Tag Archives: hard femme

Femme is Home

Within the queer community, femme is often reduced to simply outward appearance, but a dress does not always make a femme. It is difficult to formulate a clear, concise definition of femme because femme at its very core defies simplicity. For me, femme is a way to proudly own my femininity and express all facets of myself, soft and flowing complete with rough edges and bursts of color. Femme allows me to subvert the prevailing notions about what femininity is and who it’s for. My very being is a ‘fuck you’ to the idea that women doll ourselves up to snag a husband. Femme is liberation. But femme isn’t simple. I’m a sassy Appalachian femme; a stubborn, never-backin’-down Aries femme; a feisty short-haired, edgy femme; a compassionate, pleather-wearing vegan femme; a flirty, shimmying belly dancer femme. I’m a femme who loves stompin’ it out in heels as much as I love retiring to the couch in my PJs for an evening. I am at once graceful and goofy, serious and silly, always passionate, oftentimes to a fault. I walk with a femme swagger that can hypnotize. My femme identity is much more than simple femininity. It’s not just a costume but a performance emanating from my core.

(The bulk of this post originally appeared in an earlier post of mine, The Complexity of Butch and Femme. I edited and condensed it down for a fellow Tumblr femme, vivelesfemmes, who is putting together a queer (southern) femme zine project for a class.)

Fuzzy Femme Project Update: The Fuzz is Here to Stay

I really did intend to do a 2-month post but my photographer has been super booked (and by that I mean my girlfriend is now not only working full-time but also going to school full-time so we don’t see a lot of each other during prime photo-taking daylight hours). Instead I give you an almost-3-month post (the photos below were taken 10 days shy of a full 3 months of no shaving).

I still have yet to hear any negative remarks concerning my hairy legs, though I have caught some folks staring awkwardly. Far from the prickly landscape I had imagined, I rather like the way my legs feel now. They’re actually quite soft! And though it isn’t an everyday occurrence, I love seeing the juxtaposition of my fuzzy legs framed by the hem of a dress and a pair of heels.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Slowly but surely, I’m retraining my brain, imprinting in it a new understanding of femininity and what femme means for me. I’m learning new ways to be okay in my body, to express my inner self through my physical self. I’m a hard femme, a little rough on the edges. I discard traditional ideas of femininity and form my own. I’m creating a home for myself within myself and learning to love that place.

Hard Femme Clarifications

The other day I was alerted, via Tumblr, that the author of the On Being Hard Femme zine, which I critiqued in Butch-Femme: Who you callin’ reductive, had responded to criticisms they had received about the zine. I’m so glad to say that I was wrong about this author’s feelings on butch/femme and on femme as an identity. I’m thankful for the response because it did indeed clarify the things that were bothering me most about the zine.

With regards to the insinuation that butch-femme is reductive, the author responds:

Nowhere in the zine do I say that butch and femme identities in themselves are bad, nor do I think that a butch-femme relationship is somehow less radical. I have big love for folk who strongly identify as femme or butch…especially since I sympathize with the movement to reclaim femme identity and counter femme-hating radicals who equate femininity with patriarchy and weakness. Also, the butch holds an important place in my heart and I am adamantly opposed to the idea that female masculinity or trans masculinity makes you a traitor to women and feminism. Whenever I read about the supposed “death of the butch,” my reaction is always “Noooooooooo! The butch is not dead and cannot die!” The comment in the introduction about the “dichotomy that people set up” (in other words, the generalized norm) is specifically brought up apropos of a discussion of how people would always harass my ex and I about who was the “femme” and who was the “butch” (or who was the “man”/”woman,” or who “wore the pants”). Our relationship and our gender expressions did not make sense within a binary schema. So when I say that the dichotomy that people set up is reductive, it doesn’t mean that being butch or femme is reductive or less queer, it means that conceptualizing of queer/lesbian relationships exclusively in those terms does not account for the range of possible identities and combinations of people/expressions. A dynamic way of thinking about gender and sexuality would certainly include butch-femme relationships while contesting the idea that there is no other type of queer/lesbian relationship possible.

I definitely agree that there is a wide range of identities and relationships within the queer community and butch-femme is settled comfortably in there somewhere, and always will be.

The author also addresses a concern that I had about setting up a sort of femme hierarchy by creating a new label:

Nowhere in the zine do I say anything that should lead someone to believe that hard femme is better than other identities, or more queer, or completely separate from femme identity. In the zine I advocate for open ways of thinking about identity that can accommodate a range of possibilities while prioritizing a “vision of how to exist in the world in ways that make up feel confident, strong, comfortable, and empowered.” I even claim femme identity for myself while re-articulating what femmeness is to me (because I am more interested in integrating and playing with femmeness rather than degrading and disowning it altogether). Toward the end I write, “I like being unconventionally femme, unconventionally Asian, unconventionally tough, and stirring it all up, overturning expectations while laying claim to these categories. But without allegiance. With movement.” (Author’s emphasis)

I’m glad that conversations like these are being had within the femme and larger queer communities. And I’m glad to know that there is another outspoken, unconventional femme and fellow butch-ally in the world.

You can read the author’s full response here.