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“this name is the hair shirt i wear”

July 30, 2008

So…that last post got a lot of play. I suppose it kind of had that “say something nice to me” undercurrent, which was not what i intended. Not that the nice comments are not appreciated; even if i feel a bit silly for coming off that way, i am genuinely reassured by what y’all said! Also interesting is that, even while part of me responded “yeah, yeah, i know that,” there is some real weight to having it said to me by someone else. So, thanks.

But, for the sake of argument and clarity (two of my favorite things), i have a few thoughts.

When i said i don’t know what i’m doing, i didn’t really mean it in the existential way it came off; that was added by the melodrama filter. Oops. If i had meant that, i’d be all on board with Essin’ Em’s “But do any of us know what we’re doing, really?” (though maybe some people know better what they’re doing…and some are better at faking it). I actually meant it very concretely: i wasn’t trained to be a girl. And so i’m in my twenties trying to figure out how to do all those things other women seemed to learn in middle school. Now, i’m not all complaints. It was entirely my own choice – i fought hard to not be a girl at the time. And, while it makes me feel a little bit awkward and foalish, it also gives me the leeway to do femininity in a way i’m comfortable with (as compared to feeling obligated to be one way).

“wtf Brett! for me, becoming Femme was all about subverting the gender norms! You’re a femme whose lovely feminine appearance is not at all intended for the attraction of males. If that’s not subversive, I don’t know what is!”

First: yes, i agree that femme is inherently subversive. (And now for the “but” that has to follow a sentence like that…)

But, personally, it doesn’t feel like i’m subverting gender norms. Understand that this is coming from my past. I was, for years, obviously, blatantly, and also sort of unintentionally and obliviously subverting gender norms. And now, to take a line from Linaria, “i’m just a girl in a skirt.”

But, also, the sexuality side of it isn’t so subversive to me. Perhaps because the men whose attention my femininity gets are not the men i would be trying to attract anyhow. Maybe more to the point, my femininity is not meant to attract “women” in general either, ’cause there are plenty of women i’m not interested in as well. On the other hand, it is fun to be able to mention my girlfriend in response to “where’s your boyfriend? you’re too fine to be out by yourself,”…the assumption that i date boys is really the least offensive assumption underlying that comment, though. (and, even so, it’s a kind of charming line…i’m such a sucker.)

Sinclair’s comment clarified my internal issues with houswifery. It’s not actually that i think it’s unfeminist, because i rather vehemently don’t. I used that phrase because i couldn’t find what it was that bothered me. It’s the part about it being “unrecognized as hard work or valuable.” That is what i can’t shake; the idea of it being “lesser.” And the knowledge that even if i convince myself otherwise, everyone(ish) else will still think so – it’s one of the ugly things about the way our society measures “worth.” Then again, i think almost everything about how our society measure worth is ugly. But that’s a whole other post.

I think Leo summed it up – “the mindfuck of gender policing is deep and insidious, and surfaces in odd ways.”

Lady Brett
“What A Good Boy” – Barenaked Ladies

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2008 9:31 am

    this is a big concept! after I wrote that (loooong) comment I went off & wrote many more pages on the subject, I plan to post today. way to spark some discussion :)

  2. July 30, 2008 10:47 am

    I agree about femme being hard to justify as a subversive gender. This is definitely something I struggle with, from the classic ‘no one knows I’m gay!’ to the attention from straight guys to the classic ‘pretty girl=stupid’ crap — no it doesn’t feel different from being a regular old straight girl.

    But then, inside I am different. I am radical, and queer, and political; my positions on so many things have had to be carefully thought out, justified, delineated — I have spent so much time finding my place in the world and figuring out how to explain it. Something I constantly hear when talking to my straight pseudo-friends is ‘I never thought about it that way’. Right. Because they don’t have to. What they want is in line with how the world works — what we want isn’t. And that’s where femme as a subversive gender comes in. We look like them, but we’re not like them. Maybe it’s like convergent evolution — we look alike, but our family tree split off a long, long time ago.

    But I will say that the societal pressure is incredibly intense. Looking the part of the ‘good girl’ gets a lot of really subtle positive feedback — when my gf and I are out together with someone we know, I often get far more than 50% of the conversation/eye contact. Why? Because I look more like them, and like a conventionally feminine woman; I don’t make them uncomfortable. hmm, long comment, must stop writing…thanks for bringing this up!

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