Musings on Life for the Queerly Inclined

Posts tagged ‘femme’

He Didn’t Just Objectify Me, Did He? – Gay Men and Misogyny

Heads up, everyone: this is an angry post and it’s a hurt post.  If you aren’t up for dealing with that right now, this is your chance to exit.  That being said, I wanna address an issue that is incredibly important to discuss, yet gets written off as no big deal: misogyny in the queer community, specifically on the part of gay men.  I’ve been thinking and talking about this a lot recently and have gotten mixed responses.  Mostly, the gay guys I’ve talked to are totally unaware of this problem and don’t see how their own behavior fits these patterns.  Ugh.  Women…eh, reactions range from “OMG I KNOW I HAVE SO MANY STORIES JUST LIKE THAT” to “Are you kidding me?  There’s no way it could be that bad.  They’re gay–it’s not like that.”

Oh but it is like that.

[TW: body policing, casual misogyny, and sexual harassment/unwanted touching]

Groping and commenting on others’ bodies (unsolicited, without consent) is a huge problem, regardless of whether you claim to be sexually attracted to that type of body or not.  This happens especially in the case of gay men feeling entitled to women’s bodies.  In a society in which gay men are stereotyped as feminine, they’re both damned for that (“good men are masculine”) and celebrated as experts on femininity.  Since women are supposed to be feminine (cuz we all gotta be gender-conforming, amiright??), gay men are presented as having authority over how women should dress, act, modify our bodies, etc.  Think of the gay bff or fashionista stereotypes.*

What does this mean?

Body policing.  Comments that are not only unwanted, but are potentially incredibly harmful to our body images, self esteem, and mental health.  Touches that, if initiated by straight men, would immediately be identified as sexual harassment.  A lot of misogyny.

Not Sure I’m Following You…

I’m not gonna go into a whole spiel about how and why this happens, trying to convince you that it’s a problem.  If you’re confused or not familiar with this subject, I suggest you check out two articles:

  • Gay Men’s Sexism and Women’s Bodies” by Yolo Akili – posted last November on The Good Men Project.  I was so excited to find this.  He explains the problem well and I’m always relieved to find folks in privileged positions doing a good job educating our own.  Writing as a queer man of color, he also touches upon the added oppressive dynamic of white men feeling entitled in any way to the bodies of women of color.
  • “Why Do Gay Men Keep Touching My Boobs: The Autostraddle Mini-Roundtable” – Autostraddle writers pick up where Akili left off.  This actually turned into an incredibly interesting (and, it seemed, healing) conversation on Autostraddle.

I’m so glad to see other people discussing the problem of gay men’s sexism prominently and to find shared experiences with other queer women (see: Autostraddle’s comment section, which is mostly devoid of derailing BS posts).  Honestly, it’s something I face a lot, and I’m not always around people who get what I’m talking about.

So…What are you talking about?

  • “You need more makeup.  Here, let me do it.”  DID I ASK YOU TO GRAB MY FACE?  FUCK NO.

  • “Why are you wearing makeup?  You don’t need that.”  Umm HELLO NOT DOING IT FOR YOUR APPROVAL.  I wear makeup for myself, regardless of when you think it’s appropriate.
  • So many anti-vulva/vagina comments.  Vaginas don’t have to be your thing, but disparaging remarks are not needed.  Bodies with vaginas aren’t inherently disgusting, thank you very much, nor are we desperate for your approval.

    Gabby from Autostraddle
    : “The comments are always quintessentially linked to what my/our vaginas might smell or look like. (Sidenote- if you don’t eat it, devour it, lick it off your fingertips, then don’t even for a second make a comment on that shit. Maybe if you did then you’d have the right to say something.  Maybe then you’d describe it as tasting like fresh cantaloupe or smelling like every good secret reason you’ve been late to class this week…)”
  • “I’m totally gay, but it is kinda nice to put your penis in one [a vagina].”  Wow, thanks for reducing bodies with vaginas to just vaginas…or, as they’ll now be known: NPRs (nice penis receptacles).  Note: being told this as a queer cis woman was exceedingly awkward, among other things, because he said it as though I should be grateful that someone was–in the same sentence–telling me he was totally not attracted to me, but that my body was good for something anyway.  Great.
  • Frequent comments against queer women, especially lesbian women. “I used to be beautiful, but now I look like a lesbian!”  Note: gay men seem shocked when I call these remarks out; I’m not really sure why.  Is it because they’re reading me as straight and are surprised that I care about queer women?  Is it because they think women–femme women particularly?–are passive and won’t cross them?  Are they totally oblivious to everything?

  • At a former job, a supervisor and a coworker–both gay men–speculated loudly about what my pubic hair looks like and whether or not I trim it.  They were standing right in front of me.  They laughed.  I didn’t say anything because I was so taken aback that I didn’t have a clue what to say.  Just be cool, otherwise they’ll think I’m super uptight.  Remember, they’re gay men so they don’t really mean it in a sexual way so it’s totally fine, right???  

  • All of the comments about my boobs.  All of the comments.  I have very large breasts and gay men (among others) tell me this frequently–in varying amounts of detail–as though I didn’t know.  Thankfully, there’s usually no attempted touching, perhaps because I give off a “touch me and I’ll break your fingers” vibe.
  • Calling me babe.  At work.  The first time they meet me.  When I’ve made it clear I don’t respond to that word.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m definitely into affectionate nicknames.  But unless we have a rapport in which we’ve established that that’s okay, just stick to my name.  For the record: babe is never okay for me.

  • A (queer guy) ex would play with my boobs in this really negatively objectifying way, like they were toys that weren’t actually connected to my body, like I didn’t have so many feelings connected to them (emotionally as well as physically).  I never found a way to tell him how much this bothered me, cuz ya know I was obviously being irrational, right?  He couldn’t be objectifying me, I mean we’re both queer and he was my intimate partner and HOLY SHIT SO MUCH BULLSHIT.
  • Calling people bitches all the time.  As a term of endearment.  As a put-down.  Just stop, okay?  Just because you’re gay doesn’t make it magically okay for you to refer to your friends/your coworkers/your cats as “all my bitchez.”  Did you miss the chapter about that actually being (potentially) really offensive, reductive, and hurtful?  See also: don’t fucking try to reclaim slurs that aren’t yours to reclaim!

What to do?

Regardless of your sexual orientation and gender identity, check yourself!  Where do you fit in these examples?  Have you experienced or witnessed any of them?  Do you perpetrate them?  Gay men: as individuals, many of you are marvelous and dear to me.  But as a group, do not assume you and I will be best friends, simply because we’re both feminine or because you’re gay.  As you might imagine (after reading all this), I’m pretty fucking wary of you.  That doesn’t mean I will bite your heads off immediately; it means I will be guarded around you until you demonstrate that you have your shit together and are aware of yourself and the space you take up.  Check yourselves and check your friends.  Deal?

* Obviously not all gay men are feminine or into fashion.  Yes, those are stereotypes and yes, stereotypes are confining and need to be broken down.  That’s another (related) conversation.  If you post comments about being a gay man who’s not obsessed with fashion, you might be completely truthful, but you’re not being helpful.  You’re derailing the conversation.  You don’t suddenly become not oppressive just because you break stereotypes.

** I clearly wrote this from my perspective as a femme queer woman.  I can’t speak for masculine-of-center women and non-binary folks, but my perception is that there’s a different sort of bullshit that goes down there, more in the vein of “why would you be a woman (or a person ever perceived to be a woman) and be masculine?  You’re wasting your femininity (cuz women are inherently feminine, right??).”  Ughhh so many problems.  I have all of the love for butches, masc-of-center, and gender non-conforming folks.  Y’all are beautiful, handsome, and endlessly snazzy.  Here is my adorable face, just for you:

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Femmespiration and Femme Wins

This is the post full of femme awesomeness.  Y’all may have noticed that this is a recurring theme, but here’s where it takes center stage.  Why?  Because I have spent way too much time in queer communities and spaces that were/are riddled with femmephobia–in which I was made to feel really insecure about my gender presentation, or felt compelled to dress down all the time to avoid attention, or was constantly told (implicitly and explicitly) that femme was pretty much worthless and if I truly wanted to fight the patriarchy I’d present myself in a masculine way.  Ughhh so much BS.  (Need further explanation?  See: 87% of this blog.)  As a way of retroactively counteracting some of this negativity, I’ve decided to make a list of femme-positive moments.  Most are directly from my life; some I’ve observed.

Note: this is not a checklist of things required in order to ID as femme, nor is it a list of things that all femmes relate to, nor is it my entire conception of femme.  It’s a scattered collection of fun moments that I associate with femme or that exemplify how I do femme.  So, here goes…

  • Seeing other femmes out and about and smiling at one another.  Especially when we’re both reading queer theory on the train.
  • Nail polish with huge chunks of glitter in it.  I like to call this “don’t fuck with me” glitter.
  • Heels: some haters pity me for my apparent lack of awareness that I’m wearing tools of the patriarchy on my feet.  Fuck that~~if I’m in 3″ heels, I walk taller and you’ll be able to hear me coming from down the street.  Heels are powerful.
  • Enormous purses: why yes, I do carry a huge ass Mary Poppins bag at all times.  Laugh all you want, but when you need water, band-aids, medicine, tissues, pens, gum, hand sanitizer, sunblock, gloves (the wool kind or the latex kind), lotion, a bottle opener, books, etc., you know I’ll have them.
  • Realizing that that plum eye shadow really does compliment the gold eye shadow and accentuate your eyes perfectly.
  • Fuchsia lip gloss: I maintain that this is the key to improving any day.
  • Magical jacket: it’s sheer, translucent, green, blue, leopard-print, and chunky zippered all at once.  I know this sounds like an impossible combination, but it’s actually the best thing ever.

Magical jacket
(Oh yes, this is my face.  It’s been a while~~hello.)

  • As a femme cis woman: breaking stereotypes of what queer women are “supposed to look like.”
  • Glitter.  Did y’all here that?  GLITTER.  This is basically my life motto:

(source)

  • Rejecting the notion of “high maintenance.”  I hear this thrown around all the time as a criticism of femme folks.  Femininity is deemed superfluous and superficial; by extension, femmes are viewed as super demanding/unreasonable if we spend a lot of time/energy on our physical appearance.  Fuck that.  If I spend over an hour sitting in front of a mirror doing the most elaborate makeup for a party, I don’t need your approval.  If I bring a bigger suitcase than you because I needed to pack bunches of scarves and shoes (while you brought a pair of jeans and two extra shirts), my choices and opinions aren’t magically less valid.  I just intend to wear different fabulous outfits every day, while spewing my still informed, intelligent, valid opinions.  You’ll look fierce in your jeans and tees; I’ll look fierce in a never-ending series of fabulous shoes. 

(source)

  • Re-imagining femininity on our own terms: defined by our own values and desires, not the kyriarchy.  Resisting the pressure to be white (or at least light-skinned),  slim and also hourglass-shaped, able in all ways at all times, passive/quiet/unopinionated, dressed in ways that require large budgets, etc.  I love seeing and hearing about how other femme folks navigate these pressures and still look and feel fly.
  • Huge flowers: in our hair, pinned on our clothes/bags/shoes, on jewelry, painted on our nails, painted on our faces, etc.
  • Poofy skirts.  They’re the best.  Pencil skirts are the other best, as are huge bell-bottom jeans.  Cozy sweatpants are the other other best.
  • Sequins.  ‘Nuff said.
  • Coincidental fabulousness: that time when my shirt, lingerie, and phone case were all leopard-print, and I didn’t even notice til I was almost out the door.
  • Not being forced into or ashamed of femininity–(re)learning that it can be awesome/fabulous/wonderful/powerful/sharp/full of pizazz.
  • These shoes:

photo_7

  • The story behind that picture: taken on the last day of Femme Con 2012.  I was talking to a new femme friend (and recent Seven Sisters grad~~woot woot!) when suddenly this dapper person races across the lobby to us with a camera, pointing excitedly at our feet. “Can I take a photo of your shoes??”  We looked down.  I was wearing the peep-toe wedges; she’s got the combat boots.  They’re upholstered in exactly the same fabric.  We had no idea.  By this point, we’d been in a workshop together and had been standing next to one another for about ten minutes, never realizing that we were wearing matching shoes.  *Commence OMG squeals*
  • Later realization: that was the first time I’d experienced a masculine-of-center person making a beeline for femmes to compliment our style, rather than the other way around.  Perhaps this seems insignificant or surprising to you, but for me, it was definitely a wow moment of “oh yeah, my gender presentation is valued and appreciated by people besides myself.”
  • Shared experiences: connecting with other femmes and finding words for things you didn’t realize you were struggling with, so now you have a name for that thing that makes you so mad/frustrated/confused/joyful that you weren’t able to articulate before or were afraid no one else would understand.
  • These shoes:

Glitter heels

I own these shoes.  Bonus: I just finished a show for which I wore them every Thurs-Sun for a month.  Holla.

  • Huge shout-out to all the femmes of color!  Y’all are so gorgeous and your styles so fierce and your words so inspiring.  I say this not because I think you need my validation, but because I know that in some queer spaces, femme is most readily visible on white bodies.  In white-dominated queer spaces, we (white folks) often overlook QPOCs and marginalize your experiences.  I’m sorry.  I try my best to recognize when this happens/might happen and to do something proactive about it.  Always a work in progress, but I’m striving to be your ally.
  • Fascinators: Kate Middleton isn’t the only one rocking them; that’s all I’m saying.
  • Femme flagging: y’all get so creative!  I’m impressed.  Femme folks are going all out with strategically pinned flowers, jewelry, handkerchiefs in hair and on shoes/belts/wrists, and oh my god the nail polish.
  • Metal spikes and studs on clothing/shoes: rock on with your tough selves!
  • Cupcakes: baking them, eating them, cupcakes as patterns on cloth, looking like a cupcake personified~~it’s all good.
  • Shout-out to femmes of differing abilities and body shapes/sizes!  Obviously our heteronormative society has a certain set of beauty standards.  Beyond this, queer communities have developed standards of beauty/attractiveness that often perpetuate the same oppressive norms that we’re theoretically fighting.  Fuck all that.  This goes back to my point about defining femininity for ourselves, on our own terms.  Seeing people do this–however they’re doing it–is inspiring and beautiful.
  • Politicizing rhinestoned corsets
  • Mixing colors/patterns and not being afraid of being over the top.  As we learned from To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar 

Larger than life is just the right size!

Being Visibly Queer: When Every Day is Coming Out Day

Okay, y’all: I’m gonna do something new.  I’ve never used National Coming Out Day as a vehicle for coming out before.  I tend to be pretty out in my life all the time, so while I appreciate this day (which happens to be today) for raising awareness of and prompting conversations about gender and sexual minorities, I haven’t personally observed it differently from any other day.  I had no plans to do anything special to mark today.  Then a conversation with Pandaqueer changed my mind.

If anyone is unclear about who Pandaqueer is, just know that he’s fabulous.  We discussed recent conversations he’d had about femmephobia as it is incorporated into notions of “visible queerness.”  Not sure what I’m talking about?  When searching for a queer community or queer friends, to whom do you look?  What signs tip you off?  What does it mean when you describe someone as “looking so gay”?

If your visions of queer people are exclusively

  • thin, white, feminine men
  • non-binary folks whose genders you can’t “figure out”
  • androgynous and masculine women with “alternative lifestyle haircuts”

THEN YOU NEED TO FUCKING CHECK YOURSELF.  Wake up and open your eyes.

Who gives me a hard time about coming out?

I feel way more pressure to come out and to defend my gender and sexual orientation around queer people than around straight ones.  Non-homophobic straight peeps might not immediately read me as queer, but if/when I tell them, they usually just accept it without interrogating me.  This is probably due in part to their unfamiliarity with the nuances of gender presentation and identity labels within LGBTQ+ communities.  That figures.  At least I don’t need to defend myself at length (we’re not going into homophobic douchebags here).

Queer people are a totally different story.  Now, LGBTQ+ communities are many and varied, so these problems don’t occur in the same way across the board.  I’m speaking directly from my experiences in queer communities I’ve lived in and visited.

I’m speaking about queer communities that prioritize masculinity over femininity–that value studs, butches, androgynous folks, and masculine trans* people, over femmes.  I mean queer organizations in which masc-of-center folks are viewed as the best leaders, the most transgressive, powerful, and brave, the ones who really put themselves out there.  These are the groups in which I have to prove my queerness again and again.

  • If I talk to you for an hour about queer theory, will you take me seriously?
  • If my relationships look queer to you, will you understand that I’m not confused?
  • If I plan LGBTQ+ community events, will you get that I’m here to stay?
  • If I explain myself and my choices to you constantly, will you accept that I didn’t put on heels and lipgloss accidentally?
  • If I write enough of these blog posts, will you see that I’m not helpless or unaware of patriarchal oppression?
  • If I teach you the word femmephobia, will you recognize your own behavior?

Let me be clear: there are some amazing, transgressive, powerful, brave masc-of-center queer folks and they should be celebrated.  Gender non-conforming queer people (such as non-binary folks and masc-of-center women) face different challenges than those of us who are gender conforming (or perceived to be).  The problem is when the attention paid to them eclipses everyone else.  This happens particularly in the case of feminine-of-center and femme people.  (That I feel I have to justify writing about femmes and explain that I haven’t forgotten about masculine queer people is indicative of the problem.)

If you think “queer” and never think femme, that’s a problem.  Retrain your brain.  If you think “queer” and every image that appears in your brain looks the same (think race, gender presentation, age, ability, body type, class, nationality), check yourself.  Interrogate your assumptions.

Okay, Here We Go:

My name is Tamar and I am a pansexual, femme, cisgender woman.  I am not “hiding” in femme.  I’m here and I’m visible every day.  If you don’t see me, that your problem.

Phew–now that that’s out of the way, have a lovely video.

Can We Get Some More Gender-Aware People in Publishing?

Attention, world: Saturday was a “Do not mess with me today, I will cut you [viciously with my eyes and words]” day.  I mean, that’s my normal state, but this weekend the danger level was raised to code orange.  You have been warned.

Part 1: Looking for Trouble

Saturday was filled with all manner of fuckery, including the fact that my spellcheck (as I learned) did not recognize “fuckery” as a word.  Now it does.  Phew.  I woke up early and decided to read a book that has been on my list for a while, but I’ve never touched: Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture.  I’d read excerpts, seen quotes bandied about on blogs, but hadn’t read the whole thing.  Now, I’d heard that the book contained problematic claims and a lot of trans*phobia, but I firmly believe in reading things first-hand before being able to properly refute them.  Opening the book, I saw that chapter four was titled “From Womyn to Bois.”

Me in my head: “This is bound to be a disaster.  Might as well jump in!”

TW: trans*phobia, femmephobia, and assorted patriarchal bullshit

Levy’s thesis is that lesbian women–no discussion of gradations of queer here–who either:

  • are somewhat gender-fluid
  • are immature
  • have/desire sex frequently (holy shit so much slut-shaming)
  • objectify other queer women (especially feminine-of-center ones)
  • want to be men (whatever that means)

identify as bois and see this as a way to eternally extend their teenage-dom.  Some trans* men also fall into this category, she says.  FYI: trans* men are not “real boys” unless Levy perceives them to be cis while walking through a park.  Okay, good to know.  WHAT THE FUCK IS SHE ON?  This chapter is littered with trans*phobic slurs; she asserts that t****y is the word of choice used by members of the trans* community to describe themselves.  Never mind the fact that she’s interviewing FAAB bois and trans* men, not trans* women (who are actually the ones historically targeted by that slur).

Phase A: Who on earth published this?

Reading this chapter, I became predictably enraged.  Levy glosses all bois as ignorant jerks who refuse to take responsibility for their lives, puts gender binary in scare quotes (cuz, ya know, that’s not a real institution to interrogate or anything), and basically every point she tries to make becomes a shit show.  Obviously, I want Levy to take responsibility for her words and the harm that they’ve done.  She’s perpetuating dangerous ideas and people cite her works as expert opinions.  But I also couldn’t help thinking “Who published this shit?”

Me in my head: “She actually sent this manuscript to a publisher and nobody said ‘Hey, how bout you don’t spew trans*phobia everywhere?’…no ‘This all seems really biased.  Are you sure you understand the complexity of these communities and are researching several perspectives?’…no ‘Did you listen to more than one token POC voice?’…no ‘This is a perfect example of terrible ethnography and journalism'”???

In a plot twist predictable fail move, Levy characterizes black queer women in general as butch, by virtue of providing no other examples.  Seriously?  That again?

My Phase A reaction was characterized by anger at how simplistically Levy glossed communities that I care deeply about and am connected to.  I  desperately want bois and trans* guys not to be seen this way.  Are there immature bois and trans* folks who perpetuate patriarchal norms?  Sure.  Are there immatures jerks across all segments of the population who do this?  Absolutely.

Phase B: Oh no, there are queer people who believe this shit!

Midway through the chapter, incredible sadness and anger at the interviewees overtook my anger at Levy.  Levy repeatedly quotes various bois speaking derisively about femmes, feminine-of-center women, butches–the list goes on.  Femmes are labeled “air”: substance-less, clingy, needy, subservient, there to please and then be discarded by bois.  Hey there, repackaged patriarchy!

Levy certainly shouldn’t have glossed all masculine-of-center FAAB communities as monolithic, based on these few examples.  It’s like she explicitly sought out the douchiest bois and then asked them to regale her specifically with tales of their douchebaggery.  However, her interviewees do exist and their femmephobia is real.  Despite my earlier urge to protect these segments of the queer community, I was left wondering “At what point can I no longer fight for them?  At what point is their behavior inexcusable?”**

Part 2: Books Lead to Great Experiences

Later in the day, I tore myself away from the joys of Female Chauvinist Pigs and went to the library.  I was greeted by a large sign informing me that Naomi Wolf will be there in a couple weeks to speak about her new book Vagina.  Vagina is the latest iteration of “woman = vagina,” centering whiteness, and cultural appropriation.  So y’all can guess how I feel about that.

Browsing in search of a book, I saw an older man walking between two shelves, staring at me.  Only vaguely paying attention, I glanced up, smiled weakly and said hi.

Strange man: “Aw I love that smile darlin’.  Hey gorgeous!  Smile for me like that more often!”

Me: (staring after him) “No.”

Me in my head: “No!  I smile for myself.  I DO NOT SMILE ON COMMAND.”

It was then that I realized that I’d seen this very same guy around town before, and he’d greeted me exactly the same way then.  Terrific.

Leaving the obnoxiously typical man, I headed up to the young adult section to find a book that had been recommended to me by a friend.  Apparently, since it’s a graphic novel, it’s classified as young adult.  Hmmm.  All the YA books in my local library are kept in a particular room that’s meant for teens and has a special lounge space for them.  Pretty sure people who aren’t age 13-18 aren’t supposed to hang out there, but we can…ya know…check out books.

I’m not sure what the deal is with the librarian who works in the YA section.  Every time I’ve seen her, she’s been grumpy/antisocial.  Maybe she had a whole lot on her mind or maybe she’s not great interpersonally–I have no idea.  Regardless, the moment I walked in, she looked me slowly up and down, scrutinized my hemline, grimaced, and said a brief hi.

Me in my head: “What did I do?  I’M WEARING A FUCKING SWEATER DRESS, how risqué could I be?

Super confused.  Whatever, I looked fuckin’ fabulous.  They didn’t even have the book that I wanted, so I peaced out.  On the way home with my brother, I recounted these events.  He was incredibly upset on behalf, especially about “smile for me” guy.

My bro: “I don’t always punch old men in the face, but when I do, it’s because they’re assholes to my sister.  Stay angry, my friends.”

My bro wins.  We had a long conversation about the smile comment and about dealing with street harassment.  This is the zillionth example that confirms my belief that it’s so important to speak out about these issues (if and when we are able), especially to people who don’t see or experience them, especially when those people are like my brother: straight, white, cisgender teenage guys.  Gotta train ’em to see the shit that won’t be hurled directly at them, yet happens all around them.

Part 3: I Have No Time for Assholes

The day significantly improved in the evening, when I went to visit a good friend.  Having spent the L ride downtown scribbling furiously in my copy of Female Chauvinist Pigs (huge capitalized “NO”s and “STFU”s abounded), I was looking forward to chilling out in a thoroughly non-patriarchal atmosphere (as much as that is possible).  As I crossed a large intersection to meet her, a car sped by, honking profusely.  I turned to see strange guy #2–barely older than me and in a beat-up truck–staring out of the window, leering at me.

Without pausing, I flipped him off and kept walking.  He looked shocked shocked and horrified at my reaction.  I wish I had a picture of his face.  Too fucking funny.

Me: 

Success.  Then I waltzed off into the night with my friend and headed to her apartment for yummy food and wine.

** The answer, of course, is that this shit is never okay.  I love bois (and others) who are not femmephobic jerks.  Then again, I think all kinds of non-jerk people are great, ‘nough said.

I May Not Look Queer, but I Do Look Like I Might Send a Stiletto to Your Face

“You don’t look queer.”

“Your nails are too long to be gay.”

“She probably cut her hair to get people to notice her.”

“Just wear plaid or get a tattoo!”

“Well…you just look straight.”

“Wear one feather earring–that’s a queer thing.” *

“If I can’t see you, how am I supposed to know you exist?!”

Okay, now that I’ve gotten them out there, all of these comments can go die in a fire.

Currently, all the new Mount Holyoke students are mid-orientation.  This is a magical time of getting acquainted with Moho and having the most jam-packed long days of activities, yet somehow they’re still managing to blog about it.  Earlier today, on Tumblr’s #mount holyoke tag, someone posted the following:

Some immediate thoughts:

  • How do you even have time to write this stuff?
  • Fuck you!  Maybe I don’t wanna wear plaid every day.
  • Poor firstie, you can’t find the community you want.
  • BUT FUCK YOUR WELL-INTENTIONED IGNORANCE
  • You’re trying so hard AND FAILING SO MUCH HARDER
  • I’m sorry you’re lost and looking for friends and feeling queer-deprived.  I so want to help you out.  But this here is some BS.  Check yourself.

The way I saw it, there were two potential responses.  A) Reblog her post with some helpful commentary about LGBTQ+ orgs on campus, or B) declare loudly to myself “fuck you, we’ll wear what we want” and go make a glorious plaid-free lunch.  I was sorely tempted by B, but I decided on a compromise.

Fast forward several hours.  I went out to dinner with my fam–flowy skirt, matching bag, and 3″ heels included–and returned home to find that this firstie’s post had accrued 90 notes.  Two of those were mine and a friend’s, both calling her out and suggesting some places she might meet the people she’s seeking.  Most of the comments were along the lines of “OMG yesssssssss!  Can this be a thing?  Can we collectively buy into the notion of visible markers of queerness and condemn anybody who doesn’t follow?!

No.  Stop.  Just shut up before I fight everyone this blog post gets even longer and angrier.  Femmes are not necessarily incognito; we are not a group to be “weeded out”, much to your aggravation.  We are not an annoyance.  Just because we are not decked out in rainbows and plaid doesn’t mean we’re not there.  Or ya know what?  Maybe we are sashaying past in plaid and rainbow jewelry, but you’ve been conditioned not to recognize us.

What do “gaydar” and “reading” someone’s sexual orientation actually mean?

We are, in fact, not describing sexual orientation at all–we’re responding to gender transgressions.  Obviously there are cases in which you see two people whom you perceive to have the same gender making out and you think to yourself, “Wow, they’re pretty queer.”  Yep–in that situation, you’re probably right.  That aside, most people who are described as “looking LGBQ+” are feminine men and masculine women.  Those gender presentations are culturally coded as not straight.  Tada!  Conflation of gender presentation and sexuality.

What comes to mind when you think “queer woman”?

All too often, the image conjured is white, short-haired, masculine, either very stocky or very slender (either way, no curves allowed), and wearing some combination of the following:

  • Bean boots, baggy jeans, boxers, androgynous suit, rainbows, plaid, ear gauges, facial piercings, down vest, flannel, etc.

These clothes–as well as women enjoying “manly” activities/accessories/ hobbies–are coded as queer and are understood as markers of “legitimate” queerness.  The people who embody these stereotypes are “really queer.”

What happens to the rest of us?

According to this model, femme and other feminine-of-center women can’t possibly be queer, or at least aren’t “queer enough.”  It’s clearly our fault we’re not seen: we’re in hiding, we just haven’t learned yet how to be truly queer, we’re new to the queer community, we don’t understand how things work, our presentation is just not right.  It’s up to us to change.

NO.  Fuck that.  I will dress how I damn well please.  I’ve wasted too much time trying to rearrange my wardrobe, interests, and style to fit these bullshit standards that privilege masculinity.**  If you overlook my femmeness, that’s your loss.  The problem is not that you can’t see us; it’s that you choose to ignore us.

* Most examples of this are super appropriative of Native American cultures and modes of dress.  That shit’s gotta stop.  Like now.

** Oh hey there, patriarchy!  Can’t forget about you.

“I totally support femmes–they’re so hot”: Terrible Opening Line

Dear universe and would-be allies:


Source: the lovely femmesandfamily, whose blog I recommend you check out.

Femmephobia, a topic that is more often than not on my mind in some form, was brought up anew in a conversation with a friend a couple nights ago.  We talked about wanting to wear overtly feminine clothes some of the time and more masculine ones at other times. Should be easy, right?  But it’s not.

Getting Dressed: A How-To Guide for Femmes and Anyone Who Dips into Femininity Occasionally

  1. Find fly outfit (trying on five is normal–we can’t always get it right the first time)
  2. Put it on
  3. Contemplate accessories (flower? pocket watch? jewelry? picket sign? rock?)**
  4. Worry about people hassling you and/or making asshole comments about your appearance
  5. Tell yourself that you’re over-thinking things and that no one is going to give you a hard time about how you look
  6. Go out into the world, looking fly and feeling good
  7. Someone will invariably make an asshole comment about how you’re presenting yourself

I (and so many other friends I’ve spoken with) have noticed a trend in sectors of the queer community: the idealizing of the thin, white, androgynous hipster look.  If this is your look and you wanna rock it, that’s great for you.  But when the attention paid to people who embody this look far eclipses the focus on all other gender presentations, there’s a big problem.

What’s going on here?

  • Patriarchal society prizes men and masculinity.  Looking through all sorts of intersecting oppressions, the ideal person (according to US society) is a white, cisgender, able, upwardly-mobile, masculine man.
  • In this patriarchal society, women are required to be feminine and then punished for doing so.  Femininity is seen as compulsory (you must look/behave “like a lady”) and also weak and deserving of ridicule (“girly” stuff is routinely dismissed as useless, superfluous, a joke).
  • We internalize misogyny; everyone is taught that femininity is not strong or powerful.
  • Results: men are socialized to be masculine and hate on femininity (“Why do women spend so much time on their hair/makeup?  What a waste of time!” and “A feminine man–shock, horror!  I must distance myself from him!”).  Women who don’t wanna fit into the socialized femininity are told that they can have an out by also hating on it (“I don’t get along with women–they’re so vain and catty.  All my friends are guys.”).  Everyone gets cool points for hating on femininity.  Wow, how fucked up is that?

What about queer communities?

  • Stereotypes: queer women are masculine, queer men are feminine.  That totally describes everyone, right??  Ha no.
  • Result: anyone who doesn’t fit this description is usually unseen/ignored.  People who do fit it are stereotyped as the big dyke or the gay bff.

The Really Nasty Part that Started this Whole Post:

Rejecting femininity is seen as a cool and radical thing to do.  Femme-ness is consequently labeled conformist and unimportant.  According to this logic, femmes are eye candy, but we don’t really have anything interesting to say.  In case there was any doubt about this, let me clarify: just because I wear makeup and heels does not mean I’m brainless, unaware of my actions, and unwittingly conforming to patriarchal expectations.  I have not failed to deconstruct my internalized whatever-the-fuck.  I am not waiting for you, oh great masculine-of-center queer person to save me by showing me the error of my ways.

If you describe yourself as a radical queer activist, but all you have to say about femmes is that we look hot, while simultaneously ignoring our contributions to discussions in favor of listening to masculine-of-center folks (who may well be saying the same damn things we said ten minutes ago), do not be surprised by the wall of skepticism that I will build between us.

If femmes/sometimes-feminine folks are talking about how it’s an achievement to wear what we want without worrying about it, do not look at us with blank stares, as though we’ve said the most obvious thing in the world.  Do not roll your eyes when we affirm for one another that it is in fact okay to say “fuck you” to people’s expectations and present our genders differently every day.  If you do, chances are you’re one of the people who makes us uncomfortable and fuels our preemptive worries to begin with.  Do not be step #7 when we get dressed.

**Note on the accessories list: “Why did you include a rock?”  I know people who carry rocks in their purses.  This is not an issue of advocating violence; it is an issue of protecting oneself when you know that you’re at risk of being attacked as you walk down the street.

Requests, requests!

Wow–y’all are actually requesting that I write about certain topics.  This makes me feel awesome because apparently you’re following along and liking what I have to say.  It also puts some pressure on because I wanna do justice to the issues you’ve suggested (and they’re great ones).  I realize that I’ve neglected this blog recently and I’m considering updating on a self-imposed schedule.  We’ll see.  What do I have to show for my time away?  I have more friends and *drum roll* a fall internship.  Yay!  I’ll be doing theatre and gendery things, no less.  Very exciting stuff.

Anyway, here’s a teaser of what topics will be coming up (based on your requests).

  • Femmephobia (Ooooooh will I write about that)
  • Asexuality
  • Trans* athletes and hormones in sports (Not an expert–working on this)
  • More sports stuff (Really?  Wow.  As it happens, I do have one or two thoughts about the Olympics)
  • (Note on the link above: the first part isn’t mine; I wrote only the section after the second photo)

More to come later today!  If you wanna see another topic discussed here, leave a comment here or shoot me an email/FB message/text if you know me like that.

P.S.  Those of you who are using my blog to procrastinate from work–you know who you are–get back to work!  (But check back in an hour to read more brilliance…)

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