Saturday, August 29, 2009

Open Forum: Butch or Femme?

The queer community has been known to showcase a variety of characteristics; among those being butch, femme, or neither. Are there masculine or feminine aspects to your personality, identity, physical appearance, or the dynamics of your relationships?

How do the labels butch and femme define you, or do they? What significance do identity politics play on you as a member of the queer community?

4 comments:

Amy K. said...

I'm definitely femme, probably because having to live a life of a gender other than I really am, robbed me of expressing myself even remotely feminine. I try not to overdo it, but I'm *very* femme and like my partners to be somewhat femme as well. I dated a rather butchy woman for two months, and I enjoyed the dynamic between us, but I'll always love girly girls! :)

CrackerLilo said...

I apologize for running off at the keyboard, but you did ask. ;-)

My best friend gave me the label "femme with working hands," and I love it. I look very femme. I'm 5'2" and politely described as "zaftig", so I guess I can't carry off anything else. I prefer skirts to pants. I like my clothes light, bright, and flowy. I love makeup, perfume, and jewelry. My hair is wavy and to the middle of my back. I sound pretty femmy when I talk, and I am a full-time secretary and part-time interior decorator. I think I have lots of stereotypically feminine traits and tastes.

But I'm butcher than I look on the inside. I love reconditioning furniture. I can make minor home repairs and change a tire. I love sports, to the point where mine has been labeled a sports blog recently. I have a very crude 14-year-old boy sense of humor. I hate chick flicks and sappy ballads--give me explosions and electric guitars! I've told some of my friends that if I were a bi man rather than a bi woman, I don't think I'd be much different.

My wife doesn't accept butch or femme labels. I've teased her about being a "butch fatale," but she won't tolerate much of that. She is small, with really pretty white skin. She's extremely athletic and loves to watch sports, too. She can read quite butch, with her shaved head and wiry body, but she always wears red lipstick, also loves perfume, can rock a dress (which she can sew for herself), and constantly borrows my earrings and scarves. She has this direct, steely gaze that can either excite or scare you, depending, and a lovely Russian-accented contralto voice.

She's very quiet and can be stoic, but still waters run deep. When she gets to know and trust you, she has a dry sense of humor and will tell you how she feels...eventually. My jokes often gross her out or make her blush, and I love to do that to her. She can't fix things, but keeps our checkbooks balanced and will actually clean the house and not mind it. (I am happy to let her dust and vacuum.) Many of her tastes are also stereotypically feminine.

So. A lot of people, from my relatives to doctors to casual acquaintances, read us and our relationship as classic butch/femme. But I think we're a bit more complicated that that. We're just us, that's all, and we fit together. When people say we're butch/femme like that's all they think they need to know about us, it makes me rethink the categories I'll slot other people and relationships into. They're probably a bit more complicated than I think, too.

Anonymous said...

I look femme, but I normally act rather androgynous. As it is, my friends accuse me of being a man in some areas, and risiculously girly in others.

I label myself as a lipstick lesbian to avoid confusion for others...

Anonymous said...

I'm butch and honestly, quite often mistaken as a man. I grew up with 2 older brothers and from them learned how to fix almost every part of a car. I could sit and watch sports for hours, and I couldn't have long hair or wear a dress or, God forbid, paint my nails, if i tried. I occasionally find myself attracted to other butch women, but I'm not into the butch/femme labels.

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