Ten Things Butch-Femme

  • butchfemme1Butch-femme relationships played a central part in the early years of the gay and lesbian movement for acceptance. This was during a time when visibility fell squarely on the shoulders of butch women, most notably in the 40s, 50s and early 60s. During the 70s, labels were used with much less frequency and even outright rejected by the most vocal of feminist and non-feminist lesbians alike.
  • This backlash quickly spread and the use of butch femme labels was then not only considered objectifying to all women, but those using them were accused of playing into heterosexual roles. They felt that to continue ascribing to these “stereotypical” patterns only served to disempower women and strip them of their subjectivity.
  • I wonder in what heterosexual homo sapient society, in terms of sexuality, is the male dominant partner primarily and unselfishly concerned with giving pleasure rather than receiving? What appears to imitate is that which sets us apart.
  • We live in a time where attitudes and behaviors are neither enforced nor demanded in order to maintain any sort of distinction. Being butch has always been about being and feeling empowered and using it to break free from societies conventions of what it means to be a gay woman.
  • There is access to a certain level of respect traditionally held by heterosexual men, but there is only validation to be found in being a woman. For a butch lesbian in the 40s to be herself while sporting gear and mannerisms different from the norm was a dangerous risk and one that primarily happened behind the closed doors of a lesbian bar or club. By the time the 50s rolled around, being butch was a statement although there were rigid definitions attached to the label and you weren’t considered a “real” butch if you were unafraid to outwardly express femininity.
  • As new age butch lesbians we are born with the hope and dream of sexual freedom and autonomy, yet there are those among us that would rather we adhere to uncompromised relationships based on  the absolute sharing of roles and equality in every aspect of living and loving. The fact is, we don’t want the government in our bedroom, and we certainly won’t accept an attitude that says to prefer being a bottom is to enjoy objectification and to prefer being a top is to enjoy objectifying.
  • The notion that butch-femme identity is devalued because it does not coincide with the majority is as absurd as it is petty.  It also does more to further alienate than include. While those who identify as butch-femme are a historically proud collective, they have morphed into something larger and even more proud. One that refuses be who we are behind closed doors only.
  • The exchange of power in relationships and between femme-butch couples is not one of oppression, but a personal matter of opposites desiring, attracting, and wants and needs being realized within a unique relationship structure. Femmes are just as powerful as butches. To add, not every butch or femme identified lesbian has a distinct preference in the same sex and I’d argue that most are simply attracted to women regardless of how they perceive or are perceived by others.
  • It is understood that there is the possibility that power sharing can and sometimes will be abused and sexism is usually the main culprit. It also becomes a problem when negative stereotypical behaviors are practiced. However, we can find negative behaviors within any relationship type despite who is more or less dominant or how that relationship is defined.
  • Criticism of butch-femme identity is faulty in that its primary assumption is mimicry of heterosexual relationships. This further assumes that heterosexual relationships are THE norm and all others are created imitations, when the truth couldn’t be more different. The assumption that femmes hold less power than butches is another confirmed myth. Furthermore, butches and femmes don’t need to imitate anything or anyone, and I encourage them to continue living and loving as they are and who they please.–1- 
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10 Comments

  • At 2009.06.03 02:40, Alix said:

    Everybody has to find their place within the community where they fit. And everyone needs to respect it, even if they don’t understand it.

    • At 2009.06.03 16:14, Sublimefemme said:

      I love what you have to say about power, particularly on the stereotype of femmes as weak, fragile, etc. I hate that one! Although I’m a femme whose heart beats faster for butches, I would hesisitate to speak of “butch-femme identity” because it seems to imply that butches and femmes only partner with each other. I bring this up because I personally have learned a lot about femme identity from other femmes who partner with femmes and/or lipstick lesbians.

      I completey agree about the question of mimicry. The belief that butch/femme merely reproduces heterosexual norms is a myth, but one that sometimes seems like it will never die. Here’s my post about this topic–stop by and check it out the next time you’re in the neighborhood~

      http://sublimefemme.wordpress.com/2008/09/13/the-feminist-fairytale-about-butchfemme/

      • At 2009.06.04 06:18, Vanessa said:

        I gave up trying to answer the, "So which one of you is the man" question. It's one of those things that you will have to be Lesbian to FULLY understand. I <3 my butches/aggressives/studs/bois!!! *bites lip*

        • At 2009.06.04 19:04, AJ said:

          Lol @ Vanessa and her comments.

          How the hell did I miss this post? It is now the 5th of June! Did TwitterFeed eff up???

          Once again, you have delivered another detailed, well calculated, and mentally challenging piece.

          "Criticism of butch-femme identity is faulty in that its primary assumption is mimicry of heterosexual relationships."

          If I could wear this on my face I would. What is even more unfortunate is that there are those in our community who thinks this of those who identify as such.

          Keep writing SWG. I WILL be reading the positive blogs. Trust me.

          I will keep posting videos to the YouTube Chanel, so I would appreciate if you announce it when I do on your blog :-) I've got your email. Peace out homie.

          • At 2009.06.04 19:11, blueinthefaceangel said:

            I love them too.I loved this post.Maybe because I'm only 18 but it seems like the younger generation of lesbians and bi's are really aginst the B/F dynamic or they think the word butch is offensive on is so old school…

            • At 2009.06.12 15:41, Kelly Brown said:

              Hi, very nice post. I have been wonder’n bout this issue,so thanks for posting

              • At 2009.06.13 12:57, jennifer Griffin said:

                u hit it out of the park once again.

                the part about butch/femme relationships mimicky heterosexual ones is the one that i'm particularly sensitive to. i really appreciate your intelligent and insight on the matter.

                • At 2010.07.02 17:52, mecca said:

                  i really enjoied this post just like Vanessa said i hate always answering the question of "whos the guy" the reason im with another woman is because there are no men involed dominate and masculine are not synonyms just bcause i may not be as feminine as my partner doesnt mean i hold more power than she does

                  • At 2010.07.03 05:48, Knowledge said:

                    Thanks so much for coming through. I think we have all had it up to here with that dreaded question. Glad you like the essay. Come back soon…

                    • At 2013.02.10 10:34, umroh haji said:

                      I do accept as true with all of the concepts you’ve offered in your post. They are really convincing and can definitely work. Still, the posts are very quick for starters. May just you please prolong them a little from subsequent time? Thanks for the post.

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