Sometimes I hear people say they wish they lived in the 50s and 60s so they could experience the butch/femme dynamic, or they “miss” it even. Team Gina has that line in their song: “Sometimes I miss the butch/femme dynamic / ’cause only girls in carharts make me panic.” When I think about it, it’s kind of odd, coming from a couple of twenty-something girls. It’s an interesting sort of nostalgic feeling for a time that we didn’t actually witness.
Can you really miss something you didn’t actually live through? Seems like there’s a better word for it than “miss” or “nostalgia,” because it’s actually longing for another time. But it’s deeper than that – it’s a historical connection to that time, an inhereted lineage that I really do miss and sometimes long for.
Though the gender revolution/s that are currently happening – especially around butch/femme – are a resurrection of something of the past, maybe it’s actually more more accurate to call it something new – a similar idea resurfacing in a new way.
I certainly didn’t grow up with any sort of model of the butch/femme dynamic, not in my own family – where actually there was a strong rejection of gender roles, falling on the not-rare 70s feminist argument that gender inequality is based on gender difference and gender expression. And yet, I feel connected to the butch/femme dynamic, I feel like a part of it, both currently and along some sort of historical axis.
I’ve been reading Riki Wilchin’s book Queer Theory, Gender Theory lately, and one of her major arguments (so far) is that gender activism got pushed out of both the feminist and gay liberation movements of the mid-1900s because of the ways that the conservative right backlash was using gender deviation as personal attacks against the people in the movements. Now that both of those movements have come so far, and been so successful, we are finally able to unearth this genderphobia that has been prevalent all along and attempt some activism around that.
What’s interesting about that to me is the ways that genderqueerness had to go underground, hidden, shameful, through these liberation movements, and now we – quite often it’s the folks like me, twenty-something, queer, children of the revolution movements of the 60s and 70s – are picking up the torch in our own, new way. And hell, the gender revolution happening seems more radical now than that butch/femme nostalgic time for which some of us long – look at the trans movement, the trans rights, the genderqueer and intersexual activism and knowledge that is getting more and more mainstreamed.