Do I even have any femme role models? I feel guilty for thinking that because there were plenty of feminine women in my life, but I don't think that any of them had femme politics and values. They certainly weren't queer, although I've wondered about Gram for awhile now. Grandma is really "something" as we say in the South. She's strong. She asked me to help her carry a huge rock down the hill to a rock garden. It probably weighed 50 pounds and it was an awkward shape, The next day I was in horrible pain and she was fine!
She eats like a bird and is so slender. I remember sleeping over sometimes on Saturdays at my grandparent's house. In the morning we would get dressed for church together. This is when I was probably somewhere between 5-8 years old. I remember watching her put on her makeup, so proficient... proficient, or not too worried about it being perfect. Some kind of necklace, often pearls. I love pearls passionately. Perfume. Even on days that she would wear pants, she still looked amazing and feminine. Of course, this my gram. Of course I think she's amazing and beautiful! She usually still mows her own grass although she's now in her mid 70s and although she puts on her gardening gloves and digs around in the dirt, she does so with such a grace and poise. She's also the type of gal who does not suffer fools or put up with any kind of bullshit. Isn't that one definition of femme? She can go about her normal activities, even stereotypically masculine activities, maintaining her feminine strength. I would like to think that I am something like her. I'm not thin like she is, I don't believe that I have as much poise as she has cultivated throughout her life, I'm not as physically strong as she is right now. But in our femmeness and attitude and all the ways in which she and I interact with the world, our similarities come to light.
She's also super crafty and an excellent cook just like me! She has crocheted countless afghans and blankets, and became quite an accomplished seamstress. Her recipes in my cookbook have frequently watered the mouths of friends and visitors to my home who raise up a chorus of moans upon tasting her culinary masterpieces. Even the easiest, least complicated recipes have become favorites that friends have begged me to make over and over again. I need to visit her...
Beyond Grandma as a role model for my feminine appearance, my queer femme politics were informed mostly by books, articles, blogs and a film. When I first thought I might be femme, I bought almost every book I could find on the internet about femme. And butch. And butch/femme. Some of it was erotica, some of it was gender and queer theory, but all of it resonated with me and I devoured them each one as soon as it arrived on my doorstep. The books didn't tell me how to be femme, but they described how other people do femme. They echoed back to me my motives, values, desires as if the authors meant to describe me specifically. The film If These Walls Could Talk 2 (has anyone seen IFWCT1??) showed me femme and butch in a new way too. The second act about lesbian feminists in the early 70s. Chloë Sevigny as "Amy" melted my heart away with her butch smirk and swagger. I identified so much with Michelle Williams' character, "Linda" because in the moment that this film captures she is just figuring out how to relate to butch oriented people... Linda may not know it, but I think she is also starting to allow her herself to be femme. That's where I was four years ago.
I don't mean to make all this sound like femmes are dependent on butches for their identity, or that butch and femme are inextricably intertwined, but they certainly have a shared history. For me, however, being femme has a LOT to do with loving butches; more specifically, loving butch and genderqueer tops (and ftm tops but that's a topic for an entirely different post). I absolutely love to please them by acknowledging their masculinity through my submissive and feminine behavior. They affirm me as a submissive femme in the way that they offer their chivalry. Truthfully, it was learning everything I felt I could possibly learn about butches from books and blogs and Sinclair and my butch-ish friends that stirred my femme spirit up and out of my being. Pair that with my degree in Women's Studies and just like magic, you've got a queer femme.
I guess I answered my own question, huh. Gram taught me how to be feminine, butches (tops) taught me how to be a (submissive) femme and women's studies brought it all together, making me a lesbian feminist queer femme (politics + sexual identity).
Which is another topic for another post: lesbian being my politics not my sexual identity.
Femme Conference has been rocking my world and blowing my mind and all that good stuff, so I'm hoping this didn't come out like stream of consciousness. If it did, I hope that you enjoyed the ride.