Visible: A Femmethology (Review)

Why is it so hard to claim femme? This is one of the many things I was thinking as I read Visible: A Femmethology, the new two-volume set just released by Homofactus Press. I’ve been puzzled by this question myself for years. As a professor, I teach about all kinds of  “hot-button issues”–abortion, queer theory, AIDS, gay marriage–pretty much without fear. I also come out as a lesbian regularly (and fairly effortlessly) inside and outside the classroom. But it still makes me nervous to stand in front of a class and come out as femme. There is nothing else that makes me feel so vulnerable. 

Femmethology is a community-minded collection that does a wide range of cultural work, all of which I cannot do justice to in this post.  I read the anthology not as a scholar but as a lesbian who is on her own journey to “own” femme, the beating heart of my queerness.  What I appreciated in Femmethology is the bravery of all the femmes who dare to tell their stories and claim their femme-ininity.  One of the real strengths of the collection is the diversity of femme the authors bring into view; on these pages, we get to meet trans femme-inists, femmes with disabilities, Southern femmes, African American femmes, fag hag femmes, and gender warriors who cultivate new forms of trans-masculine femininity (to name a few).  I was particularly interested in the way that several of the writers explore the intersections between transgender, gender fluidity, and femme.  In her essay about coming to terms with her identity as a trans femme-inist, Josephine Wilson writes about how her affinity for femme made sense “because being femme and being trans were so closely related for me.”  Readers are reminded that femmes are gender outlaws, even as we struggle against narrow definitions of transgression that all too often make our forms of gender trouble hard to see.    

Speaking of visibility, I love Sharon Waschsler’s observation that as femmes “we work at being distinctive….  I haven’t met a femme whose aim it is to blend into the woodwork.”  I couldn’t agree more.  If anything, Femmethology shows that we are claiming femme with panache.  To quote the slogan made famous by London’s radical femme activist Bird La Bird, “Femme invisibility–so last year!”

Don’t miss the rest of the Femmethology Virtual Tour:

4/1. Sugarbutch Chronicles
4/2. Ellie Lumpesse
4/3. Queer-o-mat
4/6. Catalina Loves
4/7. cross-post: The Femme’s Guide and Femme Fagette
4/8. Daphne Gottlieb
4/9. Bilerico Project
4/10. Screaming Lemur: Femme-inism and Other Things
4/13. The Femme Hinterland
4/14. Bochinche Bilingüe: Borderlands Writing and The Vagina Adventures
4/15. Dorothy Surrenders
4/16. Miss Avarice Speaks Her Mind
4/17. The Femme Show
4/18. CyDy Blog
4/19. Sexuality Happens
4/20. Queer Fat Femme
4/21. Sublimefemme Unbound
4/22. Tina-cious.com and Jess I Am (butch-femme couple day!)
4/23. FemmeIsMyGender
4/24. The Lesbian Lifestyle
4/25. Femme Fluff
4/26. Weldable Cookies
4/27. The Verbosery
4/28. A Consuming Desire and Creative Xicana
4/29. Queercents
4/30. en|Gender

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5 Responses

  1. It IS unfashionable to be mistaken for the hoi polloi (which is actually misused, if I remember correctly). I got a femme tattoo… now all I need is a sandwich board!

  2. Oh, I almost forgot- great post, SF. A very nice review.

    Thanks! I enjoyed your Femmethology post too. xo SF

  3. Indeed, I agree, it’s always a delight to stop by here to drink my coffee, and have a read, and more, get educated in the process.

    Thx Alex, To return the complement, your visits are always a pleasure. xo SF

  4. I’m always so grateful for the femmes in my life. Their energy provides a balance to mine and enhances my own gender identity as a butch.

    I agree with Alex: I love the fact that I feel smarter and wiser after reading your posts. Thanks.

  5. Being femme doesn’t fit with the feminist narrative, so that look and manner so it must be repressed by the people in the movement. Dear, you are beyond the movement so march forward with independent pride and undermine those narrow humorless bitches!

    Thx Kim, although it depends on how you define feminism, doesn’t it? BTW I agree with what you had to say about Lindsay Lohan on your blog. xo SF

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