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Old 10-26-2012, 06:52 PM   #41
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celebrating being a queer indigenous poor disabled femme does not mean i am saying i am better than or i am defining myself in opposition to.

but it is inherently an act of resistance because i live in a society where being white, upper class, straight, able-bodied, and conforming to heteronormative gender roles is what is celebrated and what i am measured against as a human being and told i should want to live up to.

so it might get tiring to hear that i think that femmes who don't conform to those ideals are fucking amazing. but i'm going to keep saying it because the reality is - we are constantly told we are unlovable and less than and not worthy. there are enough people in the world who celebrate june cleaver. somebody needs to celebrate us.
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Old 10-26-2012, 06:57 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by Martina View Post
I loved your post, Dee. Didn't quote it all cause that annoys me, but wanted to cheerlead outside of the thanking feature.

Thanks, and i've enjoyed yours. Very thought provoking!
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Old 10-26-2012, 06:58 PM   #43
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I don't disagree with any of that. I am really making a different point, one I am not even that invested in making right now.

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Originally Posted by aishah View Post
celebrating being a queer indigenous poor disabled femme does not mean i am saying i am better than or i am defining myself in opposition to.

but it is inherently an act of resistance because i live in a society where being white, upper class, straight, able-bodied, and conforming to heteronormative gender roles is what is celebrated and what i am measured against as a human being and told i should want to live up to.

so it might get tiring to hear that i think that femmes who don't conform to those ideals are fucking amazing. but i'm going to keep saying it because the reality is - we are constantly told we are unlovable and less than and not worthy. there are enough people in the world who celebrate june cleaver. somebody needs to celebrate us.
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Old 10-26-2012, 07:04 PM   #44
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I, too, am loving this conversation....loving that femmes of all kinds of perspectives are coming in here and speaking from their hearts and minds. Beautiful.

I also love that there's enough room for all of us. I, personally, can't relate to the issues and feelings that femmes of color have shared because I haven't walked in those shoes, but I can relate to hearing over and over the "not good enough" message though - in my case because I was overweight, extremely poor, and dressing out of the Goodwill box in Southern California in the 70s....while all the other girls were rocking their Farrah Fawcett hairdos and getting a brand-new Camaro from Daddy on their 16th birthday.

I so hear you dee about the escapism of those shows. I used to go to a friend's house and watch The Brady Bunch like it was some kind of divine message. My fantasy was to have a mother that really was one, a father that was present (for a start), dinner on the table, and siblings that I didn't have to barricade myself in the bathroom from to escape serious injury.

My version of motherhood grew, not out of a good example, but a long list of "remember when you are older to never be like this" mental notes. In large part, the adult I am was shaped by the damage I received. No, I'm not saying that I'm "walking wounded"....but I spent many years learning to flip everything I had learned on its head to arrive at the right place for me.

So....long way around, sorry...the woman I have become, the femme I have become...is a distillation of my experiences, my thoughts, my heart, my hurts, and my emotional scars. I'm not doing it this way because anyone told me I should. I'm doing it this way because this is who I am....at the core.

And I love that we have as many versions of femme on this site as we have femmes. For me, that's a wonderful thing.
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Old 10-26-2012, 07:05 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by aishah View Post
celebrating being a queer indigenous poor disabled femme does not mean i am saying i am better than or i am defining myself in opposition to.

but it is inherently an act of resistance because i live in a society where being white, upper class, straight, able-bodied, and conforming to heteronormative gender roles is what is celebrated and what i am measured against as a human being and told i should want to live up to.

so it might get tiring to hear that i think that femmes who don't conform to those ideals are fucking amazing. but i'm going to keep saying it because the reality is - we are constantly told we are unlovable and less than and not worthy. there are enough people in the world who celebrate june cleaver. somebody needs to celebrate us.


Thank you for stating that so well!! Celebrate Femme, please do not compare us some fantasy made up by men of what Femme is.


Celebrate us! All of us!
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Old 10-26-2012, 07:15 PM   #46
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i can definitely relate to the escapism in childhood. i absolutely hated being - well - everything that i am when i was a kid. i wanted to grow up and be june cleaver. i went to a catholic school where about 98% of the student population was white and upper class and the parents lived in the rich section of town and a lot of the moms were like june cleaver. i used to fantasize about having a totally different life. i was ashamed of my family and the house we lived in. i was ashamed that my mom worked a lot and didn't wear heels or makeup and that most of my family members were/are fat, dark skinned, poor, and disabled.

in some ways, fantasizing helped me escape and was a coping mechanism for dealing with trauma and poverty. in other ways, it was a really negative thing because being ashamed of who i was and who my family was led to a lot of internalized oppression and self-loathing (and an eating disorder that wrecked my body, among other things). and eventually i grew up and i realized that even if i really wanted that ideal, it would be impossible for me to achieve. i realized that that ideal was fed to me for really specific (and oppressive) reasons.

now i am proud of the things i used to be ashamed of. and i am ashamed that when i was a kid i used to wish my mom was june cleaver. because my mom was a strong, brilliant, amazing woman. she was far from perfect and i have hella family issues and childhood trauma and shit. but now i am sad that i felt that way as a kid and i wish i had realized and valued myself and the women in my family and the community that i come from sooner.
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Old 10-26-2012, 07:25 PM   #47
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June Cleaver is a symbol of approved feminine expression within the dominant culture of mid-20th century North America. I think she was also a conduit for consumerism, as she was all about using household products that represented progress at that time, and technological advancement. Wrapped in all that responsibility, though, she has her ways of being independent, of seeing through bullshit, of being the voice of reason in her family.

I met Barbara Billingsley on a cruise when I was an advertising copywriter in L.A. a long time ago (the cruise line was my client). She hugged me as soon as we were introduced. I think she was so used to being hugged by women, she just went there automatically. She assumes she is beloved. And I think she is beloved, and her authority is admired by women because they intuit how she, her character, balances out the dehumanizing sexism of the time.

I mean, listen to that voice. When you hear her in person, it's even more gravelly and deep and oddly melodic.
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Old 10-26-2012, 07:33 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by aishah View Post
i can definitely relate to the escapism in childhood. i absolutely hated being - well - everything that i am when i was a kid. i wanted to grow up and be june cleaver. i went to a catholic school where about 98% of the student population was white and upper class and the parents lived in the rich section of town and a lot of the moms were like june cleaver. i used to fantasize about having a totally different life. i was ashamed of my family and the house we lived in. i was ashamed that my mom worked a lot and didn't wear heels or makeup and that most of my family members were/are fat, dark skinned, poor, and disabled.

in some ways, fantasizing helped me escape and was a coping mechanism for dealing with trauma and poverty. in other ways, it was a really negative thing because being ashamed of who i was and who my family was led to a lot of internalized oppression and self-loathing (and an eating disorder that wrecked my body, among other things). and eventually i grew up and i realized that even if i really wanted that ideal, it would be impossible for me to achieve. i realized that that ideal was fed to me for really specific (and oppressive) reasons.

now i am proud of the things i used to be ashamed of. and i am ashamed that when i was a kid i used to wish my mom was june cleaver. because my mom was a strong, brilliant, amazing woman. she was far from perfect and i have hella family issues and childhood trauma and shit. but now i am sad that i felt that way as a kid and i wish i had realized and valued myself and the women in my family and the community that i come from sooner.

My mother and I have a cultural clash, it's of EPIC proportions, she's a very conservative catholic latina woman, ruler of her roost to the point of being cruel. We didn't watch a lot of TV my mother monitored the shit out of that, I had to "sneak" watching it. I was well into my teens when I learned about the Cleavers and other shows like that.

My mother who was an immigrant and hid a lot during our childhood (we were undocumented till I was in 5th grade) spent more time policing and making sure her kids had the values (her words) that were part of our culture. It was maddening to me as a child to understand why this woman was so fucking stuck on stuff that seemed so Mexican.

We were so fucking Mexican I would sometimes be ashamed of my lunches because they were different, I hadn't experienced this when I was younger because my parents sent me to school in a predominantly Latino Catholic school so I was surrounded by kids going through similar family structures.

I didn't want my Ma to be like a TV mom, but I did want her to be not so Mexican, she would be so hurt when I would say this, it was a struggle for us both being she was from Mexico and I was too but I was being raised as a Chicana would.

I sometimes hug my mom tightly and apologize for being so harsh with my words as a teen age punk, and I understand now that our battles were cultural, about unspoken abuse in immigrant families, educational. I know and hear stuff that my mother has endured, as a woman, as a Mexican and I am like fuck, what a brat I was and at the same time wish I could of helped her find help sooner to help her cope with so much that it couldn't but bleed into our upbringing...

The women in my family are amazing, yet so so different than the women who were and are raised in an American society.
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Old 10-26-2012, 07:36 PM   #49
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The Lady Snow encouraged me to post part of the femme paper I referred to. I can't find the Bibliography. This was something I read aloud, so I didn't worry about formatting, spelling and so on. So this is the whole thing. To do excerpts, I'd have to think. And I am opposed to thinking on Friday evenings. I thought I excerpted parts on the old site, but a search did not bring up the post. Oh well.

OH, this is from 2006. The articles I cite are even older. Things have changed. Heart pointed out that one of the keynote speakers at a later femmecon made a lot of these points -- that we cannot define femme in opposition to other feminine people, that there are real dangers to doing that. So the arguments here are dated.

I am not being falsely modest when I say that I do not encourage anyone to slog through it. Personally, I'd rather be watching "Gangnam Style" on youtube. But here it is. I will probably have to post twice to get it all in.
Quote:

Many people writing or creating art on the subject of femmes and femme identity are aware of the pitfalls of presenting femme as a cohesive collective identity. At the very least, they are conscious of the risks of exclusion. In their wonderful essay, “A Fem(me)inist Manifesto,” Lisa Duggan and Kathleen McHugh write, “It diminishes a femme, all femmes, to talk about a femme identity in itself. How could that be? Femme is neither an ideal nor a category.” (p.165) There is an awareness that a collective identity that is normative, rather than descriptive, one that might be felt to have prescriptive force, does not serve us well. This awareness is fairly widespread, i think.

Creating numbers of identities within femme to accommodate our diversity is not effective either. Judith Butler claims this “only produces a greater factionalization, a proliferation of differences without any means of negotiating among them.” Clearly there is the risk of creating hierarchies and of establishing categories which compete. It’s also an additional opportunity to police others’ or one’s own identity. Many femmes i know refuse an identification more specific than "femme" out of fear of inadvertently excluding or creating such hierarchies. They may be high femme in practice, but not in name.

However, many seem to find constructing femme identity through disavowing identification with straight women and with feminine lesbians less problematic. In her essay “How Does She Look?” Rebecca Ann Rugg writes, “the problem for the femme dyke who is not assimilationist is not only distinguishing herself from straight women, but from those femmes who consider straight-acting a compliment.”

Judith Butler acknowledges that identities are created through a series of disavowals and repudiations. She explains that “certain disavowals are fundamentally enabling and that no subject can proceed, can act, without disavowing certain possibilities and avowing others.” (p. 116) Identities do not have to be cohesive, logical, or water-tight. They should not be. But they do have to mean something. Excluding possibilities creates meaning. Moreover, gender identity is not an optional project. We cannot become desiring subjects in the world without constructing gender identities for ourselves, even if multiple and fluid.

However, as some femme writers do it, distinguishing ourselves from straight women has meant more than asserting our existence. It has included the ongoing project of rehabilitating femininity from its association with powerlessness and loss. A great project, but as we have carried it out, one that has characterized straight women in terms of that powerlessness and loss. Distinguishing ourselves from feminine lesbians has provided femme writers the opportunity to protest femme invisibility and politicize our identity, also laudable projects, but, in characterizing feminine lesbians as women who do not problematize their femininity or who welcome passing, we ignore their contributions and struggles.

From the amazing “Femme Manifesto” again: “Refusing the fate of girl-by-nature, the femme is girl-by-choice. Finding in androgyny . . . too much loss, too little pleasure, and ugly shoes, the femme takes from the feminine a wardrobe, a walk, a wink, then moves on to sound the death knell of an abject sexuality.” She continues, femmes “are never heterosexual. Though they may traffic in men, they do not, cannot, will not take up a position within a heteronormative framework. Those femmes who desire masculinity in a partner prefer queer masculinities occupied with irony and ambiguity. The heteronormative man is inadequate in this department. The phallus he has seems not to be detachable.” (p.167)

From a frequent contributor to butch-femme.com: “But for many of us out here in cyber land, our entire lives are formed and created and lived WITHOUT A SINGLE DESIRE or attempt to be heteronormative, heteroqueer, het in any way, without the need to 'pass.' . . . What I'm saying is this: the desire to 'normalize' one's queerness, the desire to pass as het-anything, when one is -- by definition -- NOT het, is horrifying to me. And I don't share it in any way. I'd appreciate not having that forced on my very NON-normative body, sexuality, and desire.”

In response to these disavowals, i quote Butler again. She states that the refusal to identify with a position “suggests that on some level an identification has already taken place.” She adds that "heteronormativity remains a spectre in our identities if we cannot acknowledge our connection to heterosexuality." Assertions that the very fact of our queerness makes us different do not keep us safe. Wouldn't it be wonderful it it were that easy? Such assertions, in fact, make us less safe. For example, they make the fact that sexism still plays a role in butch-femme culture more difficult to recognize.

Characterizing queered femininity as reclaimed or rehabilitated by virtue of being queered might also suggest that escaping internalized misogyny is easy for those privileged with our gender identity. There may be a lot of proud fat femmes out there and many whose sexual agency inspires awe, but we are not alone in our struggles to love our bodies and sexuality, and those struggles do not begin or end with our queer ID's. To understand femme as somehow unique, or even as leading the way, isolates us from other feminine beings whose efforts to free their bodies and spirits are as authentic, creative, and powerful as our own.

Butler talks about intense disavowals as cruelties that we visit upon ourselves. Straight women and feminine lesbians are not made abject by their exclusion from our identity. We do not have that power. Their identities and ability to speak remain untouched. An unintended and often devastating effect of these assertions, these efforts to stake out a unique and unassailable territory, is to exclude other femmes who can not or will not repudiate their heterosexual pasts or their commonality with their heterosexual women friends and family members. These statements differentiate between femmes and feminine lesbians in ways that disparage the latter, creating in those who identify as both femme and lesbian an unnecessary conflict. Finally, in order to exaggerate difference, our femininity is often constructed as transgressive and performative in ways that many femmes do not experience.

The most prominent metaphor in femme cultural products is femme femininity as more performed, more ironic, more exaggerated and daring than straight or lesbian femininities. Femme as parody, even as burlesque. It’s a powerful metaphor that resonates strongly for many femmes. It continues the project of reclaiming femininity as powerful and allows for an inclusive understanding of femme since it points out the constructedness of gender. Unfortunately, it is also used extensively as a means of distinguishing femmes from straight women and feminine lesbians, whose femininities are understood as less ironic and transgressive.

There is an expression of this metaphor in “A Femme Manifesto," which claims that "femme is the performativity, the insincerity, the mockery, the derision of foreplay – the bet, the dare, the bringing to attention of the suitor, the one who would provide her pleasure. The performer who demands performance in return, the player who brings pleasure into play. . . . On the question of style, femme science reviles any approach to appearances that is sincere. Femme science questions the dignity and wisdom of anyone who would wear pink without irony, or a floral print without murderous or seditious designs.” One remark I have heard a few times goes something like "if you set a femme down in a baby shower, she would stand out like a sore thumb."

Even if we try to avoid creating a cohesive cultural identity for femme, some of the metaphors and narratives we use to describe ourselves gain more currency than others. My understanding of how this works comes from Richard Rorty. People who make cultural products, artists and writers, in the process of their own self-becoming generate innovative language, new metaphors, which catch on because of a “particular need which a given community happens to have at a given time. . . It’s the 'accidental coincidence of a private obsession with a public need.'”

These creators found a self which the past never knew was possible, making those possibilities available for all of us. In a given historical moment, there are always a number of people working through the same cultural ideas. In describing the relationship of the work of Victorian philosophers and writers, Rorty says, “All of the figures of this period play into each other’s hands. They feed each other lines. Their metaphors rejoice in one another’s company.” This explains the prominence some metaphors gain over others.

In constructing femme as performative and ironic, we exclude femmes whose identities are not experienced as transgressive. In "A Woman's Prerogative," Marcy Sheiner, a sometimes passing femme married to a transman, talks about relaxing into her femme identity in mid-life. A former editor of On Our Backs, she said that in her past, she “lived and breathed lesbian femininist radical sex analysis.” Like many women at mid-life, she is looking again at the life her mother lead, reconnecting to the legacy of previous generations. And she is simply relaxing. Her family does not know that her husband is trans, and she benefits, in fact, she luxuriates, in the occasional benefits of heterosexual privilege. Now that she is older and in this relationship, she reports she can better relate to a childhood friend, a straight woman. She writes, “Now that I am in a monogamous relationship with a man, we’re talking about our loves with the same kind of synergistic understanding we shared when we were fourteen.”

She sums up: “I don’t feel like I am caving in; I feel like my natural self is emerging. It is no longer so imperative to achieve fame and fortune and/or transform the world, and that’s an enormous relief. Some of this mellowing, of course, comes inevitably with age. . . . Feminine qualities were forced on me as a girl, adolescent and young woman. Because they were mandatory and restrictive, they were oppressive. Feminism was a rebellion and a way out of the oppression, but certain aspects of feminism turned into a new form of oppression. My rediscovered femme identity feels neither oppressive nor rebellious, but integral to who I am.”
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Old 10-26-2012, 07:40 PM   #50
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This is a woman, a femme, for whom invisibility is not a source of anxiety. She is a housewife and a writer. She passes and experiences her femininity as more and more natural, integral to herself, as she says. Sheiner makes the point that a lot of her changing understanding of herself as femme is a function of age, not just of her relationship and of heterosexual privilege. But she does benefit from that, and her experience points out that, like it our not, many of us do. What else do we gain from Sheiner’s experience and wisdom? We are reminded that a passing femme is still a femme, an invisible femme is still a femme, and that our connection to her, and hers to straight women, is useful and powerful -- in part because all of us spend some time passing, some time invisible. Including the experience of women like Steiner is not just inclusive; it is empowering. There are numbers of femmes whose sexual agency and power are not expressed or experienced by performing femininity in apparently transgressive ways. Moreover, femmes who experience their femininity as similar to their mothers and their straight women friends remind us of our connection to these women and the richness of their lives.

Katherine Payne is a femme who did not connect to other femmes until she read Joan Nestle's story of her straight mother. In her essay, “Whores and Bitches Who Sleep with Women,” Payne discusses the connection between sex workers and femmes. For her, the metaphor of femme as performative and transgressive resonates. Payne believes that there can be “no sound analysis of the cultural position of femme without a basis in an analysis of the cultural, legal, and economic position of prostitutes." She holds that “femininity and sexual agency equal potential social chaos and, therefore, those who combine these qualities must be stigmatized, criminalized, and maligned.” Speaking as a sex worker, Payne addresses femmes: “Betcha we shop in the same stores, wrestle the same demons, carry comparable fears through the world. Chances are we frequently get mistaken for each other.”

However, Payne didn’t connect strongly with her femme identity until she read Joan Nestle’s “My Mother Liked to Fuck.” In that amazing essay, Joan explains that her will to fight the sex wars arose from remembering her mother’s love of sex and unwillingness to let anyone make her ashamed of it. Payne says, “Nestle gave me a huge and priceless gift in her affiliation with and defense of her trampy working class mom. The woman Nestle described had unapologetic sexual agency, and was consequently marginalized, shamed, and economically at risk. This resonated for me. For the first time, I could imagine a place in the history of ‘lesbians’ where I might find allies and assert my priorities.” Payne’s understanding of femme is very close to the dominant metaphors of performance, parody, and excess. But what is interesting to me is that it is Nestle’s avowal of her connection to her straight mother’s complex life, Nestle's understanding of that history as available to empower her to fight for her right to fuck the way she liked, that reaches across time to Payne, who continues to make connections outside of the queer community to sex workers of all genders.

Avowing a connection to straight housewives, as Sheiner does, or straight women who risk themselves to create a place for their own sexual agency, as did Nestle and does Payne, entails a willingness to accept even the scary and heteronormative parts of our lives. It requires us to look at how sexism might operate in our own communities. It requires that we confront the potential for violence and abuse in our worlds. But it is also incredibly empowering and creative, and it acknowledges the lives of real femmes as they are actually lived.

Butler writes that “it may be only by risking the incoherence of identity that connection is possible.” However, even when we do try to avoid the creation of prescriptive identities, some metaphors will gain more power in our culture than others – for very good reasons. They do resonate. They do address current issues and concerns. They are pushing forward the goals that the group shares. But we need to always take stock of what we are defining ourselves against and what pieces of ourselves we leave behind as we do.

Butler does not argue that we should change all disavowals into avowals, that we should assert only similarities and ignore differences. Most femmes are, in fact, not straight. There are differences between femmes and feminine lesbians. Her argument is simply to note the exclusions, to know what we are doing and to trace the connections.

My personal experience is a bit like Sheiner’s. As I get older, I relax into my femininity and feel more sure of it. It feels more natural. In the last year or so, I have lost a great deal of weight. And as my face changes, the person I see in the mirror is my mother. My mother was a working mom, a school teacher. She kept her hair short and used only three items of makeup. She had no doubt about her femininity and was not doubted in it. She was also comfortable in her body. As I see her in myself more and more, and as I age, my connection to my own femininity feels stronger, less like performance and more as something indistinguishable from who I am in all respects. My performance of femme is not excessive or transgressive. If you set me down in a baby shower, I would fit right in. And that would be fine. My fear is that some femmes who come to the identity now won’t find the thing that catches their attention, that makes them feel that they are part of the lineage, as Payne did when she read Nestle’s article, or that their road to it will inspire unnecessary self doubt.

Even Rebecca Ann Rugg, whose great line in "How Does She Look?" advocates our "running in loud mouth packs," agrees that foregrounding femme identity as transgressive has its drawbacks. She fears that it might end up excluding women who are older, “relegating these ladies to some older than hip shelf.” Melanie Murtry and Kristin Tucker, in an essay called "Femme Femininiites," also consider femme’s ironic performance of gender its core identifying feature. They argue that visibility and the power to transform femininity do come from extreme performance – body modifications, a pomo style etc. They also argue for loudness and excess, for us to celebrate the sexiness of women of size and femmes who strap it on. But they also – briefly -- mention that there are femmes for whom silence is powerful.

Distinguishing ourselves from straight women and from feminine lesbians by virtue of our extreme performance of gender, by our fight against invisibility, by the transgressive potential of our expression of gender politicizes femme in the same way that some lesbians politicized that identity in the seventies, a politicization that, as we all know, excluded femme. In making the opposite of the brazen femme the domain of oppressed straight women and sell-out dykes, we create no place for femmes of different styles and gender expressions to occupy.
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Old 10-26-2012, 07:50 PM   #51
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What a beautiful thread!!!! Reading these posts after a long day at work was exactly what i needed to remind me of how wonderful our community can actually be.

I would have to say my mom was June Cleaver to a tee.

But, i can remember at a VERY young age, it bugged me greatly. However, instead of me embracing this and wanting this because of how i was raised. I wanted the opposite. Even though it appeared we had the perfect family, i felt she was oppressed in so many ways. It drove me crazy even at a very young age.

I remember challenging her on things...

"Mom, what would happen if you didn't have Daddy's supper on the table at exactly 6"

"Mom why don't you ask Daddy to help with the laundry or shopping"

"Mom, why do you say Mrs. so and so and not introduce and sign your first and last name"

"Mom why do you let him make all the decisions"

I was always pushing her like that. She has told me many times, she saw signs of my stand on equality for women and feminism at a VERY early age.

You know, i'm not sure it is what she wanted to be honest. I couldn't imagine it would be, even back then. But, she says it is what she loved, keeping a house and home with no real life outside dad and us kids. *shrugs

I know i didn't want it. I didn't have it and i'm happy about that decision. When i was married to a bio man, i worked solid, i made him help me with things and as soon as my kids were big enough to reach dishes, laundry, they helped too.

I was no June Cleaver. Never wanted to be. Never could be. It just doesn't interest me at all. I like to cook, but i don't love it. I just get hungry LOL.

So many different ideas and thoughts and experiences and lives here.

It's really a beautiful discussion.



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Old 10-26-2012, 08:00 PM   #52
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In constructing femme as performative and ironic, we exclude femmes whose identities are not experienced as transgressive.
the issue i have with this is that - people whose identities are not experienced as transgressive are visible and celebrated already. the rest of us aren't. the reason my identity is transgressive is because i am marginalized - not because i am going out of my way to "perform" femme as something transgressive. i didn't ask to live in a society where being a sex worker is transgressive, for example, but i do. and i do sex work out of economic necessity, not to be performative or ironic.

i don't know. i'm really really trying to understand, and i found what you shared to be extremely thought provoking, and for that i am grateful. but i am struggling to wrap my mind around it.

there are scary and heteronormative parts of my life. i like it when my butch opens doors for me. and i love to bake. but i bake with money i bought with food stamps and then go feed homeless people. or working class folks who come to the sliding scale acupuncture clinic where i work. or at potlucks. sort of far removed from the 1950s housewife baking scene. i covered my hair for years and dressed really conservatively...that's rather scary and heteronormative, i suppose. i embrace those parts of myself.

my issue isn't wanting to exclude people who have identities or values or things they enjoy that fall within the realm of heteronormativity. it's that - when we talk about holding people up as icons or ideals - i feel like we need to have some sort of analysis around the fact that the ideal of the 1950s housewife has been used to marginalize many women, especially working class, poor, and non-white women.

no one should be excluded. but whose voices and experiences are we choosing to center? i choose to center the voices and experiences of disabled folks, sex workers, people who are working class and poor, indigenous & poc, women and/or gender non-conforming folks, because there are so few spaces where our voices and experiences are centered. it sucks that some people feel that that means they are excluded because they don't fall within those categories - i deeply love all of the people in my life, regardless of how they identify. but many of the privileged folks in my life also have a lot of support and they can turn on the tv and see people like them and have role models that look like them and they don't have to worry about how they are going to get medical care or food or about being arrested because of working. the society i live in centers the voices and experiences of people who have privilege. so when i think about where i want my priorities to be, i prioritize and celebrate (and idolize) people in my life who are transgressive.

thank you so much for posting your paper. i'm still sorting through things and it's bringing up a lot for me (and making me think really deeply).

edited to add - i do definitely get the whole - if you aren't x then you aren't queer/femme enough issue. for me at least, especially when i went through a period of being celibate and abstaining from alcohol and dressing conservatively, i often felt awkward in queer community because i wasn't drinking or having sex or wearing provocative clothing, for example. and because i looked pretty heteronormative (as a muslim). i was lucky enough to be around queer folks (many of whom were also muslim, and who dressed differently and did all sorts of different things) where i eventually felt embraced regardless of what i wore or ate or drank or who i slept with (or didn't). and i was able to come to make decisions based on what i wanted to do versus how i was afraid people would perceive me or whether or not i would fit in. i think it's really problematic when we start saying that people HAVE to look or act a certain way to be femme. could someone be a housewife a la june cleaver and be femme? absolutely. do i think june cleaver is a femme icon? no. (at least, vehemently NOT for me.)
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Old 10-26-2012, 08:12 PM   #53
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We may be talking at cross-purposes. I don't know. I think most of what you say is a given. We start from there. But we don't go on to assert an ID so unique that we lose our ability to recognize ourselves in others.

One of the interesting essays I read -- and I mentioned it -- was by a sex worker who did not claim femme until she read an article by a femme about her straight mother. Now her mother was NOT traditional. Sex positive, working class, tough. But the thing was that it was this person's ability to connect to the story of a STRAIGHT woman that helped her with her queer ID. And, of course, Nestle used her mother's experiences to help her stand up against the dykes who were criticizing her as a femme who liked to be fucked by butches. I don't want to separate myself from the examples and experiences of other feminine women.

gotta go. a pot luck awaits. how lesbian is that?
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Old 10-26-2012, 08:22 PM   #54
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One more thing i wanna say but i don't want to interrupt the flow here and how it is going so i'm just penciling this in as a side note..

Thoughts today about how this topic keeps coming up in different places here and why, personally, i take such a heated heart (for lack of a better term) when the 50s are brought up as "all that" and how it was "so much better" yada yada..

Is IMO from MY view...has a lot to do with my mother. She did that. She was that. She WAS oppressed. She is a beautiful loving being that i am so thankful to have in my life. But. She missed out on a lot. Especially since my dad died some 14 years ago, she has opened up a lot to me about her dreams. She had dreams just like anyone else. She wanted to be a school teacher, she wanted to pursue her art, she wanted to travel. She didn't get a chance to do that.

I wonder, to myself sometimes, if she had been in my era. What she would have become. What would June Cleaver have been. What would have so many women, of all colors and ethnic background back then, been like today or what things they would have done to help and change the world. They were the most amazing women to go through that oppression and come through it. They didn't have choices. We may have had a female president by now. Who knows.

Anyway, just sharing why i get my panties twirled at times about "the good ole days". I personally feel women were cheated out on life. And besides making me mad. He makes me so terribly sad.

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Old 10-26-2012, 08:22 PM   #55
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Thank you for posting that Martina....a lot of it resonated for me. Not coincidentally, the part about Sheiner's experience of becoming more comfortable with her femininity and her femme self and less troubled by issues of invisibility and passing, as she ages.

I am so there.

I feel like I'm rounding a corner in my life where I just am who I am. I'm comfortable with it. I'm not changing to suit anyone anymore. I don't care if I am invisible as a femme. I don't care if I'm femme enough, feminine enough, tall, short, skinny, fat enough. I just don't care.

I am me. And I am comfortable with me. I'm also comfortable with everyone else being who they are. It feels good.
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Old 10-26-2012, 08:30 PM   #56
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Originally Posted by princessbelle View Post
What a beautiful thread!!!! Reading these posts after a long day at work was exactly what i needed to remind me of how wonderful our community can actually be.

I would have to say my mom was June Cleaver to a tee.

But, i can remember at a VERY young age, it bugged me greatly. However, instead of me embracing this and wanting this because of how i was raised. I wanted the opposite. Even though it appeared we had the perfect family, i felt she was oppressed in so many ways. It drove me crazy even at a very young age.

I remember challenging her on things...

"Mom, what would happen if you didn't have Daddy's supper on the table at exactly 6"

"Mom why don't you ask Daddy to help with the laundry or shopping"

"Mom, why do you say Mrs. so and so and not introduce and sign your first and last name"

"Mom why do you let him make all the decisions"

I was always pushing her like that. She has told me many times, she saw signs of my stand on equality for women and feminism at a VERY early age.

You know, i'm not sure it is what she wanted to be honest. I couldn't imagine it would be, even back then. But, she says it is what she loved, keeping a house and home with no real life outside dad and us kids. *shrugs

I know i didn't want it. I didn't have it and i'm happy about that decision. When i was married to a bio man, i worked solid, i made him help me with things and as soon as my kids were big enough to reach dishes, laundry, they helped too.

I was no June Cleaver. Never wanted to be. Never could be. It just doesn't interest me at all. I like to cook, but i don't love it. I just get hungry LOL.

So many different ideas and thoughts and experiences and lives here.

It's really a beautiful discussion.



You know, i'm not sure it is what she wanted to be honest. I couldn't imagine it would be, even back then. But, she says it is what she loved, keeping a house and home with no real life outside dad and us kids. *shrugs

i could totally see myself being content with what i bolded out from your post. For me and some others that is having a real life. Just like you love nursing, it's a passion for you i assume. For others they feel this same passion around the kids and the home, or just the home. Until now i've never afforded that lifestyle. i work two days a week at the clinic so i can rest! Keeping up with the Syr and the house is real work! i've always found it interesting that some women work to have a life outside the home, when i've always wanted to work solely at the home. i've always wanted time to enjoy my home, make it a real home and volunteer somewhere when i wanted to venture out.

When i was in banking there was a fellow officer sitting at the lunch table with me, an older lady than the rest of us. She spoke about how she lovingly laid her husbands clothes out for him everyday before she left for work. Not because he was incapable or demanding, but because she loved choosing his clothes. Everyone but me jumped her case about it. How demeaning and terrible of a thing that was they said. She was so embarrassed and ashamed. That always has bothered me, that they were so judgmental towards her.

Then again, i've always felt like an oddball.
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Old 10-26-2012, 08:46 PM   #57
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Belle's right about *it's all she knew*

My mom told me that in her day, during high school the girls would spend time picking out their wedding dresses. My mom is 73, so we are talking late 50's.

It was just a given that a girl graduate, get married, have kids, the end. My mother married at 18, had babies right away. She was doing the "womanly"thing. No wonder she was a mess all those years. Two failed marriages and 25 years of hell from my father. i just remember as a kid wishing my mom would save us, run away already, but she stuck by her man, until we were all gone and he nearly killed her too.

So like with Belle's mom, she had dreams but they were out of the realm of possibility. Women made the best of it, or failed at it miserably.

i've done it all regarding lifestyle and can make a choice, it was so not the same for some moms back then.
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Old 10-26-2012, 08:49 PM   #58
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I just want to say smart girls rock.


I have WAY more I wanna say but I'm too stupid right now.


I'll be back in the morning to drool over you smart girls again :-)
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Old 10-26-2012, 10:24 PM   #59
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I don't identify with June Cleaver as a femme. If I had to pick a TV character to identify my femmeness it would be Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I also don't like it when people lament for the old days. I like to be in the present.

I grew up in a Leave It to Beaver household. Except June smoked cigarettes all day and drank coffee and sometimes seemed depressed. My Mom is a lady. That is the best word I can think of to describe her. There are many things about her that I strive to be as a mother and a woman.

My relationship dynamic is very much like yours Femmesational. I would not describe it as 50s or June Cleaver though. I also do not see it as heteronormative although it might appear to be. That's ok with me if someone sees it that way. So Julie you asked how do we talk about this without making people upset or having a history lesson? I think referencing a time in history that is problematic might be causing the problem. So how do we define it? I don't have a good answer except to say that it is what makes me feel safe and loved.

I agree with Martina about not separating ourselves from other women as femmes. One of the most wonderful, liberating aspects of being a femme to me is is that I stand with all women, butch, femme, straight or what have you. I did not feel that way before. Maybe it is because I know myself better now? I don't know. All I know is that I am so unbelievably grateful and blessed to have these kinds of conversations with women now.
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Old 10-26-2012, 11:07 PM   #60
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While I think femmes intersect other female embodiments, I don't think we follow the same path. To say that a femme and a straight woman both shop at the same store, or share similar life experiences and are therefore more alike than they are different seems to be an over simplification.

I came out late. I am a vastly different person than I was when I was "straight." I don't like to pass because it is fundamentally not my truth. For me, it isn't a political statement or an invisibility issue, "passing" is a reminder of something I am not.
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