Okay. So, recently, as in a few weeks ago, I got married. I married a gay guy, and I did it for reasons that are advantageous to both of us, and they have nothing to do with feelings. It is, essentially, an arrangement that gives me health insurance (so I can get an invasive surgery that I need to get) and gives him significant material benefits that I won’t bother to go into here.
Although it’s a good story on its own (I met him on a Tuesday, we married on a Wednesday, we had to do the whole ceremony and we giggled the entire time, we even drew up a pre-nup and had it notarized all within eighteen hours between meeting and marrying), I’m bringing it up because it has made me think about something that had already been percolating but that this “getting married” really made real for me. It’s made me think of a LOT of things, actually, including the absurdity of government having a hand in this kind of ridiculous institution. But what I want to talk about here is queerness, femininity, and “visibility.”
See, when I got married, I had to get a ring. I had to get a ring because I had to go with my husband into his place of work and waltz around as his wife for two days while getting his marriage all legitimized and getting my and his benefits solidified. My ring is a $20 simple sterling silver band that’s slightly too big because the kiosk at the mall didn’t have my size so I had to go a half size up. And I kind of love this ring. I don’t love the RING, itself, as a piece of jewelry, I mean it’s fine and all, totally unoffensive, but it’s not particularly lovable in itself. What I love about it is what happens to me when I wear it. What happens is, when I’m wearing it, I feel like I have this inside joke with myself that no one else gets. Not that anyone really notices it, or thinks about it much if they do notice it, but that’s almost precisely it — in a way, it’s like the ultimate symbol of straightness, of heteronormativity. A wedding band, right? And so when I wear it, I “pass” as a regular ol’ married woman. I’m a wife. I’m a straight, blond (oh yeah, my hair is blond now), young, hazel-eyed wife. But the thing is, the joke’s on them because they don’t even know there’s any joke. On the surface I would appear to be one, totally comprehensible, sensible thing and yet? I’m so *not*.
And I guess what it did for me in a way was release me from this idea of “visibility” as my aim. It’s like, ok, I look fucking straight. So? And, to whom? Why? And does that even matter? And the answer is, no, it doesn’t. I actually don’t give two shits whether I’m comprehensible, and I don’t think that comprehensibility or visibility as an aim of queer politics is even particularly desirable. I mean, look, I spent years trying to figure out how to be queer, how to be the “right kind” of queer for the straights, how to be the right “wrong kind” of queer for the other queers, how to (and yes, this is a pattern in my life) liquify myself and take up the shape of whatever space I’m in so as to fit right in. To me this has been partly about attaining a sense of belonging (where since adolescence I’ve tended to acutely feel like I dis-belong). And it’s also been about safety, majorly. Like I’ve got this deeply internalized sense that passing and fitting in are the best way to stay safe. Physically safe, sexually safe, emotionally safe.
So what the hell is my point? My point is, I guess, to repeat what I said before, that I don’t think that comprehensibility or visibility really ought to be a desirable aim of queer/femme politics. Like, what does that say about my relationship to the world if the way I organize myself in it is to best appear a certain way to it (or parts of it)? What that says is that my sense of self comes from outside, comes from how others perceive me, or rather comes from how I imagine others perceive me. And that’s bullshit because, honestly, I don’t think there’s any such thing as an “authentic self” or essence of self that can be authentically reflected or portrayed by your outer appearance. I don’t think there’s any way that every part of who we are will ever be visible to/perceived by/comprehensible to “the world” or “people” or whomever we are aiming to be seen/perceived/comprehended by. And like, if you think about it — when we try to be visible or try to be comprehensible, what is it we’re really reaching for? How do we measure what constitutes visibility? What are we reproducing in that effort? When we aim for inclusion, what remains excluded? When we use certain markers or norms or standards as a way to stay safe, what are we committing those who don’t/can’t access those same standards to? How are these standards also silently determined by whiteness, straightness, cisgenderness, upper-classness, ableness? Am I making any sense?
What it’s about, to me, or ought to be about, is just whatever the fuck we want. I just want to feel moderately okay in the world, and I want to measure that feeling according to my own feelings about and perceptions of myself rather than others’ feelings/perceptions of me. Like, I don’t want to seek to look a certain way in order to feel safe or to belong. Instead, I’d like to seek to look a certain way because it makes me feel bold. And by bold I don’t mean daring, flashy, fancy, etc. I just mean, I want to strive for a feeling of taking up space in my body such that my body feels strong, solid, present, and so that I can in turn try to think beyond a politics of comprehensibility and make room, in my own mind, for the immense possibilities that queerness presents to the world in all of its bodies.
Right, so the wedding ring. Yeah, it makes me feel like laughing hysterically when I have it on because everything it is supposed to symbolize — undying love and commitment to another person for a lifetime — is just totally irrelevant for me in my life right now. Instead, for me, it symbolizes this juxtaposition of who I was raised to be versus who I am; it symbolizes my own freedom from the ties of certain expectations; it symbolizes my commitment to myself that I am capable of making my own way in the world; and it symbolizes that I don’t give a fuck whether I’m “visible” or whether I’m “comprehensible” because honestly, it’s too much goddamn work and it’s not work that I even support.
There’s a lot more I could (and maybe will) say about this stuff in relation specifically to femme politics and femininity. But I’ll save that for now.
The end! You may now congratulate me on my recent nuptials.
EDIT: Someone just alerted me (god y’all are quick, that was like half an hour) to this post on femmetech.org on “deprivileging in/visibility” which is very much along the lines of what I’m getting at only she does it much better and with way less rambling. I don’t agree with everything she says but I do with a lot of it and I’d like to think about it more… hmm…
Today was the first day of my summer practicum — at a grassroots coalition of women prisoners. This summer so far (oh my god, I can’t believe it’s already almost halfway over) I’ve been devouring everything I can on prisons, the PIC, the military/police/penal state, race gender and prisons, the War on Drugs… The more books I read and documentaries I watch and conversations I have the more overwhelmed I feel and also eager and urgent about the problem of our prisons (particularly in California) and the havoc they wreak on those inside and on those of us outside. I feel stuck about how to write about those things on this blog but I do want update here more often than once a month, which is what I’ve been doing… I’m thinking maybe I’ll try to do once a day, just whatever’s on my mind.
What’s on my mind right now, other than women in prison? Well, I’ve got a 12-week-old kitten named Gilda batting at and chewing on my hair right now, which I read on the internetz means that she loves me; evidently she’s grooming me. She is a menace, a devil and an angel all at once. She is happy and loved, and also keeps us up half the night. We don’t have the heart to lock her out of the bedroom from the beginning of the night, but it inevitably means that we are up at some point in the night to her batting at our ankles and pawing at our faces and squirming in our bed, at which point we grumble and try to ignore it until we’re fully awake and finally get up and throw her out of the room. (Not literally.) Still, I am in love with her and when ML and I drove down the coast on Sunday to wander the salt marshes and go to the beach, we both missed her! A cat! I’ve never understood the pet bonds that people develop because I’ve never had a pet before, but I get it now. She’s a member of our family.
However, I promise I won’t bore you daily with tales of her mischief. Maybe weekly though :)
One of the more established interns at the prison coalition is queer, and I feel like I have a “be her” crush on her. Have you ever had that problem, where you can’t decide whether the gal you think is really hot is someone you want to “be” or someone you want to “do”? It took me a bit when I was younger to sort that out, and sometimes I think there’s still some gray area. Well, Ari is a “be her” crush, I’m pretty sure. Not that I know for sure that she identifies as femme, maybe she does maybe she doesn’t, but she is obviously queer, and not butch or masculine and I studied her trying to figure out what the cues were for me that she’s queer because it was so obvious to me. Other than my gaydar, I think it was a combination of a subtle energy and some visual cues: the slightly asymmetrical haircut with a tiny shaved part on the front of one side and bleached wingtips on one side; several small tattoos; skinny jeans with muscle tank + a few dangly necklaces… It’s interesting though, because despite the “be her” crush I think that I won’t really ever read that way. I’m too girly-feminine. I don’t mean pink and bows and hello kitty, I mean just a more conventionally feminine presentation. I don’t have tattoos and despite the fact that I know I mentioned here a while back that I was thinking of getting one, I’ve pretty much established now that I’m not. I feel torn between wanting to adopt a marker of something that is pretty ubiquitous among “my people” now (by which I mean my queer demographic, not all LBTQ folks in general) and wanting to also not just follow along in that regard. So until I feel more secure in my own queer presentation and don’t feel as concerned with whether I’m mark-able as queer, I think I will hold off. For me, being visibly mark-able isn’t really a good enough reason on its own to get a tattoo. In addition to not having tattoos, though, I tend to think that I otherwise lack some of the subtle identifiers that even I don’t quite know how to place. What is it that marks people? I know I’ve talked about this before; it still occupies me!
My hair is continuing to grow; I now have a platinum streak on a dark cherry angled bob. I’m continuing to try to get to the bottom of what I, personally, am drawn to in terms of style. Pin-up, yes, absolutely; I’d like to incorporate that into my daily get-up more. I know I feel happier and more together when I do, when I take the time to dress myself with care. It’s a matter of time, I guess. But I should do that.
What are the things you do, on an average, casual day, to articulate (visually) your gender? Whether femme or other?
I hardly even know where to begin. It’s easy enough to talk about the “stuff” going on in my life — getting our kitten next week (reader poll: Should We Name Our Cat?: a) Gilda b) Greta c) Simone), moving to Oakland at the end of July, starting my summer practicum in a few weeks, seriously considering staying for a PhD but also looking seriously at other PhD programs elsewhere, my part-time library job, which I actually love, family goings-on, the stuff I’ve been reading and obsessing about… and I’m sure I’ll write about more of that stuff here in the coming weeks. It’s summer, after all, and I’m not in class. I’m not intending to let this place die.
But today I want to write, again, about my hair. I wrote about it here already, last fall, when I was starting the project of growing it out. Now it’s nine months later and I’ve got a just-below-chin-length bob and just-above-brow-level bangs. I get my hair colored, too; it’s a sort of auburn with golden streaks right now. It’s funny, when I had quite short hair I never felt unfeminine and as I started identifying more as femme in the past four years or so I always was adamant that I wasn’t femme despite the short hair but rather that the hair was an integral part of my femininity. And certainly this in no way reflects on short-haired femmes in general, but for me — wow, I had no idea how much having longer hair would affect my sense of myself.
I feel so much stronger, so much fiercer, so much more solid in my body. I feel so much more myself, sexier, more flippant. It’s hard to know, actually, how much of that is related to just the hair and how much is related to other things (like this education, my graduate program, which is hardening me and breaking me all at once), but I have felt it as being integrally related to my hair. I don’t feel more feminine, per se, but I feel do feel more femme — like the way I want femme to feel for me. This sounds funny, but I feel more visible — not more visibly queer (in fact I think it’s the opposite), but more apparent to the world. And that doesn’t mean that I’m more apparent to other people but that I’m more apparent to myself. I’m showing up differently, somehow.
Though there is the thing about being more apparent to other people and that’s what I really wanted to write about. The longer my hair has gotten the more I’ve been a target of street harassment. Again, this is not a generalization of women-with-long-hair-get-more-street-harassment, not at all, but that has been my experience, and as I’ve felt more powerful in how I show up and walk around in my body, as I have felt sexier, I have also been getting a lot more desperately unwanted attention. And I don’t know what to do about this because I hate it, that isn’t strong enough, I don’t just hate it I loathe it, it makes me shake with rage.
I don’t quite know how to manage it. When ML and I were talking about moving to Oakland, one of the things she brought up was safety — is that neighborhood safer than, equivalent to, or not as safe as the Mission? And to be honest I can’t take those questions seriously because I never feel safe, ever. Ever. I’m always on my guard, no matter where I am, no matter who’s around. I’ve learned first hand, multiple times, that safety, for women, is an illusion and I feel like debating the nature of the safety of neighborhoods is the privilege of people who do feel safe in places. That probably sounds crass, and intellectually I know it probably is, but what I’m not saying is that we should throw ourselves in the path of danger or, through ignorance, subject ourselves to more of it. (Though even that sentence is victim-blaming, do you see it?) So I try to engage those issues seriously and with care but I end up generally getting really impatient and feeling like it’s all a farse, because honestly whether one neighborhood “seems” safer than another feels so arbitrary and so fictive. Also, racist. But at the same time, I don’t want to be flippant.
And still every week I get yelled at, whistled at, followed, groped, cat-called, in every neighborhood and no matter where I am. I feel less safe with the longer hair, feel somehow more vulnerable as I also feel stronger. Perhaps it’s that as I’ve felt more like me, I’ve felt less like I’m hiding — in short hair and in my body in general — and as I’m hiding less I feel more vulnerable. I don’t know, maybe that’s not it, maybe I’m entirely off base. But I need to figure out a way to respond, for my own sanity… And my hair grows longer.
I also just have to say that there is an adorable, tiny kitten playing on my lap trying to get my attention right now. So I’m going to go dote on her :)
First order of business: pin-up photos. Some of you might remember that for Christmas, ML gave me a pin-up photo shoot, and I finally did the shoot at the end of February and got the photos back last week. There were a bunch that I really liked, and I’ll post a few of them here. I’m a little excited about this because it’s the first time I’m exposing my FACE! on my BLOG! I feel pretty okay about that, and in some ways I think that it’ll enable me to feel freer posting here about whatever, because it’s just ME, it’s not me-posing-as-someone-cool-on-the-internet. Not that I pose or anything, but I do sometimes get anxiety when people figure out who I am in real life, then I’m all “OMG I’m so not as cool in real life as I lead people to think on my blog.” Which, intervention! That is not the way I want to be. So, yay, pictures!
The photos are all courtesy of BombshellBetty.net. Betty is awesome, and the photo sesh was a LOT of fun!
So I’ll post a few here, and then you should go over to my Facebook profile to see some more!
UPDATE: The swimsuit is by Fables by Barrie and they have ridiculously adorable sailor swimsuits, plus other awesome pin-up type clothing. I seriously can’t wait to wear this to the beach this summer.
PS: You can click ‘em to make ‘em big! Eep! My face is so big! Also, I’ve already had a question re touch-ups: these photos are not touched up at all, the reason my skin looks so glowy is because of the fantastic photographer and the lighting!
I’m trying to grow out my hair. The reason I bring this up is because I got an email last week asking me if I had thoughts about femmes and hair, and I responded that “DO I EVER.” Well, that’s not exactly what I said, but something to that effect. I have thoughts about femmes and hair especially now because I’m in the middle of trying to grow mine out. I say “trying” because I am at the point right now where I’m on the verge of tearing it all out because it’s pissing me off so much. (Awkward in-between stage much?)
So, femmes and hair. The best angle I can really appropriately come at this from is that of my own experience and relationship to my hair, obviously, so I’ll start there. I used to have long hair. And now my hair is short. I had straight, long, light brown hair that went halfway down my back. Someone told me once that he didn’t think he’d ever seen me wear my hair the same way twice, and though that is definitely NOT true, I was able to do a lot of different things with it. I wore ponytails, obviously, when I was feeling particularly casual. “Princess ponytails” (as my mother dubbed “half ponytails”) were for when I was feeling particularly feminine or girlish. I would also wear braids, or half-ponytail braids, or pigtail braids, or French braids, or messy buns, or what’s that thing called where you turn your ponytail inside out? Yeah, that. Often I would just wear my hair completely down, blow-dry it… I had a habit of twirling a strand of hair around my finger when I was bored.
When I was 20, I cut my hair short. Pixie short. Largely, this was part of my coming-out process. It was a signal that I wanted to be taken seriously by the queer community at my women’s college, that I wasn’t a LUG. (That is a whole sociological can of worms right there.) As I’ve written before, I understood that being taken seriously as gay necessitated toning down femininity and taking on androgyny or masculinity. (What I didn’t understand was that having a pixie haircut did NOT automatically make me androgynous or masculine!) It turned out that I *loved* the short hair. It framed my face better, made my eyes more prominent (I already have pretty prominent eyes as it is), was super easy to take care of, and looked flirty and fun. Once I passed safely to the other side of my masculandrogynous stage, I totally embraced my pixie hair as femme. Not in an “I’m femme… but I have short hair” way, but in a “hell YEAH I’m femme and I have short hair!” way. No “buts.”
And, yeah, I definitely think that’s put more of a burden of proof on me, in a way. In a community that has so much protection around labels (another whole sociological can of worms that I’m not going to open right now), there have been plenty of occasions I’ve felt weird about my short hair, have felt that I can’t actually be femme with short hair, and that I’m co-opting someone else’s identity by claiming I’m a femme with short hair. (White) femininity and long hair are closely linked in a biconditional relationship in our culture — if you’re a white woman with long hair, you’re perceived to be feminine, and if you’re going to be perceived as feminine, you need to have long hair. It’s a closed loop. But of course, there are so many exceptions to this. Winona Ryder, Natalie Portman, Keira Knightley, and now Emma Watson are all white female celebrities who totally pull off the short hair but still feminine thing.
And yet. Female celebrities cutting off their hair is generally perceived by society-at-large (and forgive the sweeping generalizations) as a bold step away from docile girlishness and toward the re-defining of the self as a “strong woman.” When I Googled “emma watson cuts her hair,” the underlying themes in news articles and blog posts linked in the search results seemed to me to be shock and trepidation: words like edgy, boyish (though I think she looks *far* from boyish), and drastic, and questions posed to the audience like “what do YOU think about Emma’s new look?” underline the notion that white women cutting their hair short is “making a statement” that people can agree or disagree with. Comments to those blog posts and news articles tend to go in one of two directions: either people support the “bold move” and take a “rock on, girl” pro-girl-power stance, OR they think it looks horrible and wax nostalgic about her long hair, regretting the move away from traditional femininity. Long hair, then, can be read as a symbol of traditional white , while short hair is a symbolic move towards liberation. (Emma even calls it “liberating” and “incredible” herself.)
Obviously, Emma is straight (or at least, she has a boyfriend and has never made any statements to the contrary), as are the other celebrities I mentioned. So how do femmes fit into this? I think white femmes who typically pass as straight (which is probably most of us) probably are perceived similarly to straight white women in terms of our hair: long hair is more traditionally feminine, while short hair is a distancing from traditional femininity. Since gayness is also a distancing from traditional femininity, at least in terms of dominant definitions of femininity (which define it in oppositional and exclusive relation to man/masculinity), it makes sense that cutting one’s hair short is a move many women make when trying to find a place in the queer realm. On the other hand, many femmes participate in actively re-defining femininity as un-relative to men and masculinity, partly just by virtue of not being sexual partners of men, and partly by their intentionality in regards to their gender presentation. In that sense, a white femme having long hair, I think, uses a traditional marker of white femininity in a non-traditional way, thus also “queering” the discourse around traditional white femininity. (I think I’m talking in circles now.) A white femme having short hair is still probably read most often as being non-traditionally feminine (if read as feminine at all by hetero-dominance — I think there are many folks in my life, for example, who take ONLY my hair as being signifying of my gender presentation, and assume that just by virtue of having short hair I *can’t* be feminine) and, because even queers are typically socialized by hetero-dominance until a certain point in their young/adult lives, white femmes with short hair might not be taken seriously as feminine by fellow queers, either.
All of this a round-about way of saying: I have short hair. I’m femme. Even if you don’t perceive me as femme (especially when I’m wearing jeans and chucks and no make-up), I’m still femme. Short-haired femmes and long-haired femmes alike are re-defining femininity in our own images, distancing ourselves from a male-defined and male-owned femininity. [Aside: this isn't to say straight women can't participate or aren't participating in re-defining femininity in their own image too. Of course they can and are. I do think, though, that it's probably gotta be a more intentional thing for straight women.] AND, my growing out my hair right now has nothing to do with changing my orientation towards or relationship with my femme-ininity. The reason that I am growing out my hair is that I no longer have an income, and so I can’t afford haircuts. That’s it. The end! Though I think it will be very interesting to see how my understanding of my queer identity and my position in queerness and in community changes, both internally and in terms of external perceptions, as a result of growing longer hair.
In other news, our date on Sunday evening was perfect. We went for a walk up to Corona Heights, got winded, sat on a bench overlooking the entire east side of the city and felt appropriately invigorated. We ended up deciding to eat out (graduate student budget notwithstanding) and that was an excellent decision because it was so nice not to have to wash up dishes and whatnot. Plus, we got cocktails and fondue — you can’t argue with that! And then, just as planned, we camped out on the living room floor with our featherbed and lots of pillows and blankets and watched old movies on our projector. And then we fucked. It was awesome. It also really subdued my rising anxiety about not having time for and with each other. I feel a whole lot better. This week has been very busy, too, and not without its moments of frustration and anxiety and stress between us, but my anxiety is no longer consuming me in quite the same way it was before.
[9/20/10 Edit: I was thinking some more about this this weekend and realized that I needed to clarify that I'm talking about white femininity and its queering so I went back through and added "white" where necessary. As a white woman, that's the world I have the most thorough understanding of, and I don't feel comfortable making sweeping statements about discourses around femininity in WOC and POC communities. That's actually a topic I'm interested in delving into in graduate school -- but that's another post...]
I got this question through formspring.me (see that little red box over on the right? if you put a question in there and submit it, I’ll answer it), and figured I’d publish it here as well. I imagine it’s a follow-up to my post a while back on being a femme in a relationship that’s not butch/femme. I don’t say anything hugely new and different here, but it’s certainly relevant to the blog.
Can you tell me more about being a femme sans butch? How does the lady feel about your femme identity? And how do you feel about her gender identity?
Gender identity stuff, I love it!
So, really, this is three separate questions. So I’ll start with the first one:
Can I say more about being a femme sans butch?
I guess the first thing I’ll say about it is that for the longest time, I hesitated to identify as femme because I’ve never had a relationship with a woman who identifies as butch (crushes, on the other hand? definitely). Intellectually, I know that to say that a femme can only be with a butch is like saying a woman can only be with a man. But it was sort of like trying to come out to myself all over again. When I started coming out to myself, I was just like “no way, this can’t be possible! I’m a girl! I’m s’posed to like boys! what is this craziness? I must be delusional!” It just didn’t seem possible to me that I was gay, and that gay was real. Coming out as femme was sort of similar, like “no way, I can’t be femme, femmes are supposed to be with butches! I can’t *really* be a femme!” But, for whatever reason, femme is just *right* for me, in the way that coming out as gay/queer in the first place just felt right. So, for whatever reason (biological? theological? coincidental?), I’m a femme and I don’t have a butch, and I don’t feel lacking in any regard. The identity itself is complete. I do think that femme and butch have a lot of traits that are very compatible with each other, and mi’lady has a lot of those traits anyway, plus a lot of other traits that I’m very much in love with ;)
How does she feel about my gender identity?
She’s totally supportive, and she tends to be attracted to femininity/femme-ininity herself anyway. I would even hazard a guess** and say that she’s found my blossoming into femme almost as exciting as I have — she certainly reaps many of the benefits (I’m stabler, more confident, sexier I think). She loves it when I wear heels, she has a deep appreciation for my domesticity (while making it always, always clear that she doesn’t expect anything of me in the way of cooking/cleaning/that sort of thing), she finds the girliness a turn-on. So she’s totally gung-ho about it.
And lastly, how do I feel about her gender identity?
I am totally and completely in love with it. We have talked a bit about what gender identity label she feels most comfortable with, and she keeps coming back to “dyke” as what works for her. And really, I can’t think of any better way to describe her. She’s kind of a rocker chick, with a definite masculine edge (so. hot. – the way she leans back in a chair, for example, legs apart, chest open and relaxed, shoulders back… swoon) but also with a feminine underside, if you will. She’s got shoulder-length angled side-parted dark hair (longer than mine) which frames her face so perfectly, and she has gorgeous eyes with long lashes. And, erm, she’s got a great rack, which she’s rightfully proud of as one of her great assets. She loves to be fucked. But she also loves to have the cock herself. So, she’s definitely queer, definitely a dyke, definitely NOT femme, I wouldn’t even really use the word feminine to describe her if pressed. Just, dyke. Think, I dunno, Tegan & Sara?
And she’s funny and boyish and she calls me “baby” and “sweetie” which makes me melt, she’s protective and gracious. She lets me do my puttering and my little grooming and she’s mystified by a lot of my feminine ways but she loves them, too. So, really, we’re perfectly matched :)
**After reading my answer, mi’lady said (in her own words) “your hazardous guess is correct!” :) :)
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. What makes me femme specifically, as opposed to just feminine, more generally. I guess another way of posing this question would be: what makes Queer Femme different from Straight? This has been inspired, partly, by some discussion on other blogs (see, for example, Sinclair’s four-part series on masculinity, Dear Diaspora’s post on “butches are not men,” and Packing Vocals on being a gentleman) regarding female butch masculinity and the transmasculinity “spectrum” (I use the word spectrum largely because I’m not sure what other word to use, though I’m not really comfortable with calling anything queer or gender-related a spectrum), and, among other things, what sets it apart from cismale masculinity. These kinds of discussions naturally led me to pondering what sets queer femininity apart from straight cis femininity.
This has also been inspired, though, by my own gradual “coming out” as femme, a process which has been unfolding for the past year and a half or so; with burgeoning self-awareness comes the revealing of a whole realm of possibility regarding what femme can mean, and I’m still (maybe always will be) trying to figuratively pick through and identify what works for me and what doesn’t.
So, for example. Jewelry is not really my thing. It’s not that I dislike it, but rather more that I don’t have strong feelings for it. I don’t get excited by sparkles and shiny things, really, and while I can certainly appreciate a pretty pair of earrings (and do wear them from time to time), I’ve decided that accessorizing with gems’n'things is an aspect of femininity that I’m fine with setting aside (for now, anyway).
Shoes, on the other hand, are a comPLETEly different story. I. LOVE. SHOES. It is an unfortunate love affair, because shoes are not cheap, even if one does one’s best to only buy them when they’re marked down. I’m sorry, but when I pass a gazillion shoe stores every week in my wanderings, how can I not get giddy? In fact, you should be congratulating me that I only own about three dozen pairs. I could easily own hundreds. And the kind of shoes I love are decidedly feminine. Heels, bows, colors, peep-toes, sex-on-stilettos. So there is a characteristic of femininity that I unabashedly own.
There are others, obviously, but there are also many more, I’m know, that I’m still working through. There are a few right off the top of my head that I can think of, and maybe these are even little femme-goals of mine for the near future. Some of them frivolous, others less so:
1) find *my color* of lipstick (you know what I mean, right?)
2) get a tattoo (I’ve got several ideas but need to settle on one and on where) (maybe this will be a separate post soon, because I have oh-so-much to say about tattoos and queer femininity)
3) learn better how to shop thrift stores, because about half my wardrobe is out-dated and I want more skirts, dammit! I now have like three that I wear on a rotating basis.
4) invent a signature cocktail! It will be called The Alphafemme, duh. And it will be fizzy and fruity. That much I can guarantee.
5) get into a regular exercise routine. I want to get back into yoga, which I really miss, and I’m also considering a hip hop dance class.
Those are just five, and there are more, but you see? All of those things, to me, in their different ways, mean femme. What I love is that femme means something totally different for everyone who identifies that way, and femininity can be performed, intentionally or unintentionally, in infinite ways. But I guess what I’m curious about, to bring this back around to my initial question, is: any girl could write the same list I just wrote, and out of the context of this blog, where HI I’M GAY, you wouldn’t know if she were queer. So, are there things that belong specifically to queer femininity? Or at least, do they mean something different as an aspect of queer femininity than they do as an aspect of non-queer femininity?
What is it about femmes that distinguishes our femininity from that of straight women? Whether you think it’s a je ne sais quoi or something very specific, I’d love to hear what you think.
So, the title of this post is misleading, I know. It makes it look like I’m going to NAME what I think are markers of queer femme. But instead, I’m copping out and asking you, because the truth is I don’t know.