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Further Contemplation on Femme/Feminine Lesbian Invisibility  

11 Nov

Following on from my Femme / Feminine Lesbian Invisibility and after a discussion with my partner’s aunt, I have wondered a few things –

– do I just give off a ‘I’m taken and happy vibe’ that both women (gay, bi and straight women) andstraight men pick up on

– and consequently I don’t give off a ‘I’m single and available’ vibe that some people would pick up on

– does my body language says the above

Maybe it is a combination of all of the above and being presumed as straight. Perhaps I should run a little experiment where next time I head to a women only event, I wear a pin-up girl t-shirt or something rainbow to say – ‘I like the ladies!’

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Femme/Feminine Lesbian Invisibility?

27 Oct

A Saturday night a few weeks ago some of my  boylesque/drag king classmates performed at our local lesbian night club. It was a Rocky Horror Picture Show themed night and a red and black outfit of corset, fishnets and high heels was obligatory to arrive in (costume change came later). I got the occasional glance and look up and down, but no one approached me for a chat or my phone number. My intent was not to be chatted up. I am happy in my relationship and I’m not seeking other partners. But it is a nice feeling when a fellow woman (i.e. fellow lesbian) finds you attractive and you don’t have to indicate that you too are a lady loving woman. It is something I have wanted since coming out ten years ago. 

Do I give off a particular vibe? Unavailable? Unapproachable? Straight? Bi-curious? Do other lesbians see me as straight? Do I, though my feminine and glamorous style and long hair, pass as straight? Is this a case of femme/feminine lesbian invisibility?  

Do we need to do more for femme visibility? I think in the lesbian press and online there is definitely representation of femme/feminine looking lesbians, but do we need to change our own internal perceptions and the lesbian community’s perceptions around ‘what lesbians look like?’ Is there a certain presumption that lesbian women should be inherently ‘dykey’ or alternative in appearance? Do we need to address our own ways of spotting other lesbians? And……. perhaps our own internal doubts and les-phobia around ‘I don’t look gay’ Food for thought….

  Image courtesy of Curve Magazine

 
Image courtesy of Curve Magazine

Femme Identity & Me

4 Apr

I sometimes identify as a “semi-femme” (a term of my own making, which I use to describe myself within a femme context), other times as “just myself.” But I do find the femme identity very empowering and inspiring. I may chose to more closely identify with the femme identity in the future. I have also previously posted on Femme Identity, see my posts Femme Identity and Femme Identity Continued.

One thing that makes me reluctant to embrace the femme identity fully is that it is perceived that the femme identity is linked to the butch identity and that femme women are attracted to butch women. I know myself, and I am not attracted to butch women. If I identify as femme, I don’t want people to assume that I must like butch women. And this is in no offence to butch identified women, I simply know who I am attracted to and I don’t want others to assume to know who I am attracted to based on how I express myself.

I have been reading a research proposal by Connie Laalo entitled, Beyond Lipstick: Expressions of Femme Lesbian Identity through Dress. In the proposal, the author states that in order to fully establish and assert femme as an autonomous identity, it must be engaged independently in a manner that validates this expression of femininity as an authentic expression of lesbian identity and lived experience. I love the concept, of asserting the femme identity as autonomous, authentic, and independent of the butch identity. And a few blog posts and online articles I have read appear to promote this and aspire to this. Decreasing femme invisibility may also aid this aim. This concept would sit so much better with me, and I know I would feel a lot more comfortable in identifying as femme.

There is also one other thing that sometimes bothers me about identifying as femme. I don’t want my femininity (dress, long hair, make up, views) to be seen to be conforming to the patriarchal, societal and traditional expressions of being female. And just to add to the mix, the term feminine doesn’t always sit well with me, as it seems to imply conformity also. The term “femaleness,” as proposed by Feminist Spiritualists in the book Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in America by Cynthia Eller, seems to reflect this rejection of patriarchal, societal and traditional ideas around femininity and what it means to be a woman, and describes these things as female traits beyond conformity. I like displaying my femaleness, but I don’t do this to conform to the preconceived notion of what it means to be a woman. I am like this because I like these things. It is part of who I am. And this feeling falls into the concept of empowered femininity and “choice.” I am a feminist and I chose to be feminine and express my femininity / femaleness how I wish. These two go together and are not separate or mutually exclusive.

As more studies, blog posts and webpages increase awareness of the subversive and feminist elements to the femme identity, hopefully there will be a greater understanding of this identity.

References –
Eller, Cynthia (1993) Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in America, Crossroad Publishing Company, USA

Laalo, Connie (2011) Beyond Lipstick: Expressions of Femme Lesbian Identity through Dress, MA research proposal, Ryerson Unviversity, Toronto, Canada
https://ccs.cf.ryerson.ca/ethicsReview/data/2329/5562/consent/A913CEB8F7401808444ED189B965BCAB.doc

Disparity – Representation of Butch and Femme Identities

4 Apr

An interesting observation.

I have recently read a few papers / articles / blog posts on femme identity. Interestingly the papers state that the butch gender identity appears over represented in academic literature on lesbian identifies. These papers discuss the butch identity as being an obvious expression of lesbian sexuality.

In contrast, I have noticed that there appears to be an over representation of feminine looking women in lesbian TV dramas and movies (not that I have watched lots of lesbian movies). This also covers the issue that shows such as the L-Word (which admittedly I have only watched a few episodes of) having mostly feminine looking characters and actresses. I have seen this issue covered in Lesbian magazines at the height of the show’s popularity. It is interesting that in lesbian dramas within a mainstream mostly straight society tends to portray lesbian women as feminine in appearance and dress. Is this because to mainstream and straight society a feminine lesbian is more accepted and acceptable? Does the lesbian fantasy as peddled in heterosexual male porn feed this too? Is the image of a butch women, because it is so subversive, visually powerful and perhaps emasculating, something that mainstream and straight society does not want to see on TV, or the production companies don’t want to include in their shows.

My partner and I have recently watched the first and second series of the BBC lesbian drama, Lip Service. We loved the series and thought it was an interesting, funky, alternative and positive representation of the lives of lesbian women. In the series, along with feminine characters (albeit rather alternative and Indy) there are some butch women represented. Which I think is great. And this gives a more balanced view of different lesbian identities, styles, modes of expression and simply diversity.

Femme Identity – queers femininity

4 Apr

The femme identity redefines and queers femininity as proposed by Connie Laalo in her proposal entitled, Beyond Lipstick: Expressions of Femme Lesbian Identity through Dress. It is a radical identity that communicates a femininity redefined and queered, one that challenges lesbian norms and empowers traditional feminine signifiers with new meanings.

Reference –
Laalo, Connie (2011) Beyond Lipstick: Expressions of Femme Lesbian Identity through Dress, MA research proposal, Ryerson Unviversity, Toronto, Canada
https://ccs.cf.ryerson.ca/ethicsReview/data/2329/5562/consent/A913CEB8F7401808444ED189B965BCAB.doc

Subversive Performance of Feminine Gender – Femme Identity

4 Apr

“Subversive performance of feminine gender,” as per Connie Laalo in her research proposal entitled, Beyond Lipstick: Expressions of Femme Lesbian Identity through Dress.

I absolutely love the concept of subversiveness and that the femme identity can subversively perform femininity. Turns the traditional and societal notion of femininity and heterosexuality on its head! You can be femme / feminine / possess femaleness AND be a lesbian too. Takes “signifiers of being a woman” – female clothes (i.e. dresses, skirts), long hair, make-up, high heels and glamour and combines this with a queer sexuality. It plays with perceptions, assumptions and judgement.

There are times I think to myself, when dressed in a nice dress with bright red lips and my hair dyed red, that I want to say out loud “I’m a lesbian!,” just to get the message across that I love to dress how I do and I love women. I think this is something most people would not know by looking at me and how I dress. I guess this is a great description of femme invisibility and “passing.” It is unconsciously though because I don’t pretend to be straight, I just don’t express my sexuality in an obvious way.

Reference –
Laalo, Connie (2011) Beyond Lipstick: Expressions of Femme Lesbian Identity through Dress, MA research proposal, Ryerson Unviversity, Toronto, Canada
https://ccs.cf.ryerson.ca/ethicsReview/data/2329/5562/consent/A913CEB8F7401808444ED189B965BCAB.doc

Femme Identity continued

20 Mar

Following on from my post Femme Identity, I am curious to know the opinions of other lesbians (femme, butch and non-identified) about this gender identity and how this is perceived.

I have a very positive view. And I particularly admire when femme identified lesbians state that their gender identification has little to do with who they attracted to, but rather how they wish to express their sexuality. Personally I think the femme identity is empowered femininity, a form of femininity (expressed through feminine dress, hair and make-up) expressed along with a strong statement regarding sexuality, and an embracing of and power over their own body, image and sexuality, which is feminist.

I find the neo-burlesque and a neo-pin up movements expressions of empowered femininity. These are subcultures, lifestyles and fashions where modern women, feminist women, can embrace their femaleness and express their female (and lesbian) sexuality in a way they want to, and not solely for a male (or female) gaze. I love that these movements embrace fashions, performance and some ideas from by-gone eras, but also incorporate elements of sexual freedom, equality and alternative fashions (such as tattoos, gothic fashion, vintage fashion and fetish fashion).

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