Wednesday, May 13, 2009

More talk about labels: Butch and Femme

After my successful post about labels regarding sexual orientation I thought I’d talk (rant?) about another set of labels I have some issues with: Butch and Femme. Just to be clear, I have no problem with these labels in general or what they represent.

It’s just a common fact that some (gay) women are more masculine and some are more feminine, so to me it makes perfect sense someone thought of some nice labels to illustrate this.

What really bugs me though is when these labels/identities/whatever are not seen as just that, labels, or even as continuums, but as two absolute categories. There’s some queer women (and you know who you are!) who try to divide us all in either of these camps.

In doing so, they seem to overlook that a lot of us don’t really fit too well in either the butch or the femme category. Not only that, but it often seems quite arbitrary or extreme. Reasoning like everyone is butch who’s not extremely girly or everyone is femme who’s not clearly butch seems a little flawed to me.

I get it though, especially if this works for you. If you are a very butch woman or really girly, I can understand you want to embrace this. But with so many other things in life, it’s hardly ever as black and white.

I don’t really care for most girly things. I don’t like girly stuff, I don’t wear makeup, and I would never ever ever wear a dress. Just some examples. I’ve also been told I have a few qualities that aren’t considered “very ladylike” lol. Still, I doubt anyone would call me butch. Unless I lived in LA of course, because the butch threshold seems to be extremely low there.

The thing that annoys me much more than simply these labels and dividing women this way, is all the assumptions, or rules even, that seem to go with them. What always makes me roll my eyes (even if it’s just figuratively) is when people are firm believers of butch – femme coupling.

Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand if you are very butch that you like femmy women and the other way round. Opposites attract and all that. I just don’t get why anyone would go so far as to say this is the way it should be for everyone.

I am so sick and tired of lesbians saying two butch women shouldn’t hook up. Why the hell not? I thought being gay just meant you were attracted to women, any women. I didn’t know there were strict rules about who you could like and who not.

I personally seem to be attracted to all kinds of women, ranging from quite butch to rather femme. Different women attract me for different reasons. This has nothing to do with me or my physical appearance.

Why be so narrow and limit yourself? I really don’t understand it. It’s just as stupid as people who like or dislike blondes. Really, you care about something as unimportant as hair colour? What happens when your gf dyes her hair, you go off her?

Seriously though, some queer women seem to be way too preoccupied with these labels and how one ought to act. This sometimes even goes one step further than what I have been talking about. Let’s get into gender roles.

Now this is really something I simply do not understand. Sure, everyone has different qualities and things they like and don’t, so it makes sense in a relationship to make some divisions or labour.

I can even understand that both women have different roles in the relationship. But why does it have to be so rigid? And why does it have to look like you’re re-enacting a straight relationship from the fifties?

Let me illustrate what I mean. On Velvetpark they have a vlog on which they talk about Butch – Femme stuff. I stopped watching it after a few times, because it just annoyed me so much. One time they talked about how it’s so great when the tough butch woman opens all the doors, carries all the groceries and pays for everything.

They even went on to say when a man does this for a woman it’s wrong, but when a butch woman does it for a woman it’s hot. Seriously? What am I missing here? I like it when someone holds open a door for me too, but I would hate to be in a relationship where I was with someone who was the door holder.

And I would be, what exactly? The person who slams the door in your face? Who never pays for anything? It also wouldn’t work for me in the reverse. Really people? I bet it’s much more fun if you mix things up a little.

I could go on and on about this topic. The bottom line is, I don’t really get it and/or it doesn’t really work for me. Let me know what you think. Do you agree or can you explain what I’m missing here?


Molecat84 said...

I agree with you. If we're categorising, then I would fall into the "femme" category: I have long hair, paint my fingernails and *always* wear eye make-up to work. Your point about people assuming couples should be butch/femme is both accurate and irritating. When will people understand that being attracted to or loving someone is not restricted to a label, "look" or (in some cases) gender? Yes, initially you may look in the direction of certain people but if there's no chemistry, or you have nothing in common then you're not likely to hit it off. No matter how pretty, butch, femme, or otherwise they are. Variety is the spice of life, this would be a very sad world if we were restricted to such rules. A well-written and thought out blog. :-)

Spoil Myself said...

It's not too much to expect manners and respect for others from human beings in general.
As lesbians we've already had to face many obstacles and even if the butch/femme concept was the only way of survival for some couples way back, it's still outdated, a relict from older times. But I'm only referring to the strict definition, which nowadays looks as if a lesbian couple was playing husband and wife. I mean, does this even still exist in the het-world?

If it's easier for some people to define as butch or as femme, I'm ok with this, as long as everybody agrees that some think differently.

I agree with you, being lesbian is about loving women and not about being into labels. Sure most human beings always fall for the same type, but for me it's the inner values that count, more than anything else.