Lesbians are often divided into two (very dated and overly-simplistic) categories: femme and butch. Since the moment I came bounding out that dark, repressive closet, the jury quickly charged me with being a femme.
Oh my God, youre such a FEMME! seasoned lesbians would roar at me as I nervously sat in the corner of the lesbian bar alone in my high heels. Was I deemed a femme because of the high heels? Or was it my impeccably polished pink nails? Or the oxblood red lipstick and the mountain of mascara caked to my long, fluffy eyelashes? All of the above?
As I grew more comfortable in the scene, I began to recoil at the word femme. Im NOT A FEMME! I would yell as if being a femme lesbian werea terrible, taboo thing to be. I was so dramatically averseto being considered a femme because I didnt want to be considered dumb. I wanted to be taken seriously, damn it.
So why did I think femme was synonymous with being a brainless joke? Oh, because I, like so many girls, had a lifetime of internalized sexism stewing inside of me.
See, we lesbians came of age in the same misogynistic society as everyone else. We were spoon-fed the same sexist narrative as our heterosexual classmates. Our sexual orientation didnt protect us from the notion that femininity equals weakness. Meekness. Superficiality. Stupidity.
For a moment, I even considered dialing back on my signature smokey eyes, the glitter-infused Urban Decay eyeliner and the waist-length hair that made me feel both sultry and safe at once (two positive feelings I happento wildly enjoy).
And now, I fall to my knees and thank my higher power, Lana Del Rey, that I didnt ever change. I couldnt change; my inherent desire to dress up spoke louder than my desire to fit in.
Dressing like a pop singer every day brings me joy. And to deprive yourself of feelingbecause youre afraid that certain women in your community will undermine your intelligence? Well,honey. Thats letting the patriarchy win. And Im trying really hard to not let the patriarchy win.
Now, I own the word femme like I own the words dyke and slut. I think being hyper-feminine is awesome, and if you want to make assumptions about my character based on my personal style, I dont care to rub elbows with you anyway.
It took me awhile to get here. But Im finally here and its so much better on this side. The side of self-acceptance is so much sweeter than the side of conformity despite the sweeping generalizations and crazy misconceptions that constantly swing your way when you let your femme flag fly.
Here are some of those generalizations and misconceptions that I, as a femme lesbian, have been subject to:
1. Im a high maintenance snob.
I wasnt sure I could date you when I first met you! I mean, I was attracted to you, but you really freaked me out, a woman wearing a $400 Theory blazer confessed to me after her third Grey Goose Martini.
Why? I asked, taken aback.
She tugged at her silver Rolex. I thought you were a high maintenance snob.
Why? I asked once again as I slugged back my $6 house wine. I was wearing a $15 Forever 21 minidress, wishing we had gone somewhere less expensive because I only had $150 to my name.
Well I dont know. The way you dress! She laughed like she had drawn the most obvious conclusion in the world. Meanwhile, I was baffled.
Lets do the math here: The intimidatingly brazen woman in the designer blazer who insisted on only drinking the top shelf vodka, who also happened to be sporting a watch the same price as a down payment on a house, was saying she thought me, the smiley 20-year-old in the cheap dress clumsily sipping her cheap wine, was a
2. Im not politically aware.
I cant tell you how shocked my ex-girlfriend was to learn how fired up I get about politics when we first started dating.
I just didnt think you would be so radical! she squealed as I dived into a deep debate with a bartender about abortion.
Contrary to popular belief, you can be both in tune with whats happening in the world, wildly opinionated about whats happening in the world, and really fucking angry about whats happening in the worldhyper-passionate about quilted Chanel clutches and gel manicures.
The authenticity of my sexuality has been questioned since the moment I stepped out of the closet. A girl in college was afraid to date me because she didnt want to get her heart broken by a girl clearly going through a phase.
Look, honey, not to get too graphic or anything, but if you have sex with women, youre queer AF. Style and sexuality are two VERY different things.
4. I take hours and hours and hours to get ready.
I wasnt lying when I said I fiercely love fashion, baby. Ive been throwing on dresses and slapping on lipstick for so many years; I have this whole getting ready routine down to a science.
My full hair and makeup are complete before youve even finished blow-drying your side bangs.
5. I make money simply by batting my lashes and blogging.
I dont where the rumor comes from, but somehow its circulated that girly girls dont have a work ethic. When really, in my experience, girly girls tend to have an insanely impressive work ethic, one that exceeds all genders and stereotypes.
Do you know much hustle is required in order to be taken seriously in the workplace when your feet are strapped into platform, patent leather Mary Jane shoes?
Ive never experienced discrimination because of my gender in the workplace, amore masculine-presenting female friend of mine once revealed over a confessional glass of wine.
Well, yeah, thats because you look amazing in pantsuits and talk sports with the boys, I blurted.
My friend paused for a minute. Youre right, she thoughtfully responded. I get treated like one of the guys. When I think about it, they treat the girls in dresses like bimbos.
(Disclaimer: Im in no way saying masculine-presenting women have it any easier than feminine-presenting women. Im also not declaring that every work environment favors masculine energy, or that every masculine-presenting woman is teeming with male privilege. Its always case by case. And every girl, regardless of her sexual orientation, has to face her own unique set of hardships. This is just experience as a femme living in New York City in 2017, baby.)
I dont know. I just thought you, like, blogged! adate once said to me when I explained to her that I spent the day studying analytics, editing longform articles and brushing up on my SEO knowledge. I didnt know you worked so hard.
If only, I muttered, thinking about the gruesome hours it takes to write a well-written viral article, plus the hours of coaching yourself to not be crushed and terrified by the sexist cyberbullies who write you lovely private messages like I hope you get raped and die, only to be paid significantly less than your male counterparts for the same job, but who, of course, dont deal with a fraction of the daily harassment and abuse from internet trolls.
Its not just my world, either. When I go the lesbian bar with other girls adorned in frilly dresses, there tends to be a collective shock when the femmes say theyre CEOs, doctors and lawyers. I can see it on peoples faces: As if one has anything to do with the other.
So, listen up. I LOVE being a lesbian. I love my community. I gaze into the mirror every single day and thank my higher power (Lana Del Rey) for making me gay. Most queer women open and accepting. But that doesnt mean were safe from the insulting tropes about feminine women.
And it really just goes to show that no matter what scene youre in, whom youre attracted to, or how marginalized of a community you are, femininity is still all too often seen as less powerful, less monied, and less intelligent than masculinity.
And thats got to change because that rhetoric isnt only tired; its toxic. Its damaging. Its reductive! Its exhausting.
My point? You can wear all the crop tops in the world, you can paint your lips in the hottest shade of PINK lipstick ever created, and still be an ambitious boss who pays her own way in this world. Loving pretty things doesnt mean youre not putting in hours of grueling work.
After all, my collection of Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick doesnt pay for itself. Ive worked for my cherished collection of cruelty-free designer lipsticks.