Femme Representation

Hey Loves,

A reader just contacted me to discuss how invisible femme gender roles are in the queer community, and what we might be able to do about that. We talked about the possibility of creating a new community expression space that specifically focuses on and celebrates femme identity.

Is this something you’re craving, too? Would you be interested in helping to shape/organize it?

If so, please send me an email at: [ sarah at genderfork dot com ]

… and put “femme identity” in the subject line so I don’t lose it. I’ll get you in the loop.

Lots of love,
Sarah


Posted by on November 25th, 2009 at 02:17 pm

Category: requests 66 comments »

66 Responses to “Femme Representation”

  1. pythos

    Here is another thought of mine.

    The “ambiguous” image people talk about to me comes off as male. It is a presentation that has mostly male characteristics, heck even the clothing is male, or unisex.

    I have no problem with this. However what I essentially try to do is the “female” version of this ambiguity.

    Some of this discussion seems in favor of the “ambiguous” almost male presentation, while in favor of separating the “feme” presentation, instead of embracing both.

    We have to remember what we do is in the face of “normal” society. We present a confusing image, and unfortunately there are many that are frightened by that, despite the fact in scripture angels are gender neutral, and in medieval depictions they darn well look like females, and yet are beautiful.

    Thought I am male, and like “masculine” things for the most part (I like cars, dislike sports) I wear styles more associated with females. I prefer skirts to pants, loose flowing shirts to cotton t-shirts, or starchy dress shirts.

    If it didn’t mean my certificate possibly being revoked I would identify as Androgynous. Heck if forms that I had to sign had such a term under gender, I would check it. But for the most part I am male.

    Think Japanese J rock artists for a little refference…LOL.

    [Reply]

  2. pythos

    Sorry I hit enter too soon.

    I have dabbled in full on cross dressing, and frankly prefer my androgynous, Gothy self to my “feme” self (by that I mean with fake hips and breasts) I do wish there was an easier way of putting a profile pic up, so people can get an idea. Though mine is Uber goth, lol. Hopefully Sarah will find my pic on flickr.

    [Reply]

  3. B-Rae

    Someone called me “sir” as I was reading the updated posts here.

    :/ *sigh*

    [Reply]

  4. Ashley

    B-Rae:

    I have been thinking all day about why I’ve felt so uncomfortable with your need for femmes to define themselves. You made that post awhile ago, requesting that we (femmes) articulate to you what kind of weight we place on minute characteristics of our gender presentations such as hair, makeup, clothing, mannerisms, word choice, etc. At that time, there had already been several posts made by people who qualified their gender presentation as femme (or sometimes femme), that explained the genderqueer nature of femme identities as those that are consciously articulated, political in nature, non-normative intentional femininities. Essentially femmes had been describing themselves as subverters of expected gender norms and presentations and queerers of femininity. The fact that individual expressions and experiences of Femme identity differ greatly from person to person, it seemed as though a sufficient “working definition” of Femme was already in play.

    I found myself rolling my eyes when that wasn’t enough for you, because it felt like you were asking for proof. It felt like you were asking how, exactly, putting on a fat-hugging dress in the morning, making sure my hair looks flawless and comically outrageous in volume, reapplying my thick offensive purple lipstick 6 times a day, never stepping on a fucking scale to determine my own self-worth, never shutting the fuck up to make all the masculine-identified (normative and non) people in my life comfortable, always making sure that my cackling voice is at top frequency and full of brazen confidence, never feeling the need to defend a $250 purchase of hot pink patent leather peak-a-boo heels but standing by it till the day I die (how much did your Blundstones cost you?), and always looking to broaden the width of the fist i get fucked with…is fucking queer.

    Now, I don’t know about you other femmes out there, but i’m getting a little bit bored with having to prove myself. People talk about ambiguity on this site as though the only way to be ambiguous is by purposefully presenting equal levels of masculinity and femininity in every single goddamn choice that you make in your life. Good luck proving that. People read me incorrectly all the time. People are confused by me every. single. day. People load their shit and their expectations of me onto my gender all the time, and it’s all i can do not to break under the weight of it.

    I bet it gets tiring, this need to explain yourself to people, doesn’t it? You might want to think about how exhausting it is for femmes to have to justify themselves and explain in agonizing detail just how queer they really are, to their own people all the time.

    [Reply]

  5. Sarah

    *waving white flag*

    Heyyyyy…. my friends….

    We’ve got a whole lot of people who feel really threatened and offended right now for lots of different completely legitimate reasons.

    Let’s slow down a bit and make sure we’re respecting that. Everything you’re expressing is true. This is a discussion about lives and identities and acceptance. We have a lot in common.

    As far as structural discussion goes:

    – I understand that there is a need to maintain strong support for the community we’ve been focused on so far.

    – I understand that there is a need for better understanding and representation of femmes (and probably other groups) in the queer community and I’m committed to helping with that.

    – If you’re interested in participating in nuts-and-bolts organizing discussions to help address these issues, you should email me and let me know (before Monday morning, please, because I’d like to kick that work off then).

    As for all the other details, if you’re offended by an insensitive remark made somewhere on this thread (and there were plenty), please remember that this is a community of people coming from lots of different cultures, experiences, and levels of exposure. Most of us are largely ignorant about each others’ real needs.

    But for what it’s worth, I want to help.

    Love,
    Sarah

    [Reply]

  6. Ashley

    ahem…*straightens tie*

    i didn’t mean to turn this discussion into a flame war. i’m having a difficult time not getting lost in the tumultuousness and the gravity of things. and i whole-heartedly appreciate that this conversation is happening. thanks for the patience and passion.

    [Reply]

  7. Cat

    Francie –

    It sounds like I’ve offended you, and rest assured that wasn’t my point. I never said that you, as a femme, are not genderqueer. I said that this site is the only such site filling a niche specifically for *ambiguous* genderqueers. Some other bring up good points on how ambiguous it really is…

    pythos – You bring up a FANTASTIC point on the acceptance of men dressing in feminine ways vs. women doing the same. I actually wrote something about this in my blog not too long ago, and if you’re interested I can link you to it.

    You are absolutely right that saying female genderqueers have it harder is silly, but I don’t think anyone was saying that. The reality it is that everyone in the world has it tough, when it comes to society. There is no such thing as a normal person, and we all experience these pressure to be normal.

    I, for one, am female bodied and simply can’t pass as anything else without a lot of effort (not that I try to – that’s not my goal). I’m petite, pixie-faced, and all that jazz. I do have a low voice, and rather straight-line body, but not the point where I could be mistaken for anything besides female without a ton of effort and probably surgery.

    In my style of dress, I mix feminine and masculine aspects equally. I don’t try to balance my female body by being overly masculine in dress.

    It is in my style of interaction that my genderqueerness becomes more obvious. I do not act like a woman at all. Nor do I really act like a man. But I find that, for me, this is the most obvious incarnation of my gender orientation to most people. It’s something they pick up on much more quickly than my androgynous style of dress.

    While people have no trouble discerning what’s between my legs, my manner of interaction leaves people stumbling.

    I do find a lot of the female-bodies genderqueers here have a more masculine bent, for whatever their variety of reasons may be. And a male-bodied genderqueer with a more feminine bent is pretty much the opposite equivalent of that.

    This debate becomes increasingly more convoluted when we try to define what ambiguity is. But let me try it.

    Now, before I start, let me state that this is the idea kicking around in my head, and my head alone. I’m not saying this is The One True Definition From the Lord And Saviour Of Queerness. Just my current, half-evolved idea, put up for your input.

    To me, ambiguous genderqueer is someone who is so outside of any definition of anything that they had to make up their own.

    Now, again, in my brain and mine alone, a female-bodied femme genderqueer is plenty queer – not arguing that. However, they are women. They are women with a definition of femininity that society won’t accept, which is what makes them queer. But they are women, who don’t feel pulled into either the realm of the opposite gender, OR into the realm of something else entirely.

    Same goes for genderqueer men who subvert the definition of masculine.

    As B-Rae so truthfully said, if you stare at any of these definitions and labels for long enough, they will all begin to unravel.

    But without staring too hard, that is, in essence, the difference between ambiguous genderqueers, and everything else.

    If we want to have this dicussion *at all* we can’t stare at it too hard. Because how do we discuss if we’re unwinding the language as we go?

    In a conversation that is ultimately about how we all want to be free, it is tempting to pull those threads and start watching the fabric fall to the ground.

    But so many of us are still lost and frustrated and hurt because of the society we’re forced to live in while we try to find our way, and so, for the time being, we have to try to entertain these silly modes of language.

    I’m just trying to get down a framework through which we can really discuss this, without anyone getting too upset.

    Ashley, I don’t think B-Rae was trying to offend you, nor do I think anyone is debating your genderqueerness. We’re debating the purpose of this site – what it is, and what it may become.

    [Reply]

  8. Sarah

    *still waving white flag*

    Cat, you’re absolutely right that they all unravel, so I really think we need to stop trying to define and generalize this stuff. At least here.

    Please. I know it’s so compelling. But every definition is going to alienate someone, and someone else will disagree. It’s just not useful in this context. We’re not trying to draw lines. We’re trying to take care of each other.

    Or at least I am.

    Thank you.

    I’m going to close this comment thread in the next 24 hours and migrate the conversation to those who’ve volunteered to help organize. Any last words? Friendly ones?

    Thanks,
    Sarah

    [Reply]

  9. Cat

    Sarah –

    I hope I didn’t come across as unfriendly. :(

    I think one of the struggles here is the fact that we’re discussing the practical aim of a website. If we were all sitting in a room together discussing gender variation in general, I don’t think we’d be having as many problems with language.

    It’s just that this is a practical question about a highly sensitive subject. It’s very hard to discuss it so everyone is on the same page.

    [Reply]

  10. Sarah

    Cat,

    Thanks for checking in. You’re not coming across as unfriendly, but I do think further defining categories is unproductive at this point… there is too much tension and need for acceptance here. Drawing any further lines in the sand is just throwing salt on wounds.

    Everyone,

    I appreciate all of the input you’ve all given me in this conversation. Seriously, it has been incredibly helpful. But it’s also gone beyond the space I can hold for it here, and I need us to bring it back.

    One of my intentional rules on genderfork has been to not allow the kind of gender theory debate/discussion that tries to explain why we are the way we are. That’s not because I find it unimportant — I think it’s VERY important and we need more of it (in fact, we’re still talking about building a site specifically for it). I keep it off our site because I find it can be alienating to a lot of people. First, any kind of academic or specialized language is immediately intimidating to anyone who hasn’t been educated on it already. And secondly, because every theory discussion I’ve been in inherently draws a line somewhere that will hurt someone.

    More than being about gender ambiguity, this site is about acceptance, vulnerability, openness, appreciation, comfort, and celebration. We are newbie-friendly and mom-friendly. We are here to welcome people in.

    The scope of the gender representation is currently being reconsidered. Those values are not. (“My site, my rules.”)

    So I hope you understand why we need to wrap this up. I genuinely appreciate all of your input, and I hope you all stick around to continue to help shape the site.

    Lots of love,
    Sarah

    p.s. Cat, I wanted to check in with you via email, but i don’t think i have your email address. can you touch base with me, or leave a comment that includes your email? thx. xo

    [Reply]

  11. Cat

    Sure thing. My email in the optional box shows up for you, yes?

    [Reply]

  12. Sarah

    Yep. Thanks. :)

    [Reply]

  13. B-Rae

    Ashley,

    before the thread closes, I just wanted to let you know that I think I know what you’re saying and that absolutely was not my intent. Thank you for your honesty.

    I will withhold further comment per Sarah’s direction, but I want to thank everyone for their input. I like to think I have a reasonable amount of knowledge on gender and gender theory, but I am always learning and evolving. I look forward to future discussions, here and elsewhere.

    All the best,

    B-Rae

    [Reply]

  14. elhuge

    sarah – not the point of this thread but let me just say: i am very impressed with you as a moderator and runner-of-websites/blogs. awesome job, and nice work. especially with such important topics.

    [Reply]

  15. Sarah

    *smiles* Thank you, elhuge.

    That means a lot to me.

    [Reply]

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