Femme FATale


fail: beth ditto
July 31, 2008, 2:03 pm
Filed under: arg, class, fail, fatness, over it, pop culture, privilege, queer, race | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

this week has been one where you can’t blog fast enough about something. it seems like the second i read the news about beth ditto’s recent problematic spread in nylon magazine, five other posts popped up on my reader about it. namely, check out the smart and thoughtful responses from tara at fatshionista.com and the fierce ladies at threadbared (which is also cross-posted over at racialicious, one of my favorite reads!). both of these pieces are super insightful and exciting for the fact that they are so complete in their analyses. read them and love them!

the only 2cents i want to add is oh how i wish this photoshoot had come about a month sooner! don’t get me wrong, i wish it didn’t exist period, but if it’s going to, the least we can do is use it as a teaching tool and that i find exciting amidst the harm a photo like this does.

i’m thinking about june of this year when i went to an academic conference for an area of study whose evolution over the past thirty or so years has been so dedicated to thinking intersectionally about issues like gender, race, and class, along with the much-needed additional analyses of other identifiers like dis/ability and size. and yet, at a meeting aimed specifically at making space for fat studies within future conferences and the discipline as a whole, conversations about fat inclusion were “justified” by claims that “being fat is the last acceptable oppression.” i was so stunned by this response that i couldn’t control my body’s reaction to shake my head “no” rapidly and uncontrollably despite what i’m sure many assumed to be quite rude. this position is so offensive and so privileged, yet surprisingly rampant amongst a number of straight, white, fat folks.

and so then here’s beth ditto! someone who is white, but who grew up poor and has working class roots, is fat (publicly and on-stage!), and is queer and partnered with a masculine-identified, female-bodied person (i’m not sure how freddie fagula identifies, so…). and despite all of this, a photo like this exists that just so “brilliantly” makes clear that we are so far from any kind of place where any one identifier is the final frontier of oppression.

beth ditto, i thank you for being a strong, fat, queer girl, and for all of the awareness you’ve raised about what it’s like to be fat in the spotlight and in the mainstream, but it takes so much more than that to hold my respect. where’d your good politics go, girl? the ones that made us all fall in love with you in the first place? we’re all waiting for your response…

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Radical Queer Femmes Gather at the Femme2008 Conference
July 31, 2008, 11:41 am
Filed under: bestie, chicago, femme, femme conference, femmes, yay | Tags: , , , , ,

Here’s a guest post from my fellow Femme Mafia Twin Cities member (and bff!) spreading the word about the femme conference! We can use all the publicity around this that we can get, so if you’re able to do so, please re-post this guest entry on your own blog and leave a comment here so that we can thank you from the bottom of our hearts. xoxo – hussy red


What:
Femme2008 Conference: The Architecture of Femme!
Who: Femme Collective, along with speakers Dorothy Allison, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha and Julia Serano
When: August 15-17, 2008
Where: Chicago Wyndham O’Hare
How: Register online! Registration is still open, and is $95. You can get all the conference details at www.femmecollective.org.

Guest post by Charlotte Albrecht, Femme Mafia Twin Cities

For months now, I have been looking forward to attending Femme2008: The Architecture of Femme this August in Chicago. It has been just a few years since I started to claim a femme identity and only in the last year that I began to find community and connect with other femme-identified and femme-supportive people. As a mixed race light-skinned femme who grew up steeped in middle class white American culture, my models for femininity were clear and, like many other girls, I learned to examine all the ways that I deviated from this norm. When I started to acknowledge my desire for female-bodied people to myself and to those around me, I found myself wanting to be visible to those I desired. This desire coupled with my longstanding understanding of myself as “not feminine enough” added up to a gender presentation that was not true to myself. It wasn’t until a few years later when I met femmes of my age who encouraged me to embrace whatever feminine parts of me there were, that I ceased apologizing for dressing up and accessorizing, and, more importantly, started to think critically about the relationship between my own femininity and my sexual desire.

I see the Femme Conference as a unique opportunity to push myself further to think about the numerous forms ‘femme’ can take – shaped endlessly by each of our cultural and social locations, sexual desires, gendered selves, and outward appearances – and how I can support other people in their own journeys. I am particularly looking forward to meeting others from across the country who are organizing for femme visibility in their communities and actively connecting this work to radical liberatory politics.

You might be asking, but what is femme? Femme can mean many things, and if you ask a hundred femmes what it means to be a femme, chances are, you’ll hear a hundred different responses. Since femme is a complex, varied identity, it is frequently misunderstood. However, we can say that femme is based in a queer subculture of radical femininity. It can be both a sexual and gender identity. Femme is a queered, transgressive, stand-alone version of femininity that can be constructed independent of and/or intimately connected to biological sex.

Femmes have been both underrepresented and misunderstood within and outside of queer communities. The Femme Conference is an important and exciting time for femmes and allies of all walks of life to increase visibility and create radical queer femme community. It will be full of amazing performances and workshops, as well as a powerhouse keynote lineup: Dorothy Allison, Julia Serano, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and Veronica Combs a.k.a. Vixen Noir.

So join me, and let’s create some radically affirming community together. It’ll be fierce

–Charlotte Albrecht, Femme Mafia Twin Cities



misplaced(?)
July 25, 2008, 1:55 pm
Filed under: arg, butches, cancer, dad, death, exes, memory, mom | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

this afternoon, my mother called me from the hospital in nj. my dad has been admitted for vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath. he’s undergoing some tests, specifically an m.r.i. of his head to see if there is anything to be suspicious of there. my dad’s had cancer for the past several years. it started with his kidney, which was removed and he enjoyed about a year and a half of remission before it crept back up again in his spleen and liver. through chemotherapy, those tumors wound up shrinking significantly, but it’s always been made very clear that there’s no more opportunity for him to “beat” cancer. it’s more just a waiting game of where it will pop up next and with what kind of vengeance. earlier in the year, it was discovered he had a spot on his spine. it wasn’t particularly large or intrusive, but once cancer hits bone, especially spine and its column of connecting fluid, it’s not the best of signs. needless to say, it seems the dr. is going straight for scans of his head to see if there is any brain tumor or lesion to be found there.

i’ve always feared this moment and i’ve been pretty realistic in knowing it would probably come soon, at some point. spine and brain are so connected and usually once one has had a taste of the cancer stuff, the other is next to follow. all the reading i’ve done has told me that brain cancer is a quick and slippery slope with fatal results. it’s strange to write these words. my father’s and my relationship has been so strained my whole life. there have often been times since his diagnosis several years ago, not to mention times before that when he was still a healthy man, that i’ve thought of how it would be easier, especially on my mother, if he passed away. and now, with that reality staring me in the face, part of me regrets ever thinking it and the other tells me not to forget the long history of emotional violence that stems from him.

but what really gets me every time i worry about him or start to contemplate his death and what that will be like for me, i almost always lose sight of the reality, the right now. i eventually, without fail, always wind up overlooking him and land up at the fact that i will take care of and console my mother, what’s needed anyway, but who will take care of and console me? every time i think of his illness and his passing, i come back to this right here…and i miss you terribly; in ways that make me clutch my gut with the pain of your absence. because despite everything we went through and regardless of how you never knew what to say when i was upset over his illness, you were and still are what i think of when i think of comfort. when i consider all that i might need when his final decline begins, it’s only you that comes to mind. you, the person who struggled most with knowing what to say to me in times of sadness. you, who thought i needed more than just your silence and support or the physical strength and safety of your arms and shoulders. i have every reason in the world not to trust you and this won’t change that; this won’t find me dialing you aimlessly at 2am needing to hear your voice. yet still, it’s your absence i’ll cry for right now and not the eventuality of my father’s.

you were my safety net despite all of your fears that you were never strong enough for me. did you ever really know that?



butch vs. femme, or why it’s not ok to play "i have it harder than you."

after a fairly successful weekend of fun, i was visiting my usual online haunts before getting ready for bed and came across the most recent vlog by resident youtube butch, AJ on her sister channel, the Beaver Bunch. i don’t know how popular AJ, of Ask AJ Anything fame, is amongst us tech savvy queers out there, but basically she gives advice and makes a lot of “top 10” lists. i’ve never found her much to write home about, but that’s just my opinion.

anyway, this week’s vlog was about sharing coming out stories, which was all well and good until about 4minutes and 45seconds in when AJ starts talking about being visibly queer and how she can never not be “out” because of her appearance. shortly after this, she relays the following message that has had me fuming for the past hour. basically, this: femmes have it easy. maybe my anger is misdirected. AJ is only one of many butches i’ve heard voice these sentiments in the past few years and i’m officially over it. so, to AJ, and all those who might agree with her, here’s my rant:

so, check it. unfortunately, most of us who are queer have had homophobic speech slung at us at least once in our lives. whether it was directed to us individually, as part of a couple, or with a group, the impact is still the same. for me personally, this usually isn’t what i get called out on the street for when i’m on my own or with a group a friends. if i’m going to be heckled in broad daylight in the middle of downtown, it’s going to be because i’m fat or, the way i like to think of it, because i’m a hot fat girl who defies every convention of what it is i’m supposed to do – cover up every inch of skin, wear dark colors, talk quietly. basically, do everything i can to keep attention away from me, to fade into the woodwork. though truth be told, assholes on the street would find me there too.

when i’ve been the target of queer bashing though, it’s always been in the company of others. a big group of my homo friends at a non-queer bar or arm-in-arm with someone i’m dating who, because i always date on the more masculine end of the gender spectrum, tends to be more visibly queer than myself, thus drawing attention to us. those times have mostly been scary, some downright terrifying and, later, when safety is certain and blood pressures have resumed a normal range, angering for everyone involved. never, though, have i sat down afterward with my significant other or with my friends and deliberated which one of us motivated the attack, who’s most queer in appearance, or who has it easiest/hardest…and i, frankly, can’t understand anyone who would!

i know all about the differences of visibility and invisibility when it comes to butch and femme (or anyone queer who doesn’t pass as straight and anyone queer who does – the labels don’t matter here); i deal with what it means to be invisible to a straight world, and even a queer world sometimes, on a regular basis. for example, there are few things more infuriating to me than my lack of recognizability as queer and the swiftness with which that changes based on who my partner is. far too often, my entire gender and sexuality become about the gender identity of the person i’m dating rather than anything about me. all this being said though, i also know that i’m privileged in passing because my queerness is rarely a visible target of staring, behind-the-back whispers, or violence, and that those are things butches and other masculine-identified, female-bodied folks are forced to deal with constantly. i don’t deny AJ, or any other person who exhibits female masculinity of any kind, the fact that their visibility is always more dangerous. the ways in which they bravely navigate that on a daily basis will always have my utmost respect and appreciation.

my frustration instead is about the need to make this comparison, to attempt to outdo eachothers’ experiences of oppression. i would never say to a butch, a trans guy, someone genderqueer, that i experience discrimination worse than they do because of x, y, or z. i realize, in the case of visibility, their identity puts them in a different place, a more volatile place even, than myself, but i’m not going to tolerate them or anyone else telling me that i have it easy. this is not to say that differences in experience don’t need to be acknowledged. of course they do! and in the particular case of discrimination as a result of visibility, i know who has a roughter time. but what’s the point of sitting around contrasting whether the attack on your queerness is greater than mine? what gets accomplished in that? and more so, what significant information gets erased in this attempt? what about the particulars of space and time? or the specifics of the person and the variety of other intersecting identities like race and class and size, amongst others, that operate simultaneously with queerness and how we experience discrimination? are we really going to spend time figuring out whose feelings were hurt more or who was treated more unjustly when a stranger called you a “dyke” and me a “fat bitch”? or are we going to acknowledge the fact that it sucked in a bunch of different ways for both of us, but we learned a bit from each others’ experiences as a result?

if we’re queers and know what that means to us and understand the politics and investments of using that word beyond an identity of being G, L, B, or T, we need to learn what it means to be allies to one another; to be supportive, caring, respectful, self-reflexive, and to know that finger pointing and pitting ourselves against each other is futile. acknowledging the different ways we experience our lives and our identities is invaluable, but the pissing contest of who has it easiest and who has it worst seems to be a game with no actual winner.



Protected: throwing in the towel.
July 16, 2008, 8:27 pm
Filed under: butches, exes, fail, fight, over it, reciprocity | Tags: , , , , , ,

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fail: katy perry

i’ve been trying to write a post about katy perry’s new song “i kissed a girl” for about two weeks now and every time i try to sit down and do it, i go off on these crazy tirades that take me far away from where i began. as destiny would have it though, my friend gave me the heads up on some reporter at the chicago sun times writing an article about how katy’s song is the new summer anthem and asking for readers’ opinions. i wasn’t going to respond, but then my friend made me feel it was my queer duty. did i want some college co-ed responding instead about the merits of kissing random girls for free beer at frat parties? not really. so here’s what i wrote up and sent to the reporter:

Before even getting into the specifics as to why “I Kissed a Girl” is so problematic, it seems necessary to note that the other song responsible for making Katy Perry popular is her “Ur So Gay,” which details her woes of having an “emo” or “indie rock” boyfriend whose masculinity, and later sexuality, falls into question because of both his clothing style and taste in music. As a celebrity who has not gone on record as being anything but straight, we should question Perry’s obsession with queer culture and her unapologetic capitalization of it through her music. Straight performers getting rich off of the experiences of queer folks should be as inflammatory as any other kind of exploitation. As far as “I Kissed a Girl” goes, the song is blatantly ignorant in its trivialization of sexual experimentation and of the lives and practices of queer women. This isn’t to say that girls kissing girls, regardless of their sexuality, needs to be considered Earth-shattering events, but more so that reducing it to a naughty “game” aimed at getting a boyfriend’s attention – a game that, mind you, isn’t even worth Perry obtaining her girl crush’s name – is just belittling for the many queer women who find significance in kissing other women! The video for the song makes any possibility of its subversion completely impossible by its rendering of girl-on-girl action down to the tired scenario of outrageously feminine women clad in lingerie and fishnets, applying each others’ make-up amidst their flirty gyrations. While this demographic of high femmes, or queer women who express their femininity overtly, exists within queer communities and should be rightfully celebrated, it leads me to question whether or not mainstream music and media produced by straight people, Katy Perry now included, will ever actually attempt to represent the breadth of sexual and gender identities within queer women and lesbian communities. I’m not optimistic.

i know there’s a ton more to say, but i was trying to keep my comments succinct and comprehensible to mainstream audiences. if she gets back to me and wants to use any of it, i’ll press the problem of “trying on” another girl and/or queerness for a night and the ease and privilege straight girls have in giving it a go. also, props to my bestie charlotte for actually growling over that line when i sang it to her on the phone.

for reference:
“i kissed a girl” – video
“i kissed a girl” – lyrics
“ur so gay” – video
“ur so gay” – lyrics