There is a long negative ugly history that lingers today from (primarily) straight feminist whose ignorant understanding and malicious portrayal of Butch/Femme Lesbians and relationships that still dominate (academic) feminist thoughts/politics. There has also been an equally vicious unremitting lezbophobia by and behind this feminist onslaught of Butch/Femme Lesbians. The majority of the feminist naysayers of Butch/Femme, self ID as Radical Feminist. I don't fully fault Radical Feminism per se, more the women Radical Feminism has/seems to attract. Think Russia and Communism. Communism didn't fail because it was a seriously flawed system, it failed because its most basic principles weren't upheld by those heading that system.
Butch/Femme Lesbians predominantly were about thirty years ahead of organized feminism in both beliefs and practices. Since Butch Lesbians and Femme Lesbians were both female, irrespective of slight differences, as individual Lesbians they held Lesbians and each other in high regard. And within B/F relationships there existed a general/exclusive mutual respect and mutual exchange of power, unlike hetero driven Radical Feminism/Feminism.
But outside the comfort of private B/F spaces (homes and the odd bar or ball-field), B/F's were often treated with suspicion/ostracized in the least and violence/raped/killed in the worst. Butches threatened (threaten) hetero society first by being female so far out of the realm of female they compromised available descriptive language and Girl/Woman confines. And second by giving/sharing/exchanging their power/bodies with other Lesbians only. Femme Lesbians threatened/threaten hetero society by society presuming them straight, while they function fully as Lesbians, turning hetero norms on their fucking heads! In doing so Femmes resisted/resist male pornofied lesbian titillation (Butch lesbians were/are viewed by hetero society as repugnant) replacing that male titillation with societal fear/confusion. Fear for several reasons; fear because Femme's passed as straight causing males to worry their wives/girlfriends could potentially leave them for a Lesbian (and a Butch Lesbian at that) and fear because as presumed straight females, males couldn't control Femme desire or change the Butch direction Femme desire took. This radical way of femaleness put Femmes squarely in the crossfire of hetero society threat and violence.
Both Butches and Femmes routinely wore trousers long before it was acceptable by societal standards for women, both also were routinely harassed for doing so. Because Butch Lesbians wore theirs with pulled back or cropped hair, they were wrongly presumed by hetero society as acting like men or worse trying to be men (get what men have). Butch lesbians were often stopped/questioned/searched by beat cops implementing the three articles of clothing law. This was an illegal made up law that allowed police to harass/arrest Butch Lesbians who didn't conform to female dress codes outlined by society. If a (Butch) Lesbian didn't have on at least three articles of women's clothing, she could be arrested/fined. There are many horror stories of B/F Lesbians from the 40s/50s/60s being raped when in police custody, similar to South Africa's corrective rape practices today. These rapes were a way for male authority/hetero society to shove their hetero norms, down the throats/vaginas (literally/figuratively) of Butch/Femme/Dykes whom they perceived as threats and ownership of straight/straight appearing women. But regardless of the pressure/threat/violence of hetero society, Butch/Femme Lesbians resisted hetero conformity and in small pockets everywhere blazed trails of non organized Lesbian rights/womens rights, lighting the way for the near future.
When the future did arrive, several decades later in the form of the Women's Liberation Movement, B/F Lesbians enlisted in droves at their nearest Women's Lib Orgs ready to fight a war many had long been fighting alone. But were elite Women's Libber as enthused to induct B/F Lesbians in their cause? The answer to that is a resounding NO! B/F (working class) Lesbians were quickly discouraged from joining/participating in Women's Lib Orgs by Straight classist leaders. Leaders who were much more invested in not offending mainstream society/men than revolutionizing the sexist Gender Straight Jacket. Even the so called Radical Feminist (white middle class/academic) elite, many of which with straight privilege colonized Lesbianism while ousting actual Lesbians who didn't fit their STRAIGHT criteria for lesbian right down to the kinds of sex THEY defined as normal lesbian sex! It was the Straight white Radical
In the forty years since then, little has changed in a faithful B/F representation or understanding by feminists/ Radical Feminist/STRAIGHTBIANS and general society. In fact post Queer/Trans Theory/Politics where copious amounts of queer/trans have collectively mythologized B/F for their own personal identities/perversions, Butch/Femme has no accurate representation still. Therefore current RadFem groups, like their predecessors have formulated their notions of B/F based on past Lezbophobic ignorance (hetero mimicry assumptions) or assume the visible B/F queer/trans IS invariably Butch/Femme. Interestingly current RadFems and their ilk, are heavily invested in demythologizing trans male portrayals of woman, feeling (rightly so) that these portrayals of women are based on woman as object for male masturbation. Yet in their long negative relationship with Butch/Femme Lesbians who are authentically female and misrepresented, RadFems etc base whole theories precisely on a willful perversion of facts. At this point in time they cannot claim ignorance when the internet can bring authentic Butch/Femme history/Lesbians right into the comfort of their living rooms.
Butch/Femme Lesbians in varying individual/collective ways continue to challenge the Gender Straight Jacket and hetero societal norms/structures and as such we challenge both the old and new RadFems and the convenient ineffective feminism they practice. As a result we remain a target in their narrow crosshairs.