Category: femme


Queer Fam… of Origin

A few years ago, when I was an outreach worker for a province-wide Q/T health organization, I got to spend an afternoon with my wife and a bunch of other out-of-town (mostly) adults hanging out in Renfrew County for the local queer youth support/social group’s Big Day Out. THere were safer sex workshops. There was a drag workshop. And there was a dance-party (at which a friend of mine paid the party a surprise visit in her Elvis Gear, thus putting the king in The King, and the kids went nuts and wanted pictures. It was a good time.
BUT (or, more accurately,AND): I met a youngster who needed to talk about Stuff with someone who wasn’t an immediate part of her microscopic dating pool. Long story short: We emailed, she told me about feeling like The Only Queer in the Family, I mentioned some statistical probabilitiess, and she wrote me back to tell me she’d asked her Dad and he’d pointed out the small but significant group of homos amongst her cousins.
“I’m not the only one!” her email crowed.
 
Sometimes it’s a surprise, is what I’m saying.
 
In my case… it wasn’t entirely a surprise.
We were all just really, reeeeeeeeeeeally clueless.
But it still kind of floors me when I’m visiting my (bio) aunt, my (married-in) aunt, my masculine-presenting cousin + her super-femme lady-love[1], and my Big Gay Honourary Uncle… because it’s like: I don’t have to flag! They all KNOW!
It’s like some part of my brain forgets that they’re my relatives, that one of them has known me since I was born, and most of the rest have known me since high-school, and all I see is a house full of hippie-ass creative queers (MAH PEOPLE!) whom I don’t see every day… and I suddenly want to be all “So, my wife and I went to this queer slow-dance thing last weekend…” while re-applying my hot-pink lipstick and talking-with-my-hands so much that my shoulders are getting in on the action.
I feel like those kids in Renfrew, going a little hay-wire just because there are Other Queers Around… even though 90% of who I hang out with, these days, are big ol’ homos.
It’s a bit bizzarre, to tell you the truth.
And yet.
I’m not the only one!
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Who totally gave me the Femme Dazzling Smile when she met me, because we do actually recognize each other, but I wasn’t expecting it, and it was really nice when she did it. 😉

So, quite some while ago – actually, a whole year ago, give or take a week or two – I was in Toronto for a conference that included a workshop on exploring gender through visual art. It was a grand old time, and I was surprised to see how much of my sense of gender was rooted specifically in femme rather than woman and, additionally, how much teary, shaking, rage was built into it.
I don’t know why that is.
I mean, I have theories. The little voice at the back of my brain singing girl, girl, girl was never told to shut up, never silenced. Whereas femme was something I had to find and, to some extent, fight for. I’m cissexual, so any time I gravitated towards a thing that was culturally coded as “girly” or “feminine” I got a big old “YES YOU ARE DOING GENDER RIGHT” from everyone around me (and, yeah, backwards much? But there it is) and, because I tended not to gravitate towards “boyish”/“masculine” things I didn’t get much “Yer Doing It Rong”. Except when I did what I now think of as “femme stuff”.
Which I guess means I need to offer up a personal working definition of Femme, how I was introduced to the word, and what it means for me.
I started finding femme – the word, the possibility that it might fit me – during my first marriage. I was shaping up to be a whole lot gayer (and kinky, and probably non-monogamous) than I’d originally thought, and the social expectations around being a hetero(normative) wife – with all the stuff that goes along with that[1], the expectations of modest-but-not-too-modest officially vanilla (but unofficial/unspoken submissive) heterosexuality, desire for kids & motherhood, even religious/political views and career aspirations (which starts digging into class stuff, but it’s tied up with the idea of “wife”, too), of not rocking the boat, of knowing when to keep quiet – was really, really uncomfortable. I spent a lot of time at family functions escaping to the bathroom so that I could let my shoulders come down from around my ears.
So finding femme – a word that is intimately tied, for me at least, to (a) being Girl, (b) being feminine rather than masculine, (c) being openly sensual & sexual, but also and very importantly (d) owning my own body & having physical & sexual autonomy beyond a Yes/No switch that could only be flicked once – was kind of a massive big deal. Like “Wait, that’s an option??”
I’ve heard Femme described as “broken femininity” and also – frequently – as a femininity that is “too much”.
I’ve always been “too much”. Too big. Too loud. Having been hearing the Social Disapproval version of STFU about things like my voice and my body and my sensuality since I was about ten, maybe a little younger.
So finding Femme was like “Wait, I don’t have to be masculine on some level to be all of myself at once? And not get punished for it? ZOMG!”
I wrote a poem, years ago now, where I talked about how becoming femme had been a process of unraveling the strictures of Mandatory Femininity that had been knit around me from birth so that I could be the feminine person that I am without having to squeeze myself into a garment that had always been too small, too constricting. Yes, it was a total metaphor-fest. Welcome to Poetry. 😉
It’s not that woman isn’t a significant part of my identity. It’s is, very much so. But what I am, this galaxy-sized creature that I am, bombastic that I am, can hold “woman” in its core and still be too big, too much, to be contained by it. Femme can stretch and mould to the whole of me. Femme actually fits.
 
 
Cheers,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] The day we went out to buy wedding dress fabric, my mom took one look at my tattered and patched army boots and told me I should replace them specifically because “[…] You’re gonna be a bride”. Brides, apparently, do not wear army boots[2].
 
[2] Tell that to my wife, who wore them on our wedding day. ❤ 🙂

The idea of Stone, the idea of Femme. I’ve heard descriptions of “stone femme” wherein the femme in question is The Queen of Cups – receptive, reactive, responsive, the partner whose moan, shiver, arch, pushes the energy back, completes the emotional/energetic/erotic loop so that it can cycle through again. In this context (in any context?) Femme Bottom (any bottom?) is all appetite.
But so am I.
I read Xan West’s writing about Stone, about the gaze, about desire and how a partner’s responses can make them come, just with breath, with sound, with need. And this is so familiar to me.
I’m not stone. My clothes can come off when I fuck, am maybe at my most powerful, most “toppy”, when I’m in nothing by sweat-slicked skin and high heeled shoes; I crave touch, hunger for it, too, but it’s scary as fuck and hard to stay in my body to accept it, let alone welcome it, without overthinking everything or flinching/freezing pre-emptively. I’m seven years (twenty years? thirty?) into trying to navigate my way through this minefield of fear, body, and performativity, towards the pleasure, openness, sincerity, the offering that I want to give in vulnerability, in desire, but also towards my own ability to accept the offering I want to receive, crave receiving, as a dominant bottom.
I’m femme.
When Tara Hardy writes “I, too, have a mouth”, about wanting to taste the world; when Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha writes about femme hunger and needing to be cautious when it comes to sharing the gulf of that ravenous need… That’s me.
As a femme top, as someone who is all appetite, who is all mouth, I am not the Queen of Cups. Following you with hungry eyes, I want you to see, and respond to, my desire. At my purest, I am the Great Devourer: I want to eat you alive. I want you to like it. To offer yourself up to my hunger, to the tongue that would taste every quivering, shuddering inch of you.
Xan writes, in “Where Pleasure Resides” (same link as above), a lot about cocks. I don’t have one of those. It’s not a word that fits me. But I deeply understand the yearning to get energetically inside someone, to find her mouth of fire, coax it open with the red, red pulse of my tongue – physical, energetic, or both – until I am so deep inside that I can lap at her heart and coax that open, too.
This is what I want.
This is also what I dread.
I don’t know how much of it is conditioning – my mother telling me, in my teens, that once you’ve fucked someone your heart goes with them, too – versus how much of this is true to the actual connection between touch and trust, between sexual vulnerability and emotional vulnerability, that exists in my body. But, yes, if I let someone fuck me, get inside me, even just feed me – though it’s easier to avoid when I’m topping (“less direct” is the wrong way to say it, but… riding a response is not the same as generating that response, and there’s an emotional buffer in that difference) – the chances that I’ll fall in love with them, want a deep, lasting emotional connection with them, rise dramatically. And that’s scary. Terrifying. And also yearned for.
I’m hungry and afraid to eat.
What a damn silly place to be.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.

So I’m trying this Kink of the Week thing, and playing catch-up for the moment, since I’ve started it rather late. Today, we’re talking about Stockings, Pantyhose and Tights.
 
To be frank, I’m a socks and stockings gal. On me. On other women. Gartered or stay-ups. They’re a lot more comfortable. The little flash of skin between the top of the stocking (or the thigh-high sock – I’m a big fan of OTK/thigh-high socks – warm, practical, and sexy as all get out) and the hem of the skirt is just delicious. Colour isn’t a big deal (although socks and stockings that match my skin, more or less, are kind of boring), and it’s not the confinement or anything. They’re just elegant. And, hey, I like legs, and stockings (and socks) show them off nicely.
 
All that being said, I’m a femme chicky, and how I cover (or don’t cover) my legs is a Gender Presentation Thing as much as it’s a practical, “warmth in -30 winters” Thing. I kind of despise trousers, and I’m quite tall. So thigh-high socks are a way to keep myself warm while also feeling like like look like myself. If that makes any sense.
 
Anyway. That’s it for me.
 
Kink of the Week
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.

So… I was originally thinking of writing “V is for Vampire” and talk about (other people’s) energy as food, manipulating (other people’s, or my own) energy during S/M scenes, and other stuff like that there. And I may yet do this. But today I’m writing “V is for Vamp” because it lets me look at the connection between “femme” and “femme fatale”.
There’s this whole, huge cultural narrative – one that I can trace back through Christendom and into Judaism via the religious texts we share that have shaped a LOT of European (And thus, a lot of European colonies’) cultures – about how women with sexual agency are dangerous.
 
While I tend to think of “femme” as, specifically, a queer-as-in-dyke form of hyperbolic femininity (and, thus, will mostly be using “she” and “her” to talk about femmes in this post), I do have a couple of broader definitions, like:
“Fem” as in male, frequently though not always gay, femininity; or
“Femme” as in “queered” (meaning “twisted” or “rendered non-normative”) women’s femininity, regardless of sexual orientation.
 
In its broades sense, Femme is “queered femininity” because its femininity that’s done (a) for the feminine person herself (or himself, or theirself) rather than for the “gaze” of anyone in particular; and (b) is, one way or another, an expression of personal power.
 
I find that “traditional femininity” is often read/cued as “powerless”. The Masculine does stuff to The Feminine. The Feminine waits in the tower to be rescued. The Feminine is the (exclusively) sexually receptive partner. The Feminine “lets the boy win” or does the unackowleded emotional labour of supporting The Masculine and centering the experiences, needs, and – particularly apt within the context of this post – desires thereof. And Femme doesn’t do that. Not as a matter of course. Some femmes do any or all of those things, as and when they’re inclined to do so. Sure. But it’s not a requirement, or a “yur doin’ it rong” situation if we don’t[1]. By that token, “femme” is femininity with agency; The Feminine subjectified, rather than objectified.
But that’s not only what I mean when I say “femme” is an expression of personal power.
I also mean that a Femme is someone who expresses/finds/claims her personal power through the (visual – or other?) expression of (frequently over-the-top) femininty. When I’m feeling on top of the world, I dress more impresively than I might do otherwise. Sure. But I also do that when I’m trying to access or activate my own power.
 
You’ve heard the phrase “lipstick as warpaint”? It’s like that, albeit maybe a little bit more nuanced.
When I get All Femmed Up – When I wear the velvet, the leather, the satin, the corset, the big heels, the fancy jewelry; when I bother with lip stain and perfume[2] – I am accessing a particularly powerful, giantess/glamazon part of myself that doesn’t necessarily come out when I’m, say, shlumping around in my bathrobe[3]. When I need to access that part of myself, I put on a little mascara, and it works. I stand taller. I stride, strut, and sashay rather than scurrying with my head down. Just with little mascara. Who knew?
 
And so I come back to the Vamp. The femme fatale who is dangerous, but who is recognizeable because of her cupid’s bow lipstick, her thick eyelashes, the deliberate slit up the side of her skirt. She’s the aloof, vampiric Angelina Jolie to Jennifer Aniston’s “girl next door”; the much-married, hypnotic-eyed Elizabeth Taylor to Grace Kelly’s tragic/fairytale princess. She is “glamourous” (in the sense of “entrancing” and “sorcery” as much as “fancy/fabulous”) as opposed to just “pretty“. The kind of woman who leaves broken hearts in her wake rather than settling down (“Safe in a house and a husband“[4]) the way that women are expected to do.
 
And, no, femmes aren’t necessarily looking to be heartbreakers or home-wreakers or “high maintenance” or any of the other things that we get read as or coded as. On my more cynical days, I suspect that we get coded as these things specifically because we’re not doing this Femininity Thing for the benefit of someone else. Not the guys on the corner, not the butches in the coffee shop, not our dates. Just for us. And that goes against what “feminine” is “supposed to be” (or who it’s supposed to be for).
 
I read an anecdote ones about a femme who’d bring a satin clutch out to the bar, and you could clearly see the outline of a particular dildo inside the clutch. And the gal relating the anecdote said something like “You can’t tell me that’s being ‘sexually passive’.” And I wonder if it’s that clear (if visual, in this case) statement of “this is what I want, and this is how I want it” is what makes the femme, the vamp, the femme fatale so intimidating.
 
Anyway.
I think I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to talk in circles, so I think I’ll stop there.
Ruminate Ruminate Ruminate.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] Although I’m aware that this has not always been the case. Amber Dawn, for example, talks about being Stone Femme and how, ten-15 years ago, that was a really unheard-of thing: A femme-identified person who exclusively tops. Likewise, if you look at earlier femme-focussed writing – I’m thinking specifically of the pieces in Femme: Feminists, Lesbians and Bad Girls – you find the “femme defined by butch” and “femme as specifically sexually receptive feminine lesbian” tropes/ideas/identities far more frequently than you will in more recent work.
 
[2] “Blood Kiss” by BPAL is a favourite of mine, but I’ve also mixed up my own concoctions – mhyrr, clove, and vanilla, is a nice starting-point for a perfume. 😉
 
[3] Shlumping around in a negligee, on the other hand… 😉
 
[4] That book has a character who is a Vila, and a sorceress, and she teaches the MC a thing or two about the magic – the sorcery – of makeup and glamour.

I wrote a little bit about my experience at Reading Out Loud over on my writer blog. But, for those who were wondering, I thought I’d post this information here:
 
When I introduced my pieces, I explained that I came out twice. Once as bisexual, while being a goth chickie in my teens (seriously, no big thing), and again, about ten years later, as a het-married gal who was poly, kinky, and still bisexual but a lot gayer than I’d originally thought. The pieces I performed were all from books that I read during 2007-2008, books that gave me language to talk about myself, and books that showed my my own reflection at a time when I badly needed to see my own face in the pages.
I read from works by two authors, both of whom are also bisexual, kinky, poly, and femme. Like me.
 
Here’s what I read at Reading Out Loud:
 
Femme: Feminists, Lesbians and Bad Girls
“On Being a Bisexual Femme” By Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha – under the name Leah Lilith Albrecht-Samarasinha
(Femme hunger; “I must choose who I lie down with very carefully”)
 
Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity
“Whores and Bitches Who Sleep with Women” by Kathryn Payne
(“Do you know your lineage?”)
AND
“Gonna Get my Girl Body Back” This is a Work in Progress” by Leah Lakshmi
(“I take one step past what I know”)
 
Longing at Least Is Constant by Kathryn Payne (poetry)
“Bi-Nary”
(“Why do I have to write it? / […] / To laugh, yell, and taste it all”)

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha. If you’re the kind of femme who reads a lot of “femme theory” books – or if you’re the kind of feminist who reads a lot of social justice essays – you’ve probably heard of this chicky. Well. She happened to be in Ottawa last night (Saturday, July 20th) to do a reading-and-socializing evening at Venus Envy.
 
Now, in spite of hunting up as much of her writing as I could (she hasn’t profoundly changed how I view the world, for the most part, but she was the first – quite possibly the only – femme who openly ID’d as bisexual in the entirety of Fem(me): Feminists, Lesbians, and Bad Girls and, thus, was the person who gave me the clue that maybe, just maybe, this word could apply to me. And that’s a pretty big deal), I was a little worried about seeing her read/speak live.
I always am.
There’s always a little bit of fear in the back of my mind saying: What if this person who is so awesome on paper winds up being kind of insufferable – or possibly just a bad speaker – in real life?
 
So far… that hasn’t actually happened. Not much, anyway. But it remains and so I strolled over to VE – in a blue sundress that used to be my grandmother’s, plus flip-flops[1] and glitter mascara – with my lovely wife, hoping that I wasn’t about to regretting dropping $20 on the evening.
 
Readers, I do not regret dropping $20 on that evening. 🙂
 
She read excerpts from The Revolution Starts at Home and her forthcoming memoir (which, when it comes out next year, I will most likely be buying). I cried. (I’m a crier, what can I say). And then she read poetry. Yay Poetry! 😀
 
I finally got to hear “When Kali and Oya Met”, a poem from Consensual Genocide that, because my copy came from an early print-run that contained a major misprint (i.e.: Eleven of the poems were missing and had, instead, been replaced by repeats of poems from earlier in the book), I had yet to hear. It was sweet and sad, and it reminded me of my ex-girlfriend, a little bit, truth be told.
 
My two take-aways from the show – other than that Leah is a pretty awesome chicky who seems far more interested in being kind (not the same as nice, mind you) than in being right-all-the-time – were:
1) The question of “What kind of ancestor do I want to be?” – This is a question that prompted a poem from Leah, but it’s also something I take into consideration myself.
AND
2) What does “decolonization” mean to me, given that I’m a white chick who doesn’t want to move back to Scotland, and given that the whole thing is probably a lot more nuanced than the “White people, go home” idea that tends to spring to my mind when I first try to think about this? (That, I think, will take up an entire blog post of its own).
 
After the show, there were nachos and karaoke to be had, but also a chat about the whole concept of creating and seeking out justice-alternatives to the police and the courts. Things that came up:
1) Bridge-building goes in multiple directions and no-one is going to change their behaviour for people who are Opting Out and having nothing to do with them
2) Change takes a long, long time (especially when it involves changing both a corporate culture and the systemic-oppressive culture that underlies it both for the oppressors and the oppress-ees) and, in the mean-time, there are still people who can’t or don’t trust The System and who, therefore, would appreciate some alternative options
AND
3) It is really, really, REALLY difficult to get a system (or a person, for that matter) to change when it has no examples of how it would or could look/act/be if it were different. Thus creating alternative justice options can, itself, be a form of the afore-mentioned bridge-building because they can stand as examples of how to Do This differently while still being[2] effective.
 
Anyway.
So that was my evening at the Leah Lakshmi show, and (so far) everything that came of it. 🙂
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] My hips and knees still work – hurrah! But, since I’d like to keep it that way, it means that high heels (alas) are for sidewalk-walks of no more than about six minutes.
 
[2] I know. One’s opinion of how effective it is will have a LOT to do with how invested one is in both (a) cultural narratives about who is and is not a Good Guy, and (b) the already-existing system. But bear with me.

So… If you read Urban Meliad, you know I’ve been picking serviceberries all week from various available-to-the-public trees. And doing on-the-fly food security outreach (i.e.: telling people that, yes, you can eat these – here’s how) to anyone who asked me what I was doing. It’s been grand. 😀
 
One thing I’ve noticed is that men are more likely than women to ask about it; and that men of colour are (slightly) more likely to ask about it than white men, and they’re also more likely to approach me for confirmtaion that this is food, rather than to inform me that I probably can’t eat those (this is when I laugh, pop one in my mouth, and tell them that they’re fine).
I find this Interesting.
 
I mean, yeah, given the number of guys who ask me about fruit who also ask me if I’m married (or otherwise involved with, always, a man) or tell me I’m beautiful, or start out by calling me “sunshine” (or “sweetie” or whatever), some of this may just be that they’re looking to pick up, or at least flirt, and hey, here’s a chick who’s clearly busy doing something that requires standing in one place for a while, so: why not?
 
But it makes me wonder what they’re seeing.
See, I know that I’m child-free and polyamourous, a femme dyke, a spell-casting witch, an animist-polytheist, and broke enough to (need to) use foraging as a way of upping my healthy food intake without upping my grocery bill.
But I also know that, as (visually, at least) a Nice White Lady with earth-mama hips, a modest (ish) summer dress, and my hair up, I’m more likely to be read as “supposed to be here” (even when I’m flat-out nicking food off of other people’s trees[1]) by landlords, tennants, shop-keepers, and bylaw officers than I am if, say, I was a Nice Inuit Lady or a dude who was missing a lot of teeth.
 
Speaking of dudes who are missing a lot of teeth, and related to the “what do people see” question:
Today, while picking service berries (2.5 litres, as it turns out! Go me!) I had a conversation with an old guy. It went something like this:
 
Him: What are these?
Me: Serviceberries. Here. Try one. Pick the dark ones, they’re the ripest.
Him (picking serviceberries): What church do you go to?
Me (figuring that saying “actually, I’m a polytheistic witch” might not go over well): This one. I sing the praises of creation[2].
Him: Wonderful.
 
Now, I realize that I could have completely avoided temporarily forestalled this conversation if I’d just said “I’m a health outreach worker” rather than “I’m a wife” when he asked me what my job was[3].
Maybe that was dumb of me, though, because he followed this up with a question about children (he suggested that, if we prayed, we would have them eventually) and – long story short – I told him that, actually, I was married to a woman, that the friendly, feminine, thrifty, religious, long-skirt-wearing, lady who stated her primary occupation as “wife” was, in fact, Completely Unnatural.
He said he’d pray for me. Specifically that I would see the light and have lots of heterosexual children (boy or girl, doesn’t matter… progress?).
:-\
 
My wife, when I told her this story, pointed out that I don’t have to tell Random Strangers (that’s me editing what she actually said) everything.
 
I think she has a point.
 
I recently read Persistence: All Ways Butch and Femme, which I will get around to reviewing at some time in the future[4], but there’s one essay in it called “Looking Straight At You” (Zena Sharman, iirc) which talks about the million micro-second-quick decisions that feminine (and therefore “straight-looking”) queer chicks – femmes – make every day about whether or not to come out (again) to (yet another) random stranger who has assumed that we’re het.
 
In the same way that Zena – in the anecdote she shared in her essay – chose not to out herself to the cab driver on a long ride home (because she’s in an insolated environment – being alone in a moving vehicle with the stranger who’s asking about whether or not there’s a boyfriend in the picture), I often choose to out myself when I’m in my own (heavily queer, it bears mentioning) neighbourhood, in a well-populated area, during business hours because… what are they going to do? (Other than pray for me, I mean). If things get gross, I can – and do – walk away. Typically I don’t get followed. (Possibly because I’m generally bigger than whoever my interlocutor is? That’s my guess, anyway).
 
So, no. I don’t have to tell the Random Stranger everything about my private life. I definitely don’t need to tell Random Strangers whom I suspect will not be overly happy about the information I’m doling out everything about my private life. And it’s probably much wiser not to do so.
And yet…
 
And yet I kind of want to do so anyway. Because – okay. While I realize that it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more likely that the dude who said he’d pray for me is going to, well, forget all about me and/or write me off as a wacky fluke (or a nice girl who’s just very misguided) and continue to think that The Lesbians all look like KD Lang and/or SheHulk and, failing that, that he’ll just start habouring some minor “they could be anywhere” paranoia about dykes… I’d like to think there’s some tiny, microscopic chance that he’s going to stop assuming he can tell, and also stop assuming that We’re All Horrible In Every Way.
Call me naive.
 
And… Even though it’s none of their business; even though what makes my sexuality not blindingly obvious (and therefore “closeted” or “deceptive”, depending on what angle you’re viewing it from), or completely irrelevant, is assumptions on the part of the gazer about what looks “gay” or “queer” versus what looks “straight”, as well as social morees that normalize (and therefore set-as-default) one type of sexuality over all the others; I still don’t like “pretending” to be straight, letting people go on assuming that their stereotypes are accurate, especially when they’re applying those stereotypes to me and to my face. I don’t like “lying by omission” (or the likelihood that it will be interpreted as “lying by omission”) just because someone else made a wrong guess and is now talking to me with the wrong set of assumptions. So I tend to tell people when it comes up.
 
Maybe that’s not wise of me, and maybe that’s going to change. But for now, that’s where things are at and why.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms Syren.
 
 
[1] This is less of a thing when it comes to serviceberries, because the City Of Ottawa has been planting them like Woah all over down-town as part of various stree-rehabilitation projects (Preston and Bronson being two of them). I told one guy, today, that I thought it was part of the NCC’s plan to increase Ottawa-Gatineau’s Food Security (along with renting out small farms in the Green Belt to people specifically so that they can raise a diversity of veggies, fruits, and live stock to be sold at Ottawa Farmers’ Markets and similar). He rolled his eyes, but then told me about the orange trees in his home town, so I think he actually approves of the plan. 😉
 
[2] Thank you, United Church Choir up-bringing, for that handy turn of phrase. 🙂
 
[3] I say “forestalled” because, well, see earlier paragraph about the frequency of flirtatious and/or nosey behaviour on the part of dudes who talk to me while I’m picking fruit. There’s a really good chance that he was going to ask about this eventually.
 
[4] Short version: It’s a good addition to the “essays on femme” canon (I’m not so familiar with the “essays on butch” cannon, so I can’t really say on that one), with a good mix of voices and a decent amount of (Vancouver-centric – go figure) CanCon. I recommend. 🙂

“Hard Femme”

I have, for a long time, been emphatically against “femme qualifiers”. Sub-categories of femme that, in various ways, manage to imply that Femme, in and of itself, is divorced from characteristics like “practicality”, “technical skill”, “willingness to get dirty”, “strength”… you name it.
I wouldn’t have such a problem with these qualifiers BUT every time I’ve heard them, it’s come across that the user is trying to connect “[qualifier] femme” with something that is traditionally coded as masculine in the, er, “over culture” (sorry, I’m using a lot of quotation marks here) in order to make femme – or at least her (usually her) particular manifestation of femme – more respectable, or worthy of being taken seriously.
 
Now it’s possible that I’m reading this (all of them) wrong. Maybe it’s similar to when I’ve said “Tough-ass femme” to describe a particularly Joan-Jett-esque style of unapologetic, queer leather-femininity. Maybe “unapologetic” is, itself, traditionally coded as masculine by the “over-culture” that teaches us all that The Feminine is responsible, and must therefore be perpetually punished, for The Fall of Man. (Yes, I’m getting biblical on you. Cope).
 
And yet.
And yet it wasn’t until today – thus prompting this post, as it happens – that I’d heard “[qualifier] femme” used in any other way.
 
I was at the Rainbow Youth Forum today. I got dressed up – leather pencil skirt, ankle boots, hot pink fishnets + matching mini cardigan[1]. Very Dangly Earrings & glitter mascara. I even did (one hand worth of) my nails in rainbow colours.
One of the attendees, seeing me behind my Info Fair Booth, commented that they liked my pants.
I said “I never do pants”.
Except that what I actually said was more like “Uh.” Followed by an exchange where the now-slightly-embarrassed individual appologized for not realizing it was a skirt (given the table I was standing behind) and I was friendly and relaxed and casually stated “I never do pants. They just don’t fit[2] so why bother”. Or words to that general effect.
At which point, another attendee (a local poet, I’m happy to say – she does good work) commented that “I never do pants” was the most hard-femme thing she’d ever heard.
 
Which, I admit, I felt rather chuffed about.
 
A friend of mine once gave me a zine. “On Being Hard Femme (issue #1)”. The cover featured a hammer juxtaposed with a tube of lipstick. The contents… didn’t seem to bill “hard femme” as anything different from “plain old regular femme”. Granted, my definition of “plain old regular femme” seemed to be a LOT different from that of the author, so maybe that’s where the disconnect was happening.
 
I know a femme – a femme who is by turns hard, soft, intense, mellow, dominant, submissive, energized, tired, practical-planning-oriented and spur-of-the-moment-adventurous – who is proficient in the uses of both hammer and lipstick.
In fact I know many.
We are not Only One Thing – no more than anyone else is. Proficiency with a sewing machine doesn’t make you femme any more than proficiency with a nail gun makes you butch. They are both power tools.
 
I was chuffed that this gal at the RYF had called me “the most hard femme” because it wasn’t in a context where I’d be “strident” or “dominant” or even “unapologetic” – where I’d been something that boils down to “behaving in a masculine way while being feminine”.
 
It got me thinking about how “hard” relates to “stone”, and what that, in turn, has to do with intensity, with the bedrock geography of one’s identity. But also about immovability/inflexibility and speaking/acting in absolutes.
Is “hard” something I really want to be? What does it mean?
Would I have been as chuffed about it if she’d said “‘I don’t do pants’ is the most femme (sans qualifier) thing I’ve ever heard”? (Hint: Yes, probably).
What is “hard femme”? What is “high femme”? What is “stone femme”? What is “soft femme”? …And how do the they all relate?
 
Thinky-think.
 
 
TTFN,
Ms. Syren.
 
 
[1] I don’t tend to wear a lot of pink. I got fuschia nail polish a few years ago, and I have a tank top, but… that’s about it. So going out and buying a hot pink cardigan – in the name of coordinating with my name-tag which, as it turned out, had hot pink writing but was not, in fact, a large rectangle of hot pink cardstock as I had expected – was not a particularly typical move for me. I’m waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more likely to go with purple as my queer colour of choice. I’m not sure why I feel a need to tell you this, other than to make it clear that I was Making An Effort in my visual/gender presentation. Do with that what you will.
 
[2] See “Tall”. Don’t even get me started about 40″ inseams. O.O

For the Femmes

Yet another fly-by re-post of something I think is cool. Real content will return when I’ve finished Dark Moon Rising.

Dismissing those who are feminine is just another way to bolster the patriarchy.