A New Phenomenon: Femme Flight

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A New Phenomenon: Femme Flight

The Butch Voices conference... a completely amazing event, clearly such a labor of love, and from what I could tell, a landmark occasion for the butches who participated. Which was, after all, who it was meant for.

Funny, though, that it ended up being such a turning point for me in relation to this community — because of how the social dynamics went down in the same old, same old way.

There's always some butch grandstanding onstage about how amazing femmes are, to thunderous approval... yet in my experience, most of you actually treat us without any real regard. I heard a lot of y'all talk a big talk about "chivalry," but then you pushed me around in line and in the crowds, held conversations across my physical space without acknowledging me (apparently expecting me to contort myself to accommodate you), and left me to take the bus home after all was said and done. (If I'd been driving, I'd have been offering rides myself, 'cause really, none of us want to be stuck at the bus stop with odd men giving us the hairy eyeball in the middle of the night. Before you worry about heroics and chivalry, just start with the basics of looking out for each other.)

Lots of you couldn’t hold a conversation with me without assuming I wanted to sleep with you. Many of you seem to hold the belief that being a femme means being constantly sexually available to every butch, FTM and trans-masculine person in the world and their brother, as a sort of public property — this, regardless of our actual status or interest in you, and with no consideration whatsoever that some of us have a sexual orientation that precludes those of you who aren’t women.

I’m not a consolation prize you’re entitled to by virtue of how badly you’re treated by the world at large.

Many of you, when expounding on butch/femme, think it’s romantic to say that your self-concept is dependent on the way I look and the way I look at you. This doesn’t sound romantic to me anymore. It just sounds really co-dependent.

Also, a lot of you assume or imply (or, in the case of one prominent presenter, explicitly state during a talk) that as a femme I am choosing between you and men. I'm not. I'm a dyke, and I'm too tired of having to explain that to you guys, of all people. When I am choosing between a butch and someone else, the someone else is another woman. Maybe you find it more useful to continually frame the dialogue as a comparison of butches to men because of course you’ll always come out ahead in that scenario. The real comparison that I make is very different. I compare you to other women — women who are available to be touched, who don’t need me to contort myself into a caricature trophy in order to feel okay about themselves, who are just plain considerate instead of having a hero complex and calling it “chivalry;” women who are willing to receive what I want to give — who will let me take them out and treat them for dinner, who will let me pleasure them, who will give me room to enjoy being a dyke as much as they get to enjoy it.

There are plenty of women who are butch enough for me who meet this description — I'm finding that generally they don’t identify as butches or if they do, they aren’t so heavily invested in it as to be much a part of the “community.” I’m also finding myself attracted to women who aren’t butch at all, but dykey and beautiful in a completely different way. I'm dating these women and not interested in going back. I've been flipped. Femme flight! It feels like soaring! I get to feel so open with women who don't ritualize, fetishize, and invest in their hang-ups, who don’t cultivate that accompanying weird self-aggrandizement — women who don't go in for all the showmanship, apparatus, and hypocritical big talk.

In short, goodbye “butch/femme” for me. I don't want to participate anymore in this dysfunctional "dance" which always promises and never delivers. Regardless of what I look like, I'm not a femme. I'm just a dyke. So long, and thanks for helping me grow.



Comments [183]

cfishy's picture

Yes, we should.

Yeah, it's social suicide. These things have been going on for at least 1.5 decades. The only people voicing out their frustrations are the ones who have long given up. Why not? We never did belong anyway. I'm done listening to the scripts they call 'the dance.' It has become a never ending nightmare. For the most part, I see lonely, desparate people trying everything they know to feel better. They are not being very effective, and I expect better of my people. I'd rather ask the hard questions because I want my people to be strong, not forever pretending to lick each other's wounds.

deedee's picture

Loved

Reading the blog,thanks

chelilektra's picture

Thanks...

I'll be running for the hills.

 

Oh wait! I live in LA. There's no threat of butch oppression here.

 

Wink

________________________________________________________

"Bitch, what you don't know about me is that I can just about fit in the Grand fucking Canyon. Did you know that I always wanted to be a dancer in Vegas?" Silent Bob

Robin Rigby's picture

I'd stay out of the hills

I'd stay out of the hills near LA right now simply because of the threat of death or asphyxiation.  Which, come to think of it, leads to death.  

chelilektra's picture

Oh... that little thing?

Yeah. I hope it doesn't come eat my house or something. That would be (really) bad. It might even be worse than waiting for a bus.

________________________________________________________

"Bitch, what you don't know about me is that I can just about fit in the Grand fucking Canyon. Did you know that I always wanted to be a dancer in Vegas?" Silent Bob

annemarlen's picture

hallo not a big talk but

hallo not a big talk but a "guad nächtle" as for me its def. time to get asleep.  See ya tomorrow.

love is a pebble laughing in the sun

Robin Rigby's picture

How You Doin'?

Just wanted to say L.H.R. that being just who you are without feeling the need to put a label on it, and treating other people with respect regardless of who they are/how they label themselves, is awesome and sexy.  

L.H.R.'s picture

re: How You Doin'?

Robin,

 

Awww, thanks...that is sweet. I'm blushing.

Robin Rigby's picture

You are very welcome. Just

You are very welcome.

Just in case you were wondering the Joey Tribiani reference was purposeful. Thought a little machismo would be ironically funny.

L.H.R.'s picture

re: How You Doin'?

I was picking up what you were laying down, even though it's the inter-webs.

annemarlen's picture

ouch

I knew, butch isnt' the coolest option.

p.s. what the heck is a Ghost Dad clip art?

 

love is a pebble laughing in the sun

Robin Rigby's picture

"Ghost Dad" is a film

"Ghost Dad" is a film starring Bill Cosby.  He's a ghost who hasn't passed on and continues to take care of his kids.  At least that's what I gleaned from the trailers when the film was released.

Professor C's picture

a lifelong dream

One day, i WILL adapt this for the stage.

http://www.impawards.com/1990/posters/ghost_dad_ver1.jpg

annemarlen's picture

forbidden??

professore, i can't follow you, "don't have permission to access".

love is a pebble laughing in the sun

Not2Taem's picture

Forbidden Clip

Prof, you tease! Offering us forbidden fruit.  Evil

annemarlen's picture

ah

so let's wait for her adapting it on a stage.

love is a pebble laughing in the sun

Not2Taem's picture

group support

We can all go en mass and lend our support.  Wink

cfishy's picture

Agreed

Agreed. I have learned to shut up about any of this gender talk because it's a sure way to get hammered by both sides. However, after decades of these, I do have much more to converse, if you or anyone have the rational calmness to talk about it, do let me know.

minniesota's picture

Not my social dynamics

I'm sorry for your experience, L.H.R.  I'm someone who identifies as a butch but am attracted to a spectrum of types, including other butches. In other words, I am who I am and who I am is complex. Also, as Rusty suggested in her comment, the kind of behavior that you described is not something that I'm used to seeing in my social circle.

~Best, Uncle Mins

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Not2Taem's picture

BBC

Brilliantly and Beautifully Complex

Love Tae

L.H.R.'s picture

Not my social dynamics

Hey Uncle Mins,

Thanks for the note--I know, I'm sorry I couldn't find a good way to acknowledge that not all butches are just into femmes, etc...it ultimately felt too tangential to the immediate point to get into all of that, but I hear you, and of course want to recognize that complexity (and my broad-strokes over-generalizations) in the spirit of being considerate to others as I want them to be to me.

For the record, these aren't the dynamics in my social circle either--none of my friends, butch or not, would ever act this way. Probably lack of constant exposure to this sort of thing was part of why I was so incredulous that I went home and wrote about it.

Disrespect like this just tends to have been my experience over the years at these kinds of specific butch/femme events, and amongst many of the people who most loudly claim those labels and most publicly represent them.

Not2Taem's picture

Compacted emotion

I have found that at large community specific events, the emotional and affective responses of any group will be heightened. Go to a conference for Special Ed teachers and you are likely to get  nurtured and accommodated to death. After a couple of days, it starts to feel like they just assume that you are incapable of independence.

Ever spent a long weekend at a retreat populated with die hard feminists? Talk about Estrogen! Absolutely fab in the beginning. But boy (OOPS!) did I feel for the gal who uttered, "Oh man!" 

And if you really want a theatrically sexually charged atmosphere, and a hell of a lot of fun >) >-) Evil check out IDKE. Just be prepared for the fact that many folks will keep their stage persona on all weekend, and they will hit on you. Though I have never found it offensive or had any problem with folks understanding the meaning of No, thank you. Or yes, please!  Wink

Having experienced the compacted emotional charge of a wide variety of communities, I found your blog easy to relate to. Though I will intentionally place myself at the hub of all communities when they reconvene. And love it!

Tex's picture

LHR, I'm with ya!

I am totally with you on this one. In fact, I have experienced pretty much the same thing as you. I also said to heck with it which actually was the best thing I ever did in my life - I started being me. I don't fit into any one lesbian category - neither femme or butch. I do not fall into either end of the spectrum; therefore, it is hard to tell which way my door is swinging. And in this world that is not a good thing. Not a good thing if you're out with a gaggle of lezzies and the both of you are trying to identify. I call myself an everyday lesbian - I can get in touch with my feminine side just as comfortably as my masculine. I have been judged harshly - told I wasn't a true lesbian, told I had to conform, told I had to decide, told I had to choose. When I finally threw up my hands and hollered horse hockey all things fell into place for me. I stopped making the attempts to make it happen - forcing it to happen. Since then all has been right in my world. I find myself getting to know someone for who they are and not who they perceive themselves or me to be....I roll well!

As for your experience, I am sorry for the rudeness. In most cases, that is simply (for a better word) the root of it all. There are more and more rude, narcissistic people in our world - multiplying daily at an alarming rate. I am going to stand with your encounters as being purely happenstance, and not a true dissection of us all.

Give me a call the next time you're going to a conference - we can run point for each other!

Nothing but love,

Tex

Twitter Time @kdhales

Julia Watson's picture

"True lesbian"

Texy, it seems like no matter where you fit in on the gender spectrum of ladyfriend queerness, there are always going to be folks trying to police who is and isn't lesbian enough. At the last lesbo house party I went to this girl was flirting with me, but when she found out that I was A) unavailable and B) into butch women, she dismissed me and my sexuality altogether with, and I quote, "Oh. You want to be with a man."

It'd be nice if more folks from our tribe would just give each other room to be queer in whichever way each of us sees fit.

 

Not2Taem's picture

Hecky!

Knowing that you're thoroughly unavailable hasn't slowed my flirtation down. I just keep one eye scouting for sweet CT.  Wink

SMBrown's picture

Just women in general?

Julia, having spent a fair bit of time in the het world, I would also offer that the concept of a woman not being ' _____(fill-in-the blank) enough' is pervasive, I just think we feel it more acutely because our gayborhood is smaller.  If we look around our culture, women are generally harder on other women than anyone else.  And although we know much of this is in response to the ruling patriarchy, that doesn't make women any less culpable in my book.  

Unfortunately, for me, this blog is problematic because although it purportedly sets out to liberate us from confining labels and stereotypes it ends up reinforcing a few regarding butches and butch-femme relationships, based on a singular experience (the conference).  I think lesbians need to be cognizant that the 'no labels' mantra can be just as dogmatic for those whose identities and relationships DO fall within certain recognized categories.  Whilst my own gender/sexuality has never neatly fit into a defined 'type,' I don't begrudge others their right to self-label or identify--as long as they don't insist on pegging me.  And I disagree with the notion that recognizing subsets within our community is necessarily divisive.  Seeing difference, in my opinion, can lead to a deeper understanding of who we all are as individuals, thereby enriching us, and does not preclude us from coming together for a shared agenda when necessary.  

(Edit:  Julia, sorry, I probably should have put the second paragraph in a separate post, since it's not really in direct response to your comment, though it does kind of expand upon your last sentence...)

L.H.R.'s picture

Hi Mystics, I'm a little

Hi Mystics,

I'm a little confused. I'm not advocating "no labels" or saying that recognizing subsets is divisive--because I, like you, think our differences are a source of richness. "No labels" actually makes me feel crazy, personally. I don't know where you saw that in my post.

I'm certainly not telling anyone else what to be or call themselves. I'm just changing my label from "femme" to plain old "dyke."

Regardless, this whole thing is served on wry with more than a grain of salt, because I'll get read as a femme no matter what I do or don't call myself.

SMBrown's picture

Sorry for the confusion

LHR, sorry for the confusion.  My comment about recognizing subsets was not in direct response to this blog, but in dialogue with some of the comments--here, and on other recent blogs about butch-femme--where people have bemoaned labels and distinctions in our community as being inherently divisive.  Glad to hear you 'think our differences are a source of richness.'  

As for the 'no labels' comment, again, this was probably more in response to other commenters than to your words, though I suppose I did interpret your flight and choice to now identify as simply 'a dyke' as an implicit (though perhaps unintended) judgment of those still participating in the 'dysfunctional dance' you've left behind.  

Thanks for eliciting such a spirited discussion!  

Julia Watson's picture

Thanks for your thoughtful

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Mysty. I've been rolling this blog around in my head for the last day, trying to figure out exactly what I think about it and I have a different read than yours. I don't think the author's intent was "to liberate us from confining labels and stereotypes." I just read it as one woman recounting her own experience and offering a critique of her own culture based on that, rather than setting out to change the way anyone else identifies. I do think that in venting about this stuff, LHR points out some important and unfortunate trends in the way some butch-identitied individuals regard and treat femmes, but too, I read her as speaking only to a specific set of folks rather than tarring all butches with the same brush.

I have definitely come across a few dysfunctional, machismo-ridden, femme-patronizing butches in my day, but in my community they have been the odd exceptions, not the rule. If it were not for LHR's opening paragraph acknowledging the importance of the event and what it must have meant for the butches who attended the conference to be somewhere for a couple of days where they surrounded by folks who walk in their shoes day in and day out, I might have bristled more than I did at reading the scathing words that followed. Too, if not for that, I may have taken her closing line, "So long, and thanks for helping me grow" as snark instead of a sincere acknowledgement of where she's at in terms of her identity and how she has arrived there. But taken on the whole, I don't see the intent of this blog as her setting out to disrespect butch/femme or the majority of folks who participate within it.

Ultimately, I think LHR's critique of butch/femme is an important one, and that she's brave for wading into this stuff here of all places, with our sentitivies about these issues fanned even higher than usual of late.   Smile

And as for what you said, Mysty: "I disagree with the notion that recognizing subsets within our community is necessarily divisive.  Seeing difference, in my opinion, can lead to a deeper understanding of who we all are as individuals, thereby enriching us, and does not preclude us from coming together for a shared agenda when necessary."

I agree whole-heartedly and this is a point that I have been trying to make again and again here on VP. As I read your post I was chuckling to myself because while I identify as femme, who I am doesn't always "neatly fit" what I see reflected around me in others as femme identity. For a long time I didn't embrace being femme because I felt like I wasn't "femme enough." I still have those fears in the back of my brain sometimes, but I get now that they're dumb. It sounds like there was considerable emphasis at the BV conference to allow room for folks to embrace butch identity in whatever way, shape or form works for them, and that is something that I want to give the organizers major props for. I think some folks (whether they identify somewhere within the spectrum of b/f or not) get caught up in the idea of these identities as labels/ideals/rigid categories which must be conformed to when, from where I sit, I and so many of the butches and other femmes that I know are engaged every day in making the "labels" conform to US rather than the other way around. I think that's just as it should be.

Signed,

Julia Watson, Chapstick Femme  Wink

SMBrown's picture

Flight factor

Jules (Miss Chappy?), thank YOU for your thoughtful (and well-articulated) comment.  I went back and re-read the blog with your interpretation of it as 'one woman recounting her own experience and offering a critique of her own culture based on that, rather than setting out to change the way anyone else identifies' in mind.  I have to say I found your interpretation to be somewhat more nuanced than the blog itself--which is not a swipe at the author, because nuance would not necessarily have provoked the spirited discussion we're all having here, for which I'm grateful.  

My rational brain 'gets' what you're saying about one woman, one experience, but I still have a visceral recoil coming from my gut. Why? I think it has to do with the 'flight' factor of the title.  Despite the author saying at one point that flight feels like 'soaring,' I think the emphasis throughout the blog is in the negative, i.e. flight FROM someone or something, rather than flight TO--which, for me, aligns 'femme flight' with other negative migrations like 'white flight.'  Consequently, there's still an inherent 'diss-factor' and stereotyping that no amount of qualifying signifiers like 'some' or 'many' (as distinct from 'all') can dispel--for me.

p.s. LOVE your notion of making labels 'conform to US rather than the other way around.'   Smile

Tex's picture

Yes indeedy...

If a tube of the lip elixir is not in your pocket, purse, bag, bra, sock, or hanging from your person by a 'biner, rethink lesbianhood! Gotta keep the smoochers and smoochees happy!

Twitter Time @kdhales

Not2Taem's picture

Burt's Bees!

Good for all manner (or womaner) of things.  Wink

Tex's picture

Smooch!

Lesbian enough! I never ever dreamed there would be degrees of lesbian, did you?

Sorry for your rude encounter also - some people deal with rejection horribly!  Wink

Hope higher ed is going well - feeling all idealistic?

Twitter Time @kdhales

Julia Watson's picture

And here I was always hoping

And here I was always hoping for more than six degrees of lesbian separation...

Ha! Higher ed doesn't start for another couple of weeks, but I finally succeeded in taming my new kitchen and made CaramelTeddy dinner in our new place for the first time tonight. It could just be the warm, gooey brownies and red wine talking, but I am indeed feeling idealistic.

Not2Taem's picture

Glad to hear

things are warm and gooey in your new home.  Big smile

Tex's picture

First meal

included gooey brownies and red wine?! Jules, you have it all figured out.....big smooch to the both of ya's!

Twitter Time @kdhales

Robin Rigby's picture

Apparently, per Julia's

Apparently, per Julia's Facebook status updates, dinner also included a pasta recipe that I gave her (after making it for her) that may very well be the best pasta dish you've ever tasted.  I guarantee seduction success if you cook it for a woman. 

lucia_2008's picture

Very good post...

I have felt the same way in the past.  Although I don't categorize myself as femme or butch, just me.  One display of a butch and femme couple that has always amazed me, the butch looking so dapper and over confident and displaying their femme catch, as you stated, a trophy. The femme acting as though she has the best sugar daddy in town. That just cracks me up everytime.

What makes me smile is two women who are together and looking very happy to be together and no theatrics.

This is just IMHO....I am not an expert.

Smile...life is good!!!

Lake's picture

What's the title for ....

loving the Va-Jay-Jay???  That's what I am!!!!  Wink

Lake

Not2Taem's picture

I just call it

Tae  Glasses

Robin Rigby's picture

And I call it- Me.

And I call it- Me.

 

Edit: Not meaning me, Robin but meaning me, whoever you are.  As in go ahead and embrace the 'label'.  I wasn't trying to upstage Tae and it occurred to me late last night that it might have come off that way.

Not2Taem's picture

Drying my tears

Why thank you, Robin for your apology. You know what a sensitive little flower I am. Shy

Why, I hardly slept a wink last night thinking about you one upping me on the VJ action. Tired

Robin Rigby's picture

Smart Ass

Smile

Not2Taem's picture

On your mind, much?

First its the tits, and now my ass. Just can't get me out of your head, can ya?  Evil

Robin Rigby's picture

Who could?

Who could?

Not2Taem's picture

Aw...

Shy

Rusty's picture

Yea, but

I don't doubt for a minute that you were disrespected as you described, but I'm wondering if conference-attending butches represent all butches. In other words, does a specific type of butch attend workshops, excessively process (my term) what it means to be butch, etc.? Your description doesn't fit me or any of the butches I hang out with so I'm trying to figure out where the disconnect comes from.

Thanks for your perspective and I hope we can all discuss this without going batshit crazy on the writer or each other.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

cfishy's picture

selection process

None of the butches I befriended in the bay area went, as far as I know. Sitting around and talking/processing/sharing about emotions for all to see, especially a whole lotta femmes...  just isn't my thing. I guess I can understand the appeal for someone newly out as butch.

I thought the workshop on being a lone wolf is rather comical/oxymoron.

L.H.R.'s picture

Hey cfishy, I know what you

Hey cfishy,

I know what you mean--my friends weren't at all interested either. I also thought it was a little awkward that non-butch-identified people were allowed into all of the workshops (Personally, I would've felt intrusive in most of them--I chose pretty carefully which things I participated in.)

 

I had the same kinds of reservations my friends had, given prior exposure to this sort of scene, but...having gone through a queer childhood and adolescence where I completely starved for just the sight of another gay person, I got very compelled by the fact that, just across town, in my city, a large group of dykes and queers were congregating. That's a magical thing. I can't take us for granted. There is always something incredible for me in the simple experience of looking out into crowds of us. It only makes me more vulnerable to the disappointments, though...

cfishy's picture

We all knew that lots of

We all knew that lots of femmes would show up. The desire to connect is fundamental to femininity. To some butches, the notion of being a butch just isn't complete without femmes, so they don't mind. hence the scripts and the role playing. etc. To me, it's gone from a harmless fun to false expectations that I'd rather not deal with.

Generally, femmes dare not ask real questions, as if butches are going to crumble in response. I'd rather not be treated like one of the overall 'handicap' class who burst into tears every time people ask questions - that's just not my thing. And it pisses me off when people, most commonly femmes, treat me like I'm made of tears. It's degrading.

Hate to say it like it is. In my mind, femmes who go to BV are probably also selected; the same ones who treat us like babies. In return, butches tell them how beautiful they are and it all turns into a big orgy of how much they appreciate each other etc etc.

Look. If you really appreciate someone, you don't treat them like babies or trophies. Showering butches with admirations will not prevent them from transitioning - it only delays the process. Femmes do not make butches, and they certainly won't break them with honesty.