Posts Tagged ‘best of’
The Closet Musician is so right about thickened skin. Reading your posts, I feel the hatred you carry, but only down to a certain level before it just simply stops. Your words hit my bullet-proof armor and don’t penetrate any further. And that armor is made up of years of self-examination, of friend’s and lover’s support and care, of gender theory and feminist theory and queer theory, of reading memoirs and listening to my community’s stories. I haven’t internalized any of what you’ve said about female masculinity, about butches, bois, tomboys, about ME – which is good, that’s an improvement.
Perhaps sometimes I’m not as sensitive as I think.
But I know that you’ve hurt others, deeper than me. I know how fragile it is to come to and then embody this female masculinity, how fragile these gender identities are, how easy it is to sometimes tear them down. You’ve hurt my friends, my lovers, my people, and that is not okay.
In the tone behind your words I can tell you really mean what you’re saying. You actually believe this hatred, you actually believe that masculine-identified female-bodied folks are responsible for discrimination against lesbians, that this type of female masculinity is ugly. That surprises me – that kind of deep-seated hatred always surprises me, on anybody, for any group.
This post of yours, the subsequent comments on Craigslist and on the various lesbian blogs, have reminded me how radical it still is to exist outside of gendered norms. How subversive it is to break the sex/gender assumption that dictates that female-bodied folks must be feminine and male-bodied folks must be masculine. How dangerous it is for me to walk around in men’s clothes, get my hair cut at a barber shop, buy cocks and pack.
Gender is still the dirty little secret in the worlds of activism and social change. It is still possible to deflate a female women’s rights worker by calling her “mannish,” still possible to discredit gay male activists by calling them “flaming” or “fairy.” There are consequences to subverting the paradigm of the sex/gender binary.
And you know what? That must mean that us activists, us queers and butches and bois and femmes and drag queens and fags and radical fairies and trans guys and girls and genderqueers – we must be doing something right. We’re a threat. If we were that easy to dismiss, if we were that marginalized and insignificant and deviant, we would not have to be called out as “ugly” on a public forum by a cowardly anonymous genderphobe.
That revelation I feel in my bones, past that armor, all the way down to my defenseless bloody organs. A vibration of hope, a vibration of power.
Last night, I said to The Closet Musician that I was grateful for all the comments that have come after the original post, I’m grateful that my community of genderqueers are not taking this lying down. I’m grateful for all of the comments here on Sugarbutch, for all the reactions of surprise and love and care, for all the angry rants and the articulated defenses. Here are a few:
It’s in the way that they are both gallant…and in / private moments raunchy, sexy and hot, that makes me shudder / It’s the Butch Mystique, which I would never pretend / to know, but that I understand and love.
I know for a fact that there are plenty of attractive, femme women who love their butches. Objectively hot women, even by glossy magazine “normal people” heterosexual standards. … Even hot women are occasionally rejected (there’s always another hot one somewhere down the line) so the argument that someone would like a butch for no other reason than she can’t do any better really doesn’t work. And what makes you think butches aren’t picky?
u don’t like masculine women but who died and said u can dictate who a individual is and how they should look. … im not a butch but I LOVE THEM because they are the bravest of our kind to put themselves out there and be who they are. I think you should find out who you are and stop judging what u don’t know. Remember lesbians in general have to struggle to be accepted and its more than effed up to kno that 1 of our own is holding us back. I hope ur proud of yourself ur famous.
The entire post was pure internalized homophobic spew. Nothing sickens me more than a member of a disenfranchised community further discriminating against others … we are the ones on the front lines, as much now as then. … It has been our fight, our visibility and our scars that have allowed you to have increased freedom and safety. … The next time you want to put down butch, maybe you ought to think a little harder about your history.
But even so, I wish we were at the point where even though you are thinking these awful, prejudiced things about female masculinity, you would never, never voice them to others, because gender discrimination would be a faux pas, so politically incorrect that you would never put it out there into the world, because there would be huge social consequences.
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Like many of the posters have said, I don’t care if you aren’t attracted to butches. Just like I don’t care if you are or aren’t attracted to men, to redheads, to big breasts, to high heels. Attraction is personal, yours is yours and that’s just fine. But I do care that you’re taking your personal preferences and turning them into hate speech, to discrimination. Your hatred is fuling gender discrimination and transphobia, both of which have very serious consequences in our society. I am so tired of seeing yet another headline for a trans person murdered in a hate crime, and your hate crime, your post, is precisely the same kind of misunderstood, misguided hatred that fuels these crimes.
But, like they say, karma’s a bitch. If you have any desire to cover your ass, I suggest you educate yourself. Figure out your own internal shit. Live and let live. Stop spewing such hatred. And while you’re at it, donate to the Gender Public Advocacy Coalition, a non-profit organization that “works to ensure that classrooms, communities, and workplaces are safe for everyone to learn, grow, and succeed – whether or not they meet expectations for masculinity and femininity. As a human rights organization, GenderPAC also promotes an understanding of the connection between discrimination based on gender stereotypes and sex, sexual orientation, age, race, and class.”
Perhaps I will practice some lovingkindness meditation and think of you – may you live in safety, be happy, be healthy, live with ease. Maybe through that practice I’ll come to some new place of generosity and be able to forgive your ignorant prejudice. I’d like to be able to do that. I’d like to be that generous.
For now, I wish you peace in your heart.
He wrote about what sparked this idea, saying he noticed a particularly attractive woman:
I thought it must be inconvenient to attract so much attention, and then wondered what it would be like if I could attract that kind of corner-of-the-eye attention, and then I started thinking about the old “men first initiate, women then decide” courtship convention and wondering about how that creates a perhaps unnecessary imposition on women to attract attention (since they weren’t allowed to simply ask for phone numbers). [...]
[G]rowing up male it’s unspoken but totally obvious that women are about attracting us; meanwhile we grow up blind to the also-unspoken molding to be worthy. The climax of the Sleeping Beauty fable says it all: she’s not only beautiful but *in a coma!* He needs his shining armor to reach her through the thorn-overgrown castle. His kiss awakens her.
Man o man. Very well said. This makes my head spin a little, and strikes me as relevant to this discussion about femmes passing that we’ve been having lately – particularly, to answer the question of why femmes attract male attention, which leads to the sometimes-necessary conversation of outing onesself, which leads to the potentially dangerous situation of having been seen as ‘deceptive.’
Of course, it’s because femininity is seen as an invitation, a deliberate request for male attention.
(And this is precisely why using femininity to attract other women is a subversive identity. It messes with the entire premise, the entire purpose, of gender roles.)
Even though we’ve come a long way, baby, and women can now ask for phone numbers, can come on to men, can wear trousers! can vote!, some of these old subscriptions about how men and women must work are still carved deep into our subconsciousnesses. And one of those things is that the purpose of femininity is to attract men, male attention, the male gaze, the general hetero mating process.
So really, hitting on a feminine girl – queer or married or otherwise – taking how she looks as an invitation – is a form of heterosexism. It’s the foundation of the “she asked for it” defense.
Of course, some girls want to be hit on. I don’t mean to discount that femininity is used for attention – it’s a powerful tool that women (and some men, yes?) have in this heterosexist society. And most people are flattered to be noticed if the hitting on is done with respect, right? I mean, it’s a compliment – the problems arise when the guy (or whomever is doing the hitting-on) is relentless, won’t let up, pushes boundaries and doesn’t take hints. I suppose this is the place where the hit-ee needs to be firm and direct, as opposed to kind, though of course that doesn’t always work.
Maybe this small insight seems obvious – sure seems obvious to me, now that I am writing it out – but I appreciated the sociological perspective Figleaf added to my explorations of the subject.
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.
One more thing:
To Belle, and to the femmes I’ve dated and fucked and longingly admired: Thank you.
Thank you for swooning over my neckties and collared shirts, my perfectly messy short hair, my heavy belt buckles and swagger and the way I order wine for you. Thank you for having my favorite whiskey at your house for me, just for me, thank you for dressing up and looking your best, celebrating the costume of femininity, for putting time into your hair and makeup and outfit and shaved legs and stockings and lingerie straps that bite into flesh and shin splints from high heels and freezing legs from short skirts and the eyelash batting and the way I feel like a million bucks when I’ve got you on my arm.
I appreciate your gender expression, deeply, because I make more sense when I’m next to you. To quote Cody: “Let’s be honest: we need femmes.” I didn’t get who I was until I started dating femmes. This identity does not exist in a vacuum, and, for me, requires the duo dynamic inherently.
I have so much reverence for the femme aesthetic. Am I occasionally jealous of your ability to pass? Yes. But I understand – at least a little – the burdon of it, too, and I want you to share that with me. Femininity is assumed to be for the benefit of straight men, and to subvert that can sometimes mean consequences.
Yeah, I get tired of being on the front lines of visibility sometimes. But when I have a femme on my arm, strutting down the street, freshly fucked and we’re melting into each other, everyone who sees us knows what we are, and I love the second glances we get. I love the tiny revolutions that happen in the faces of strangers passing by.
Passing is not always a privilege. Some femmes I know have even said to me that passing is never a privilege, in fact. (I’m not sure I agree entirely, but I understand the argument.) To force someone to admit that it is a privilege is to force a hierarchy, such a power play, such an insecure I’m-better-than-you kind of move.
I’ve joked occasionally that femmes and other passing queers get to hear what straight people say when they don’t know a queer is listening. My lovers have occasionally told me stories of what they heard at work or school and I’m shocked – especially in PC-Seattle where I used to live, I never heard people saying homophobic – or even homo-ignorant – remarks around me, because I am visibly queer, they knew I was listening. As a writer, as an activist, as an observer of human character, I am fascinated by those conversations and interested in access to those places where I cannot go. Likewise, I sometimes find I have access to intimate (bio-hetero-) male conversations, where they let me in as one-of-the-guys and bitch about their wives, tell sexist jokes, or fawn over girls at the bar. A straight girl – and probably femmes – would probably not have access to these conversations.
I’m remembering a conversation I had with my friend and femme spy once upon a time, where she strongly asserted that there is no privilege in passing as straight, especially because sometimes, when she is presumed straight and then outs herself, she actually finds herself in more danger than she was previously and, I believe she argued, she’d be in more danger than someone visibly queer – a butch – because of the perception that her passing was actually deception.
I definitely see her point there, and it makes me feel highly protective and posessive of femmes, to think of the occasional dangerous situations they may be in. I still think there is some privilege in the femme identity – as there is some in the butch identity, some in an androgynous or genderqueer or any other gender identity, isn’t there? If there was no benefit, what use would it be? I suppose “privilege” here though is not the same as “benefit;” one implies a hierarchical gain within social structures.
Maybe I need to back up here. What is privilege? How do we define it? How do we know when we have it, when we don’t? And what, if anything, do we do with it when we have it? What are our responsibilities with privilege, how do we meet them? How do we avoid abusing our privileges?
Uh, I’ll think about that and get back to you. Chime in your two cents if you feel inspired, please.
Ultimately, though, I really want to stress that comparing degrees of oppression is fruitless and purposeless. Who does it help? Do you really feel better after forcing someone to admit that they have privilege? It’s one thing to have a discussion about it, to acknowledge the intricate complexities within identity hierarchies – it’s another thing to play these I’m-better-than-you games.
In response to what Belle wrote about privilege, guilt, and butch/femme:
I can’t speak (write) for all butches, and I do get that some of us have awful things to say about femmes and passing and privilege. I don’t know what to tell you about all of that, except that I think that it’s bullshit. It comes from a misogynistic bullying place where the one who is bullied and oppressed turns around and bullies the femme who is littler than you.
This is male privilege. This is the heteronormative hierarchy.
I don’t feel “more oppressed” than any given femme, and I resent that game of who has more hardship than whom. Division and in-fighting are ways that our marginalized communities stay broken apart instead of banded together. C’mon, remember Lord of the Rings?
Yes, butches are more visible, and therefore, in some situations, easier targets. But femmes are targets, too, and discriminated against. Hell, there are so few of us who even fall into this butch/femme dynamic – why make enemies of each other?
This past week I appeared as a guest on the Diana Cage Show on Sirius OutQ radio, and she’d had a whole segment of conversation before my part (where I performed some poetry and chatted about breakups, smut, and femmes, what else) where she was talking about “butch training,” I shit you not.
“Who trained you?” she asked me.
“I don’t think I was ‘trained’ … do all butches get trained?” I was confused.
“Oh yeah,” she answered.
“What about femmes?”
“Oh, no, they don’t need to be trained.”
Oh man, did my mind boggle. I don’t think she’s right about that, but let’s say, for a minute, that she is. In what do we need training? Was I doing something wrong? Did I need to be trained? Had I already been, and didn’t know it? Who had trained me?
“I’m not sure I was trained …” I said skeptically.
“Yeah, true, you’re a chivalrous butch. An old-school butch,” she said, as if this meant maybe I didn’t need ‘training’ after all?
“Yeah, I am. And a feminist, hardcore.” But I kept thinking. “Maybe my first big love trained me,” I said. She was the first femme I knew and she whispered in my ear, I think you’re butch, and I came a little and threw up at the same time. I watched how she wished her girlfriends would treat her and tried to be that.
And when I thought about it more later, I think it was my mother, my parents, who probably most deserve credit for “training” me in the ways that I take care of myself and others. Isn’t that what we’re speaking of? How we love, how we care, how we expect the partnership dynamic to work? And, fundamentally, if I may interpolate here, I think the “training” refers to those butches who often have grown up tomboys, one-of-the-guys, with a socialized masculinity. Those butches that treat femmes – and women – and, hell, people – with disrespect and dishonor, and I think it has everything to do with the “tough guise” of masculinity.
My point is, this is often the same type of butch (as much as I shudder to sub-categorize) I’ve heard this “femme privilege” argument come from, too. And I resent it, deeply. It saddens and angers me. I don’t know how to encourage a more wholistic, human range of experience in that type of butch (again, I shudder), wish I did.
But. This is what I have to say to Belle, or to any femme who endours that forced guilt about femme privilege:
Yes, passing is sometimes a privilege, but not always. Just like my visibility is sometimes a privilege, but not always. Tell me about times it was a privilege for you, and times it wasn’t, and then ask me about my stories, too. Tell me what it’s like to walk in your shoes. Let me learn from your experience. It’s hard sometimes to be a queer in this heterodominant society, and it’s hard to be a butch or femme in a lesbian community rooted in androgyny and which associates gender oppression with gender expression.
Fuck, can’t we share this burdon? Can’t we pass this weight around, let it be a little lighter between us? I mean, I know I’m a hippie-feminist-do-gooder-pacifist and all, but I believe in the power of community, deeply.
I want you to only address me as Sir.
I want you to start playing with your clit ten minutes before I arrive, but under no circumstances are you allowed to come.
I want you wearing high heels and a short skirt with nothing underneath.
I want your safeword to be carnation, which means, you can yell no all you like, but I will not stop.
I want you ready to bend over my lap struggling as I spank you. Lift your dress up and turn your ass-cheeks red until my hand hurts. And then you’ll kiss it, suck my fingers, make it better. I’ll scold you for making me all hard and wanting, and you’ll straddle me and ride.
I want your explicit consent. I want your permission and submission.
I want you to know how to draw it from me. I am afraid of my own power. I want you to pull these cruelties from me, to beg for them. I want to take your energy and mine into one huge fireball that I will weild and you will receive. I want your surrender. I want you to make me feel like the biggest, baddest top in the room, even if I’m not.
Can you do that for me?
I’m exploring this conversation about GGG – good, giving, and game. Dan Savage describes it this way:
Dan Savage and his readers often use the abbreviation GGG. This stands for “good, giving and game”, and generally refers to Mr. Savage’s ideal for healthy human sexuality: that a partner should be “good, giving and game” when presented with a person’s fantasy, however kinky or unusual. In his March 1, 2007 column, Savage summarized “GGG stands for ‘good, giving, and game,’ which is what we should all strive to be for our sex partners. Think ‘good in bed,’ ‘giving equal time and equal pleasure,’ and ‘game for anything—within reason.’”
And so I’m taking a lesson from Flight of the Conchords:
Strappy sandals, roman sandals laced up the ankle, legwarmers, flowery skirts – the legs, the legs, the legs
The moments of subversion when I expect gender to be aligned with compulsory femininity, and I am surprised
Delicate jewelry, fingernail polish, pierced ears, garter belts, purses, glasses
The way she walks in high heels
The under-the-eyelashes fuck-me look
The feminine curves of cleavage and the clavicle
The struggles with not being visibly out, which also brings the privilege of hearing what people say when they don’t know someone queer is listening
Holding the door open, holding your umbrella, ordering for you, pulling out your chair, that moment when you take my arm, carrying your heavy burdons, cradling your delicacy …
The examination, overhaul, and eventual reclamation or rejection of “traditional femme hobbies”
When a boy actually turns you off … but I turn you on
“Oh fuck -
God – yes – fucking hell -
holy shit – oh god – god -
oh fuck – oh god – oh – yes -
oh fuck -
holy shit … “
“You’ve got quite a mouth on you, Mr. Sexsmith.”
Fuck a girl’s ass with a strapon (is it still called pegging if it’s two women, or is pegging unique to a woman strapped on fucking a guy?). I’ve done plenty of ass-play, but somehow the women I’ve been with have never actually been comfortable enough with it for me to be strapped on. I have, however, fucked a guy this way, once upon a time.
Stingy toys, like a cane. I’d like to leave some marks. I’ve used a cane before, actually, but I don’t own one, and I’d like to experiment to feel more comfortable with it
Receive – and give – a cutting
Role-play out in a bar, pretend we don’t know each other and pick each other up. I suppose that has a lot of variations (resistance, convincing).
Sex in central park, sex in every girl club in new york city (the bathroom, the back room, the alley, the deserted dancefloor, wherever), sex at work. After hours, in an empty office, wherever. I’ve done that, actually, though not at my current job.
Play with knives. And yes, I think I’d like to be the one holding the knife, although that could be negotiable.
And, last but not least, recent events have told me that I need to practice my flogging & rope bondage.