Recently, I was checking out of a swanky hotel and requested some help with my luggage. Much to my surprise, the bellhop who arrived to help me was a beautiful tomboy femme. When she looked me in the eyes and said “yes ma’am,” I’ll admit I felt a little weak in the knees. (This is the one time in the history of the world that I actually liked being called ma’am.)
She had short black hair, blue eyes and a punk attitude that made her look tough enough to handle whatever came her way. Unlike the other bellhops and valets who were very chatty, she was polite but all business. She easily moved the bags I could barely lift while I admired how good she looked in her uniform and fingerless black gloves. Naturally, I gave her a huge tip.
This experience reminded me that (1) tomboy femmes are hot and (2) I see them very rarely in my everyday life. Even in our little corner of the queer blogosphere, where we embrace the complexities of femme gender expression, I think we sometimes overlook multigendered femmes and unwittingly present categories like “tomboy” and “femme” as separate/opposed rather than interrelated.
Why are so many queer women still under the impression that, because they’re a tomboy or sometimes feel butch/boyish, they’re not really femme or are “less” femme? For me, this is exactly wrong. I see tomboy femme as a form of gender mixing (not gender transgression) that’s both inside and outside the categories of butch and femme. I’m fascinated by tomboy femmes because their gender play makes visible the fluidity and flexibility of femme, which is otherwise difficult to see.
While you’re thinking this over, here are some pics of two of my favorite tomboy femmes, Pink and Jodie Foster. Who are yours? What does tomboy femme mean to you? Is there a difference between “tomboy,” “boi” and “butch?” The needle on my own “tomboy-meter” is very low, so I could use everyone’s help answering these questions!