This post comes to you by Christine Bylund of Words and Flesh, also on twitter as @kittinvittamin, who responded to our August Writing Prompt. We love to feature guest posts and if you have a post you would like to see here don't hesitate to contact us (femmesguide AT gmail.com).
I thought this would be tricky, that I would only come up with femmes of fiction when trying to find a femme role model. There was also a pressure of uniqueness that hindered me from expressing myself at first There have been a couple of drafts of this until I realized that sometimes what we try to find far away we can only find if we look closely.
My femme role model could have been Minnie Mouse or some Victorian outspoken woman of choice. But it is the first person that ever taught me what fighting was, and art, and hair dye. Her name is G and she is a visual artist. Last year she turned seventy and I held a speech at her party. My dress looked good, my pearls looked good, my red curls were vibrant, and she looked good too. Her jewelry shone, her bright red fringe glowed, and her eyeliner was perfectly applied in ways I could never have been able to…
She had told my mother this story when I was still a little girl a girl madly in love with all things light pink and purple, of Piglet in Winnie the Pooh and staging complex relationship intrigues with my Barbies. My mother told the story to me later, it was as if G had known, that I would face what she had already. All life lived crippled is hard, all life lived cripfemme even more so, so my mother told me, when I had transferred the pink in my wardrobe to red and black…
G had gone for her first driving lesson. Of course in her electric wheelchair and of course with a PA with her, and the driving instructor had said…
“Who did your make up?”
“I did it myself” she said,” I am an artist!”
Slowly he had closed his mouth and mumbled
“Then I am sure this will be no problem for you…”
You see, for me the way her spasmodic hands draw a perfect pitch black line on the top of her eyelids is resistance. The way she insists on dying her hair and wearing heels with her wheels is bravery. And she taught me to always look to other shores, to never be satisfied and to practice, practice, practice…
…not so much at walking straight or shedding my crutches and walkers, but at drawing straight pitch black lines under my eyes and making little kicks in the corners of them, so that I would look like a cat. She taught me that nothing is impossible - not even the rows and rows of buttons on my favorite high neck blouses - and if they are, ask others to do them up. A crip appearance is not dull by default and cripfemme femme-ininity is as much of a mind-fuck as you ever want it to be.
I think of her in whatever I do, she taught me the art of observing, noting and using what happened around me to create other worlds than this one. She inspired me to think consciously of my body and my appearance, and how it affects me and others.
She taught me that intellectual fierceness and appreciations for all things pretty can and shall be combined. She taught me to make way for others, as she made way for me.
I don’t know if she would see herself as cripfemme, but she was my first ever notion of what that could be at all. That crip didn’t have to be about sweatpants and monotonic exercise in smelly gyms, but it could be about exhibitions and color-schemes, and the force of fantasies.
I hope I will make way for little shivering Piglet-like crip girls, like she made way for me. I hope one day mothers and fathers will tell their kids stories of resistance about me.
It is not only for myself that I fight to crush assumptions of all things femme and crip and girlie. It is because she made a path for me, plowed it up with her electric wheelchair and I must scrape it ripe again with my own stiff steps so that little cripfemmelets can trot happily after me.
Thank you G, for showing me that disability never hindered you, for always wearing that over the top green eye shadow and that madly red hair. When I grow older I hope I will be like you and the lime light will glisten in the chrome of my walker and my eyeliner lines will be even and straight.
Thank you for teaching me how to fight. All art is fighting, all fighting is life.