What you fear you will become…

28 11 2010

“…our patriarchy is so elegantly engineered that women themselves voluntarily do much of the dirty work of oppression, so greatly do they enjoy and freely choose dudecentricity as the logical conclusion of their natural-born femininity. Many Western women hardly need more than the occasional implied threat to keep them on their little painted toes…”

Patriarchy on autopilot

I think the above refers to straight Western women and how they sometimes ‘choose’ oppression, hardly even realising it. But I wonder if there’s more to it  than that…

Why is it that butch dykes often cultivate the walk, the talk and the style of men? And why does male fashion so often dictate butch fashion as well? That is, pants, long sleeved shirts, boots…

If we reject the male and the masculine in all its forms, (do we?) why do we still slavishly acquire all the trappings and accessories of outward masculine appearance?

And it isn’t always just the outward that we acquire. Butch women often manifest many of the controlling behaviours, sexist attitudes and perceptions that men hold towards women in general. Exactly which man becomes a role model is often unclear, or why, but that the model is masculine is beyond doubt.

So why do so many lesbians occupying different positions on the scale of butchness so often feel the need to mimic male behaviours, while frequently claiming to reject the entire male species at many levels? Is this about comfort? Convenience? Or the seizing of a model that is obviously freer, more liberated and comfortable with itself than the one we are born into? Are we simply trying to trade places?

If we as lesbians reject so many male values and behaviours – an entire system of patriarchal oppression in fact – (one which is more apparent and obvious in our region than most), why then are we driven to ape that which we reject?

Do we even see what we are doing and how we buy into the masculine role model all the time?

Oppression elegantly engineered, indeed…





And everything in between

8 03 2010

“Butches are known by their appearance, femmes by their choices.” Joan Nestle

I like girls. The experts around me sometimes tell me I am a butch dyke. I intensely dislike being told who I am and what my own little personal definition is going to be. I am extremely wary of being defined at all but writing this forces me to look at this matter of identity.

I am not very keen on anything that categorises people although I know it is inevitable. (Virtually every choice in life puts one into some demographic or the other after all). But I don’t think that the relief of conformity that comes with embracing these groupings is worth the blocking of other information that goes with that decision…like evangelical christians and gay people, who often seem to have so much in common – we tend to interact with our own groups almost exclusively and so continuously reinforce what we already choose to believe and feel. I do not choose the titles of butch or femme or any other for myself. But I do see that people very consciously choose and need religion and other groupings to belong to and that they may also need the reassurance of clear definitions of identity in their lives.

Years ago, I have to admit to doing my share of clomping around in Doc Martens, jeans and shirts in the fiery heat of Colombo, simply to broadcast the point that I was a dyke and I would dress as I pleased. But now I really don’t care about any of the accessories, for myself or for others. I like girls…femme, butch, whatever they choose to call themselves. But I like them for their characters, their humor, their strength and their tenderness to me. I am attracted to butch girls’ androgyny and the huge energy they have, which I do not possess myself. I am also attracted to femme girls’ knowledge of their own power, their lack of need to explain themselves and their desire for butch girls. It is these things that I love, not their definitions of themselves.

Here are some generalizations of my very own. Butch girls are sometimes thorny, controlling and insecure. They are also competent, logical and sometimes dearly loved in the mainstream world where they could have close male friends. They are resilient, having spent lots of time trying to lure girls into bed and have a good sense of humor from learning to handle rejection since they were ten.

Butch girls are usually strong and are frequently into competitive sports. They are ferociously attached to their personal fashion choices and wear their pants and shoes and hair like weapons against a hostile world. Since they are visibly different, they have to fight harder.

Femme girls are delightful. They are quite aware of their massive power which they are capable of using quite ruthlessly when necessary. They also possess the softest hearts and can be persuaded into the wildest activities, sexual and otherwise, by smart butches. Since they do not have to deal with the battle against the mainstream world as much as butch girls do, femme girls are often more relaxed about themselves and their choices. But this also means they are not always forced to think too deeply about these choices and what they imply. Femme girls are usually gorgeous and funny and in many ways are quite like straight girls, except that they are fatally attractive to butch girls and they know it.

Femmes are perhaps best described as lesbian, bisexual, and queer women whose manner and style falls along the lines of what is traditionally considered feminine. Whereas butches are sometimes accused of trying to be men, femmes are sometimes accused -by other lesbians -of donning accoutrements of traditional femininity to pass as straight in the mainstream world. Actually, however, femme lesbians subvert prescribed sexual and gender roles by co-opting conventional ‘womanly’ traits to indicate their attraction to other women.

(http://www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/butch_femme_ssh.html)

This may not always be true in real life but it is a revolutionary idea so I like it.

And then there’s all that lies between…the soft butch girls sexy in short skirts, the strong femme girls in charge of their lives – and all the physical and emotional characteristics that we lesbians exchange and share. And in the end I don’t think there is any final definition of femme or butch that covers it all anyway. How could there be?