Archive for the ‘ Gender ’ Category

Femmenism

I’ve written over and over about femme identities; about femme invisibility, about my discomfort with a femme identity, about how I sometimes feel really femme, about how it’s how I’m perceived even if I don’t quite identify with it myself, etcetera etcetera.

The essay “Femmenism” by Jeannie Delombard in the collection “To Be Real” by Rebecca Walker explored a little bit of all of this through the lens of femmenism, which she defines as “where the third wave of Western feminism and the third wave of American lesbianism intersect.”

She writes:

“Femmenism is nothing if not contradictory. Femmenism is looking like a straight woman and living like a dyke. Femmenism is being attracted to someone of the same sex who is very much your opposite. Femmenism is calling yourself a girly-girl and insisting that others call you a woman. Femmenism is playing up your femininity even when you know it can be used against you. Femmenism is using that master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house. Femmenism is political but not correct.”

In a way, her story is also my store. Though I grew up a decade and a half later, I too wanted to spend my childhood in “pastel party dresses and Mary Janes.” My mom was not quite as politically correct as her mother, but then again, I was a child in the early 1990s, not the mid 1970s. While Delombard’s mother pushed “corduroys and hiking boots,” my mother merely suggested, “Don’t you think a pair of jeans would be more comfortable?” Art supplies were the ideal playthings in our household, and when I wanted Barbie dolls, I had to save up my allowance or take advantage of visiting grandparents.

Like Delombard, household duties were divided by ability, not gender roles. My dad loved to clean, and so he did. My mom liked to cook, but she hated getting up early, so dad cooked us breakfast and mom took care of dinner.

Unlike Delombard, I never felt like I had to fulfill a certain gender role due to parental expectations, lesbian community requirements, or anything else. Not to say I haven’t struggled with my sexual orientation or gender expression at times, but I’ve always been pretty comfortable in my own skin- or my own clothes: be that boys cargo shorts or a strapless polka-dotted dress.

Needless to say, I’m still uncomfortable with a femme identity. Is it because it is a label? Perhaps. Is it because it suggests that I am only attracted to its opposite [butch]? Perhaps also. Is it because I fear mirroring heterosexual society? Maybe a little.

Delombard writes:

“If lesbians see butch-femme as a capitulation to heterosexual norms, most of the straight world believes that butch-femme lurks at the core of every lesbian relationship, while the rest see it as a kinky, erotic sex game, better left in the bedroom along with the strap-on dildo, the handcuffs, and the edible underwear. Like pornography, everyone has an opinion about butch-femme, but no one seems very clear about what exactly it is.”

She talks about the feeling that her and her partner are “making up what it means to be butch and femme” as we go along. That, I can relate to. Whatever I am, I feel like I am constantly making it up.

I like this part:

“For me, being a femme means that I take pride in wearing just the right shade of lipstick (not true for me), drawing the perfect black line above my eyelashes (true for me), keeping my legs smooth (sometimes), and smelling good. Being a femmenist means knowing I am just as attractive when I don’t wear makeup, shave, or put on perfume (very true).

Being a femme also means that I want to be with a woman who appreciates it when I do these things; not silently, but openly and enthusiastically. A women who sends me flowers (yes), helps me out of cars (whatever); and know how to take care of all the details, like choosing the right wine, tipping the bartender, and calling a cab (eh). Being a femmenist means both making sure that I know to do all the things myself and getting an erotic charge out of having them done for me.”

To me, this last sentence is key. As politically incorrect as this may be, I fear the label femme because I feel it suggests that I am helpless. Delombard makes it make sense. I can do it myself, I have that power, but that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate romantic and caretaking gestures.

There is no great conclusion I’ll offer in this post, except that this essay made me feel a little less alone, though not neccessarily less confused. Still, it made me  laugh:

“The same thing happens when my love and I go out to dinner: no matter how we are dressed, invariably the server will take my order first, have my girlfriend taste the wine, and present her with the bill (even when I have requested it, credit card in hand).”

So true, so true.  As is this:

“On the one hand, being a femme increases exponentially my much-publicized invisibility as a lesbian. Almost every day, usually several time a day, all sorts of heterosexual men strike up conversations with me, comment on my appearance, or shout lewd remarks at me. Since to them I don’t look like a dyke or even a liberated woman, they automatically assume that I look the way I do to provoke male attention and approval. […] On the other hand, my lesbian invisibility is suddenly, dangerously, stripped away when I am with my lover.”

On this account, as well, Delombard couldn’t be more accurate.

I may be no closer to reconciling my identity with the femme label, but it’s nice to know I’m not alone in thinking about it. It’s also nice to read a well written personal essay. And it’s nice to remember that femme can still mean powerful, political, and capable.

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Hump Day Happiness #9

This week has seemed extra long. Now, as we are officially half way done, I can let out a sigh of relief.

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Through PRIDE month might be officially over, this comic from a softer world rings true.

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Someone on Genderfork shared this little gem:

“I can’t wait to button up your blazer over my breasts, slip on my slacks, spritz on some cologne, pin up my hair, and escort you to prom like a proper gentleman. You in your pink hat with the sparkles, both of us looking downright dapper as we each battle the binary, hand in hand. Can’t wait to dance with you.”

It’s sweet relief from all that lesbian-not-invited-to-prom-in-Mississippi business.

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After having her gender publicly scrutinized for the last 11 months, championship runner Caster Semenya is now cleared to return to competition.

Though the media is not reporting on this case in the most sensitive manner (I.E. “It is still unclear if the runner has undergone any medical procedure or treating during the lengthy layoff that has allowed her to keep running as a woman”) , at least Semenya can return to competing in the sport she loves.

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Finally, not only did Iceland legalize gay marriage, but their prime minister Johanna Sigurdardottir tied the knot with her longtime partner (as reported by the AP).

Feeling Femme

I’ve been feeling all sorts of feminine lately.

I want to grow my hair out again. I love how cute and easy it is at this length, but when I look at pictures of me, at seventeen, with curls down to the middle of my back, I miss it. It was really pretty when I cared to manage it.

I want to dress cute. I want to wear skirts. I want to wear necklaces. I want funky belts and colorful shoes. I want to have adorable outfits a la fit for a femme and the women of academichic. I want to look fucking adorable (and I’d like to do so without people questioning my queerness).

Why this sudden urge? I have a couple of theories.

One, I am less than happy with my body these days for a few reasons (including but not limited to injuries, heat, demotivation, and lack of money). If I don’t think I’m attractive on my own, perhaps some adorable clothing and a touch of mascara will help.

Two, I have a girlfriend. Now this will sounds stupid, but I often avoid dressing “too girly,” because then everyone reads me as straight. I’m not single, and I’m not looking, so it doesn’t matter if everyone thinks I’m straight. And when I’m with Linds, and she’s looking all tough and butch, everyone assumes we’re a pair of dykes anyways. She also tells me how beautiful she thinks I am and all the parts of my body she loves. With someone offering such positive reinforcement, I feel like showing it all off, short dresses and all.

And that is all I have to say about this. Just sharing what I’m feeling at the moment for no particular reason, other than that I feel like sharing.

Men and Girls

While trying to find my gymnasts’ scores, I came across this goody on the website of a Florida gym.

Since this gym is hosting the state championships, it makes sense for them to also host the meet results. However, if you will note, the first headline says “Men’s State” and the second says “Girl’s State.” Inconsistent, huh?

To confirm the official names, I went to the USA Gymnastics website. State championships are held for the “Men’s Junior Olympic Program” and the “Women’s Junior Olympic Program.” Technically, both programs are for gymnasts eighteen years of age and under, so “boys” and “girls” could have been used. However, per the governing body, the correct terminology is “men” and “women.” The website writer probably made an unknowing mistake, but these mistakes are what reinforce that gymnastics is a “girls” sport.

End feminist ranting.

On a related note, I will share this quote from a class I taught a while back. Always nice to finish with a laugh.

Me (to Beginner 1 class): Okay, girlies, follow me to beam.
6 year old student: Don’t call us girlies. Women get called girls their whole lives and that isn’t right! (pumps fist in air) You shouldn’t do that.
Me: I’m sorry. How about I call you beautiful young ladies? Is that better?
6 year old student: Yes, I think so.
Other kid: Well, it doesn’t matter. Our coach will be dead by the time we are grown up anyways.
Me: I sure hope I won’t be dead. How old do you think I am anyways?
Yet another kid: 32?

Defining Yourself (an example)

After applying to a million graduate programs, I am starting to receive my acceptances and rejections.

University of Texas has asked me to accept or deny their offer, as well as submit a bio to be used in departmental materials. The form included this section:

So, despite whatever official name and gender is listed on my application, University of Texas is giving me the option to define myself as I see myself. Personally, I’m fine with my name and gender, but, UT, way to go!

Who are you?

For those who like clicking boxes and thinking about their identities, I would like to share genderform with you.

Hello
I am
academic, acrobatic, active, activist, admirer, artsy, ask me, BDSM, beautiful, bent, blogger, bondage, brunette, caring, coach, confidant, creative, curious, daughter, dreamer, dyke, eclectic, fabulous, female, female-bodied, female-born, feminist, femme-ish, flirt, fluid, friend, friendly, gendered, individual, intelligent, interested, invisible, kinky, LGBTQ, leftist, lesbian, loving, ma’am, Ms., masochist, myself, open-minded, opinionated, out-ish, passing, passionate, pro-choice, queer, queer-friendly, sassy, sensitive, sex positive, sexy, sister, submissive, switch, trans-friendly, undecided, undeclared, vegetarian, versatile, woman, XX, YES!
Who are you?

Kissing Girls at Age Four

One of my adorable little gymnasts, “Becca,” can’t keep her hands to herself. She also can’t keep her lips to herself.

All she wants to do is stand next to her friend “Lindsey.” When Lindsey isn’t expecting it, Becca leans in and gently kisses her cheek, whispering, “I love you.”

They are both four years old.

We have been working on the “keep your hands to yourself” thing. As Becca pointed out, “my lips aren’t my hands.” Now we have to work on the “respect your teammate’s personal space” thing.

So, Becca is four. She’s learning that it isn’t okay to kiss her friends. Truth be told, it really isn’t appropriate behavior for the middle of gymnastics class, but I still like to kiss my friends. I’d much rather see preschoolers kissing than see them fighting. I’d rather hear them saying “I love you” than calling each other “meanies.”

I suppose it’s a balance between letting kids be kids and teaching them how to behave appropriately in society. I know that by kindergarten, I had figured out I wasn’t allowed to kiss my friends at school. Away from school, however, many smooches were shared, along with showers and sleeping bags.

Aged three, my brother proudly declared that he loved both Natalie and Caleb. “We aren’t going to get married,” he said, “That’s too much. The three of us are just going to live together.” That, and kiss under the stairs at preschool.

By 4th grade, my classmates had suddenly taken an interest in the opposite sex. To combat the rampant “dating” going on during recess, the teachers banned hand-holding. My friend Meagan and I, always rebellions, proudly proclaimed, “We are just kids. We can skip across the playground hand in hand if we want!” And we did. That is, until later in they year when one of my classmates decided Ginger Spice was a lesbian (Really? Ginger Spice? Even young gaydar should have suspected Sporty or Scary). Meagan and I didn’t want to be lesbians. We stopped holding hands. Our protest was over.

My best friend and I bathed and cuddled together well through elementary school and perhaps into middle school. Then, one day, it changed. At one of our many sleepovers she announced, “I’m going to go take my shower now.” It was a fact, not an invitation.

I’ll admit that I kiss friends now. With a few, it’s a greeting. We’ve lived in Europe, we’re so cosmopolitan, we’re affectionate my nature, whatever. With others, it’s sexual in nature. We might be friends first, but sometimes we are also sexual adults who decide to act on that.

Excluding the final example, when did we learn that we shouldn’t kiss our friends? Do you remember? Who said what? How old were you? I only have a female perspective on this, so I’d love to hear from men as well.