you read this far, you have just read my very first post to this community. I look forward to many more...

Share this post


Link to post

Quote
Quote
sometimes i really just wonder if i should get *queer* tattooed on my forehead...

I think a lot of people dont know that I'm interested in women. This is probaby partially because I'm only out to my friends, not my family. But also I think my looks may have something to do with it. Apparently I dont put out the "gay vibe" I'd like to learn how to do it so I get approached by more women!

But what is the "gay vibe", I mean I'm in the same boat....no one knows that I'm intrested in women..and I have no problem with anyone knowing...it just has never come up...because people assume that I just have a boyfriend...in BK....you can really tell if a woman is intrested in another woman...I mean..places like The Village....it's really clear...I just don't fit into that circle..I kind of like being a "girl" in that sense...I like heels and bra's god dammit....so I can't figure out what the deal is...

Share this post


Link to post

Hey tinker, thanks for all the thoughts! Definitely lots of interesting stuff in there... (I've picked up the piece about age and started a thread in Queer Politics, check it out...)

I think there's definitely a distinction worth making, between people having the *freedom* to explore butchness/femness if they want to, and having it *assumed* (by themselves or by others) that they must be pigeonholed somewhere on this continuum.

Quote

I too have noticed this trend lately to the younger crowds showing more interest in bringing back the butch/femme thing. And personally.....I don't like it much.

 

hm. that's really interesting. I definitely wonder about this... as I wander around trying to make choices about my gender presentation, instead of just falling into something or being pressured into something, whose history am I appropriating? It's a tricky thing. On one hand, I want to feel free to express myself. On the other hand, if I'm going to dis someone, I want it to be for a good reason, you know?? Not because I used some symbols I didn't really understand when I just wasn't paying attention! *laugh*

I don't know the folks around where you are, tinker, but like any group of people I suspect that there are some who are trying to use gender to subvert rules and open up some breathing room for all of us... and some who are doing it because it's cool for a few minutes. Or both, or something else entirely. I've been really excited lately to talk with people who are interested in busting up gender in specifically anti-oppressive ways... check out

Push magazine -- queer feminist subversions

(dead link)

TransFeminism

(dead link)

And if you happen to be in the Seattle area, go see the Queen Bees!

(dead link)

So let's hear it -- how do you like to perform/present your gender? Does it matter to you? Do you do it on purpose or just go with the flow?

Troublemaker

 

(edited by lesbotronic to remove 3 dead links.  so sad now that all 3 links above that used to contain interesting content are dead, but . . . they are.)

Share this post


Link to post

As a feminine person, I find people often mistake me for straight. I found that putting on a rainbow triangle necklace at least helps give people the hint I am "not straight" *LOL* 

As far as labels- just be who you are. I am sure I don't fit in completely with what most people would think of as "Femme". So just knowing the label and not getting to know me personally, someone would assume things that might not be true. But then again, that can be said for anyone. I think knowing a person is better anyways. 

~ PetticoatLace

Share this post


Link to post

i am femme & often get mistaken for being straight even when out in a totally gay space..i adore butch women ,always have , always will, yet i know for many butch-femme lesbians in the uk we are all marginalised & not only invisible , but ignored.

the lesbian culture in this neck of the woods has been over-run with the young 'metro-dyke clones' ...that anyone who does not fit into this stereotype is shunned , judged & rejected by our very own community.

femm-femme relationships are deemed acceptable, even some butch-butch ones ...just so long as the butches aren't too masculine in appearance...the rest of us feel we have no place to go & resort to finding small , out of the way venues to just be , the anymosity that flows out of the more 'mainstream' lesbian places is frightening & oppressive.

it saddens me that because i love butch women , our love is made to feel dirty & shameful , not by straight society , but by our very own so-called 'sisters'.

gay men are much more accepting of the different kinds of love , why are lesbians so different??

Share this post


Link to post

hi, i'm new so yall must forgive me for barging on in. what really drives me nuts about all this is that this crap is all about the usual human meanness. it's a way of withholding acceptance, a more subtle form of bullying really. "but if i accept it, it's like saying it's okay and i'm encouraging the 'behavior'" who hasn't heard this kind of bs from some hateful waste of space. what i do with my body or my attitude or presentation ect, is my business unless it infringes on someone else significantly. i get sick of the same old dichotomous bs, thanks a lot greeks:) we all have basic human feelings. i don't even think someone should have the right to say someone else 'offends' them by the way they look. get a freakin life already! bite me.

i spent years trying to figure out where i fit in within lesbian/straight/girl/boy/whatever culture. i've done the self-politicizing dance to death. these labels should only be used by one's self and just for basic info. we are all more fluid whether we want to admit it or not. and we all deserve acceptance.

i came into this via the political bisexual movement, and i have to say, we should all just go over there:) intellectual political bisexuals don't care if you are a training boi or you shave your armpits or you only date men with vaginas. it's all about aesthetics. it's appearence, it should be fun, not a chokechain. and those of us who know about the older lesbians have to appreciate the sacrfices they made just to use and create those labels in the first place. when the cops are beating your face in you're not gonna give a shit about jane does' lack of make-up.

all this coming from a 'byke' who gets sick of all the intellectual and political jokeying. i like labels most of the time, and i'll be heartbroken the day there aren't any oldschool butches left. if you don't know why someone would be butch, get to know one. it's more of an identity that finds you than a concious choice. let people wear or be what is comfortable dammit! i wear make-up, but sometimes i have very short hair. i wear 'boy' clothes sometimes and have always been a 'tomboy' but i'm a raging drag queen inside. i sleep with men and call myself a lesbian. sometimes i shave, but i went 7 yrs without it. i'm more complicated than all that. i just want love like everyone else. try having a mowhawk in omaha. that'll teach ya bout how everyone feels free to tell you their opinion about YOUR appearence. ys, people think i'm straight. i've had lesbians attack me in public. guys call me a dyke when they're mad. people ask me which one of my aunts is the 'man' in the relationship. duh, neither! butches don't look or act like men, that's why they are called butches, not men. i can tell the difference, and so can most people with half a brain. people are just so damn ignorant. freakin a! can't a person just exist? i'm sorry i'm so verbose. guess i've been thinking a long time:)

Share this post


Link to post

I am from the Old school. Brought out and up by Stone Butches. I myself consider myself very Butch.

Butch is not just in what we wear. It is in our souls, a fire of pride knowing what we are to a Lady. No I am not a man or want to be compared to one. It is in my head a very simple concept, honor,pride,repect and protect your Lady at all cost. This is the world that is getting lost today in all these definitions.

In Old school I mean when I'm with a lady she gets treated like one and mind you a Lady is a definition that goes not just by what she wears but her soul also.

And yes in the lesbian world today we are shunned, put out and looked at as freaks. Sad isn't it when our own kind shows us predujice that they themselves hate.

Jay - butch and just way to single for my own good

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. I honestly could not tell you exactly where I fall. I guess you could say I look femme. People who don't know me are suprised to hear that I am gay, yet those who know me are not surprised. In reference to your invisible question, I suppose that I am invisible to some degree. I can blend into either gay or straight worlds. Although as soon as I open my mouth, I stand out in a crowd as being just me. I think every woman blends in to some degree. I mean there is a little butch and femme in all of us (unless you are a Barbie doll). I find that looking femme makes it easier for some people to accept that I am gay. I don't know why, but it does. 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. Everyone wants to know "Butch or femme?" Does it matter? Will it change anything? I just don't see the point in the labels. Nor do I understand how identifying with and embracing the softer side of being a woman makes you a supporter of the patriarchy. I see this as embracing the beauty that is woman. I mean we are different from men (still equal (if not at a slight advantage), but different), so why do women feel they have to act and look like men to succeed. Why can't we embrace our natural strengths as women. What is wrong with looking femme? And if we have to have labels, can we devise more appropriate labels? Butch and femme leave out so many things.

Share this post


Link to post

i am stonefemme identified. i don't feel like getting into what this means too much, but basically for me it gives a more accurate jumping-off point for who i am in the butch-femme community: a femme who has a preference for stonebutches.

i am a feminine woman. matter of fact, i am more than just feminine. i live it on the outside and the inside. i am girly and womanly and am this way all the time. it's not performance for me, but then again i'm a rather reserved woman. you won't catch me in fake eyelashes and fishnets (unless asked, of course *wink*). i am often mistaken for being straight, unless i'm in the company of butches. even then, i am still sometimes am invisible.

do i think this is a problem in our community? yes, in certain aspects of it (not sure what i'm meaning here by 'community'). anytime any community has a limited expectation of what "we" are supposed to look like versus "them" there's a problem. it drives me a little crazy that the queer community can be this way because for goodness sake we are people who are pushing the boundaries of what it means to be women, or what it means to be female-bodied, of what it means to love ourselves despite the prejudice against us. why then is our vision so limited?

i find that socio-economics play a part in this vision sometimes. if i walk into some booshy lesbian club, i am expected to be feminine and date other feminine lesbians (lipstick lesbians). if i go into some other popular local lesbo spot where there's a slightly more mixed crowd, i tend to be mostly invisible. but if i go into a working-class hole-in-the-wall, i never have a problem. the butches kick it to me, and the ladies make like we're competition. *laugh* as it should be!

kidding! i can't stand that whole competition thing.

i have often wondered why this is....why i can go into my local bar, in the hood, and we can look all different kind of ways and i never get the fuzzy eyeball, yet i'm never invisible. i get lots of positive attention, but when i lived in san francisco and went to the different hot spots i barely ever got hit on. still something that makes me scratch me head. *shrug*

Share this post


Link to post

ok i'm a femme and only am interested in Butches, i believe it and live it ....Butches are sooo ummmm  

Share this post


Link to post

Quote
ok i'm a femme and only am interested in Butches, i believe it and live it ....Butches are sooo ummmm 

Where are all the women like you in Knoxville, TN?

Truthfully, I have ALWAYS identified and BEEN identified as "Butch" or "Tomboy" since I was a little kid. Although, as a child, I never wondered at this (I am originally from Chicago), here, in Tennessee it has come to be something to think about. People DO look at me and stamp "Dyke" on my forehead, but no one seems to appreciate that I am still a woman, too. Here, most women seem to be femme's who pass in general society as "straight". Whether by choice or not, it DOES provide them with the ability to separate themselves from the masses here that are homophobic. However, for some reason, these same women seem to only respond to femme's as well. I don't consider myself a dashing dyke, but I am not offensive to the eye either. It just seems lesbians here only WANT femme women, so perhaps THAT is why there are so many of them here. A simple case of suppy and demand, if you will? Who knows?

My truth: we are all simply who we are- we express that everyday in different ways. I just think everyone should feel free to be who they are and be allowed to be HAPPY with that, without all the stigma that seems to go along with it. I am butch. I love women. It doesn't make me hellspawn, it doesn't mean I am a better lesbian than anyone else, it's just part of who I am. And now, on with the show...

DarKaYoS

Share this post


Link to post

Quote
Quote
ok i'm a femme and only am interested in Butches, i believe it and live it ....Butches are sooo ummmm 

Where are all the women like you in Knoxville, TN?

Truthfully, I have ALWAYS identified and BEEN identified as "Butch" or "Tomboy" since I was a little kid. Although, as a child, I never wondered at this (I am originally from Chicago), here, in Tennessee it has come to be something to think about. People DO look at me and stamp "Dyke" on my forehead, but no one seems to appreciate that I am still a woman, too. Here, most women seem to be femme's who pass in general society as "straight". Whether by choice or not, it DOES provide them with the ability to separate themselves from the masses here that are homophobic. However, for some reason, these same women seem to only respond to femme's as well. I don't consider myself a dashing dyke, but I am not offensive to the eye either. It just seems lesbians here only WANT femme women, so perhaps THAT is why there are so many of them here. A simple case of suppy and demand, if you will? Who knows?

My truth: we are all simply who we are- we express that everyday in different ways. I just think everyone should feel free to be who they are and be allowed to be HAPPY with that, without all the stigma that seems to go along with it. I am butch. I love women. It doesn't make me hellspawn, it doesn't mean I am a better lesbian than anyone else, it's just part of who I am. And now, on with the show...

DarKaYoS

Hi Dark  Amen to You

i simply adore and admire Butches who know Who they are and are proud of being " real " . i do not think of a Butch as a man , 2 totally differen't species lol. i love the strong caring ways Butches have without that male grossness. ( at risk of sounding like a man hater! lol ) Butch women to me are beautiful , i love to see all of the strong masculine expressions they have , the way they walk, talk, their Butch hands etc...

but what i personally love the most is when W/we are alone and the clothes come off, then i am in heaven  i love the softness and i adore the female parts * giggle* i think its the combination of

hard and soft-

tough and gentle -

dominant and Butch to me and to all -- yet only turned into a kitten for me 

ok i have wrote enough *sigh*

You rock on honey and the right femme will come along and make You know what a special BUTCH You are !

love, ~terri~

Share this post


Link to post

Ok, I'm femme, as you'd like to say.

The BAD thing about this (for me) is that I am always assumed to be straight, and guys hit on me all the time. Not just that, but because no one assumes or knows I'm a lesbian unless I tell them (or something comes up in convo) then there are no lesbians hitting on me, or anything like that. I also haven't even connected with the gay/lesbian scene in my city at ALL, since it's really small or underground or something, and I just pass as being straight so I don't get invited anywhere. I DO feel invisible to the gay community. Not only that, I'm not conected to the straight community either, as in I don't involve myself with guys and I don't take part in all that dating stuff that my friends do, and I don't have much in common with any of that.

So, pretty much, I feel invisible to both worlds.

If only there was a way to let everyone know how lesbian I am without compromising myself or my style. Ugh....

Share this post


Link to post

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now