@ Creating Change 09: Butch (Re)defined

From the moderator: Even looking for panelists was hard, because some people I reached out to, who I thought would be masculine or butch identified, and then they weren’t.
This panel was made up of reflections from 6 butch identified women. Notes from their remarks are below the jump. I really appreciated that there were two Latina butch-identified woman on this panel. I think race plays a big role in the formation of these identities and I appreciated seeing that reflected.
Lisbeth Melendez-Rivera–
Being Puerto Rican is a big part of my journey into butchness. The first time that I was called masculine, I was four years old and my mother told me I had “blue balls.” In Latin America, the idea of female masculinity is an immediate isolating factor. The main word for gay men in PR is “pato” (duck). A person who is seen as male identified is called “pata” (female duck). As a child, you look at that and ask do I want to be the point of ridicule? Because of all of those questions I left PR and landed in Boston, where I lived for 16 years. Don’t believe the hype, it’s not a liberal place. To be lesbian and to be of color, the good jobs came very hard. You were held to a different standard. For 16 years I struggled to survive. It has impacted where I went to work. I still know that I will never be the executive director (maybe a gay org, but definitely not a straight one). You struggle with what it means to be a masculine identified dyke. I live in a level of comfort with my body as a woman that our trans brothers don’t feel and I respect that. I would also ask that our trans brothers respect my relationship with my femininity as well. The fact that I have longer hair again, it does not mean that my masculinity is changing. My wife tells me that I am her big rainbow sign. We honor the invisibility of our femme sisters. “How I live is comfortable, how you live is brave.”
More from Lisbeth Melendez-Rivera here.
Carmen Vasquez–
I’ve been talking and writing about this for a very long time. I am butch, as I am lesbian, as I am Puertorican. Dress me up or dress me down I am still the captain of the rocketship. The emergence of a more public butch identity happened at a time when the intersections between class, race, gender became more clear to me. These things are about autonomy. It’s when I understood that I could no longer address racism in white communities, or homophobia is straight communities of color, or classism without embracing my butchness. I was a butch at 6 when I threw my dolls out. I had to defend that identity in a white led feminist movement that saw that identity as sexist. It is NOT sexist. I’m not a boy anymore, at 60, Sir is more appropriate. I was never a stone butch but I was definitely someone very afraid of the vulnerability that comes with surrender. This butch has been flipped by a beautiful femme top whom I’ve learned to trust. What I’ve learned is that part of pleasing your partner is allowing for the full range of her desire and expression of it. A really difficult two years have taught me to learn to cry, within this very male identity. I think butch is always redefined, by race, class, age, cultural change. Every generation’s expression of female masculinity changes. But butch remains.
More writings by Carmen here.


Moderator: Jessica–identifies as a masculine woman, a lesbian, legally married to a trans man
Kathy Bouche–
Getting dressed for a butch panel, already the thoughts were there. I brought my thermos, because that’s pretty butch. (laughter). A year after I came out, at 26, my ex-boyfriend (who was closeted too) called me butch. At the time I had all these negative associations with the term. The next time that I ran up with the word butch, someone I was dating told me I should read Stone Butch Blues. I ended up getting a motorcycle after that and it led me to other books about gender. My gender presentation is really what shapes my daily experience. Being told she was not butch enough, but also that she would eventually become trans. “Butch glass ceiling”–are there limitations for butch people? Can they be visible leaders? Would people (rich white gay men) donate to an organization with a butch leader? I feel that I have a responsibility to be mentored and to mentor.
Hope Wisneski–
I really didn’t think I was butch enough to be on the panel either. I have gone through the process of being pregnant. I have a two year old son who I actually carried. Ooooh. I really felt that breaking of gender norms when I came out. It didn’t matter who I presented anymore, I stepped out of that expectation. My biggest problem with the whole pregnancy thing was maternity clothes. Seriously. Stop in a maternity store and look around to see how the clothing would fit with your wardrobe. When I was pregnant it was assumed I was straight everywhere I went. It’s a constant personal choice whether to come out or not. The pregnancy has shifted by gender identity. My identity as a mother has shifted how I see myself. Before pregnancy, I had more men’s clothes than women’s clothes. Now It’s the opposite.
Sheri–
I feel like this is a topic I don’t get to talk a lot about. In my community, there aren’t many people I get to have these conversations with. Tattoos are also part of my gender presentation and identity. I identify as queer, butch, as a white woman. For me, butch is a way to define my identity as a woman, separate from straight men. I’m not equating myself with a masculine man. I do drag king performances, which has been a way to express a part of me. Also in terms of butch/femme relationships, there is nothing hetero about them. The line between passing as male and being super out as queer is blurry, and scary.

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33 Comments

  1. annaplum
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    I have a (practical?) question, and I’m under no illusion that any one person can definitively answer for anyone else…
    Living in a large city, I frequently encounter individuals who are, to my eyes, ambiguously gendered. I’m not certain whether they are self-identifying butch, or perhaps undergoing sex reassignment, or whether they were born that way. Is there a way to personalize an encounter with someone–say that they’ve dropped their gloves, and you’re trying to get their attention. I think of other situations where you might should “excuse me sir!, or “miss” or “ma’am”–depending where you are, regionally–and I wonder if there’s an appropriate way to address someone that isn’t offensive. Should I simply work on being gender-neutral in all encounters and shout loudly/try to make eye contact to get someone’s attention?
    in a more ongoing encounter, is it appropriate to ask the individual how they’d prefer to be addressed early on in the relationship?

  2. Anonymous
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    What I wonder is to what extent there’s any room for acceptance of a butch hetero identity. I’m straight but often I get mistaken for a lesbian because I have short hair which I’ve allowed to go gray, wear no makeup, eschew heels and rarely wear a skirt. I also refuse to “act” feminine (caring, motherly, demure, diffident). I use men’s shirts and shoes, sometimes pants. I feel like I’m the only one I know who does this and who doesn’t identify as gay. It makes me feel isolated. What is the reaction of the LGBT community vis à vis hetero-specific gender bending?

  3. mk
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Is it necessary to use gendered labels when someone drops their gloves? No. It’s not.
    Your second question has to be answered on an individual basis, because there’s no hard and fast rule. But please consider the fact that it sounds like you only have this question for “ambiguously gendered” folks–which means you’re only asking a certain set of people, in essence, to define and declare their gender identity for you.

  4. mk
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    I’m sorry to hear that you feel isolated. Since we’re not a monolithic community, I can only give you my reaction–which is that I find that some places are much more tolerant of female masculinity than others.
    I grew up in a very rural place, and there a lot of women, particularly in the various agricultural communities my family was a part of, presented in a more masculine way. It was tied into their lives as farmers and their relationship with the land, and almost no one believed that this had any relationship to their sexuality. (Indeed, the vast majority of these women were straight.)
    Now I live in Boston, which I find incredibly narrow-minded when it comes to female gender expression. I’m frequently mislabeled and mistaken for a man.
    I’d like to believe there’s plenty of room for acceptance of a butch hetero identity (which is why I think everyone should be fighting for an inclusive ENDA). If you don’t mind me asking, what is it that makes you feel isolated–a lack of camaraderie with other straight folks, who may mistakenly assume you’re gay? Or a lack of acceptance from LGBT folks once they find our you’re straight?

  5. Miriam
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Some of the panelists mentioned this as well. You definitely can be butch and be heterosexual. Gender identity/presentation are distinct and separate from sexual orientation.
    The stereotyping is the difficult part I think, but there is a world of possible gender/sexual orientation combinations and identities.

  6. snoozycute
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Working on a bar I find I have this problem too. It’s usually most approriate to use ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’, but I worry constantly that I may offend. The more colloquial terms such as ‘mate’ or ‘darling’ (which I use for all genders) are equally likely to offend if the person prefers more formality. The English language only allows for ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘it’. I have the same problem when someone shows me a picture of a baby or mentions their lawyer etc. How does one address or discuss a person when you are unaware of their gender?

  7. FrumiousB
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    mk, it is necessary to address strangers as SOMETHING when trying to get their attention. “Hey you” is a little rude, and “sweetie” is only acceptable in the south.
    I can’t think of any non-gendered ways to formally address a stranger. Does anyone have any good suggestions?

  8. FrumiousB
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    I noticed that the panel all identified themselves as queer or lesbian. I’m straight, and I don’t identify as butch, but I adopt many butch styles – hair is currently short, everyday shoes are flat heeled and look like men’s, I like trousers and button-downs (although I admit my shirt choices have been getting progressively more feminine). Getting my hair cut short this time has been an experience. Hair dressers seem to be reluctant to cut it as short as I want. The last time I got it cut, the stylist did something to the back of the neck that she said would make it “more feminine.” I hadn’t asked her to make it feminine, but I guess since my shirt and jeans were feminine, she assumed. Yeah, it’s a strange life being straight but not completely “femme.”

  9. Anonymous
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    I find this subtle pressure to conform to feminine gender norms coming from both men and women I meet. It makes me feel like I need to be “fixed”. Those extreme makeover shows on TV sure don’t help. At this one place I worked, where in fact there were several lesbians and gay men, every day at lunch they would turn the TV to this show called Ten Years Younger, where they whiten someone’s teeth, give them a haircut and laser eye surgery and find them a new wardrobe. Nine times out of ten the “lucky” candidate was female. The gay men at work, much more often than the gay women, would tell me to “come out of the closet already.” They seemed absolutely convinced I was in denial, or lying about my sexual orientation. I’m not. Out of a thousand people I’ve been attracted to, about 9,997 were men. So okay, it’s not impossible for me to be attracted to women, but what turns me on is hairy submissive guys. This appears unfathomable to the majority of people out there, gay or straight.

  10. Nepenthe
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    I find the whole “Miss” or “Sir” too non-specific in the dropped glove situation, though I do it myself when I’m trying to be relatively polite. I usually address the person by a non-controversial feature of their appearance to get their attention. (ie, “Blue shirt!”) Otherwise every Miss or Sir within shouting distance must turn and look. (Nota bene, this is ineffective at funerals.)
    I would NOT suggest doing this; it’s an artifact of my being raised by wolves, or too left-brained or what have you. I just wanted to offer up an alternative to gendered shouting.

  11. brightred
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    I think what Dominique (et al) have described is a big part of why a lot of queer organizations are starting to append “GNC” (“gender nonconforming”) to the end of the LGBT acronym — as a way of accounting for people who may not identify as queer or transgendered but nonetheless present to the world in ways that do not conform to heteronormative gender stereotypes. I also agree with MK that the prevalence of hetero gender nonconforming folks is indeed a good example of why an inclusive ENDA that uses the very broad language of “gender identity or expression” is especially important. You might be straight as an arrow but if your boss fires you cause he doesn’t think your workplace attire is sufficiently gender appropriate, it doesn’t really matter how you you identify your own sexuality.
    Also, concerning the dropped glove scenario, even before my queer years, it always seemed very odd to me to use language like “sir” or “ma’am,” and I generally think of myself as a pretty well mannered person. If I need to get someone’s attention in public, I usually find that just saying “excuse me” enough usually does the trick, cause honestly, sir and ma’am/miss don’t really narrow it down all that much. (Relatedly, it took me a really long time to start to register that if someone was yelling “sir,” they might be referring to me… so if you use that language with a GNC person, you might not end up ever catching their attention at all.)

  12. Alex101
    Posted January 31, 2009 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    I find saying “Hi! and smiling while making eye-contact is usually acceptable.
    Though I have been known to use a less friendly “Hey Asshole!” as the situation might warrant.

  13. a.k.a. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 12:16 am | Permalink

    Maybe I’m just not thinking about this right, but in this day and age I have a hard time imagining why choosing to use special labels for women who cut their hair short and don’t dress all girly-girl is NOT reinforcing gender normativity?
    I mean, I got called all sorts of names for doing things traditionally associated with “masculinity” in junior high, so I’m not arguing that gender-benders are a marginilized group. BUT, I feel that for myself being told (essentially) that I’m not “normal”/that I need a special label, no matter WHO is doing the labeling, does not have positive affects on how I see myself, and maybe even leads me to narrow my range of behaviors. (E.g. I think growing up I got a strong message that masculinity = strength = good. Feminity = overly-emotional = deserving of ridicule.) Because of a positive association I have with certain “masculine” traits, I’m more likely to transfer that feeling onto other masculine traits, and pretty soon I find myself doing things that are just not logical (like saying I’m not looking for love and a lovey-dovey relationship, because I think that’s cheesy, etc.)
    Does any of this make sense to anyone?
    So in other words, as I’ve gotten older I’ve tried really hard NOT to see myself as masculine, but rather as an individual with a composite of unique characteristics. And I’ve tried to embrace good characteristics associated with EITHER gender.
    Can people really identify as butch while also rejecting the gender binary? (or the idea of gender as a spectrum, which is really just a variation on the binary idea, IMO) If not, I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the concept…

  14. a.k.a. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    (What I mean was “I’m not arguing that gender-benders AREN’T a marginilized group. BUT…”

  15. trooper6.livejournal.com
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Personally I think there’s room for people to identify as they wish. From my way of thinking, if a straight woman identifies as butch, cool beans.
    Of course one of the tricky things is not, I don’t think, that queer people reject butch women if they are straight, but that a lot of straight women don’t identify as butch, regardless of gender presentation. Let me be more specific. When I was in the Army, there were many, many straight women there who drank beer, watched football, wore flannel, had short hair or mullets or whatever, could do more push-ups than your average Joe, were rowdy, were hardcore, etc. They didn’t identify as butch. Because where the saw no conflict with that behavior and their identity as women. Yes, they were working class. Yes, they tended to be more rural than urban. Yes, they sometimes messed with our gaydar…which could always cause problems when reaching out to them might get you outed then put in prison for being queer. But we queers in the Army at the time (early 90s) generally had procedures in place to figure out if someone was playing on our team while still remaining safe. Plausible deniability is a great thing.
    But what I’m saying is that for the ex-prison guard airborne fire-fighter I knew, who were she a lesbian, would be very butch indeed, didn’t identify as butch as a straight woman because she did not consider herself, nor did her male fiance, nor apparently her community in rural Oregon, in anyway gender non-normative. The kind of woman she was was something acceptable for her community.
    So butch straight women? If they identify that way? Awesome! More power to them.
    But it really comes down to what we mean by butch. If butch is an adjective that describes burping and short hair…then all sorts of people become butch. If butch has something to do with identity, then only those who identify as butch or, perhaps, are identified as butch are butch. If butch has something to do with lesbian, working-class identity rooted in a certain time and place, then then lessens the number of butches greatly.
    Of course, the question then becomes, what does identifying with the label get you as a straight woman? As a lesbian woman? As a gay man? As a straight man? As a third gendered omnisexual? Is the label being used as a descriptor? As a badge to give one admission into a community? What community? Of other butches? Of lesbians?

  16. trooper6.livejournal.com
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 12:43 am | Permalink

    I always go with “Excuse me” for everyone regardless of what they present as. I find it much easier–and not because I may not know what someone’s gender identity is. Some woman-identified people get offended when you call them ma’am because they associate that with being of an age older than they currently are. Some man-identified people get upset when you call them Sir because that has signifiers they don’t like either.
    When talking to a person, just say “Excuse me” while trying to get their eye contact. “Excuse me you dropped your glove!”
    When in customer service, “Here is your drink. Thank your very much, come again.” No need for sir or ma’am–still polite.

  17. Disarm33
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    Hey, I’m a long time lurker but just had to respond.
    I’ve often felt the same way. I’m a heterosexual woman who presents herself in a typically masculine way(according to society’s gender norms at least). I’ve got a crew cut, wear men’s clothes a lot, and apparently act masculine. It confuses a lot of people, and I kind of like that but I’ also feel isolated at times. So no, you’re not alone! I’ve often half joked with people that I’m a rare butch hetero. What I actually identify as is a whole other question, one that I’m not sure how to answer.

  18. youarehere
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 2:40 am | Permalink

    I noticed that the panel all identified themselves as queer or lesbian. I’m straight, and I don’t identify as butch, but I adopt many butch styles – hair is currently short, everyday shoes are flat heeled and look like men’s, I like trousers and button-downs (although I admit my shirt choices have been getting progressively more feminine). Getting my hair cut short this time has been an experience. Hair dressers seem to be reluctant to cut it as short as I want. The last time I got it cut, the stylist did something to the back of the neck that she said would make it “more feminine.” I hadn’t asked her to make it feminine, but I guess since my shirt and jeans were feminine, she assumed. Yeah, it’s a strange life being straight but not completely “femme.”
    I hear ya there….I am a straight woman who has many butch characteristics. Very short hair, flat shoes, and clothes that lean towards the masculine although they are not purposefully bought in the men’s department. I seem to always be spotted on someone’s so-called gaydar even though I am not lesbian. I have noted with interest that the first people to ask me if I’m a lesbian are gay people. I have what you would call male mannerisms: a swaggering walk, a steady gaze, and a palpable air of confidence (but not cocky). From the men, I get the punch on the arm, the “thug hug”, the nod of respect in passing, the discussion about sports, and the general BS’ing that happens in a group of men. I am regularly included in things by my male counterparts at work. From the women, I get asked for help with things, asked to fix things, and am regularly flirted with. I’ve had some women wink at me! I have a straight life but am nowhere near femme. My biology is female but my gender is decidedly male. How does one work that out in today’s world? Some days I wonder if my complete failure at dating men is because I’m too much like them.

  19. youarehere
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 2:45 am | Permalink

    Hey cool! There is someone else like me….I too feel sort of isolated. Men are afraid to approach me and the women aren’t sure what to do with me. I feel like I’m on the outside looking in.

  20. Disarm33
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    I agree with exactly what you say above. I know that the way I act and look is not in conflict with my female body. Unfortunately most of the people I come across still think in the gender binary. So having a name helps people like me exist in their world. If that makes any sense. I’d love to live in a world where the gender binary doesn’t exist and we can all live up to our full potential as humans, not just as men or as women. I feel like so many people reject positive qualities in themselves because they are seen as appropriate only for the other gender. It’s like some good things about me are seen as bad merely because I’m a woman. I hope this all makes sense, it’s late and I need sleep.

  21. Disarm33
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    Argh I know. A lot of men seem scared I’m going to kill them and a lot of women seem worried that I’ll hit on them (you know, cause every lesbian hits on every woman, all the time /sarcasm). Luckily I’ve got an awesome guy who see and loves me for who I am and is secure enough to admit it.

  22. Anacas
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 2:55 am | Permalink

    What’s wrong with saying “Excuse me, you dropped your glove”?
    It’s not like using a gendered form of address is particularly specific, and if a stranger’s presentation makes you unsure of how they’d prefer to be addressed there’s a fair chance you’ll get it wrong and they won’t automatically think you’re talking to them anyway.

  23. youarehere
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 3:02 am | Permalink

    My exhusband thought it would be funny to write “dick is good, dyke” on my car window one night. Hmm. I always did have a bigger set than he did:)

  24. youarehere
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    I am glad to see that there is a “gender non-conforming” identity category in the works because I really feel like I restrict myself by identifying as female when I don’t FEEL female. I mean, I have breasts, a period once a month, have had (and can still have) children, and I have some stereotypical female interests. However, my thoughts are male, my mannerisms are mostly male, my way of doing things is male, and my appearance usually gets me called “sir” (sometimes I reply just because I know who they’re talking to but I don’t always correct them). Men think I’m too independent and butch for their tastes (i.e., not enough of the Barbie look-a-like), and they don’t want a woman who inspires the man’s friends to say “Dude, she looks like she’d beat your ass!” Yeah, seriously I’ve had that happen and in those exact words. The two-gender system is horribly limiting. Gender is fluid from one day to the next and forcing everyone to say their either one thing or another does nothing but confuse and confound.

  25. inallsincerity
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I wish a transman would comment on this thread. I’m currently a young butch ( or boi?) trying to decide on whether or not to transition to male. It’s a really difficult decision to make and I’ll probably sign up for some counseling here soon to figure it out. If it were a simple matter of snapping my fingers and becoming a man, I would do it in a heart beat. But it’s not that simple. It takes years of hormones and moodswings and acne and painful surgeries etc. While I definitely feel a disconnect with my body (the whole born in the wrong body dysphoria), I don’t hate my current body. It’s actually quite a lovely, healthy everything-functions beautifully body. Part of me wonders if I shouldn’t mess with that? Does anybody else struggle with this decision?
    As for sexuality, I recently switched from identifying as bisexual to gay. I don’t mind sex with men because I like sex period. But I am a top and I prefer to strap one on. If the guy is cool with that, fine (and some are!) but women tend to be more into that so the gay identity (in theory) helps me find better matches and avoid awkward situations.

  26. Nina212
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Thats great that ur butch and proud and all that jazz. But can we, as a community, cut down on the labels? Butch, femme, top, bottom, stud, whatever. Its kinda exhausting and not fair to those who dont fit into any of the boxes that the mainstream gay community has created.
    Just needed to say that. Thanks!

  27. trooper6.livejournal.com
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m a transman, and I have commented upthread…though I didn’t comment about transness since it wasn’t really what the post was about.
    It you want to talk to someone about trans-stuff you can always email me, troopersmp@yahoo.com.
    But remember, being butch is great. Being trans is great. You can be one or the other, you can be both, you can be neither. You can do whatever you want. You can not do anything. You don’t have to make a decision now or ever. You can change your mind. You can shift your identity over time.
    Also, I don’t really see butch and trans as being the same or necessarily related too tightly. I know way too many high-femme transmen to think that. Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Sexuality, and Sexed Body are all related, but they aren’t all the same. There are lots and lots of options out there.

  28. trooper6.livejournal.com
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    Just to say:
    You can be butch and not be trans.
    You can be trans and not be butch.
    Being one doesn’t mean you have to be the other.

  29. trooper6.livejournal.com
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Most of these labels aren’t created by “the mainstream gay community” (whatever that means), but by people in subcultural spaces. Often people marginalized by the public face of LGBT advocacy.
    If someone creates a label for themselves (and we all do to some extent–my label includes Musicologist, Geek, person, etc) that doesn’t make it unfair for you who doesn’t fit into their label. They came up with a word like like to use to describe themselves…really has nothing to do with you. There are huge portions of the LGBTQ community (generally thought of as “mainstream”) who eschew labels…usually because they don’t need them for protection. And I notice your username is Kiki0716…Kiki is also an identity label…which you may or may not identify with (I don’t know you, I can’t say)…but the presence of the Kiki label doesn’t do me an unfairness.

  30. FrumiousB
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Maybe it’s generational or geographical, but not including a specifier of some sort just seems, I don’t know, impersonal, and therefore less polite. I would prefer to say “Excuse me, __________, you dropped your glove.” I’ll just wait until I am 80 and can call everybody “Dear” with abandon.

  31. annaplum
    Posted February 1, 2009 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, everyone, for your comments. I was only hoping to make chance encounters less impersonal and atomistic. I’m glad to know I don’t struggle alone with this.

  32. GL
    Posted February 2, 2009 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Completely understood! By saying some human traits are masculine, feminine, butch, femme, etc, aren’t we just saying that it’s somehow true that certain traits are “naturally” gendered? Aren’t we pretending that there is some universal spiritual element that makes crew cuts and motorcycles go together under one umbrella and dresses and long hair go together under another? How is this doing gender justice at all? I thought the project of feminism – and queerdom – was to destroy the idea that there is some essentialist grouping of traits like that. I don’t think moving from the assumption that body and behavior have to go together to the assumption that certain behaviors are “masculine” and certain ones are “feminine” (regardless of the body of the actor) and naturally go together is really any improvement, since it still pretends there is an underlying force that “naturally” lumps traits. It’s just a shift from biological to psychological/spiritual gender essentialism.

  33. MaggieElisabeth
    Posted February 2, 2009 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    YES thank you thank you thank you!
    I am in full support of transfolk and butch women and femme women – but I feel like it’s so regressive to say that being “tough” or “into cars” or “serious” means that one is “masculine.” I think it’s very harmful to ALL women to indicate that these couldn’t possibly be feminine traits as well.
    Hence, I am VERY happy to see that there are some straight butch women on this thread who refuse to participate in these assumptions.

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