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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

Asperwomen: Adult Women with Asperger Syndrome. Moving towards a female profile of Asperger Syndrome

23 May

An informative list of traits associated with Asperger’s Syndrome in women. Below, are my comments (and personal experience) I posted.

Thanks for a really informative list of traits / characteristics of Asperger’s Syndrome in women. I have not been diagnosed, and I don’t know if I would be diagnosed, but many of the traits describe how I work, see things and react emotionally. Definitely intense interests, good long term memory, perfectionism, emotionally aware and vulnerable to other’s emotions, feeling different to others applies to me. When I was younger (in primary and high school) I certainly felt different to others and I wanted to be like more “popular” people and I strived for that, but could never get there. I had my special interests and friends that were like minded so that helped. When I got to university I felt less pressured to be like others and I felt more comfortable with the feeling of being different. During postgraduate studies, I started to find myself – I embraced alternative music, lifestyles and fashions and I felt like I belonged, especially amongst a loosely collected group of people who celebrated their difference to the mainstream and made the point that they were different to others. I became alot more extroverted and socialised more. It was like I went through the stereotypical teenage years in my early twenties. During doctoral studies I travelled overseas. Being in a foreign city without family, friends and people who knew me, was a watershed experience, I shed something then. Back in my home country, over the next few years I went through great emotional turmoil, but I realised and discovered my same sex attraction (which had started with my fascination with an actress in a TV cop show in that foreign city). I eventually came out and I feel now, a few years later and a six year relationship, that I know who I am, and why I am different, but also I feel I can relate to a lot more people. While coming out (and going through depression / anxiety and chronic fatigue), a counsellor mentioned Asperger’s Syndrome to me. She said that many of the things I described fitted the traits / symptoms of this syndrome. Perhaps I was going through a transition stage where I was “overcoming” these Asperger’s traits and my personality and the way I saw things was changing. Thank you for a great article, and inspiring me to write about my experience.

Tania A. Marshall, M.Sc.

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Updated December 11th, 2016

Tania Marshall© 2013-2017. All rights reserved. Aspiengirl and Planet Aspien are trademarked. Thank you.

Aspienwomen : Adult Women with Asperger Syndrome. Moving towards a female profile of Asperger Syndrome. This blog has been viewed almost 350,000 times since I initially wrote it and was the inspiration for my second book, released August 29th, 2015, Foreword by Dr. Shana Nichols. and now an international best seller. I am pleased to announce this book just received a 2016 IPPY eLit Gold Medal award in the ‘Women’s Issues’ category. This book is available at http://www.aspiengirl.com, Amazon, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) and other fine book stores.

Tania is available for fee-based in-person or Skype remote assessments, consultations, problem solving sessions, intervention and support. She also works regularly with a variety of professionals in many countries, in the areas of referrals and assisting individuals to obtain and/or receive an assessment…

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“Femaleness” Instead of Femininity

4 Apr

As previously discussed in my post Femme Identity & Me, the term feminine doesn’t always sit well with me, as it seems to imply conformity with preconceived notions of “what it means to be a woman.” This also definitely applies to the term “femininity” in my eyes.

The term “femaleness,” was proposed by Feminist Spiritualists in the book Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in America by Cynthia Eller. This term rejects the 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 love this concept. The rejection of feminine traits and attributes as being a construct of patriarchal society and reclaiming these as female / woman traits from a female / woman perspective.

However, I have found myself using the term femininity in my blog posts around femme identity. Perhaps using the term femininity in the context of the femme gender identity, and the queered nature of femininity in this identity sits better with me. I have taken ownership of the word and I express it how I want to.

I am planning to explore Feminist Spirituality more.

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

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

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

Red Haired Women I Greatly Admire

4 Apr

Roger Sterling from the TV series Mad Men (set in the world of advertising in 1960’s New York City) describes red headed women as – “a drop of strawberry jam in a glass of milk.”

I love this description!!!!

I have long had a fascination and admiration for red hair. I had for many years wanted to dye my natural blonde hair red like my idol, the gorgeous Rita Hayworth. I love the notion that red headed women are fiery and passionate. This was (and still is) so sexy to me. I wanted to be more like that. I wanted to break free of my blonde hair and how I thought others saw me – blondes can’t be smart. At the time I was a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) student, researching a gastrointestinal bacterium and a scientist, and I wondered what others thought of my science career and long blonde hair. But, for me the key deciding factor was wanting to have red hair (and a glamorous 1940’s wavy hairstyle) like Rita. I loved 1940’s fashion and glamour and I wanted to have the hair to match some of the retro / vintage styled clothes I wore.

And when I did dye my hair red (auburn) I felt more empowered and more self confident (it helped to shake of some of the shackles of self doubt). I seemed to me be noticed more. And it looked natural with my colouring and green-blue eyes. I should have been born a red head!! Now, when the red dye fades a little and I look more strawberry blonde, I find myself wanting to dye it bright red again (the colour of Christina Hendricks or Rita Hayworth or Isla Fisher’s hair) and be a vibrant red head.

These red haired women I really admire and have influenced me greatly
– Rita Hayworth
– Lucille Ball
– Christina Hendricks

I also admire the following women and their lovely red tresses (whether natural or dyed)
– Isla Fischer
– Juliane Moore
– Jessica Rabbit (cartoon I know, but a glamorous red head)
– Poison Ivy (character)
– Amy Adams
– Marcia Cross
– Alicia de Witt
– Florence Welch from Florence and the Machine
– My friend Bec (who has been a red head since high school and who constantly got in trouble for her red hair)
– My partner’s Nana

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