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Old 10-12-2011, 09:14 AM   #1
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Default Butch/Femme Dynamic vs "Masculinity" and "Femininity"

I know that similar topics have been created in discussed on BFP and on the dash site before, but I'm hoping to take it a bit further than it usually goes. My desire to create this topic stems from the fact that often when I hear, read or participate in discussions on masculinity/femininity in the LGBTQ community (and specifically within the B/F community), there is frequently a lack in logical coherency as far as defining the words and their place within our diverse community. Do we even need these words, or should be creating our own language?

The issue, for me, stems from the actual definitions of "masculine" and "feminine," not only in the English language, but in French (masculin vs. féminin), German (maskulin/männlich vs. feminin/weiblich) and other languages where both as far as grammar and traditional use, both refer to two sexes and two gender identities, with one sexuality in mind. For example, in French masculin tends to refer more directly to the cissexed male than to a set of characteristics, with "le sexe masculin" also referring to the penis (translating to something like the masculine/male sex organ).

If we go further into the actual etymology of the words masculus and masculinus (the origin of our masculine) the former quite literally means man or male, while the latter means that possessed by a man.

Hence we have the creation of "manly/masculine" qualities, which are the "natural" qualities possessed by a man (bravery, physical strength, virility, honour appropriate to men etc.), and today we translate this into masculine = sports, strength, aggressiveness, promiscuity, virility etc.

I guess the place where I come to an issue is where we speak of anyone who is not a cissexed male as "masculine." Here I am including butch women, third gender butches, male identified butches, trans butches, transmen and so on. People may jump on me now and say that I am denying the identity of these identities. That they identify however they like. Please, before you jump on me for this, understand that I agree with you 100%. Anyone can identify however they like, and I will not think lesser of them nor will I try to deny their identity in my interactions with them. In fact, part of the reason I raise this question is because of my own identity, and the questions I cannot help but ask myself about my own identity.

When I first began identifying as butch I always took my own masculinity for granted and as natural fact. I based on my interests and personal appearance: my love of sports, the way I dressed, the way I communicated and generally things that are attributed to the men. However, I ask myself why these things need to be masculine at all. Why do sports need to be a male domain? Hope Solo was being discussed in another section, and how in the dance show she's in, the judges criticized her walk as too "manly." There is so much wrong with that on so many levels, but there is also the issue of why Hope Solo needs to be masculine or feminine? If she is an athlete, does she need to be "masculine"? Does she need to be "feminine"? Can she not just be an athlete without having to justify gender identity/characteristics?

As far as my own identity, over time I tacked on other identities I felt resonated with me or served some purpose as far as how I identified; stone, male identified, transguy/just plain trans. Yet as I developed my identity in order to further come to understand myself, I also began to feel the need to drop the "masculine" assumption surrounding my butch/trans identity. Especially now as I've come to see my physical sex (both as far as the body's sex characteristics and the brain's physical sex characteristics) as distinctly a trans sex, rather than a "masculine" or "feminine" sex. I'll come back to this later.

So when people talk about butches as masculine and femmes as feminine, I would really like to know what the means in concrete terms. What does it mean? What characteristics need to present in order for a butch or femme to be "masculine" or "feminine"? I've frequently heard people talk about "masculine energy," and when pressed it seems that "masculine energy" can be exactly the same as "feminine energy" (especially given the presence of strong and aggressive women within the LGBTQ community and beyond), but on a woman. Yet what defines this energy? I guess I've come to see the definition of "masculine/feminine energy" as flimsy, for me.

And what about "feminine" gay men? If the etymology of masculine and feminine are that which pertain to two sexes, then is a gay man who identifies as a man really feminine? Is his own way of being a man his own form of masculinity, if masculinity is all characteristics which pertain to a cissexed man?

And if we take on this subjective approach to the definitions of "masculine" and "feminine," then how can either word be accurately used as a descriptive term? If "masculine" means one thing to one person, and "feminine" another thing to another person, then how can we use these words to describe another person's features or our own? It loses any kind of common meaning. This isn't to say that all words need to have precisely the same meaning for everyone, however, in order for language to function we do need it to at least have something in common.

Additionally, if we take the traditional definitions of "masculine" and "feminine" and recreate them so that they extend to all features which a man or woman possesses, then what happens to trans people? What happens to intersexed people? What happens to genderless, gender neutral or gender fluid people? What happens when these people participate in the butch/femme dynamic, if we see butch as strictly a masculine entity and femme as a strictly feminine entity.

The above is where I get back to talking about my own thoughts and changing perspective on the butch/femme dynamic. If the origin of "masculine" is that which pertains to men or cissexed males, then is it not a denial of many butch's identities to refer to them as "masculine"? That use of the word "masculine" and its reference to butches seems to ride off the heterosexist assumption that queer identities (and in this case, butch/femme identities) are mimicking heteronormative and cissexist presumptions of gender. That butches and gender-variant AFAB identities are just "trying to be men." Evidently, this is completely false. No queer identity, nor gender-variant identity is an imitation of heterosexual or cissexed normalized identities. Yet I feel that we often play into it, and are we not doing ourselves a disservice by using the word "masculine" to describe woman identities, or identities that vary from cissexed male identities?

On the other hand, I also feel that the reclaiming of "feminine" by many queer women, and particularly queer femmes is something that I feel good about. For too long, "feminine" and "what pertains to women" has been far too caught up with what heteronormative society has made it.

But conversely, does feminine always mean "all characteristics pertaining to women"? If so, where does this leave woman-identified butches who don't feel that the word "feminine" defines them or who they are? So feminine is also a bit problematic as it pertains to woman/female identities.

I guess the problem I see with all my general "musings" on the subject is wondering where that leaves my thoughts on the butch/femme dynamic. Evidently, I am attracted to femmes, but because I now run into the problem of "feminine" not describing all women (even in the wake of a movement that is retaking the word "feminine" so that no woman and what she does is negated, which is good step, imo), I question how I explain my attractions. Am I attracted to femmes because they are "feminine" or because they are queer femmes with their own characteristics outside of the traditionally defined "feminine"? There is also the issue of not all femmes using the term "feminine" to describe themselves. Which I think is cool and perfectly fine.

So where does that leave our dynamic? Do we need the words "masculine" and "feminine" to define our dynamic? Can the words "butch" and "femme" not only take the place of "masculine" and "feminine" in the way we navigate language and how we describe ourselves, but become "labels" that are limitless as far as who and what they define? Labels separate from conventional gender terms? I feel that that is the approach many queer folks have taken to "masculine" and "feminine," but it always seems to backfire. So do we really need these terms?

Is our dynamic entering a new age where it no longer needs strict definition in order to justify attraction? Is it really the "masculinity" or "femininity" that we are attracted to, or the "femmeness" or "butchness" (or something entirely different) of an individual?

I'm not sure I've expressed exactly what I want and in the way I want, but there it is.
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Old 10-12-2011, 09:50 AM   #2
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Question Thinking outloud

As a femme who is non tafiditional when it comes to binary terms I as a person who's gender is Femme and encompasses both feminine and masculine traits find that until binary language is broken down and people stop putting expectations based on gender presentation a hierarchy will always be valued more when masculine is reiterated. If we're talking hook up specific then somehow Femme, Butch, Guy, Girl, Boy Man have to be viewed as equal on the value scale and once again I say this that the binary hetrenormative expectations of what is feminine / masculine are erased it is then that fluidity and non gender confirmation will be accepted. If we're talking dating I have to say it's ridiculously hard to date because a Femme has to be like..

XYZ pink rainbows glitter farts and all, same goes for butches/guys/boys gawd forbid they have 2.3oz of swish or like penetration value drops.
I hope I made sense:/
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Old 10-12-2011, 10:53 AM   #3
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Interesting post, EnderD. There's a lot there and I will need to chew on it some before I can respond more thoroughly but here are a few thoughts off the top of my head.

While it is interesting to look at the etymology of the words masculine or feminine, I don't think we need to feel too strictly constrained by original meanings. Language evolves as society evolves. Our culture is not the same as it was centuries ago so it is no surprise that our language needs to change along with it to reflect new realities and new understandings.

I don't see masculine and feminine as highly precise words and they depend on cultural context (which is going to be frustrating to someone trying to come up with a concrete definition). They get us in the neighborhood but they aren't by themselves going to get us to the very doorstep of someone's identity.

Finally, labels that are truly limitless are also labels that are useless. If it can include anything then it tells us nothing.
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Old 10-12-2011, 11:30 AM   #4
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Two-spirit thought on gender has always struck me as a way to explore many of your thoughts and ideas here, Ender. Something that I have learned for myself is that fluidity in gender feels like "home." Fluidity in gender concepts and language, although terribly difficult to find in western thought, is right there in front of us in native cultures. This is true all over the world.
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Old 10-12-2011, 11:40 AM   #5
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There are parts of the World that recognize and celebrate 3rd, 4th, and
5th Gendered folks. We could learn a lot in the Western World by studying
this 'phenomenon'; but we seem to be busy sweeping it all under the rug,
viewing it as a 'complication' or Taboo or as something that needs to
remain buried so that our laws, and ways can still function as is.

We can see how far that has gotten us.

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Old 10-12-2011, 12:04 PM   #6
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i kind of like the way gay men use the terms "butch" and "nellie" (despite the pejorative connotations of "nellie"). Those two words describe culturally queer concepts that have parallels with "masculine" and "feminine" but still stand apart.

"femme" is too close to feminine for this to work on our end
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Old 10-12-2011, 04:40 PM   #7
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Two-spirit - Masculinity/Femininity – Butch/Femme – Trans/Genderqueer are subject to interpretation depending on a person’s community, family upbringing and culture. Sometimes a ‘label’ needs to be used so that a person can explore who they are and identify their essences within themselves and the Gay community – a foundation in which to build, discover and explore their sexual identity outside of the external influences of life.

My Great-Uncle Hone had both the qualities/essences of masculine and feminine – he could fluidly move between the two when the situation called for it. Similarly my ‘Great-Aunty’ Richard (My Uncles partner of 43 years. As a 4 year old, I saw them as 'married' and it made sense that one was my 'Aunty') was, again fluid in his masculine and feminine qualities, only it was more obvious because if his upbringing – he was from an Anglo-Welsh family that settled in NZ in the late 1800s. His feminine qualities were deemed unnatural for a man to openly display without fear of ridicule from others. He would only ever show this side of himself to family and close friends.

Like myself, my Great-Uncle Hone was raised within the Maori culture, where there were traditionally no gender specific words. All children were/are taught the basics of cooking, sewing, fishing, harvesting, etc, there are specific activities that are seen as ‘traditional’ for men and women, yet, the qualities and essences of masculine and feminine are felt within – a pride of soul. ...... Mana; It is difficult to give Mana a single meaning in English…… A common explanation is to refer to it as 'status' or best to describe someone with Mana as having some sort of 'presence'.

My Mana and define myself as Femme, yet, I can fluidly move to use my ‘masculine energy’ in situations where I have to take more responsibility; such as at work or when a family member is ill and I need to care for them and maybe make decisions on their behalf…… For me, it’s a holistic approach to being vulnerable, having the strength, the patience and knowing my limitations, yet, always remaining myself 'feminine'. A resilience to whatever the heterosexual community throw at me as a Gay woman, I maintain my Mana and potential as best I can be with (hopefully) respect and humility.

Whatever label is used, complimenting roles and the balance between them is an important aspect.

This probably hasn’t made much sense – I know what I want to say, yet, putting it eloquently into words has escaped me…… If I could send it as a feeling, I would.

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Old 10-12-2011, 06:09 PM   #8
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First of all, just wanted to say thanks to everyone who replied. There are a few things I want to respond to, and won't respond to others right away as I want to develop my thoughts on those a little more.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Slater View Post
While it is interesting to look at the etymology of the words masculine or feminine, I don't think we need to feel too strictly constrained by original meanings. Language evolves as society evolves. Our culture is not the same as it was centuries ago so it is no surprise that our language needs to change along with it to reflect new realities and new understandings.

I don't see masculine and feminine as highly precise words and they depend on cultural context (which is going to be frustrating to someone trying to come up with a concrete definition). They get us in the neighborhood but they aren't by themselves going to get us to the very doorstep of someone's identity.
Except that we aren't just talking etymology within a historical context. The words "masculine" and "feminine" have very specific meanings, and especially if we're going to retain words like "man," "woman," "male" and "female" within our language, because they are directly related in modern societies. "Masculine" and "feminine" continue to be defined in the same way they were over 2000 years ago, in so far as they are still understood by the majority as "that which pertains to males/females."

However, if we continue down the train of thought you're expressing here, then it becomes necessary for me to ask you how you define "masculine" and "feminine," if you do not perceive them as related to the two popularly accepted sexes in any way. If you divorce "masculine" from certain characteristics attributes to cissexed males, how, then, do you personally define it?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Slater View Post
Finally, labels that are truly limitless are also labels that are useless. If it can include anything then it tells us nothing.
I don't think it's useless at all, actually. Quite the contrary. If we consider that certain labels related to sexuality and gender identity have been created out of necessity in response to heteronormative society's war on certain sexual acts and "gender" variance, and its creation of words like homosexuality/bisexuality/transsexual in order to define what they considered to be a psychological or moral disease, then the retaking of these labels becomes necessary. But we have to realise that these "diseases" and "characteristics" that they've created for us (that is still present in the DSM in order to "diagnose" certain "gender variant mental illnesses" today), are in many respects contemporary. They aren't fixed. To pretend that they are fixed, or that "all" of X identity possesses such and such a characteristic is unrealistic and inaccurate.

And that's where I see a bit of a contradiction in your post. On the one hand your saying that language is constantly change (which it is, and yet we still retain certain meanings to words, especially those related to areas of life, or perhaps social roles, which have very many similarities over time), and so we cannot define masculine and feminine as the Romans did. This much is true in that we do not entirely consider the same things as "manly" as the Romans did. However, we, as a society, do still consider "masculine" to mean "manly."

But back to the beginning of that last paragraph. On the one hand you're saying that language is ever changing, and on the other hand your saying that limitless labels are useless. And so how, then, are you defining "masculine" and "feminine" if you consider them to have changed from their original meaning? Do you believe that a butch or a femme is able to define their own form of masculinity or femininity? If so, how do you reconcile that with your argument that limitless labels are useless? Does this mean that butches or femmes who define themselves as masculine or feminine can only do so within a certain framework, before they've crossed the "limit"?

Quote:
Originally Posted by The_Lady_Snow View Post
If we're talking hook up specific then somehow Femme, Butch, Guy, Girl, Boy Man have to be viewed as equal on the value scale and once again I say this that the binary hetrenormative expectations of what is feminine / masculine are erased it is then that fluidity and non gender confirmation will be accepted. If we're talking dating I have to say it's ridiculously hard to date because a Femme has to be like..
This is something that definitely makes sense to me, and kind of is what I'm starting to get into in this same post in response to Slater. But if that's the case, should we not be reserving the limited binary language related to "masculine" and "feminine" for our interactions with the heteronormative world? Yes, heteronormativity/heterosexism/cissexism still exists in the LGBTQ community, but it's still a community in which we can more easily discard the language we use to communicate with the "outside" world when communicating with one another.

But I agree, these expectations need to be erased before we can truly come into an age of fluidity where these words are no longer needed to communicate with certain portions of the population.

I still think that when communicating with one another, the language of the heternormative binary becomes unnecessary. At least in my opinion.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AtLastHome View Post
Two-spirit thought on gender has always struck me as a way to explore many of your thoughts and ideas here, Ender. Something that I have learned for myself is that fluidity in gender feels like "home." Fluidity in gender concepts and language, although terribly difficult to find in western thought, is right there in front of us in native cultures. This is true all over the world.
I disagree to some extent. I find, for myself anyways, that the North American Aboriginal concept of Two-Spirit is a bit inadequate for what I'm trying to get at. It still requires a spectrum where masculine lies on one end and feminine on the other. Man and woman/masculine and feminine are still presupposed, but instead of being exclusive to one sex, they meet within one person. But it still requires that duality.

The one area where the Two-Spirit concept has its advantage is that it is rooted in a culture that is largely an oral culture, and where the real history of sex/gender is not as verifiable through that oral tradition as it is in a literary tradition. All we can really do is look to archaeology and mythology.

Whereas what I'm trying to get at is the actual definition of masculinity to those who see it as divorced from its origin as that which pertains to gender role expectations of the cissexed male.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Daywalker View Post
There are parts of the World that recognize and celebrate 3rd, 4th, and
5th Gendered folks. We could learn a lot in the Western World by studying
this 'phenomenon'; but we seem to be busy sweeping it all under the rug,
viewing it as a 'complication' or Taboo or as something that needs to
remain buried so that our laws, and ways can still function as is.

We can see how far that has gotten us.

I think when we talk about 3rd/4th gender people being celebrated in other non-Western cultures we're being a little romantic. Yes, some cultures, like Thai culture, recognise other sexes and genders than just male/masculine and female/feminine, but their place within that culture is not exactly celebrated or even treated with respect.

But I definitely agree that Western society could learn from Thai/South Asian cultures' recognition of a diversity in sex and gender that are not dependent on the Western accepted "male," female," "feminine" and "masculine." Actually, Germanic society and other northern European societies did have similar concepts before the imposition of Christianity on northern Europeans (and even among the Romans and Greeks). It's unfortunate that 1500 years of Christian rule erased that. Maybe Western culture can reintroduce similar concepts by immersing itself in cultures like those in South Asia, which definitely recognise a pretty huge diversity in sex/gender/sexuality.


Thanks again to everyone who posted. I'm really interested in continuing to hear your ideas on this, so hopefully we can keep this thread going
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Old 10-12-2011, 11:51 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EnderD_503 View Post
However, if we continue down the train of thought you're expressing here, then it becomes necessary for me to ask you how you define "masculine" and "feminine," if you do not perceive them as related to the two popularly accepted sexes in any way. If you divorce "masculine" from certain characteristics attributes to cissexed males, how, then, do you personally define it?
To me they have in them an element of role. The linkage to sexes is secondary to the linkage to a cultural role. Because gender roles have been so rigidly tied to a sexual binary, they are often regarded as synonymous. They don't have to be. As I said, I don't think there will ever be a satisfyingly concrete definition for either masculine or feminine, at least not one that doesn't rely so heavily on outmoded stereotypes as to be irrelevant. I think, for example, that most people recognize that someone can be athletic and still be feminine, or not be athletic and still be masculine. And are there really that many people who would argue that someone feminine cannot also be strong? I would argue that strength and athleticism are not inherently masculine characteristics. They are characteristics that can be expressed by masculine people or feminine people or people who are a combination of the two or who are none of the above. They are simply characteristics. It is how we express our characteristics, the cultural role we embody, that determines whether that expression is masculine, feminine, or something else.

And no, I don't think it is possible to nail down an exact definition of what constitutes a masculine role versus a feminine role, versus an androgynous role, etc. Because I don't think there is ever going to be precise agreement. That is why I said those words are only ever going to get us in the neighborhood of someone's identity.


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Originally Posted by EnderD_503 View Post
But back to the beginning of that last paragraph. On the one hand you're saying that language is ever changing, and on the other hand your saying that limitless labels are useless. And so how, then, are you defining "masculine" and "feminine" if you consider them to have changed from their original meaning? Do you believe that a butch or a femme is able to define their own form of masculinity or femininity? If so, how do you reconcile that with your argument that limitless labels are useless? Does this mean that butches or femmes who define themselves as masculine or feminine can only do so within a certain framework, before they've crossed the "limit"?
I don't see a contradiction between saying that language evolves over time and saying that for a label to have any utility at all it must, at a given time, have some sort of boundaried meaning. If for instance, we were to say that every person on the planet could reasonably identify as a butch because the label is limitless, then someone identifying as butch tells us nothing whatsoever about them.

Certainly there is nothing stopping someone from using a label in a way that is far outside any common usage of the term. But if they do, they won't be able to communicate much of anything about themselves in a way that can be understood by anyone else.
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Old 10-18-2011, 02:14 PM   #10
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To me they have in them an element of role. The linkage to sexes is secondary to the linkage to a cultural role.
Then define the cultural role. What is it? What clearly defines butch and femme, masculine and feminine roles? You claim that these roles don't have to be attached to a binary, yet I've yet to see anyone demonstrate it by clearly defining masculine and feminine roles without some semblance of the traditional binary.

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As I said, I don't think there will ever be a satisfyingly concrete definition for either masculine or feminine, at least not one that doesn't rely so heavily on outmoded stereotypes as to be irrelevant. I think, for example, that most people recognize that someone can be athletic and still be feminine, or not be athletic and still be masculine. And are there really that many people who would argue that someone feminine cannot also be strong? I would argue that strength and athleticism are not inherently masculine characteristics. They are characteristics that can be expressed by masculine people or feminine people or people who are a combination of the two or who are none of the above. They are simply characteristics.
Yes, and that's why I'm saying that your statement that a label is not a useful label if it is limitless is entirely contradictory to the way you're using masculine and feminine in this thread. You appear to believe that masculine and feminine denote something, yet you've yet to clearly define what that "something" is.

It is the very fact that characteristics traditionally attributed to "masculine/cisgendered male" individual are not, in fact, gendered attributes that throw masculine and feminine out the window as anything other than limitless labels that some people choose to put on. If that weren't the case, then there would be a concrete and stable definition of masculine and feminine, beyond stereotypical gender roles. Instead, many redefine these terms for themselves, and few would challenge their self-identification. As such, these terms are limitless.

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It is how we express our characteristics, the cultural role we embody, that determines whether that expression is masculine, feminine, or something else.
How do you express your characteristics in a way that is masculine? What is that cultural role, and how is it defined? These answers are really beating around the bush instead of outright stating "such and such an expression is masculine because..." Unless a person is able to do that, then it is impossible to define "masculine" and "feminine" (unless we stick to their traditional, original definition).

What is masculine expression, specifically? What is feminine expression, specifically?

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And no, I don't think it is possible to nail down an exact definition of what constitutes a masculine role versus a feminine role, versus an androgynous role, etc. Because I don't think there is ever going to be precise agreement. That is why I said those words are only ever going to get us in the neighborhood of someone's identity.
Except that there have been systematic consistencies throughout the world's societies for centuries as far as what constitutes masculine and feminine, and these have not been defined by strictly Western early modern understandings of them. They go back much farther.

The very fact that you can't nail down an exact definition beyond "it's an expression" argues in favour of their being limitless and referring to nothing concrete in particular, if they do not actually refer to something specific, to a specific person. If masculine fits you, and you are willing to argue that the definition of masculine has some form of set boundaries, then explain where those boundaries lie.

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I don't see a contradiction between saying that language evolves over time and saying that for a label to have any utility at all it must, at a given time, have some sort of boundaried meaning. If for instance, we were to say that every person on the planet could reasonably identify as a butch because the label is limitless, then someone identifying as butch tells us nothing whatsoever about them.
What are the boundaries?

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Certainly there is nothing stopping someone from using a label in a way that is far outside any common usage of the term. But if they do, they won't be able to communicate much of anything about themselves in a way that can be understood by anyone else.
By that argument, then masculine and feminine are useless, limitless terms, since we don't appear to even know what they refer to. If we knew what they referred to, then we'd be able to state it outright.
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Old 10-18-2011, 07:22 PM   #11
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I may not be able to find the verbiage to explain it; I may not be able to express it satisfactorily in language that doesn’t use characteristics and mannerisms defined as masculine and feminine, but I know butch and femme when they walk in the room. I also know it’s not society’s interpretation of masculine and feminine. It’s queered and perhaps that makes all the difference.

I’m not sure I understand what exactly you are looking for or trying to get at, but hopefully by asking for a little clarification it will become clear to me.

Do the words masculine and feminine define exactly what we mean when we try to describe queer identities? I think not. Can they be called something else? I suppose so. But old meanings die hard. Therefore if I keep asking you for a chain saw when I want an apple and you’re not aware of or clear about the new definitions, I don’t think I’m going to be happy with the results. I mean if we find another way of referring to what we mean when we say masculine and/or feminine aren’t we going to encounter the same limitations? Or are you saying we don’t mean anything at all when we say masculine and feminine? That the definitions are now so limitless as to have lost meaning? Or perhaps they never had meaning at all?

You said “all words don’t need to have precisely the same meaning for everyone, but in order for language to function we do need it to at least have something in common.” And you see masculine and feminine as have nothing in common with what we mean when we try to describe our identities? What new words are you thinking of to replace masculinity and femininity? Should we use butch and femme instead? And how will they have clearer meaning than masculine and feminine for queer and trans identities? How will butch/femme be understood outside of gender and without the use of characteristics or other descriptors?

You ask “what happens when these people participate in the butch/femme dynamic, if we see butch as strictly a masculine entity and femme as a strictly feminine entity.”
I don’t think everyone sees butch as strictly a masculine entity and femme as a strictly feminine entity.

I don’t agree that co-opting masculinity from heterosexual definitions of it are playing into society’s belief that we mimic heteronormative gender roles anymore than just being in a butch-femme relationship plays into their belief that we are imitating their heterosexual relationships. Besides, in the words of Rhett Butler, frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

You say you feel good about the reclaiming of feminine by many queer women because what pertains to women has been far too caught up with what heteronormative society has made it. But why not reclaim masculine as well? Is it not also far too caught up? Neither masculine or feminine is the sole property of heterosexuals. And really masculinity is so heavily and aggressively patrolled that I enjoy co-opting it for my queer identity. I like claiming woman and I like claiming both masculinity and femininity although heteronormative society is much more comfortable with my claiming masculine so they can sneer at me. They seem to find it unsettling when I claim woman and feminine. I’ve been told I look like I’m in drag if I sometimes dress in woman’s clothes. Too damn bad. Woman is as woman does. And I’m a woman. Just like feminine is however I am. And masculine is mine if I want it. And I want it. Nobody owns it.

I think I get some of what you are saying. What do i mean when I say feminine is however I am. How am I when I am feminine? How am I when I am masculine? What does that mean? Good questions. And I suppose descriptions of characteristics, mannerisms, leisure activities, and looks are not very satisfying. And energy is also rather abstract. But if you chose other words to define this, such as butch/femme, what words would you use to explain what is butch? what is femme? And if we don't need these terms then what terms do we need? If we don't need any terms at all then how will we talk to each other? What language will we use to navigate the space between us?

It sounds like you have given this some thought what have you come up with?
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Old 10-19-2011, 07:44 AM   #12
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As a product of mid-20th-century heteronormative gender definitions and roles, I see great transcendence of the traditional binary. Getting here had nothing to do with the need to admonish traditional definitions of masculine or feminine or butch and femme at all. It had to do with expanding these definitions to meet the needs of more fluid concepts of gender and gender roles. Actually, androgyny was one of the first definitions (though an ancient term) taking on meaning in modern time promoting a more fluid way to see gender, and had a role in this transcendence (one role, there are many more). And also uncovering the bio-physiological bases of gender that frankly, we did not have the tools to do this earlier as well as the social gumption to do so based upon a status quo accepted at the time which was based in a dominant patriarchy.

Masculine and feminine for me no longer represent what they once did and haven’t for quite a long time. We evolve if we choose to. Yet, these terms remain important as terms of reference between and among us. We don’t have to allow them to stagnate and I don’t believe we have. My own masculinity is intimately linked with my femininity and without unlocking gender, daring to expand its meaning, I would never have arrived at the comfort I find as a butch woman. I would not feel the freedom I once thought was impossible to experience. Even with the sometimes dangerous consequences born of ignorance. For others, this takes on differing needs in order to accomplish self harmony concerning gender identification.

I only feel negative about femininity and masculinity when they are rigidly held in traditional heteronormative boundaries. We no longer have to keep them bound there nor do we have to caste them aside. They are still viable if we allow them to continue to evolve. The power is not in the terminology, it is in the social constructs and openness to accepting what is discovered that differs from the past. Simply put, it is about not throwing out the baby with the bath water.
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Old 10-19-2011, 09:05 AM   #13
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As a product of mid-20th-century heteronormative gender definitions and roles, I see great transcendence of the traditional binary. Getting here had nothing to do with the need to admonish traditional definitions of masculine or feminine or butch and femme at all. It had to do with expanding these definitions to meet the needs of more fluid concepts of gender and gender roles. Actually, androgyny was one of the first definitions (though an ancient term) taking on meaning in modern time promoting a more fluid way to see gender, and had a role in this transcendence (one role, there are many more). And also uncovering the bio-physiological bases of gender that frankly, we did not have the tools to do this earlier as well as the social gumption to do so based upon a status quo accepted at the time which was based in a dominant patriarchy.

Masculine and feminine for me no longer represent what they once did and haven’t for quite a long time. We evolve if we choose to. Yet, these terms remain important as terms of reference between and among us. We don’t have to allow them to stagnate and I don’t believe we have. My own masculinity is intimately linked with my femininity and without unlocking gender, daring to expand its meaning, I would never have arrived at the comfort I find as a butch woman. I would not feel the freedom I once thought was impossible to experience. Even with the sometimes dangerous consequences born of ignorance. For others, this takes on differing needs in order to accomplish self harmony concerning gender identification.

I only feel negative about femininity and masculinity when they are rigidly held in traditional heteronormative boundaries. We no longer have to keep them bound there nor do we have to caste them aside. They are still viable if we allow them to continue to evolve. The power is not in the terminology, it is in the social constructs and openness to accepting what is discovered that differs from the past. Simply put, it is about not throwing out the baby with the bath water.
AtLast, I appreciate your response. I really do. At the same time, I still don't feel like we've been able to place any boundaries at all on the words "masculine" and "feminine," in the way that other posters in this thread (and in past threads) have claimed that they exist. As such, I'm still wondering why people are clinging to the idea of these words having boundaries. I still feel like people are saying: "well, yes, there are boundaries as far as what defines 'masculine' and 'feminine' but we each define the terms" when essentially that just means the terms are without concrete definition and completely limitless.

Additionally, I'm still wondering why we still use these terms as important definers of "butch" and "femme" as a "masculine" vs. "feminine" dynamic. Even in what you've written above, it continues to be clear that the dynamic is not defined by "masculine energy/expression" vs. "feminine energy/expression" though we often still describe it as such, so why do we continue to make assumptions based on that dynamic? Can we not have butch/femme without such heavy reliance on two words we can't even define outside of abstract terms like "energy" and "expression"? It's like we're stuck in a maelstrom where we don't see our identities as reliant on heteronormative frameworks, we don't want to use physical characteristics and interests as what defines "masculine" and "feminine," but we still want to be able to define "masculine" and "feminine." So instead we use abstract, undefinable words (within this discourse) like "energy" and "expression." Yet there is no tangible form of "energy" that is "masculine" or "feminine," nor is there a form of "masculine" or "feminine" expression outside of social context.

If a femme does not identify as "feminine" at all, but as "masculine," I don't think anyone here would tell her that she wasn't a femme. Or at least I hope not. This translates into threads where we try to pinpoint what femmes find attractive in butches and viceversa, or what attracts femmes/butches to butches/femmes or the dynamic as a whole. Many people talk about "femininity" and "masculinity" in those threads, yet the more femmes either recreate or completely discard "femininity" (and the same for butches), then it becomes obvious that the attraction and dynamic does not actually rest on these terms. But on a certain set of attributes and characteristics that can be defined however the individual wants. So why these two terms?

What is the point of using this language (which is fine) and still claiming that it has meaning beyond being entirely subjective (which makes less sense). Why does the b/f community as a whole seem stuck on b/f as masculine/feminine?
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Old 10-19-2011, 09:20 AM   #14
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If a femme does not identify as "feminine" at all, but as "masculine," I don't think anyone here would tell her that she wasn't a femme. Or at least I hope not.
Good point - I would just like to add, and I hope Stacy doesn't mind my saying this - neither of us are really all that into labels, but Stacy has tended to fall in with the femmes, however, does not always fit the femme normative. She has days one might call her butch. I am a man, however, sometimes I do things that are more feminine normative. I'm certainly not macho. I think, as a community, we would serve one another better by focusing less on labels and more on people, and on celebrating what makes us unique more than what makes us 'fit'. I know that as human beings, even subconsciously, we are driven to categorize and label... I'm just making a conscious effort to stop looking at how and where people fit best, and just let them be who they are - however they are.
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Old 10-19-2011, 09:43 AM   #15
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What is meant by femme normative? Would you mind expanding your thoughts on that please SelfMadeMan? Thanks in advance for taking the time!!!
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Old 10-19-2011, 09:43 AM   #16
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I don’t agree that co-opting masculinity from heterosexual definitions of it are playing into society’s belief that we mimic heteronormative gender roles anymore than just being in a butch-femme relationship plays into their belief that we are imitating their heterosexual relationships.
What I am trying to express in this thread has very little to do with what heterosexual society may or may not think. My interest is more in the underlying implications for our own community and how we see ourselves. If butch and femme already define "the way we are" (meaning our self-expression and personal identity), then why do we need these secondary words (masculine and feminine) that have, encoded into the very fabric of the word, a certain dynamic that does not define us? Why not just stick with butch and femme?

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You say you feel good about the reclaiming of feminine by many queer women because what pertains to women has been far too caught up with what heteronormative society has made it. But why not reclaim masculine as well? Is it not also far too caught up?
If you reread my original post, you'll see that I've actually considered exactly what you've said. In fact, it was that very problem that I was expressing.

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If the origin of "masculine" is that which pertains to men or cissexed males, then is it not a denial of many butch's identities to refer to them as "masculine"? That use of the word "masculine" and its reference to butches seems to ride off the heterosexist assumption that queer identities (and in this case, butch/femme identities) are mimicking heteronormative and cissexist presumptions of gender. That butches and gender-variant AFAB identities are just "trying to be men." Evidently, this is completely false. No queer identity, nor gender-variant identity is an imitation of heterosexual or cissexed normalized identities. Yet I feel that we often play into it, and are we not doing ourselves a disservice by using the word "masculine" to describe woman identities, or identities that vary from cissexed male identities?

On the other hand, I also feel that the reclaiming of "feminine" by many queer women, and particularly queer femmes is something that I feel good about. For too long, "feminine" and "what pertains to women" has been far too caught up with what heteronormative society has made it.

But conversely, does feminine always mean "all characteristics pertaining to women"? If so, where does this leave woman-identified butches who don't feel that the word "feminine" defines them or who they are? So feminine is also a bit problematic as it pertains to woman/female identities.
I actually say there that I also find feminine problematic, despite that I might have initially felt good about recreating these terms to fit queer identities.

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Nobody owns it.
And that's part of exactly what I'm saying in this thread. If you look at the above exchange between myself and Slater, he is saying that "masculine" and "feminine" possess boundaries, and that labels that are limitless are useless. My argument is precisely the opposite: That if we do not define "masculine" and "feminine" by their traditional (and current) definitions, then they really are limitless. Either define them by their actual etymology, or regard them as entirely limitless terms that serve more of a social purpose (ridding society of the binary altogether) than any real definition with boundaries of meaning. But don't try to redefine it in the same absolutist, limited way that the original meaning and current popular usage implies. If they're going to be recreated, then they have to be recreated as absolutely open and limitless and not dependent upon any characteristics/energy/interest/expression, so that anyone who decides to recreate them for themselves in order to deconstruct heteronormative, oppressive assumptions does not have to be stuck within the confines of a box created by queer groups, instead of a box created by heteronormative society.

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I think I get some of what you are saying. What do i mean when I say feminine is however I am. How am I when I am feminine? How am I when I am masculine? What does that mean? Good questions. And I suppose descriptions of characteristics, mannerisms, leisure activities, and looks are not very satisfying. And energy is also rather abstract. But if you chose other words to define this, such as butch/femme, what words would you use to explain what is butch? what is femme? And if we don't need these terms then what terms do we need? If we don't need any terms at all then how will we talk to each other? What language will we use to navigate the space between us?
This part of your post is more what I'm talking about and hoping from this discussion! My question in response to your question (maybe I have too many fucking question? ) as far as what what words would I/we use to describe butch or femme: Why do we need preset words to describe butch and femme? Why can't they just be what that specific butch or femme describes themselves as? Considering the amount of language the b/f community and queer community as a whole has already created to describe itself, I don't think it's really a problem to allow each person to define themselves in whatever terms they'd like. Which, to me, means dropping the assumption that we all see the dynamic as one between "masculine" and "feminine" identities, or where they are mixed an identity that is more "masculine" and one that is more "feminine."

Heteronormativity, to me, means a reliance on heavily controlled categorization that tells people A characteristics = C, B characteristics = D.

Queer, to me, means the deconstruction of controlled categories, meaning that we can create whatever language we want around them. Over time, butch and femme have gone from not particularly controlled terms, to very controlled term, and now have come back full circle to not particularly controlled terms. In some respects I see masculine and feminine as remnants of a time when they were heavily controlled within the community. Part of my point is that if we continue to use them, then it should be on an individual open/limitless sense, rather than using them as set defining terms for the dynamic.

Does that make anymore sense? :S

I also fully understand where this becomes problematic for myself (and perhaps for some others). As I mentioned before, what then defines my attraction to femmes if not femininity, and a femme's attraction to butches if not masculinity? I guess I'm coming to closer to feeling like the answer to that, for me, is how each one actually defies the socially accepted categories. Perhaps (speaking for myself only of course) it's that complete denial of socially accepted masculinity/femininity coupled with individual physical characteristics (that neither define butch or femme) one just happens to find attractive. All that can just be "femme" or "butch," no?
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Old 10-19-2011, 09:45 AM   #17
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Question Curious

What is the difference in masculinity in a butch, man and femme? I'm asking cause SMM said his wife was sometimes more butch but he's man, I'm not grasping what that means since masculinity is not gender specific.

Definition of normative:

adj.
Of, relating to, or prescribing a norm or standard: normative grammar.


I guess my masculinity is abnormal compared to your partners type of femme?

Is that how that works?
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Last edited by The_Lady_Snow; 10-19-2011 at 09:52 AM.
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Old 10-19-2011, 10:01 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by EnderD_503 View Post
AtLast, I appreciate your response. I really do. At the same time, I still don't feel like we've been able to place any boundaries at all on the words "masculine" and "feminine," in the way that other posters in this thread (and in past threads) have claimed that they exist. As such, I'm still wondering why people are clinging to the idea of these words having boundaries. I still feel like people are saying: "well, yes, there are boundaries as far as what defines 'masculine' and 'feminine' but we each define the terms" when essentially that just means the terms are without concrete definition and completely limitless.

Additionally, I'm still wondering why we still use these terms as important definers of "butch" and "femme" as a "masculine" vs. "feminine" dynamic. Even in what you've written above, it continues to be clear that the dynamic is not defined by "masculine energy/expression" vs. "feminine energy/expression" though we often still describe it as such, so why do we continue to make assumptions based on that dynamic? Can we not have butch/femme without such heavy reliance on two words we can't even define outside of abstract terms like "energy" and "expression"? It's like we're stuck in a maelstrom where we don't see our identities as reliant on heteronormative frameworks, we don't want to use physical characteristics and interests as what defines "masculine" and "feminine," but we still want to be able to define "masculine" and "feminine." So instead we use abstract, undefinable words (within this discourse) like "energy" and "expression." Yet there is no tangible form of "energy" that is "masculine" or "feminine," nor is there a form of "masculine" or "feminine" expression outside of social context.

If a femme does not identify as "feminine" at all, but as "masculine," I don't think anyone here would tell her that she wasn't a femme. Or at least I hope not. This translates into threads where we try to pinpoint what femmes find attractive in butches and viceversa, or what attracts femmes/butches to butches/femmes or the dynamic as a whole. Many people talk about "femininity" and "masculinity" in those threads, yet the more femmes either recreate or completely discard "femininity" (and the same for butches), then it becomes obvious that the attraction and dynamic does not actually rest on these terms. But on a certain set of attributes and characteristics that can be defined however the individual wants. So why these two terms?

What is the point of using this language (which is fine) and still claiming that it has meaning beyond being entirely subjective (which makes less sense). Why does the b/f community as a whole seem stuck on b/f as masculine/feminine?

I don't think that "all" of us stick with butch-femme as masculine-feminine in this manner. Your premise feels faulty to me. I could be wrong about this. Butch also refers to gay men with certain parameters and I use these terms in some instances for heterosexuals. Although, these examples are based upon sexual orientation and I think we within the B/F community have a much broader interpretation because we seem to be a "sub-culture" in which gender theory has become a part of our queer identification- which for me, goes to the evolutionary aspects of my prior post.

Now, I have to say, however, that portions of our sub-culture may not have done this exploration. I wish I could refer to some studies here, but can't and I know that I could have a bias going on. Although, I am from "olden days," personal experience with transgendered individuals as well as an intergendered relative brought some of these questions, issues and ways of expanding gender came to me fairly early. Having to keep up with issues of both gender and sexuality has also been part of my professional life.

I know (and have seen) instances of unfamiliarity with current gender theories occurs here on this site for example. And most certainly on the dash site as well. Yet, because we discuss just about everything on this site, I don't think it takes very long for someone that joins to begin to see that matters of gender are part of this community and they can take information from here and start to educate themselves. Consequently, I don't think that the B/F community does use masculine and feminine as interchangeable with butch-femme in the manner I think you are doing.

Butch for me has masculine constructs blended with feminine constructs, for example but I am not male, I am female. My femininity is of a masculine nature as far as traditional definitions. But m presentation overall is far from the traditional contexts of gender roles. I can't speak to this for other butches or for femmes within their personal expression.

The other thing that comes to mind for me is that for a good long time, butches and femmes met with negative judgment from the more radical or separatist lesbian community. This is not true of the entire spectrum of lesbians, but could have had an effect in butches and femmes needing to defend their "brand" of lesbianism. Today, we have different concepts about the whole sexuality area as well. All part of that evolution.

I just don't experience any of this labels, terms, identifications as traditional at all at this time of my life. And to be honest, I see this within my peer group of B/F identity. I also see this among younger people more and more.

I can't make generalizations about any of this. If there is anything I have learned from people interacting on our websites, is that they are quite diverse in relationship to masculinity and femininity no matter their gender identification.

I don't experience this community using this language in any other way except to communicate ideas with terms that, although having diverse meanings, are common among us. But as in all communication, taking the time to find out what a person means by these terms in relation to what is being communicated is important. But if we don’t have a common language, how can we even begin to articulate our thoughts and feelings?

We don’t all have the same concepts of masculinity and femininity at all.
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Old 10-19-2011, 10:02 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by The_Lady_Snow View Post
What is the difference in masculinity in a butch, man and femme? I'm asking cause SMM said his wife was sometimes more butch but he's man, I'm not grasping what that means since masculinity is not gender specific.

Definition of normative:

adj.
Of, relating to, or prescribing a norm or standard: normative grammar.


I guess my masculinity is abnormal compared to your partners type of femme?

Is that how that works?
Not to mention any names, but there are people it way freaks out that we are not a 1950's typical Femmes and there are parts of us some might see as masculine.

I struggle with the whole what part of me is masculine and feminine too....though I am arriving at the conclusion that it really matters not!
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Old 10-19-2011, 10:05 AM   #20
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What is meant by femme normative? Would you mind expanding your thoughts on that please SelfMadeMan? Thanks in advance for taking the time!!!
By that, I mean, what is usually considered femme attributes (wearing makeup, dressing feminine, etc etc)
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