Change Your World-NOT your Body

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Femmes as punching bags for STRAIGHTBIANS

Some back and forth comments from a recent post found here in full context, that I wanted to address.

I will address shortly the frightful Femme hatred made clear in several comments above, but first let me tackle the ignorance or denial of the "passing" privileges of the Butch woman experience that conveniently seems to have been left out of MA's comments.

The thing about "passing" is no matter who is doing it or to be more accurate who it is being done to, "passing" is ALWAYS tenuous and uncomfortable and I have yet to know or to have seen in Femme/Butch spaces any Femme or Butch to revel in it when it happens. The ONLY time I have seen "passing" not  bragged about but worn like a sick badge of honour is by those in the "trans" community, usually your tweener dykes aka lower case b butch dykes who make up the majority of women who trannify.

Now I don't know if MA intentionally targeted Femme's with her "passing" privilege tirade or if she choose to simply ignore the "passing" privileges of the typical capital B Butch lesbian(clearly not her experience). As your run of the mill Butch woman my sex began being questioned around the time I could walk and slightly talk. (NO not yesterday!) By the time I was in grade school I "passed" easily and like today still, embarrassingly so. This "passing" privilege is compounded if you are a white Butch, because white privilege carries A LOT of clout. So being white and "passing" as a straight male can be quite troublesome albeit privileged as my Femme lover/sisters know.

A few general examples of white Butch "passing" privilege: this example has happened more times than I could ever count. The other day I'm at the grocery store and walk up to the deli counter, they have a number system whereby you take a number and when they call the number it is your turn to be waited on. I walk up to the deli where a black man is standing alone with a ticket number in his hand. The black man behind the counter watches me approach sans ticket and asks me "can I help you sir"? Not being a fucking straight white selfishly minded male who believes his privilege is natural and his needs should always come first, I reply "this gentleman was before me". Or the gas station I use most in my area, where like clockwork when I go in to pay for my gas the man behind the counter recognizes me and insists in a complimentary manner "you the man, you be the man".

And when out with a Femme either lover or friend, how does Butch "passing" privilege function? The Femme gets invisiblized and diminished further by having her lesbianism ignored and her power as a woman stripped from her. Such as when going out to eat with a Femme friend/lover I am the one who gets asked all the questions from "smoking or non smoking" to being asked "can I take your order" first. If out shopping even in specifically women's stores with a Femme, I'm asked in the presence of the Femme "can I help you sir", like she doesn't even exist. Whatever minuscule perk or privilege I obtain through "passing" like my Femme lover and sisters it isnt something I revel in and in truth being erased isnt much of a perk or a fucking privilege. It is an assault on my fucking identity every single time I am "sir'd" just as it is every single time a Femme cruises under the hetero-radar!

I cannot control how others read me any more than can Femmes, people have been conditioned to read male using certain signifers and female using certain signifiers and heterosexuality is an assumed sexuality because it is the majority. I am fighting for a visible Femme and a visible Butch, neither of which has ever been yet (but will be). But I'll be damned to think our visibility is so fucking simple it can be remedied with us clad in some godawful rainbow shirt or wearing a pair of double women symbol earrings! YUCK! And the truth is the subtleties of lesbian symbols amid the not so subtle ideas of hetero male and female would simply be lost on most people. Besides, Butch or Femme isnt what we wear, it is who we ARE!

I say this to you directly MA: I don't know who has been embodying your idea of "femme" but it isnt capital F Femmes! But regardless MA, you clearly despise Femme lesbians as every comment you have made about them is both sexist, dismissive and misogynistic! Seems you are more interested in some bullshit oppression olympics based on some 30 year old separatist dyke myths and jealousies fed to you, rather than real experiences of Femmes! Someone needs to shake you a bit and wake you from the drum circle dream you're having of a dyke solidarity with Femmes and Butches. The fact is most Femmes and Butch women get treated like shit within dyke spaces. Dykes have made it clear starting with the rise of lesbian feminism in the 70's that Femmes and Butches weren't wanted in their little club and those feelings still ring true today.

I am a lesbian Butch woman and my Femme lover is a lesbian woman, and we will NOT kiss dyke ass to gain "respect" from a community that clearly hates us! A community that has embraced every "queer" man, woman or fruitcake who has knocked on its doors leaving the Femme/Butch community wide fucking open to the harm and threat of "queer" politics! A politic that has both young and old Butches convinced that they are men herding them onto the nearest tranny-train headed to transville! And the ONLY fucking dykes trying to stop that train are FEMMES! Because Femmes stand by us despite Butch shame issues, protect us, get angry when we cannot, shout kick and scream when we have nothing left to say, work when we cannot get a job, carry us when we're too weak to walk, put us on a pedestal when we feel insignificant as a grain of sand and love us when we think we're freaks not deserving of love.

Femmes deal with all of our Butch pain and anger then have to go out into the world and deal with the crap from being invisible. I don't know any Femme who thinks its a fucking privilege to be seen as available to the male gaze and male attention, even those who are open about their lesbianism. Simply because a Femme declares herself lesbian does not get her a free pass to being left alone by men! Does not give her a free pass to being subjected even worse to male advances because "lesbians" titillate the male pornographic mind because all she needs is a good fucking from a man, does not exempt her from straight women using her as a punching bag, does not stop her from receiving sexist behaviour (you as a lesbian exhibited that behaviour right here knowing Femmes are lesbians too). So given that MA, it is clear even if every single Femme lesbian outed herself to every person she meets on the street, behaviours such as yours and the dyke community's are still going to exist.

I just want to make mention one other issue MA, your advice about the "dykes loving dykes" book. I assume you gave one of the authors my email. The first email I received by her I was put off a little and didn't mention certain bits of it to my Femme as she would have been offended. After another email from her I did discuss these emails with my Femme, she curiously scouted about the net and found a thing or two written by this woman that clearly outlined her negative feelings toward Femme lesbians. So after a few back and forth emails I no longer responded to her. She clearly holds the same sexist views you yourself hold towards Femmes. 


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  1. That is so dead on in regards to a white Butch woman having it difficult because of the white male privilege crap. I hate that I pass so 'easily' but I understand it now. There was I time when I didn't understand it and it was confusing. I confused the fucked up acceptance with true acceptance. I truly believe many young butches confuse that same thing and it's the true Butches that those folks need to be around and be exposed to! I wish I was around more before but at the same time I am who I am from my experiences. I'm just glad I didn't go down that path any further than I did.


  2. How did we get into this mess? All my life we have been arguing over who is the right kind of lesbian and who is the wrong kind. All my life we have been too busy fighting each other to listen to each other, to learn from each other, develop our feminist consciousness, and fight male domination.

    And I've fallen for the same thing. I tend to focus on feminist theories which resonate with me, but all too often that means reading authors who tell me what I already believe, and who start from what I have also experienced. I'm not reading many authors who come from very different experiences and acquired very different perspectives on feminism or on lesbian community. I tend to focus on love between two people who share the same experiences, the same joys and sorrows, the same personalities, and reach outward from there. I tend to feel the closest kinship with feminist figures who distanced themselves from both butch and femme. And I may reach for explanations that fit my experience without realizing these explanations dismiss the experiences of those of my sisters who have experienced love between butch and femme.

    Maybe we need to begin with what we share in common. We are all women and we are all drawn to other women. But all the terms which come to mind, from lesbian, to dyke, to woman-identified-woman, and so on, have been claimed by one group or another group to the exclusion of all others.

    (But even that will fall foul of queer theory and claims of the social construction of man and woman...)

  3. Anonymous, the sad fact is, for years I and the Femme sisters I know, have helped champion the cause for Butches and all dykes including those that would sooner push us to the ground for being a Femme.

    Seems that what we embody is just too abrasive for some dykes to handle and therefore we are dismissed as traitors or attacked for 'passing'. This is just another form of dividing women and keeping us from forging a committed sisterhood in order to come together to fight patriarchy.

    It would be a positive move if all dykes could open their eyes and see that we ARE on the same team doing our bit to fight the mechanisms and forces that ultimately hurt and alienate all women.

    FA x

  4. this is NOT related to your post Dirt, sorry. but I wanted to share this with you:
    apparently a feminist bookstore is helping to fund top surgery for transgenders by running a cafe inside. your thoughts on this?

  5. Femme Avenger,

    I'm just thinking how some femmes, not all femmes, sometimes wear makeup. I have severe allergies, and usually avoid putting anything on my skin, whether it's cosmetics or sunblock. Now some other girls would make fun of me for my skin problems and make fun of me for not wearing makeup. I built up a lot of resentment towards makeup and a degree of dismissiveness toward those women, including some femmes, who choose to wear the stuff. I hope you can spare some patience for those of us who need to escape our prejudices towards femmes and/or butches.

  6. Cassundra,

    Thanks for the link! Will definitely post something about this horror in a day or two.


  7. Anon,

    I think its pretty clear from FA's comments/stand that both Femme and Butch are entities naked. Clothes or make up dont make the Femme, no do they erase her lesbianism.


  8. Anonymous - you said "Maybe we need to begin with what we share in common. We are all women and we are all drawn to other women." You do realize that's a helluva lot easier said than done...? I wasn't sure if you were serious in what you said or if you were just kind saying what ought to be.

    Dirt - I agree - it's sickening of white men. I despise the ones who know it and abuse it.

    FA - Yep...Here is a perfect example - Michigan women's music festival. So many women and so many 'varieties' (if you will) of lesbians. If everyone could just see we are all on the same team - it would do wonders. Sadly, it's not that way. There are some good women there that I have met and then there are some women who are so selective and they drive me nuts because I see it a mile away and others don't.

    Cassaundra - Tried to pull up the article but it won't come up. Based on your description of what it is about .. it really is screwed up because if you look at the definition of all depends on which definition you choose. 1st was the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. Then yeah, this would be acceptable I guess but if you look at the 2nd definition which is organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests then that would be fucked up. I'm sorry but there are times when I want to go to places where is it about women and for women (see above about michfest) and I don't want to be sitting next to an Mtf or a soon to be ftM who can't wait to be a man. I know your post was directed to Dirt but I just had to say something.

    Anonymous #2 (not sure if you are the same person as the first) Those 'girls' who make fun of you are just not worth it. I'm sorry to hear you experienced that.


  9. Hmm...where is the edit button? I'm re-reading my post and I realize I didn't read it carefully before hitting send. The whole fundraiser for top surgery for transgenders business is bothering me. I said at one point it was ok I guess but ya know - it's not ok. It's screwed up.


  10. Hi Anonymous,
    Sorry to hear that some Femmes have been bitchy to you regarding make-up and your issue with not wearing it. This policing of individual choices around Femme presentation is just ridiculous and divisive.

    As Dirt said, you do not need make up to signify you are Femme. Femme is about energy and I am just as Femme in a military uniform as I am in heels, dress and lacy underwear or totally nude.

    We as Femmes really need to fight this rubbish and support each other in all our glorious diversity.

    FA x

  11. Great post, great comments. My thought on the earlier discussion was... after everything I've done to get to this particular point, I will be damned if I let someone tell me how to be a lesbian. I just am, take it or leave it. I worked too hard to get to a point where I get to define myself instead of letting everyone else do it for me.

  12. I see just what kind of an ally you are Dirt. The kind that can't be trusted....sadly...and that's hurtful. I've NEVER used a Femme as a 'punching bag', but I DO affirm being primarily Butch on Butch. It is YOU who started the whole sordid nastiness with your Capital B Butch Bullshit, that ONLY a Butch EXCLUSIVELY into Femmes can claim the word 'Butch'!

    I countered that, and will continue to counter that. I've done ALL flavors of womyn, and the strongest preference I have is exclusively LESBIAN women...I've had longterm relationships with Femmes and with Butches, and affairs/one night stands whathaveyou with all manner of different kinds of women, lesbian and bisexual. I've come to different conclusions with that.

    And NEVER have I been put down more for enjoying Butches than by other Butches, the kind like you who are exclusively into Femmes. There are MANY Butches who like both flavors, both Butches, Femmes and all the rest. They are as much of a Butch as you are. They have NO INTENTION to transition, they ARE NOT 'Tweeners', or all the things you attribute to any Butch who doesn't have the same Femme worshipping behavior you have. Because they too honor and LOVE and LUST after other Butches.

    MANY Butches are trying to hold onto their Butch identities, and I don't want to see my sister Butch loving Butches, or Butches who love and lust after BOTH Butches and Femmes feel 'less than' or that they're 'not really Butch' because they don't follow your lockstep or that of B/ or any other straitjacket lesbian commmunity that YOU YOURSELF rail against for not accepting Butch/Femme lesbians.

    I don't want them to be convinced that maybe they're 'into dudes' cuz they like other Butches, or are dudes, or that FTMs and Butches are the same, or for that matter, maybe even gay men....and on and on with the insanity, the SAME TYPE of insanity that you claim that B/F lesbians suffer under, the same type that Butch on Butch lesbians HAVE ALSO suffered under but can NEVER speak about.

    That's the REAL issue, if you want to take me to task. Not that I should 'worship femmes' like you do. I know what I like, what I prefer, I've been out for a darned long time....and I know what floats my boat, whether you approve or not, or give your Capital B stamp on it.....

    I worship ALL STRONG DYKEAMAZONS Butch or Femme for taking up their space, their power, their sexuality, and for making it into a different world because of their REALTIME WORK and presence. Not all the microcommunities one must jump thru hoops for to belong...

  13. MA, after the years of Dirt asserting a position informed by the lived experience of a proud Butch devoted to Femmes, you attack her now? WHY? Whether you are prepared to acknowledge it or not, capital B Butch IS grounded in historical, sociopolitical narratives on the lived experiences of Butch, Femme loving, lesbians, their lives and community. THIS is what Dirt reaffirms time and time again and has done for years, so why attack her now?

    To claim that Dirt is NOT an ally to you, or any other woman for that matter, is to ignore the work she IS doing to try and stop the misogyny within lesbian and queer realms that hurts us all, and her work to stop the medically sanctioned gendocide of andro, tomboys, butch id’ed, 'female masculine persons' and Butch women. She in not just actively challenging the mechanisms of homophobia, sexism and misogyny through this blog, but is working with people around the world to rally support for challenging the DSM, and calling a halt to the insanity and standard rhetoric in many B/F and queer circles of compulsory transition of all ‘butch identified’, ‘masculine female persons’ and ‘Butch’ women. Her actions speak as loudly as her deliberately irreverent words.

    And as for the assertion “I've NEVER used a Femme as a 'punching bag' – perhaps we should have a read of the comments on your own blogspot regarding Dirt’s post ‘Too Butch to Fuck’ where you judge and dismiss ‘passing’ Femmes based on one negative personal experience with a ‘femme’ woman. You state that certain Femmes (i.e., those that do ‘pass as het’) are questionable/ problematic – let’s start swinging the punching bag. Your own words confirm that your previous relationship experience was not with an experienced Femme. Your ‘femme’ had not walked the hard road side by side Butch women and therefore did not understand the longing of Butch Need and the pain of Butch shame. A true Femme would never tell a Butch to ‘tone it down’, ‘remove the tie’, ‘grow your hair’, ‘go buy your own sanitary products’, ‘just ask the clothes shop assistant for help with your size’, ‘pretend you’re a man’, ‘go back in the closet’, ‘do you have to be so butch?’. Your experience; and I am sorry that it was not a loving and rewarding experience, was NOT with a true committed Femme that lives to give love to her Butch. The example you give is that of a ‘straight Christian’ and not the lived experience of a Femme lesbian. In your own words “I wanted someone who knew my identity and my struggles inside out, and that I didn't have to explain to her, that indeed we ARE different from men, no matter what!” If you WERE in fact dating a true Femme lesbian MA, I guarantee, THAT is exactly what your experience would have been and you would NOT have walked away believing that all Femmes that ‘pass’ are ultimately problematic and unable to truly connect with and love butch identified, Butch, tomboy, dyke or any other lesbian occupying lesbians space.

    FA x

  14. MA,

    First, to what exactly am I no longer an "ally" too? Because if you are implying women/lesbians/women-lesbian only spaces there isn’t a single thing I have written either in post or comment in the last 6 or 7 years since becoming vocal that you will find a valid example of. Seems you have let your insecurities get the best of you here and are merely exercising a tantrum through (wrongly) slandering my politics.

    Secondly, you may not see/own up to your sexist and misogynistic behaviour towards Femmes, but your words/comments both here your blog and various other internet sites undeniably refute that. The fact is unless BLATANTLY obvious Femmes, andro dykes, run of the mill dykes, softball dykes, and dykes in general DO "pass" in most areas of their daily lives due to compulsory heterosexuality. Personally I have never dated a Femme who wasnt "out" in all areas of her life, nor would I, nor am I now. But that "outness" doesn’t mean that persons in the street or at the grocers or at the gym aren’t going to assume those Femmes (and dykes of all stripes) aren’t anything but straight, that’s how compulsory heterosexuality works. But the difference is “passing” is a prime issue discussed with regularity seeking solution for a recorded 60 plus years by Femmes, in Femme/Butch spaces. I have yet to see “passing” as a main course on (or a course at all) on the menu of the lesbian community despite a HIGH percentage being affected by this issue equally to that of Femmes!

    And thirdly, I write about a particular Butch experience which other Butch women relate to and understand. That clearly isn’t your experience but I am not going to apologize because MY experience as a Butch creates insecurity in you or any other dyke for that matter. THAT’S on YOU! It in NO way means I do not support dykes of all stripes in positivity as dyke women and in providing safe dyke only rad feminist spaces. Like it or not there IS a historical definition of Butch, which I and other Butch women genuinely occupy and live. And our life certainly isn’t a fucking “straight jacket” it is 100% natural because for us, it is a perfect fit. And our perfect fit in no way is a slam towards dykes for whom it isn’t a perfect fit, that’s simply not their experience/natures. Again, because you felt it as a dig (“less than”) illustrates your insecurity for not fitting something that wasn’t made for you to begin with. Butch in its original has been high jacked by far too many for far too long and I for one WILL be a voice and catalyst in restoring it back to its true nature!


  15. Dirt,

    I am neither Butch nor Femme, but I just can't see how loving other butches makes MasterAmazon any less Butch. And driving anyone who believes in butch sisterhood from butch and butch/femme spaces is just going to make it easier for those who believe in queer theory to take over.


    I have to agree with Dirt, though, that your comments bordered on femmephobia. It may be easier for you to see the strength of your bitch sisters, and easier for you to overlook the strength of your femme sisters, but both are very real.

  16. Anon,

    I havent said who MA falls for makes her any less butch, it wouldnt. I merely pointed out that being Butch as it was first defined doesnt jive with her brand of butchness.

    Butch has a certain experience and core shame which I aim to work towards alleviating with adult Butches and preventing Butches not yet born from knowing. That is part of my core work, and the simple fact is while that may take the form of very specific Butch it peripherally works to help dykes with butch tendencies.

    The internet is littered with queer butch, its about time there was a voice speaking for original Butch. Especially one working toward a VISIBLE Butch! As I am. Currently if you showed some random pics of lesbians sporting a short haircut and wearing jeans and Tshirt, most dykes (let alone the general pop) would ID that person as Butch. I aim to put a true face on Butch, BASED on BEING and NOT doing!


  17. Oh, and I apologize for misspelling butch sisters. *facepalm*

  18. Dirt, I was also affected by what MA brought up.

    I have read all of your posts and, and though you didn't outright say that non-b/f butches are lesser butches, you implied it with the words you used. You referred to B/F-oriented butches as capital B butches. In the English language, we use capitals to imply that something is more important, superior, original, the best example, etc., and that's the message that came across to me.
    When you say, "butches who pair exclusively with femmes," it's clear that you are simply discussing a different type of butch, but capitalizing "butch" sets up a hierarchy of butchness.

    What does butch "as it was first defined" means? Did butches used to be defined by who they dated/had sex with? I thought it was always defined in terms of what a woman was like. If non-b/f oriented butches were defined out of the category of butch in the past simply for who they were sexually/romantically interested in, don't you think that is a shallow, unfair, and unnecessary exclusion that you should not perpetuate? Don't you think that the idea of butch "as it was first defined" was probably influenced by the butch/butch-phobia that was so strong back then, and therefore something you shouldn't adhere to?

  19. iconoclass,

    'B' in the English dictionary might assign importance because it signifies a noun - yes, that's correct. Dirt IS Butch. But THAT is not the agenda.

    And in answer to your question: "What does butch "as it was first defined" mean?" perhaps a bit of reading of lesbian history would serve you well. This book is a good start Butch/femme: inside lesbian gender By Sally Munt, Cherry Smyth and here’s a quote to get you started:

    “Butch/femme is lesbian gender experienced from the inside, it is a mode of articulation and a living movement, it is the way our bodies speak our desires.”

    FA x

  20. This is iconoclass again, blogger won't let me log in for some reason.

    Femme Avenger, I don't understand what you are trying to say in your first paragraph. Perhaps I didn't make myself clear, but the point I was trying to make (and it is a point, not an agenda) is that the whole butch with a capital B thing is what makes what Dirt is saying offensive. The capital B doesn't just say "different type of butch," it says "more butch," or "more genuinely butch." That's what I meant by "setting up a hierarchy" - putting B/F-oriented butches at the top and other butches at the bottom. Dirt, I can see that you focus on B/F oriented butches, that's very obvious, but you reference other butches indirectly when you talk about butch with a capital B because you have to talk about them in order to distinguish between the two groups of butches. That is where I see you referring to women like MA - brief and indirect though it was. The issue is not what this blog focuses on; I can see what your focus and I have no problem with it. The issue is what you are implying (or what it seems like you are implying) about other butches - and no, I'm not talking about the "tomboys," "genderqueers," and anyone else who is appropriating butch, I'm talking about women who are very much like you, Dirt, but simply aren't solely or primarily interested in femmes. If you didn't mean to imply that these women are "less genuinely butch" or only "doing" butch and not "being" butch or something like that, then great.

    FA, I specifically wanted to know about what Dirt thinks of the way butch is defined (which I notice has been left out of her response to me), so that book won't help me. She may have a totally different perspective.

    On another note, Dirt, I think the fact that you are basically saying that most, if not all, the butches you are referring to have to deal with body shame is an awful sterrotype. I have no doubt that you know of many who do deal with it, but to say that you would doubt that someone is Butch because she hasn't had that experience - it almost sounds as if you are defining those butches as necessarily pathological. I would be insulted if I were one of them.

  21. It isnt "pathological" any more than to say all women experience internalized misogyny, it is cultural patriarchy.


  22. Let me ask an interesting observatory question, why hasnt the blatant "hierarchical" and sexist remarks from MA to both FA and DD been called into question? Yes my suspect posts/comments have. Hmmm...


  23. I just wanted to post my reaction to the latest LPGA- Lana Lawless...joke; that isn't very funny! •
    This latest ruling, in favor of Lana Lawless, is just ludicrous! Women are a protected class- for just this kind of reason. The reason women have pursued membership in the “boys club” is because the “boys” make all the money- women make a fraction of what men, in the same sport, do. The reason women have been a protected class, and it’s ridiculous that I would have to remind anyone, is because they have been relentlessly pushed toward poverty, by our bigger- more aggressive- male counterparts. Men’s sports have always been the gold standard- the bar that women could attempt to shoot for. And it is for obvious reasons why women would want to compete in men’s professional sports- the money is there, as well as the fame and prestige…they get treated like gods; while women are still, often times, marginalized in most sports. How many female-to-male transsexuals do you see in men’s professional sports? Is it because of the money? Is it because of the fame…doubt it! It’s because “most” women cannot compete against men- even with a sex change. So this makes this recent ruling quite inequitable; doesn’t it? There was NO justice in this ruling. It is time that judges are reprimanded for these types of irresponsible and unjust rulings. It is NOT right!


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