Butch Lab’s Symposium #2 is Up!
I posted way too much on Friday, so while the Butch Lab’s second Symposium topic went live on Friday too, I waited until today to cross post it to Sugarbutch.
I challenge y’all to comment on every single post. They’re beautiful, and I think this conversation is important.
Butch Lab’s second Symposium is about Stereotypes and Misconceptions around butch identity.
Now apparently masculine-of-center people aren’t supposed to be bottoms. In fact, one of Jae’s former girlfriends called her appearance misleading. Um…wtf? How Jae responded and responds is by making her sexual preferences really obvious and open. Have I mentioned that we met on OKCupid? “Bottom” was in the first sentence of her profile. I think she should have responded by leaving that tool. … If we’re talking about who wears the cock, that’d be me. If we’re talking about who has shorter hair, that’d be her.
It’s actually a fairly simple thing to avoid, too, though it takes a conscious effort. DON’T ASSUME. It’s just that easy. Just because K is butch doesn’t mean that she will bristle or bite your head off if you open the car door for her. The fact that she doesn’t like acts of chivalry directed toward her means that she might just bristle or bite your head off if you open the car door for her. G loves pink. Doesn’t mean she isn’t butch. That hot pink cowboy shirt she had on yesterday was WAY masculine, and super hawt, too! The only cure to making assumptions about people is not admit to yourself that you don’t know what they like ,what they don’t like, or how they’ll act in a specific situation based on any group that they belong to. You only know these things about them once you get to know them personally, as people, and not as gender identities.
The misconception: Butch is a dirty word. Something less than, something too extraordinarily ‘other’ to be acceptable. Butch is threatening as an in-between, an indefinable and therefore unknown entity. Our hair dresser keeps trying to give S a softer haircut, until we explain that S identifies as butch, and expects to look butch. The hair dresser laughs and blushes a bit, but starts getting the cut right. The truth: Butch is hot. Butch is cocky and shy and gorgeous and loving. Butch is an identity one can be proud of.
I am far from being a stone butch. I have my moments of weakness both physically and emotionally. I feel all kinds of emotions and most of the time I have absolutely no way of hiding them. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I definitely want to be touched, bitten, kissed, licked, penetrated and everything else when it comes to sex. … While it’s true that I can fix a lot of things, I definitely can’t fix everything nor do I want to. I am, sadly, not the owner of many tools, although I really would like that assumption to be true some day. I like tools. I like them a lot. I certainly am not threatened by a strong, independent femme. As a matter of fact, I’m really turned on by them. I mean, think about it. A femme fixing things or building things, knowing how to use her hands and get dirty? Yeah. So sexy.
Being butch doesn’t, or at least shouldn’t, mean I have to have certain interests (e.g., sports, which I largely don’t care for), skills (e.g., Patty changes lightbulbs and deals with tools because I am largely useless at these things), and social and sexual roles (my own being unnecessary to describe for the sake of this entry). And it certainly shouldn’t require me to be misogynist, which is something I see more and more gay women complaining about lately — butches that assert their butchness by denigrating femmes in all the same ways that women get denigrated by men in het culture. But, if I reject the external assumptions of what a butch is, what’s left to define me as butch, at least on the days where I would consider myself such? The answer, is, simply, that I don’t know.
We are inundated by images and stereotypes equated with masculinity. As a young queer person wanting to express my masculinity, it seemed to me there weren’t a lot of options. If I wanted other people to recognize my butchness, I had to copy the attitudes and behaviors of the boys, and other butches, around me. I played along for a while during high school, ending up with a combination of chivalrous and sexist behaviors. I was sweet to my girlfriend, holding the door for her, doing all I could to be the gentleman. However, I also went along with my butch buddy and other guys when they spoke in not-so-complementary terms about their girlfriends and girls in general. As time went on, it was clear to me that if being butch meant being sexist and chauvinistic, I would have to find a different identity.
Butches hate men. Butches drive motorcycles. Butches wear leather jackets. Butches are the “man” in the relationship and perform all the “male” duties. Butches work with their hands. Butches aren’t intellectuals. Butches can only have short hair in a men’s style. Butches like beer and sports. Butches are mean. Butches cannot access their feelings. Butches want to be men. Butches will only date Femmes and do not date other Butches. Butches are (always) the sexually dominant ones. Butches only wear masculine attire. Butches under the age of thirty do not exist.
I’ve heard a range of cliches, misconceptions, and flat-out assumptions that would make your hair curl. Butches are sexist, chauvinistic, misogynistic. They’re all blue collar. Butch and stone are the same thing. Butch is the queer equivalent of a “strong, silent type.” Butches are only attracted to femmes and straight women. … It’s almost like the image of butch, even (and maybe especially) among gay and queer society is some kind of adaptation of the Marlboro Man, crossed with Rooster Cogburn. … I’ve written a zillion blog posts about how these stereotypes annoy, irritate, and generally piss me off.
For many people that I know, “Butch” means man. To identify as butch would signify an identification with men, and therefore would want to be a man. I run into the assumption that I’m actually trans, due to my supposed “strong desire to be a man.” The difference is that my gender identity is female, rather than an identity as male. When I finally settled into a masculine style of dress, I felt like more of a woman than I ever have in my entire life.
My academic background is in math: specifically, probability, and a growing knowledge base in statistical theory. … Gender is pretty much THE example of a binary variable in introduction to statistics classes. I can’t tell you how many times I sat through an explanation of a binary variable only to hear, “The categories are male and female: each person belongs to one, and one alone.” And every time, it really really hurt. But it doesn’t have to. Consider that there are different types of variables. We, readers of gender blogs, already know that gender does require interpretation. How are you measuring it? Self-reporting? Survey collector’s impression? How are you accounting for error or bias? The truth is that gender alone could be its very own statistical model. To us, it is vastly complex. Why is that? I’d argue it’s because of something that a professor once said in lecture: No model performs well on its boundaries.
“Well,” I replied, “I have a pretty good sense of people. But mostly, you were by far the hottest butch in that bar, and I wanted you.”
“Oh,” she said, smiling, “I’m not butch.”
“Yes, you are,” I said, eyebrows raised. Is it possible that she doesn’t know? It’s not like she’s some college kid, she’s old enough to have figured out at least some of this identity stuff.
“No, I’m not,” she said again. “I used to think I was butch. I lived in the city after college and I played pool with all the butches at the lesbian bars, and they thought I was one of them. I thought I was one of them. And then I realized, spending all that time with those butches — that wasn’t me. I’m not that kind of tough. I’m a faggy genderqueer.”
For years, I was afraid to appear masculine; I struggled with feminine gender presentation, referred to myself as a ‘lesbian’, and felt totally…awkward. I also grew up in a conservative town, where any woman seen as not being feminine (i.e. passive, submissive, quiet, etc) was sometimes referred to as ‘butch.’ This word was bad, it meant nasty, un-feminine, not to be trusted, disgusting. … In the gay community, I think that stereotypes of butch-ness exist too. Specifically in communities where there may not be a lot of masculine gender presenting folks. … There was a lot of ‘dabbling in butchness’ going on. People just barely sticking their toes into the masculine gender presenting pool, afraid of being seen as butch but unable to control it, and judgment of these presentations ran rampant. People in the bar (not that I had a fake-id or anything) would openly state that they ‘didn’t want to date butch girls.’
- Ali Oh at Made of Words: Bottoms Up, Thumbs Up
- Madeline Elayne: Butches Don’t Wear Pink (and other fallacies)
- Victoria Oldham at Musings of a Lesbian Writer: Misconceptions
- Wendi Kali at A Stranger in This Place: Butch Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions
- RM at Letters from Titan: Butch Isn’t Ugly
- Kyle on Butchtastic: Butch Stereotypes, Cliches and Misconceptions:
- EST at A Lesbian Christian on Butch Stereotypes
- Joliesse Soul at This Side of Changed on Butch Stereotypes
- Laina at The Bookish Butch
- Harrison at How to Be Butch on Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions
- Lenore Louhi at Twenty Pebbles, a piece titled “Smoke”
- Cody on Cowboy Coquet on Stereotypes, Cliches, and Misconceptions