Aug 11

The Unfortunate Tale of a Femme and a Vest

posted by: Danni St Athens

I found myself in a somewhat new (to me) predicament the other night. I felt, not for the first time ever but for the first time in a long time, like I was going out in drag. Allow me to explain.

Friday night I was heading out to a play party. And, true to femme form (or really, fashion-conscious form regardless of gender identity), I had already planned out in my head what I wanted to wear. I was going to tomboy it up in my leather shoes—NOT boots; I haven’t earned that right, but that’s another post for another time—my beloved black fedora and this exquisitely hand-pieced, locally made, brand new khaki green suede vest I had scored at Goodwill a few weeks ago. I was really looking forward to it because while I always feel in my mind and heart that I am roughly equal parts tomboy and femme, I don’t often outwardly portray the tomboy to such an extent.

Imagine my dismay when I get the vest on that night, go to look in the mirror and… the vest doesn’t look right. I really should have known better before I even put it on, but I was so excited about finding it that I didn’t think about this crucial fact: the vest was made for a man. It was made for broad shoulders and a flat chest, not my somewhat-less-broad shoulders and not-unsubstantial bosom. When buttoned it did amazing things for my waistline, but the armholes pooched out right around my breasts and just looked… well… stupid. My dismay quickly turned to frustration which, for me, quickly turns—and turned—into anger. (I don’t handle frustration well. Never have.)

I didn’t have a lot of other tomboyish options and I was running out of time. I tried on a few other garments but nothing fit the image that I had in my head. Finally I settled on one of the few things that technically looked good: a sleeveless black Eddie Bauer faux-wrap top. And it did look good. But it wasn’t the look I was going for. It was femme. And at least for that one night, I wanted to be more tomboy than femme.

Our butch kin know this quandary all too well. Their favorite garments are usually if not always made for men, and they struggle probably every day with suiting the masculine garments not to their masculine souls, but to the treacherously unmasculine lines of their bodies. I had always sympathized with this plight but not sure I’d ever truly empathized. Until now.

Although my mindset has since shifted back to include the “femme” part and I went out last night gloriously comfortable in a ridiculously low-cut spaghetti strap maxi dress, the dilemma of my Friday night is still with me. It’s fascinating how much clothing can identify us—and betray us. I feel slightly sheepish even writing about it, because what right have I to essentially complain about this issue when our wonderful butch counterparts know this struggle every day as opposed to one night? Turns out though that this can be a femme issue as well. Sometimes our wardrobe makes us blend in too much as opposed to standing out. And sometimes, when the femme is a bit of a blend, it can be the biggest trick of all just finding that perfect second skin.

Aug 11

Femme In/Visibility

posted by: ladybetty

When considering the topic of femme in/visibility I would say I have definitely experienced in/visibility as a queer femme in a straight world. Times that immediately come to mind include my first ever university queer party when I was the only person wearing a dress – a cute vintage frock at that, with my purple Dr Marten boots. I felt simultaneously visible as I stood out from the denim jeans and pants crowd, and invisible as my femme identity didn’t seem “queer” enough. I have been refused entry to queer venues as I must have been invisible to the bouncers, who read me as “straight”. *I don’t mean to disrespect straight folks, and I give my respect to trans* men and women who have come out and are living their lives courageously with partner/s of their choice who may be opposite sex. These experiences I am referring to I am positioning in relation to myself as a queer femme and how I am rendered visible or invisible by the gaze of others.

Invisibility can feel like rejection when my glamorous get-up renders me unseen or unrecognized by those I desire. I have felt invisible when I am dressed in high femme attire – hat, gloves, heels and a fabulous frock, and I confidently smile at a handsome butch on the street – only to have them look away or give me a puzzled stare in return.

Visibility can mean identifying and creating community, even in the most unlikely places. At a Peace Convergence in North Queensland, Australia, cooking with “Food not Bombs” for several hundred peace activists in 2007, I was identified as a “fat femme” for the first time, by a fellow Fat Femme from Canada.

However, visibility does not always mean security. Walking down the street with my lovers and having bottles and abuse hurled from cars at us because we are ‘fucking dykes”; I have learned not to take for granted my invisibility and the safety it can afford me when out in public. I can catch a train or bus without being asked, curiously or aggressively, “if I am a boy or a girl?” My in/visibility as queer means I am not often the target of threatened men who have something to prove. However, I can be the object of their desires, which is troubling in a different way. Deflecting male interest, I am told continuously “I don’t look like a lesbian”.

Homophobia, racism and sexism in society mean that being femme, queer, women, a person of colour, trans* or genderqueer we are not always safe from harm. It takes strength to resist the violence and oppression that shapes our lives. It uses resilience we have collectively when being true to ourselves. We are powerful when we are resisting a system of domination, hetero-normativity, class and cultural norms, which divide and make us the “other”. Our love is radical; even more so when it is not invisible.

I feel visible when my lover compliments me on my outfit, and observes admiringly that even my hair tie matches my clothes. I cherish her gaze. It is her words that I will remember long after a stranger’s insults have faded from memory. I am seen and desired by her, and it is that which matters most.

Aug 11

Femme in the Face of Fire: Femininity & Infantilization

posted by: Femmeonamission

Hi there, stars of the Femme Galaxy!

My name is Julia, I blog at Femme on a Mission, and I'm very excited to be writing my first post here. The title of my column is "Femme in the Face of Fire," and I will be addressing some of the challenges that face those of us who embrace femme identity.

Today I want to discuss an issue that was brought to the forefront of my attention after reading this article, written by a feminist blogger. In it, she bewails the perceived self-infantilization of women who dress femininely.

So here's the thing - the infantilization of women is definitely a problem, and it definitely happens. (Think "sexy schoolgirls.")

(via GQ) This hits all the points: doe-eyed, open mouth, lollipop, uniform, high school locker room


But I don't think it's fair to say women who wear rompers or who appreciate, to use an example from the article, "rainbows, Girl Scout cookies, and laughing a lot" are acting like little girls. (I'm not sure what it is about laughing that the author sees as either childish or feminine... It's as if she is saying, And no more fun!)

Being a woman who happens to dress femininely is not self-infantilization; it's being a woman who happens to dress femininely. Infantilization has to do with the sexualization of childhood imagery, and it seems that often the feminine is being mislabeled as childish. Contrary to the assertion of the article in question, miniskirts are not a symbol of prepubescence but a feminine style of dress.

This is infantilization:

A grown woman pictured with giant teddy bear


Not this:

A grown woman in a short pink dress.


This femininity-bashing - and particularly from a feminist perspective - is frustratingly ubiquitous. Ironically, there is something misgonynistic about conflating the feminine with the infantile. Femininity is not the same as childishness, and I resent the implication that the traditionally feminine is immature, weak, and juvenile. There is nothing inherently more "adult" about wearing a neutral-colored pant-suit instead of a pink frilly dress.

This femme is tired of defending femininity against the claims of the greater competence and maturity of the masculine or androgynous.

So listen up, femininity-bashing feminists: If you want to stop women from being infantilized, you could start by allowing them to choose what they want to wear, instead of telling them what they shouldn't.


Technorati Tags: , , ,

Aug 11

What femmes can do

posted by: ladybetty

I was having a good chat the other day with my fellow femme friend (FFF) over cups of tea and home-made baked goods. The topic came up of “doing things” and how we can use our femme ways to get things done – in her case fixing a bookshelf and in mine; getting things down off high shelves. We discussed the “90’s feminism” dictates that influenced us significantly in those formative years, and the angry feminist in our heads now judging us for being who we are and what we do. FFF said, “Well, I was just BORED fixing this shelf, and I know for other people this is fun, so why not let them do it?” I agreed. She ended up fussing with it ineffectively in front of her butch buddy who then offered to fix it for her.

I had simply looked despairingly at my flour canister on a too-high shelf and instead of dragging kitchen chairs around and standing on them I asked my (tall, male) houseguest if he wouldn’t mind reaching it down for me. Which he obligingly did.  FFF continued, “It’s like fixing my bicycle. People always say to me, don’t you want to fix it yourself? And I say – no thanks! I am happy to pay someone else to fix it because they are good at it! I am good at other things – like sewing, I am really good at sewing. Why do people value bike fixing more than baking and mending?” I completely concurred. It made me think though, about what we know and what we can do as femmes and how it is perceived and valued.

It’s like in our society there is a division of labour that values certain forms of knowledge over others. Even though I know I am better at baking that bike fixing, I still feel guilty sometimes that I can’t fix my bike, but then again, I am not sure if those bike mechanics are good bakers! We can’t be good at everything, and I think the important thing is to be proud of what we can do, and not afraid to learn new things if we want to, but know we don’t HAVE to.  So being femme is about being proud of what you can do and valuing it. That’s why its good to have friends - to remind you of this stuff and make you feel good about who you are and what you can do!

Aug 11

August Femme Writing Prompt

posted by: Tai Quyn Kulystin

Here's this month's Femme Writing Prompt! These are open to being answered by anyone. Feel free to leave your answer in the comments, on your own blog, and/or submit it to be a guest post. They will be posted at the beginning of each month and all Femme Galaxy authors and readers are highly encouraged to respond.

This month's prompt:

What is your experience (or lack thereof) with femme invisibility? What is one thing each of us can do to help end this phenomenon?

Jul 11

Tomboy Femme: Achieving Solidarity

posted by: Danni St Athens

Happy Femme Appreciation Day, femme-kin! I don’t think there could be a more perfect day to write my column for Femme Galaxy.

I couldn’t be more proud to be femme; more particularly, I couldn’t be more proud to be my brand of femme. It took quite a few years before I came to terms with exactly what kind of femme I am, so to finally be comfortable in my own skin is something I absolutely do not take for granted.

Ever since I first realized I was not straight, I have been attracted to fellow femmes. My first crush was a straight tomboy counselor at summer camp, but the first girl I ever dated—and kissed, come to think of it—was a fellow femme. It unsettled me at the time and for quite some time to come, though, because when I am with a fellow femme, I naturally fall into what I call “butchy mode.” My sashay turns into a bit more of a swagger and I find myself doing all those things we call chivalrous – opening doors, walking the girl to her front door, buying her drinks and wanting to be protective of her. (Although, are those things really chivalrous or are they just good manners? Or is there really a difference? Ahh, another article for another time..)

“Butchy mode” didn’t sit well with me for a number of years because I didn’t realize that I could be both inside the same body and inside the same mind. It felt like a suit that didn’t quite fit, that was itchy and hot and I just wanted to take it off and get into my normal comfy clothes. Turns out that itchy suit was more like a new pair of shoes that just needed to be broken in. I have reconciled that femmes can have a less-traditionally-femme side and that it doesn’t make them any less femme. In my case, it (and many other things) made me tomboy femme. Maybe it makes you tomboy femme too, or whatever term you use to embrace your own unique brand of femmeininity. Needless to say, those shoes are very comfortable now, and while I may not wear them every day, they are definitely a fixture in my collection.

The moral of the story, femme-kin, is this: appreciate who you are, not just today but every day. Don’t waste even one minute of time thinking that you are somehow inferior because you are not traditional. The concepts of “femme” and “butch” and “queer” (and… and…) in themselves are about breaking traditions and norms and embracing yourself just because you are you. So embrace it, appreciate it and celebrate it! Today is a special day, yes, but every day is a good day to celebrate being femme.

Jul 11

July Femme Writing Prompt

posted by: Tai Quyn Kulystin

Here's this month's Femme Writing Prompt! These are open to being answered by anyone. Feel free to leave your answer in the comments, on your own blog, and/or submit it to be a guest post. They will be posted at the beginning of each month and all Femme Galaxy authors and readers are highly encouraged to respond.

This month's prompt:

Tomorrow is International Femme Appreciation Day! What do you appreciate about femme/femmes/femmeininity? If you identify as femme, how would you like to be appreciated? If you don't identify as femme, how would you like to show your appreciation to femmes? What can we all do to show appreciation to people of other genders as well?

Jun 11

Beauty Rituals: Getting Ready

posted by: Tai Quyn Kulystin

While searching myself for a name for my new column on Femme Galaxy I came across this fabulous series of photographs by Zerbetron called Beauty Ritual 2010, a 365 photo project with a twist. She took the time to not only photograph herself daily, but to then record the amount of time that it took her to apply her makeup and fix her hair every day. The times range from zero minutes to over two hours depending on the day. She says:

This process, most women refer to as a "beauty ritual". An activity that women have become to adapt to. Will knowing how much of my life I spend on a superficial aspect change how I view make up and the application? We'll find out!

I was struck by the name of per project. I have never worn makeup on a regular basis before the last few months, and even now it is rare for me to put anything on my face--I prefer to stick to my eyes and lips if anywhere--so I have never used the term beauty ritual before. Because it fits so well with what I'm interested in conveying I'm happily and blatantly taking the term and using it for this column. It fits so well with what I want to talk about while also being fairly broad so that I could talk about just about anything that falls under the "beauty" category, which is fairly broad in my world. Ritual also has a very special place in my life, and it holds extra meaning for me because of that as well.

After coming across this project of hers I have also been thinking a lot about my own beauty rituals. I have products I use on a regular basis, accessories I put on, clothes I wear, activities I engage in, all of which change depending on the day and my current gender presentation, and all of which could be considered beauty aids. I love this concept for a project, and am tempted to take on something similar myself, though mine would also be focused on my genderqueer presentation and how it changes depending on the day. For a long time I've thought that a 365 photo project would be a good idea, but they also seem like a lot of work once I decide to do them.

According to dictionary.com "beauty" is defined as "the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest)." One of the definitions for ritual is "any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner," though it also can have a religious or spiritual aspect as well. Combining these creates my understanding of what a "beauty ritual" is: any repeated practice or pattern of behavior that exhibits, enhances, or creates beauty.

By using such a broad definition, and because beauty is not a tangible thing but a feeling or sense, this could be such a wide variety of things, and that's exactly what I'm interested in exploring.

Technorati Tags: ,

Jun 11

International Femme Appreciation Day

posted by: Tai Quyn Kulystin

Did you know we have our own day? I didn't! I just saw this on Facebook and thought it should be shared with all the Femme Galaxy readers! On July 2nd I'll be up in Alaska visiting my family, but I'll be sure to celebrate in some fashion or another. If nothing else I will watch Ivan Coyote's amazing love letter to femmes and think about femmeininity. How will you spend International Femme Appreciation Day? What do you think about the concept?

From the Facebook Event Page

Butch Femme Queergender celebration of Femmes!

Femmes do rock the world. The rest of us are just scrambling around trying to find a spot to stand up and be counted - to be sure they see us there.

"…Vying for her princess kerchief
"May I ride for you, m'Lady? May I ride for You, today?"

To impress her, even if it's only in our heads... 'cause we're wired that way and can't help ourselves; and we know it, can't admit it half the time, have conquered kingdoms, started wars, learned to cook (maybe not so well), given up all days off & driven miles and kilometers just to fall for moments near her eyes...

…Because femmes have this amazing power to inspire, to comfort, to tease, to hook, to care for; to freeze us in our tracks with a single smile or a fleeting sidelong glance.... We protect our own protectors when we defend our femmes.

'Cause a femme can stop time with a tiny wave, or the lightest feather touch across your arm, or the slightest tease and tug upon your tie, or, or, or….all effortless yet all powerful… A femme can make your world go bright and fill with color. And I'm convinced they even control the weather - wait and see. It'll out. ...There's a reason we say "Mother Nature," after all.

And God help you if she winks when she's across the room...the eye contact alone can kill you on the spot - though you'll think you've gone to Heaven if she lingers in that moment...

And it's all over before you even know her name.

...The way she moves, the way she smells, the way she brushes her hair and works some unknown magic with her eyes and skin...

She can turn a tarnished armored heart to softened gold and promise every sin, without the slightest seep of labor or ever losing softness, strength or stature...

...The Fire in her soul, the hearth around which the universe turns"

Kate West

Technorati Tags: ,

Jun 11

Tomboy Femme: An Introduction

posted by: Danni St Athens

Hello, my name is Danni and I am… wait for it… a femme.

Shocked? Surprised? Blown away? Yeah, me neither.

The various revelations I’ve encountered along the way to discovering my femmeninity have been various degrees of shocking for me, though. For example, figuring out that “femme” didn’t have to mean “girly” and that I was therefore not required to conform to some uncomfortable (to me) standard in order to be femme. Femmes can be girly; they can be reinvented pin-ups; they can be hipsterfemmes; they can be Fifth Avenue classic… and among an untold number of yet more ways to be femme, they can be like me: a little rough around the edges, more than a little boyish when the moment strikes and yet, despite all the little idiosyncrasies that may not fit into a traditional version of femme (if there is such a thing as “traditional” when you’re consciously fucking with the gender binary and heteronormativity), here I am in front of you: 100% femme in my 100% me way.

And so, welcome to my new column! It is said to write what one knows, and I know tomboy femme pretty well if I do say so myself. Of what exactly this column will consist month to month, I’m not quite sure! But, as with anything that has to do with gender, blogging and especially FEMMES, I am sure that it will be a fun ride.