The Whole Butch/Femme Thing

“For all that I love the east coast, one phenomenon baffles me. Girls, what IS it with the whole butch/femme thing?”

This opening sentence belongs to a disheartening post I came across today, in which the blogger–a new New Yorker who describes herself as a fleece-wearing lesbian from the west coast–tries to figure out what the attraction to butch and femme genders is all about. Why? Because, according to her, butch/femme is “rampant in these parts and is more than a little annoying.”

Seriously. I’m quoting exactly from her post.

So, here’s my response to you, Annoyed Lesbian:

I’m sorry you feel like you’re getting “the short end of the stick” because, as you see it, there aren’t enough women in NY who “yearn for short-haired girls with a penchant for plaid.” But if you want people to accept and appreciate you, it seems to me that accepting difference in others would be a good place to start.

As for your two theories about why queer women might find butch and femme genders appealing, let me see if I understand them correctly. Your theories are (1) Butch/femme is a “post-feminist reclamation of 50s identity;” and (2) it is the inheritance of ethnic groups (Italian, Irish, Jewish, Dominican) who settled in the NY area and “perpetuate relationship roles” from generation to generation.

I’ll let others tell you what they think of how you have characterized our lives, experiences, and desires. But let me ask you this: why do you feel the need to invent theories about other lesbians who happen to have genders that are different than yours?

As I’ve said here before, last time I checked there was no “right” or “wrong” way to be a lesbian. I try to live my life by respecting and honoring ethnic, sexual & gender diversity–including short-haired girls with a penchant for plaid.

Good luck in your quest for love and happiness,
SF

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8 Responses

  1. Remind me not to piss you off. LOL

    Nice entry chica. 🙂

  2. Listen, I’ve met the Annoyed Lesbian in question, and trust me she’s butchy-mc-butch-butch. She may not be used to thinking of herself that way, and may not like the word, but that lady is butcher than Harvey Keitel, I promise. I often find that to be true, that the most boyish, butchy folk are the ones who yell the loudest about how ridiculous these categories are. I’ve got a theory of my own (to put against the ridiculous one she posits about class and ethnic divisions) that gals who were the dykiest growing up andprobably got a lot of shit about it in school either go two ways as adults: they embrace the whole thing and become the big old bulldaggers they always were (which is why they got called lesbo in high school all the time), or they spend all their time decrying categories while embodying the damned category that bugs them so much. Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

  3. to answer question one – it’s fun! 😉

    oddly, the thing that bothers me about this (on a second reading) is that it reads to me like the prevalent “feminine girls aren’t really dykes” attitude. i get, “why butch, why femme, why not just dyke?” but the way she describes what she sees as “just dyke” (“fleece-wearing” and “short-haired girls with a penchant for plaid”) is notably masculine-leaning.

    don’t get me wrong, i’m fairly keen on that not-butch-dyke look, but i’m not keen on the fact that it is dyke-default. it contributes to the femme=straight invisibility. in fact, it also contributes to “forcing” feminine-leaning dykes into the butch/femme thing, so as to be taken seriously by someone. exacerbating your own problem, honey.

    (i understand she didn’t say exactly that, but i have heard exactly that before, so it bears addressing – apologies if it’s misdirected.)

  4. *sigh* It’s so discouraging sometimes. With all the crap we STILL get from rightwing fundie nutjobs *and* clueless liberal nice-guy types, I really wish we queers could stick together. Every time I hear one ‘type’ making judgements about another ‘type’, I’m like, really? we have to do this? we can’t just chill?
    Like personally, I don’t get the ‘daddy/babygirl’ dynamic it seems a lot of B/F couples wanna do. But hey, if it makes ’em happy, and no one’s making me do it…
    So either Annoyed Lesbian will butch up (pun intended) and embrace some’a that butch/femme culture that’s got her so squicked, or she’ll meet some earthy-crunchy andro-dyke in an organic downtown coffeehouse, and everybody’s happy.
    But really, can’t we all just get along?

  5. Wow…the “inheritance of ethnic groups”…because ya know those non-WASP folks are just so backwards in their ways of going about the world.
    And “1950s reclamation”? There were masculine and feminine dykes paired together waay before the 1950s. People need to read.
    I always hear those who do not like/understand butch/femme say “why not dyke” “why do those people have gender issues, why can’t they just be normal”…well, wtf is “normal” and who gave you the right to define it? And I sure as hell don’t want someone who thinks feminine is bad and “ethnic” groups are backwards defining MY normal.

    Thanks for this. BTW you commented previously under the name Laurynx, right? -SF

  6. […] Comments whatilike on The Whole Butch/Femme ThingScreaming Lemur on The Whole Butch/Femme Thingladybrettashley on What Makes (Me) […]

  7. Link Roundup…

    QUEER: The lovely SublimeFemme has a post responding to an Annoyed Lesbian who’s bemoaning the abundance of Butch/Femme types in NYC. Oh, the horror!…

  8. yes, whatilike = laurynx

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