What is femme anyway?

Roland Torpor, "Les Masochistes"

I’ve been feeling like maybe I should talk about how femme feels (for me at least.) I’ve no doubt that the way I relate to being femme will be forever changing, & I’m positive that other femmes would describe this term differently, but that’s just fine, too.

  • Femme is intentionality. When you compliment my outfit, you are appreciating my taste, my resourcefulness, my creativity, my sense of adventure, my liberal application of glitter, my choice to wear sequins with sequins.
  • Femme is sharing. When my friends text me to tell me where there is a sale on cute underwear. When you show me how to shorten a hemline. Our conversations in front of a bathroom mirror when you borrow my lipgloss. All the things we have time to discuss when we get ready for a party together & show up three hours late, with the tallest hair and the most eyeliner.
  • Femme is defiance. Femme ignores the male gaze & tells patriarchy to fuck off. Femme is a refusal of the pressure to be thinner, whiter, pimple-free, wrinkle-free, smaller, quieter. Femme says that we’ll take the short skirts but you can keep the catcalls to yourself.
Femme and Proud

Florence Ravelle, "Femme and Proud" self-portrait

  • Femme is certainly queer, but it doesn’t tell you who you should love or who you should make out with.
  • Femme is not the opposite of butch.
  • Femme is open to everyone of all genders and sexes. Not all women are femmes, and not all femmes are women.
  • Femme is about style, not about “flattering.”
  • Femme is about pleasure, not about suffering. Femme is about healing.
  • Femme is about taking the time to be present with the body, to make time to care for your self. Femme is about quiet moments waiting for your nail polish to dry, the hair dye to develop, the moisturiser to soak in.
  • Femme is not needing to apologize.
  • Femme is about subjecthood, not objectification. Femme is about self-making, about magic. Femme is a little bit of a mess. Femmes don’t give a shit if you can tell they didn’t wake up looking like that, if their hair colour isn’t natural, if they have a run in their stockings.
  • Femme is about politics, about power, about play.

Honey CoCo and Frostine Shake at The Galactic! Photo by Polar Eyes

Femme Shark Manifesto, written by Leah Lakshmi Pipezna-Samarasinha. Also available in print in the Persistence Anthology.

FEMME SHARKS RECOGNIZE THAT FEMMES COME IN ALL KINDS OF SIZES AND EACH KIND IS LUSCIOUS. WE WORK TOWARDS LOVING OUR CURVY, FAT, SKINNY, SUPERSIZE, THICK, DISABLED, BLACK AND BROWN FINE-ASS BODIES EVERY DAY. WE REALIZE THAT LOVING OURSELVES IN A RACIST/SEXIST/HOMO/TRANSPHOBIC/ABLIST/CLASSIST SYSTEM IS AN EVERY DAY ACT OF WAR AGAINST THAT SYSTEM.

Claire's New Year's Eve self portrait

Claire’s femme manifesto:

IT’S ACTUALLY A RADICAL POLITICAL STATEMENT THAT I WAKE UP EVERY FUCKING DAY IN THIS GODFORSAKEN, PATRIARCHAL, WHITE-SUPREMEST WORLD AND DECIDE TO PUT ON LASHBLAST WATERPROOF MASCARA AND A PUSHUP BRA. NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES WHITE CIS-MEN SEXUALLY HARASS ME FROM THEIR CARS, NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES WHAT I WEAR MAKES ME INVISIBLE TO THE QUEER COMMUNITY, NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES I FEEL OBJECTIFIED BY A STRANGER, I STILL WEAR ALL THE LINGERIE I WANT AND TAKE ALL THE TIME I NEED WITH MY HAIR STRAIGHTENER. ALL OF THESE THINGS MAKE ME EXTREMELY BADASS, AND ALL OF THESE DECISIONS ARE NOT ACCIDENTS. IT IS A RECLAMATION AND IT IS NOT EASY.

STOP UNDERESTIMATING ME.

Dolly Parton with the cast of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Dolly Parton in BlackBook:

Eventually people realize that there’s a brain under this hair, and a heart under these boobs, but I also like being a character that they can enjoy. It makes it kind of fun when I do get out on stage and tell my real story, and they get to see the real me. I’m a very artificial-looking person, but I’m a very real person.

Femme Cowboy Rae Spoon’s “Be The Light”

Unobject:

Every morning, getting dressed is a process of quantifying an apathy to violence, potential, mediated, or openly hostile, for the day.

It’s impossible to exhaust this topic in one post – and if so, what would I blog about? I’d love to hear yr femme definitions, too.

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24 responses to “What is femme anyway?”

  1. carly says :

    To be honest, before you I didn’t even know what femme meant…and was still kind of wondering so this definitely helped, thanks :)

  2. Kwerey says :

    I love this post so fucking much. I came here from this little quoted excerpt – http://garconniere.tumblr.com/post/18021506465/femme-is-intentionality-when-you-compliment-my which already made me run around and think lots of interesting thoughts about femme versus the cultural default of femininity, and then I read your post and realised you were already saying ‘femme says fuck you to the patriarchy, to the male gaze’ and so on.

    (my femme thoughts are here: http://querything.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/53/ since you asked for other definitions!)

    Much love to this and all the words and all the images and everyone thinking this stuff when they do femme. Whether they’re doing femme with bright hair and sequins or just by taking quarter of an hour to paint their nails. x

  3. Claire says :

    Literally though, I literally have goosebumps reading this.

  4. OllieFace says :

    *smiles* this is amazing.

    I’ve been asking myself about what (and who) qualifies as femme a lot this past week, when I started a femmespiration tumbler blog, Femme Top Trumps ( http://toptrumpsfemmeedition.tumblr.com/ ). I had to decide what attributes are quintessentially femme could be rated, this being the nature of top trumps. This post really describes what I was looking for when choosing femme idols, and how I generally think about femme myself. Thanks!

    I would probably add to “Femme is not the opposite of butch”.. ‘femme does not exist as a counterpart to butch, nor rely on butch in order to exist as queer; as a femme with very little interest in butch people its something that I often have to make clear to people who assume that femininity is essentially something done to attract or please masculine people.

  5. Brent says :

    Feminine beauty and strength is a great combination.

  6. Janelle says :

    AMEN! I could not have said this better myself. I LOVE Clair’s manifesto and this entire blog sums up my life – a life I LOVE <3

    much fabulous femme love!
    xoxo

  7. Rachel says :

    I know I’m late to this post, but as a skinny hetero white girl who wanted to be a drag queen when I grew up, I just wanted to say: AMEN and THANK YOU.

    I put a lot of effort into educating myself about queer issues because a) I don’t want to sound like an ignorant ass and b) I’m hugely passionate about civil/human rights, and I think the right to dress and fuck how you want should be among them, to put it simply. So, it’s really hurtful when I feel like MY identity isn’t valid or accepted by some people in the queer community.

    One time, a woman who identified as “butch” told me that my outfit was “everything that’s wrong with the world.” I told her if a vintage, hand-beaded designer dress passed down and tailored for me by my dead grandmother was wrong, I didn’t want to be right. And that I liked her boots.

  8. amiee ross says :

    this makes me so bloody happy an strong as a woman an an admirer of Femmes, infukkingdeed!

  9. Robin Travis Holmes says :

    I agree with this. All of it.

  10. SammiH says :

    fully in support and 100% believe and defend our freedom to dress how we want wo BS. But one small problem and I bring it up because I don’t get it, not to push buttons – noboday can tell you’re making a radical political statement because you just look like a lot of other women who are just wearing what they wear who aren’t making a statement. You’re saying fuck you to the patriarchy, but it’s unheard. If I wore a NY Yankees cap because fuck you gentrification in NY, I still just look like a Yankees fan. Yes or No?

    • bossyfemme says :

      Well, I guess partially, the political statement is that people should be able to dress for themselves, and not for others.

      I think it’s a problem that femme presenting people aren’t often recognized as radical, but that problem is on the end of people who are not perceiving us that way, not with femmes ourselves. (This goes within femme/activist communities and outside them!)

      But I’m not really fussed if people don’t take my dress to be radical – for the most part, it reflects my aesthetics, not my politics. It’s much more important to me that my ideas and actions are recognized as such (tho I recognize that my overt political views don’t get so much face time on this blog of late…)

  11. astarstudent says :

    O.K. I think I’ll claim my little corner of Femme. So what, I’m trans, and don’t have a lot of femme experience. Starting today, I’m going to claim myself, my little portion of the femme universe. Thank you for sharing this with me. I feel like there is a part of me that can claim this and own it for myself.

  12. Josephine Myles says :

    Femme is about me finally giving myself permission to ignore the hardline bullshit and wear heels, make-up and corsets if I want to. Fancy lacy undies don’t negate my feminist stance. They just make me squirm a little as they work their merry way between my butt cheeks.

  13. Hm says :

    I thought I was femme but after reading this I guess not. I dont care about shoes or clothes or nailpolish. I rarely wear makeup or dresses and I dont style my hair. I look straight, but not in a dressed up sort of way.There should be a word for lesbians who are neither butch or femme:p

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