Friday, April 10, 2009

Femme Is A Gift: Hedonism, Choices and Subversion

So I'm supposed to be writing for the Femmethology tour. Visible: A Femmethology is a sigh-of-happiness book- it's always a relief to me to read the stories and experiences of other femmes. They asked me to participate. Didn't give me any limits or anything. Very cool, right?
...And I have no idea what to write. The pressure, the pressure! Am I supposed to be witty? Intellectual? Original? Yeah, right. Me?
So I decided that I would do my favorite thing, which is to ask questions that may or may not have an answer.

How do I talk about femme as a shared experience, discuss it in a way that is meaningful? And my everfabulous Ferret had a good starting place. "Being femme means paying more attention to culture, to the world around you."
I wasn't sure I liked that. Doesn't that mean conformity? Some people would see it as a weakness, that paying attention to them means they tell you what to do.
"Awareness doesn't always equal conformity. Don't you say, know the rules so you can break them?"
Well, yes, but that's because I'm intrinsically diabolical. But she had a point.
I think we do discard a lot of society's mandates in our effort not to be this Neo-June Cleaver, vacuuming the house in pearls and putting pies in the oven. I think for a lot of people femme conjurs up this vision of a lesbian housewife in lipstick and Laura Ashley, and for some femmes that's true, and they're happy that way.
Most of us are feminists, and maybe it's not just me who has trouble reconciling femme, with its traditional-feminine overtones, with being at least somewhat subversive. We are subversive; unique, I think, simply by existing. Lesbians! Without bad haircuts and flannel! What will society do?!

So why do we do it? What makes us unique? My butch has the answer, again: "Femmes give us butches the femme side of them; you give it like a gift. If I demanded it of you, being feminine, all that- I'd never get it."
And she went on (I'm paraphrasing here): It doesn't mean we aren't subversive, or that we're falling into the usual cultural mandates; it just means we're more selective about who we give us to, about who we care for, and how we do it.
It also doesn't mean that we can't take care of ourselves. We can hang pictures, squish bugs, replace lightbulbs, get stuff off the high shelves, and stand up for ourselves all on our own. And we can usually do it, my darlings, with style. But.
There are different ways to take care of someone. We care for them the way they need, and they care for us. And that is huge. And incredible. That makes us pretty freaking awesome.

I chose femme. Are there queer girls out there who didn't, who just went through life knowing that one day they were destined for corsets and style and a butch boifriend? Probably. I can tell you it surprised the hell out of me.

I love performing femme because I think we do hedonism so very well. Can you imagine a Puritanical femme? If it's in our life it has to look good, or feel good; better if it's both. Does that make us shallow, frivolous like they say we are? (Don't tell me you've never heard it said.) I don't think so. Maybe the people who call us frivolous are jealous. Maybe they don't know how to enjoy a little healthy hedonism, or maybe they don't understand that life is too short to waste on things that give no pleasure. ...We have a lot to teach you.

To me, femme is what we do. Femme is the sex we have, the who and how. It is the way we walk and talk and flirt. It is the clothes we wear, whether we wear silk and heels or skater shorts or blue jeans that slide down because we've forgotten to wear a belt (maybe that's just me). It is the pillow talk with a lover and the way we take care of them, the way we listen, the way we tell them what they want or need to hear. The way we demand things- attention, respect, compliments (you know it's true).
We perform femme. We do it, every day. We are tops as well as bottoms, we do partner with non-butch queers, we do wear sneakers, we are tough, we are even fashion impaired! Sometimes.
So have I talked too much, been pompous? Yeah, probably. Forgive me- it's my first blog tour!

This book made me so happy because it says: you are not alone. You are not wrong if you're confused. You're not weak. You're just who you are.
Which is something everyone needs to hear sometimes, no matter how fabulous they are.

PS- Go see the other posts on the tour this month because they rock!

4/7. cross-post: The Femme’s Guide and Femme Fagette
4/22. and Jess I Am (butch-femme couple day!)
4/30. en|Gender