Posts Tagged ‘femme identity’
“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.
The Femme Conference 2010: No Restrictions is happening in Oakland, CA in just three short weeks. There’s still time to register!
I attended in 2008 in Chicago and it was a pretty amazing experience. I took away so many conversations about identity development and expression, about visible physical markers and femme fashion. I would love to attend again, maybe next time.
Recently, I was chatting with a femme friend who was in from out of town about being in leadership or facilitator positions within this gender world, and how many baby femmes and baby butches feel lost and alone when they’re coming to these identities. “I always tell them, read your history!” she said. There are lots of books out there, actually, that discuss the same things we are going through. Sure, they might be a little dated; sure, we might have a better sense of how to break identity alignment assumptions than those writing thirty years ago. But we do not have to reinvent the wheel: much of this work has already been done for us, and even has already been recorded and written about.
So, as a countdown to this fantastic conference, I’m going to feature a couple of different femme tomes that are really important in the heritage of the femme world—or that have been to me. If you haven’t read them, I highly recommend it.
The first, and most recent publication about femme identity (as far as I know) is the two-volume set Visible: A Femmethology edited by Jennifer Clare Burke and published by Homofactus Press.
Visible: A Femmethology is a collection of personal essays from over fifty contributors who explore what it means to be a queer femme. Award winning authors, spoken-word artists, and totally new voices come together to challenge conventional ideas of how disability, class, nationality, race, aesthetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, and body type intersect with each contributor’s concrete notion of femmedom.
Though the book launched more than a year ago, the book’s website still has some very valuable stuff, including a large list of contributors, if you’d like to look up some inspiring writers, and mini-interviews with them about what it means to be femme.
The cover was a bit controversial, when it came out, but there are some male authors in this book who explore their femme identity, so I can understand that they intended to show that femme is not something that exclusively belongs to cis women.
I’ll admit, I’m a little biased with this book, because I have a piece in Volume II called A Love Letter to Femmes. Dacia recorded it for me last year, when the book was coming out, so there’s an audio recording of me reading it, if you’d like to hear it. But even if I didn’t have a piece in it, the collection is a great read and will I think inspire any femme to feel less alone. Most of the focus in this anthology, probably because of the title, Visible, is on the invisibility of femme identity and the ways that, particularly, straight folks assume femmes are also straight. I have my own thoughts about invisibility, mostly about sovereignty and the outsider complex that many of us feel, but regardless of my own opinions, I know visibility is something that pretty much all femmes feel at various times, so it’s an important thing to study and bring light to and discuss.
Order the two volumes directly from Homofactus Press (if you’d like the small indie press to get the most benefit), from your local independent queer feminist neighborhood bookstore, or, if you must, from Amazon.
Maria See put the original call out for the Femmethology literally years ago, and ever since I first saw it I knew I wanted to contribute something to this unique anthology on femme identity. But what? I didn’t feel like I could necessarily speak from a place of authority on What Femme Is, there are hundreds – thousands! – of versions of femme, and no matter what I know about femme or how many femmes I’ve interacted with, I am an observer, a witness of femme, I don’t feel like I create it myself.
So what would I write?
I wrote a few pieces, brainstormed, but nothing I really loved. Nothing really got to the heart of what I was trying to say, which was … what? I wasn’t sure.
But it hit me on the very last day the editors were accepting submissions, and I sat down and wrote this Love Letter in one long sentence, and spent the rest of the day editing and polishing. I’m not going to reproduce the text here (you’ll have to buy the book for that) but I will present you, here, with a recording of me reading the love letter that appears in Visible: A Femmethology Volume Two.
Hope you enjoy it.
Thanks very much to Audacia Ray for recording and producing this mp3!
In case you missed it, see more information about the Femmethology here.
I’m honored to kick off the April Femmethology blog tour! There are four important things in this post, it’s kind of a long one – here’s the breakdown so you don’t miss anything.
- Information about Visible: A Femmethology, a two-volume set of books which is out now!
- A giveaway! Comment to win a copy of the Femmethology!
- Information about the Femmethology release party in New York City, Wednesday April 29th
- Continue on the April Femmethology blog tour by visiting these other great sites. Visit Ellie Lumpesse tomorrow!
And coming up shortly, I’ll be posting an mp3 of me reading my essay, Love Letter, which is included in the Femmethology Volume Two.
Femme–an identity that has caused controversy, celebration and ridicule–is now the topic of a two-volume set from Homofactus Press and editor Jennifer Clare Burke titled Visible: A Femmethology. Femmethology calls the LGBTQI community on its own prejudice and celebrates the diversity of individual femmes. Award-winning authors, spoken-word artists, and totally new voices come together to challenge conventional ideas of how disability, class, nationality, race, aesthetics, sexual orientation, gender identity and body type intersect with each contributor’s concrete notion of femmedom.
Comment on this post with one fabulous thing that you love about femmes and I’ll pick one random winner.
What’ll you win? A copy of Visible: A Femmethology Volume Two, which includes my piece, Love Letter. AND in addition, EITHER a copy of Volume 1 OR any other erotica book my writing is in – such as: Best Lesbian Erotica 2006, 2007, or 2009. Look about halfway down on my “Shop” page or in the sidebar (—->) for the complete list.
The books will be sent to me and I’ll autograph them for you, then send them on.
Winner will be chosen at random tomorrow morning, so you have today to enter by leaving a comment.
Come join us at the book release party in NYC!
Visible: A Femmethology
New York City Release!
April 29th, 7pm
Bluestockings, 172 Allen St. in the Lower East Side
Featuring contributors: Ryn Hodes, Sinclair Sexsmith, Sassafras Lowrey, Cameron Whitley, Leslie Freeman, J.C. Yu, Hadassah Hill, & Miel Rose
Visible: A Femmethology is a two-volume anthology edited by Jennifer Clare Burke and published by Homofactus Press of personal essays from over fifty contributors who explore what it means to be a queer femme. Award winning authors, spoken-word artists, and totally new voices come together to challenge conventional ideas of how disability, class, nationality, race, aesthetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, and body type intersect with each contributor’s concrete notion of femmedom.
Not in New York City? Check the Femmethology events page to see if there’s a release party in your area. They’ll be in Vermont, Vancouver BC, Atlanta, & more!
Follow the rest of the Femmethology April blog tour with these great sites:
4/1. Sugarbutch Chronicles
4/2. Ellie Lumpesse
4/4. CyDy Blog
4/6. Catalina Loves
4/7. cross-post: The Femme’s Guide and Femme Fagette
4/8. Daphne Gottlieb
4/9. Bilerico Project
4/10. Screaming Lemur: Femme-inism and Other Things
4/13. The Femme Hinterland
4/14. Bochinche Bilingüe: Borderlands Writing and The Vagina Adventures
4/15. Dorothy Surrenders
4/16. Miss Avarice Speaks Her Mind
4/17. The Femme Show
4/19. Sexuality Happens
4/20. Queer Fat Femme
4/21. Sublimefemme Unbound
4/22. Tina-cious.com and Jess I Am (butch-femme couple day!)
4/24. The Lesbian Lifestyle
4/25. Femme Fluff
4/26. Weldable Cookies
4/27. The Verbosery
4/28. A Consuming Desire and Creative Xicana