Posts Tagged ‘books’
You’ve probably read Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us by Kate Bornstein, published in 1995. (If you haven’t, you should.)
Kate’s premise in the original Gender Outlaw is that ze is neither a man nor a woman, and discusses hir stories in forming a trans identity. It was one of those books that sunk into my stomach like a stone, that I gobbled up in a weekend, thinking, oh my god there are people like me out there. Not only that, but there are mentors on this path, there are people who have been deconstructing these identities—and building them back up in our own ways, let’s not forget that part—and changing the ways we perceive gender to work in this culture. That book was a revelation, for sure—it is widely used in college classes and read by all sorts of gender outlaws.
But now, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation picks up the premise of the original Gender Outlaw and runs with it, telling stories of the many, many ways that gender outlaws struggle, celebrate, and live.
I could write something about each individual piece, what it meant to me, what I thought about it, how meaningful it was, what I liked or (occasionally) didn’t like. I could mention Katie Diamond and Johnny Blazes’s graphic essay about the many meanings of “trans,” like transgress, transcend, transpire, transform, translate. I’d love to mention pieces by Sassafras Lowery and Tamiko Beyer (both of whom have read at Sideshow), and my friend Fran Varian’s piece about gender and class and respect. I could say something about every piece in this book—even the introduction, a smart and sassy IM exchange between Bear and Kate about the contents of the book, what it’s been like for them to edit it, and the state of gender outlaws in general.
Julia Serano’s piece has been sitting in my head for days as I chew over it. She’s such a genius, I am seriously crushed out on her brain. In her piece, she takes that entirely too commonly heard phrase, “all gender is performance,” and explodes it:
Instead of trying to fictionalize gender, let’s talk about the moments in life when gender feels all too real. Because gender doesn’t feel like drag when you’re a young trans child begging your parents not to cut your hair or not to force you to wear that dress. And gender doesn’t feel like a performance when, for the first time in your life, you feel safe and empowered enough to express yourself in ways that resonate with you, rather than remaining closeted for the benefit of others. And gender doesn’t feel like a construct when you finally find that special person whose body, personality, identity, and energy feels like a perfect fit with yours. Let’s stop trying to deconstruct gender into nonexistence, and instead start celebrating it as inexplicable, varied, profound, and intricate. —Julia Serano, from Performance Piece, published in Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation and reprinted in full by Jezebel
Just, chills. I love what she’s saying here. I feel like I have my own piece in conjunction or response to that one. In fact, I feel like I have twenty pieces about gender that I’m itching to write, after reading this book.
I’m so glad I had the chance to check out this book, it’s definitely going to be something I recommend all over the place and mail as gifts. It belongs on my essential reading list, for sure. I’m excited to contribute to the virtual blog tour, as well! It has been amazing—just check out Riot Nrrd Comics’ graphic review, as a great example, and read through the rest of them if you like.
Just in case you haven’t seen it, and if you can’t wait to pick up this book and you want more Kate right now, check out Kate’s contribution to the It Gets Better Project. And you can always follow @katebornstein & @sbearbergman on Twitter. If you’re in the New York City area, you can also come in to Bluestockings Bookstore tonight, Friday October 8th, for a reading from Gender Outlaws!
Pick up a copy of Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation direct from the publisher, Seal Press, from your local independent feminist queer bookstore (if you want them to stick around), or, if you must, from Amazon.
In keeping with the tradition I started this summer, featuring a butch or femme book on Fridays to countdown to the Femme Conference and then the Butch Voices regional conferences, I’m going to keep that up and continue featuring books on Fridays.
I was going to write about The Well Of Loneliness, Gold mentioned it when I wrote up Crybaby Butch last week and I thought, “Of course! Why didn’t I have that on my list?” It’s such a classic butch book. I expected it to be droll and depressing, but when I finally read it (in a british women writers of the ’20s class in college) it was incredible—so engaging, so well written, so articulate in the feelings of this “mannish” woman’s love for another woman. I definitely recommend picking it up, if you haven’t read it.
But … in light of the ridiculous amount of depressing news this week, let’s not even go there, let’s not mention a book called The Well of Loneliness, let’s not fall down a well of loneliness ourselves. Instead, let’s move on to something much more fun: smut.
I know I’ve mentioned it here before, but it’s worth revisiting. Sometimes She Lets Me: Best Butch/Femme Erotica, edited by Tristan Taormino, is a collection of the best butch/femme stories from the 16 years Taormino was the series editor for Best Lesbian Erotica. There are very few smut books specifically and exclusively with butch/femme content; this is the most recent, and, arguably, the best.
It is steaming hot.
“Butch/femme is erotic iconography. Butch/femme is bulging jeans, smeared lipstick, stiletto heals, and sharp haircuts. It’s about being read and being seen. Sometimes it’s about passing or not passing. It’s about individual identity and a collective sense of community. It’s personal, political. It’s a sexual electricity and power exchange. It’s the visceral space between the flesh and the imagination.” — from the introduction by Tristan Taormino
Here’s the description from Cleis Press:
Does the swagger of a sure-footed butch make you swoon? Do your knees go weak when you see a femme straighten her stockings? A duet between two sorts of women, butch/femme is a potent sexual dynamic. Tristan Taormino chose her favorite butch/femme stories from the Best Lesbian Erotica series, which has sold over 200,000 copies in the 16 years she was editor. And if you think you know what goes in in the bedroom between femmes and butches, these 22 shorts will delight you with erotic surprises. In Joy Parks’s delicious “Sweet Thing,” the new femme librarian in town shows a butch baker a new trick in bed. The stud in “Tag!,” by D. Alexandria, finds her baby girl after a chase in the woods by scent alone. And the girl in a pleated skirt gets exactly what she wants from her Daddy in Peggy Munson’s “The Rock Wall.” Sometimes She Lets Me shows that it’s all about attitude — predicting who will wind up on top isn’t easy in stories by S. Bear Bergman, Rosalind Christine Lloyd, Samiya A. Bashir, and many more.
Includes contributions by Alison L. Smith, Joy Parks, S. Bear Bergman, Amie M. Evans, Samiya A. Bashir, Rosalind Christine Lloyd, Kristen Porter, Tara-Michelle Ziniuk, D. Alexandria, Anna Watson, Shannon Cummings, A. Lizbeth Babcock, Sparky, Elaine Miller, Isa Coffey, Skian McGuire, Jera Star, Toni Amato, Peggy Munson, Sandra Lee Golvin, and Sinclair Sexsmith.
Pick it up at your favorite local independent feminist queer-friendly bookstore (if you want them to stay in business, that is), from Cleis Press directly, from Powell’s books in Portland (hi, #bvpdx!) or, if you must, from Amazon.
The Butch Voices NYC Regional Conference is almost here!
The conference itself is tomorrow, Saturday the 25th, with registration opening up at 9am and workshops beginning at 10am. I’m doing a Cock Confidence workshop at 1:30pm tomorrow, and I have two Aslan Leather harnesses, three Vixen Creations cocks, and another Tantus cock to give away. I’ll also be showing off the brand new hot-off-the-presses VIP Super Soft pack-and-play cock that is barely even released.
I’m also modering a panel called “In the Public Eye: Visibility in Media” with some fabulous folks: Denise Madison from GirlzParty, Grace Moon from Velvet Park Media, Gina Mamone from Riot Grrrl Ink, and Dasha Snyder of The D Word fame who writes at Digital Goddess.
But aside from my own involvement in the panel, there are many more things going on! Tonight is a social event to meet & greet conference attendees at Speed Friending/Dating at Dixon Place, tomorrow is a special Queer Memoir/Sideshow Reading Series Mash-Up at Bluestockings Bookstore, and there’s a special Butch Voices Submit play party in Brooklyn late tomorrow night.
I don’t know if I’ll make it out to play, but I’m really looking forward to meeting people, hanging out, and talking about butch things all weekend. Kristen is baking her “face off,” as she is prone to saying, making her famous rosemary sea salt chocolate chip cookies, savory corn and cheddar muffins, and a special treat for someone’s birthday tomorrow.
If you miss these events, there’s another Butch Brunch on Saturday, October 16th which will be a nice follow up to the conference for those who miss the company of other butches.
To tie up this nice countdown, I’m featuring a recent novel from 2004 called Crybaby Butch by Judith Frank, published by Firebrand Books. It won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Debut Fiction in 2005. My (lesbian) book group read it about a year and a half ago, and we all liked it quite a bit—which is hard, usually novels especially are hotly contested. I remember there being some disapproval of how the femme partners were depicted (as controlling, fairly stereotypical “women”, perhaps with not enough depth) but we liked the butches.
Here’s the premise, from the publisher’s website:
Drawing on her experience as an adult literacy tutor, Judith Frank’s first novel traces the difficult and sometimes hilarious connection between two butches of different generations – a middle-class, thirty-something adult literacy teacher and her older, working-class student. With a disparate group of adult learners as the backdrop, Frank examines, with warmth and wit, the relationship between education and gender, class, and racial identity. Judith Frank is a winner of the Astraea Foundation’s Emerging Lesbian Writer’s Fund prize in fiction. A professor of English at Amherst College, she lives and writes in western Massachusetts.
There are not very many books out there with “butch” in the title, and even fewer of them published in the last ten years. It’s a good read that is complex and interesting, engaging and emotionally enthralling. A few folks mentioned Crybaby Butch in the comments when I featured Stone Butch Blues two weeks ago, all of them with praise for the book.
So now that I’ve gone through some of the major butch books, tell me, which ones did I leave out? Are there others I should have featured?
I’m counting down the Fridays with classic and modern butch book titles that I highly recommend because the Butch Voices Regional Conference in New York City (and then in Portland and LA) is coming up in just a week.
If you haven’t registered yet, you better get to it! We probably have something like twenty tickets left, and it’s filling up fast. The workshops and the schedule, and don’t forget that there are other events on Friday and Saturday nights. More information on those events (open to the public!) shortly.
This week’s book is the classic text Female Masculinity by Jack Halberstam. See how I called it a “text” instead of a book or a pile o’papers? Well that’s ’cause it’s pretty academic. But don’t let that stop you—it’s an important, classic piece of writing on masculinity and femaleness, and deconstructs gender in ways that paved the way for gender activism and theory in the years after. It was first published by Duke University Press Books in 1998.
I know it sounds like it’s unreadable and intimidating, but it’s worth struggling through. I haven’t read it since college but it kind of blew my mind. I should add it to my list of books to re-read, especially with all this butch stuff coming up, I’m inspired to delve into the theory again.
Here’s the description of the book:
Judith Halberstam’s deft separation of masculinity from the male body in Female Masculinity. If what we call “masculinity” is taken to be “a naturalized relation between maleness and power,” Halberstam argues, “then it makes little sense to examine men for the contours of that masculinity’s social construction.” We can learn more from other embodiments of masculinity, like those found in drag-king performances, in the sexual stance of the stone butch, and in female-to-male transgenderism. Halberstam’s subject is so new to critical discourse that her approach can be somewhat scattershot–there is simply too much to say–but her prose is lucid and deliberate, and her attitude refreshingly relaxed. Essential reading for gender studies and a lively contribution to cultural studies in general.
In addition to this book, Halberstam is the keynote at Butch Voices LA on October 9th! She’s scheduled for 1:30 – 2:30pm on Saturday, and boy I would love to be there. I had to pick between the LA Butch Voices conference and the Talking About the Taboo conference at the CSPH, and with other travel I’m doing, it made sense to stay in the region. Plus, Megan is kickass and the lineup at the CSPH conference is going to be fantastic, and I’m attending two other Butch Voices conferences, so … not much of a contest. But if you’re going to LA, know that I am envious! And I hope her keynote is amazing and inspiring.
Jack Halberstam currently writes online at Bully Bloggers. Here’s her recent bio, lifted from there:
J. JACK HALBERSTAM, Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity and Gender Studies at USC. Halberstam works in the areas of popular, visual and queer culture with an emphasis on subcultures. Halberstam is the author of Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke Up, 1995), Female Masculinity (Duke UP, 1998), In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (NYU Press, 2005). Halberstam was also the co-author with Del LaGrace Volcano of a photo/essay book, The Drag King Book (Serpent’s Tail, 1999), and with Ira Livingston of an anthology, Posthuman Bodies (Indiana UP, 1995). Halberstam is currently finishing a book titled “Notes on Failure” and beginning another on “Bats”…yes, the ones with wings and teeth.
Did you see that? Does it really say “2 Weeks” up there in the title. Um, reality check. So much to do! And I’m going camping with Kristen this weekend. She’s already made her famous (or what should be famous) potato salad. Which seems like a bad plan (the camping, not the potato salad) because there is so much to work on. But I’ve been working all week, and am still re-integrating after the New Mexico trip, so this will be good for me, I know. And we’re going to our favorite campsite that we’ve visited so far, still on the hunt for the perfect one, far enough from the city that it’s quiet and spacious but not so far that we have to drive all day to get there. I think I will be sneaking away during the days to find a coffee shop with wifi in the northwest Catskills so I can spend a little bit of time on The Smut Machine, aka my laptop, working on Butch Voices media.
Meanwhile: I’m counting down the Fridays with classic and modern butch book titles that I highly recommend because the Butch Voices Regional Conference in New York City (and then in Portland and LA) is coming up in just two weeks. If you haven’t registered yet, now is the time! We are very near capacity and can only hold so many folks in the space, so make sure you put your name down if you want to come. The workshops and the schedule have been announced, and they look fantastic, it’s going to be a great day. Stay tuned for the full announcements of events around the conference, on Friday and Saturday nights.
I’m really talking about classic butch titles here, so I can’t not talk about Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg. How many of us have had someone give us a copy of this book, early on, perhaps before we even know ourselves, and say, “I think this is you”? How many of us first felt like we were tapping into something larger than our own struggle when we started reading about Jess.
I had the opportunity to hear Leslie speak here in New York a few years ago, for her newer book Drag King Dreams, and it was thrilling. I love that about New York, that sooner or later, everyone does some sort of gig here, everyone comes through. It’s a magnet for some of the most amazing writers and activists and I do not discount the value of that (even in all my complaining about the big city).
If this book has been on your list for years, if you always meant to get around to it, if you kept meaning to read it, consider this a sign: it’s time. Go pick up a copy from Paperback Swap or your local indy bookstore or heck, even Amazon.
From Alyson Press, the publisher:
Published in 1993, this brave, original novel is considered to be the finest account ever written of the complexities of a transgendered existence. Woman or man? That’s the question that rages like a storm around Jess Goldberg, clouding her life and her identity. Growing up differently gendered in a blue–collar town in the 1950’s, coming out as a butch in the bars and factories of the prefeminist ’60s, deciding to pass as a man in order to survive when she is left without work or a community in the early ’70s. This powerful, provocative and deeply moving novel sees Jess coming full circle, she learns to accept the complexities of being a transgendered person in a world demanding simple explanations: a he-she emerging whole, weathering the turbulence. Leslie Feinberg is also the author of Trans Liberation, Trans Gender Warriors and Transgender Liberation, and is a noted activist and speaker on transgender issues.
Leslie Feinberg’s website has some other great information about the book, including the covers that were published in countries outside the US, a video of her reading from the book, and her afterward to the 10th anniversary edition.
When I was at the Lambda Literary Awards last year, the honored Leslie Feinberg, but she was too sick to appear and give her speech—someone else, her publicist I believe, gave it for her. So she hasn’t been doing many appearances, but I hope she is still writing.
She has been publishing quite a few photographs through Flickr and Twitter (@lesliefeinberg) if you’d like to follow her there. And of course more information about her work is over on her site, transgenderwarrior.org.
Pick up a copy of Stone Butch Blues directly from Alyson Books, or head out to your local independent queer feminist bookstore, or, as usual, if you must, from Amazon.
The Butch Voices Regional Conference in New York City (and then in Portland and LA) is coming up in just three weeks. And in honor, I’m counting down the Fridays with classic and modern butch book titles that I highly recommend.
Butch Is A Noun, S. Bear Bergman’s first book, has been re-released by Arsenal Pulp Press just in time for the fall series of regional Butch Voices conferences. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a personal collection of essays about what it’s like to live outside the binary gender system, in more ways than one, and what the identity, word, noun, verb, and adjective “butch” means to Bear.
The first chapter of Butch Is A Noun, “I Know What Butch Is,” is one of my favorite essays that I think I have ever read. Bear has a PDF of it over on hir website, if you’d like to read it as a preview to perhaps buying the book, and there’s also a great video of Bear reading the first chapter (that I have posted before, but it’s time to post again):
(Just ignore the girls in the background. Seriously.)
One of my favorite comments about the book comes from Kate Bornstein, who says: “Butch Is A Noun is a book that… a) should be required reading in any gender studies curriculum, b) femmes should read whenever they’re feeling unloved, lonely or misunderstood, c) butches should read, d) all of the above. The answer, of course, is d. Thank you, dear Bear.”
There’s lots in there for not just butch-identified folks, but also for folks who love butches, regardless of your gender.
Here’s the description of the book from Arsenal Pulp Press:
Butch is a Noun, the first book by activist, gender-jammer, and performer S. Bear Bergman,won wide acclaim when published by Suspect Thoughts in 2006: a funny, insightful, and purposely unsettling manifesto on what it means to be butch (and not). In thirty-four deeply personal essays, Bear makes butchness accessible to those who are new to the concept, and makes gender outlaws of all stripes feel as though they have come home. From girls’ clothes to men’s haircuts, from walking with girls to hanging with young men, Butch is a Noun chronicles the perplexities, dangers, and pleasures of living lifeoutside the gender binary.
This new edition includes a new afterword by the author.
In case you don’t know about it, Bear also has a new anthology, co-edited with Kate Bornstein, Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation just released from Seal press. Pick that up directly from Seal Press, at your local independent queer feminist bookstore, or, if you must, from Amazon.
Pick up a copy of Butch Is A Noun directly from Arsenal Pulp Press, or head out to your local independent queer feminist bookstore, or, as usual, if you must, from Amazon.
I’m still on vacation. But I wouldn’t deprive you of the Butch Voices countdown! Sugarbutch will resume regular posting on Wednesday, September 1st.
The Butch Voices Regional Conference in New York City (and then in Portland and LA) is coming up in just four short weeks. (And as someone who is part of the organizing committee, can I just say: GULP. So much to do!) And in honor, I’m counting down the Fridays with classic and modern butch book titles that I highly recommend. Just in case you want to start that butch library you’ve always been saying you might.
Dagger: On Butch Women edited by Lily Burana and Roxxie Linnea Due is, heartbreakingly, out of print. But it still exists out there in the world, especially with all the online booksellers. It was published by Cleis Press in 1994 and remains one of the only anthologies about butch identity out there … in fact, it’s the only one that I know of. There are other books on butch identity (as I’ll feature in the next few weeks!), but nothing quite like this.
I came across it when the Femme Top loaned me her copy and I immediately went out to pick up my own. It remains something I flip through and contemplate frequently, full of interviews, personal essays, analysis, gender dynamics, love letters to femmes, and touching stories of female masculinity out of compulsory femininity.
Pick it up at your local bookstore (who does used book searches, hopefully) or online, if you must, through Amazon.
And don’t forget, there are lots of great events coming up in September around the Butch Voices conference, starting with Butch Brunch on September 18!
It’s happening right now! Well not quite right now, since it’s earlier in New York City than it is over in Oakland, on the other coast where the sun sets over the water just like it’s supposed to.
The hashtag for the conference is #femme2010 if you’d like to follow along on Twitter.
How do you like that collective noun, by the way? An extravagance of femmes? Not bad really. There’s a fascinating collective noun site connected to Twitter so that when you tweet your suggestion for the collective noun with the hashtag #collectivenoun it gets automatically updated and counted on the site. Plus, you can “like” other people’s suggestions (which also goes to Twitter). So what say you—what’s the best collective noun for femmes? Tweet it, or leave it in the comments. And check them out as they come in.
Okay, enough of that. You’re dying to know what the femme book is for today, right? Since we’ve got the Butch Voices regional conferences to count down to now, in NYC (September 25), Portland OR (October 1-3), and LA (October 8-10), I figured I’d do a butch/femme joint anthology.
- Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity edited by
Chloe Brushwood Rose & Anna Camilleri (Arsenal Pulp Press; 2003)
- Femme: Feminists, Lesbians and Bad Girls by Laura Harris and Elizabeth Crocker (Routledge; 1997)
- The Femme’s Guide to the Universe by Shar Rednour (Alyson Books; 2000) (And did you see? Shar has launched a blog How Great Sex Made Me a Good Mom and is now on Twitter as @SharRednour)
And there’s Glamour Girls: Femme/femme Erotica by Rachel Kramer Bussel (Harrington Park Press; 2006) and With a Rough Tongue: Femmes Write Porn by Amber Dawn and Trish Kelly if you’re into erotica. Which, you know, you might be.
So now that I’ve recited pretty much every femme book that I know of and think are worth knowing, let’s get back to today’s feature. The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader edited by Joan Nestle, published by Alyson Books in 1992. It looks like it’s out of print, but you can probably still get it used in various places, like Powell’s online or, of course, Amazon (but only if you have to. Don’t you want independent bookstores to stay in business?).
The description of The Persistent Desire from Library Journal is as follows:
This anthology of stories, poems, and nonfiction accounts pays homage to a host of femme and butch lesbian relationships that have flourished over four decades. The narrators recount their experiences, describing how they met, how they took care of one another, and how they tried–or defiantly tried not–to fit in. The selections themselves bubble with passion and pain. Some dive beneath the surface to explore the varied meanings of gender roles, but most describe highly ritualistic manners of dress, hairstyle, and gesture that at times left the protagonist open to ridicule. In collecting these pieces into one volume, Nestle has made sure that the integrity and diversity of femme-butch relationships will not be lost. She has included narratives from women of many backgrounds and ethnic groups and from outside the United States.
This book was for me, as it was for many people, eye-opening, validating, breathtaking. I found it while I was still trying to articulate my own butch identity, and come into my orientation of dating femmes, and it blew past most of my doubts as if doing 80 on a motorcycle. I wanted to be part of that, I felt so connected to it. It changed the way I thought about myself and the way I thought about femmes.
It’s dated now. It was published almost two decades ago, and it reflects a different era of thought about gender identity and alignment assumptions. And while the trans movements were alive by then, much has happened on that front in the past 18 years since it was published and much transgender theory has affected gender theory deeply in wonderfully deliciously complicated ways.
We’re really due for an update.
And how about that, one is just on the horizon! Partners and butch/femme couple Ivan E. Coyote and Zena Sharman have been working on an anthology titled Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme (see the connection to the first anthology’s title? Smart!) that is due out from Arsenal Pulp Press soon. Not sure what the exact date of publication is yet, but you can be certain I’ll be mentioning it here again. It looks like Ivan just picked up the postcards for the book from her publisher the other day, so it must be coming fairly soon! I will report back as I know.
There are more books, especially more butch/femme books, and more books just on butch identity by itself (look for more of those featured on the upcoming Fridays as we countdown to the Butch Voices NYC conference). I’ve made a new section in my Amazon Store exclusively for butch and femme books, so if you’re curious what else is out there, that’s a good place to start. And if you’ve got suggestions for what I missed, I’m glad to hear ‘em!
UPDATE! Persistence: All Ways Butch And Femme has a webpage on Arsenal Pulp Press, a description, and is due out in the spring of 2011. Isn’t that cover great? It’s done by Elisha Lim, who also has a book of her own newly out from Alyson, 100 Butches, Volume 1.
If you see Zena at the Femme Conference, she supposedly has postcards for Persistence, so that’ll give you an excuse to say hi. She’s aka “The Silver Fox” because (guess) of her hair, so that should narrow it down for ya.
(Don’t you just love the Internet? I do. Thanks, Arsenal, for answering those questions.)
“When I finally realized that I didn’t want to be a butch, I wanted to sleep with a butch, a whole new world opened up before my eyes.” —Lesléa Newman, from the Introduction: I Enjoy Being a Girl
The Femme Conference 2010: No Restrictions in Oakland is just one week away! And in honor, Sugarbutch is counting down to the Femme Conference, featuring some important femme books that I highly recommend if you haven’t read them already. Femme is part of an ever-evolving, big, knowable lineage, and if you love this identity in any way—if it’s yours, or if it is the gender to whom you are oriented, or if you appreciate it—you should know where it comes from, where it’s been.
News from the Femme Conference this week: the Femme Conference Schedule has been announced, and in addition to Kate Bornstein’s keynote, Moki Macías, a queer femme organizer and community planner in Atlanta, will also be doing a keynote.
And the Conference is only one week away!
It was the first book on femme identity that I came across, and I picked up a copy at Powell’s when I was in Portland in July. Re-reading parts of it is kind of like re-reading my own journals from ten years ago, so familiar are the words and perspectives. So I’m particularly fond of this book because of the nostalgia, because of how formative this collection was for me.
One description says, “A fascinating and insightful look at the world of femme identity within the lesbian community. Written by femmes, former femmes, future femmes, femme wanna-bes, femme admirers, and of course, femmes fatales, The femme Mystique explores what it means to be a femme and a lesbian in a society that often trivializes the feminine.”
Coming out into communities which were ruled by queer femmes (well, at least, they sure seemed to be from my perspective), I think I’ve been a little blind to the ways that the queer scenes can trivialize the feminine, but as a women studies student and as someone who is simply aware of sexism and misogyny in this world, obviously that is entirely true and relevant. It continues to surprise me. Like, the doctor at the queer health clinic gave you a pregnancy test, even after you told her you were gay? Really? That just doesn’t even make any sense. But hey, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
The more recent anthologies are much higher quality, I think, both in the choice and arrangement of the essays and the quality of writing, but every once in a while there is a serious gem. Some folks have criticized this as being repetitive, which I also do understand, but that also speaks to how common and communal these perspectives on queer femme identity are. You’re likely to recognize some of the authors—Chrystos, Tristan Taormino, Kitty Tsui—but there are plenty more I’m not familiar with. The book is peppered with photographs, many of them very clearly 1980s versions of femininity (press on nails, lace, extensive makeup) which is interesting, that femme can be so closely tied to female fashion trends. There is a lot of identity alignment assumptions in this collection—a lot of women talking about cooking, cleaning, “traditionally female” activities. It’s interesting how much we as a culture have broken that in the last fifteen years, even.
Even though the women in these photos are probably in their 20s and early 30s, which is my age, they seem so much older … probably because my brain automatically does the calculation: “If they are 25 in 1990, they are 12 years older than me and are now in the early 40s.” It takes some intentional undoing to think, these people in these essays, in these photographs, are my age, and were at that time figuring out the same things I am now figuring out.
Though it’s not my favorite collection, it is a classic, and was very important to me personally (and to many, I’m sure, since it was one of the first collections on femme identity). I also really recommend Lesléa Newman’s essay collection Out of the Closet and Nothing to Wear, which is a collection of the femme column she wrote for many years. More information about Lesléa Newman can be found over on her website, lesleanewman.com. (Did you know she also wrote Heather Has Two Mommies?)
Have you read this? What did you think?
And also … are you ready for the Femme Conference!? I can’t wait to hear all about it on Twitter and other blogs! Who’s going to be writing about it? Who’s going to be live-Tweeting? Keep me updated, please!
The Femme Conference 2010: No Restrictions in Oakland is two weeks away! And in honor, Sugarbutch is counting down to the Femme
Conference, featuring some important femme books that I highly recommend if you haven’t read them already. Femme is part of an ever-evolving, big, knowable lineage, and if you love this identity in any way—if it’s yours, or if it is the gender to whom you are oriented, or if you appreciate it—you should know where it comes from, where it’s been.
I met Ulrika Dahl at the Femme Conference in 2008, and was excited to get my hands on this lovely book when it came out. It features profiles and essays about femme identity, photographs of femmes with all sorts of varieties of presentation, and discussions of what femme is like in different contexts. It’s a beautiful book, almost a coffee table book, that you can flip through and stare at all the beautiful photographs of femmes. Or you can delve deeper into the text for complex depictions of queer gender identity.
From the synopsis:
What is femme? French for woman? A feminine lesbian? A queer girl who loves to dress up? Think again! Going beyond identity politics and the pleasures of plumage, “Femmes of Power” captures a diverse range of queerly feminine subjects whose powerful and intentional redress explodes the meaning of femme for the 21st century. “Femmes of Power” features both every-day heroines and many queer feminist icons, including Michelle Tea, Virginie Despentes, Amber Hollibaugh, Itziar Ziga, Lydia Lunch, Kate Bornstein and Valerie Mason-John. “Femmes of Power” unsettles the objectifying “male” gaze on femininity and presents femmes as speaking subjects and high heeled theorists.