Femme FATale


shazam!
November 21, 2008, 6:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

for the “butches in the a.m.” news crew and for those of you who just, generally, love some nerd porn,
i offer you a photo of my life right now.
hussy red, femme’ing up academia all day, every day.



these are not playthings.
September 10, 2008, 1:06 am
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i’ve been doing some heavy thinking lately about these pieces of me i hold so personally dear in the depths of my heart. my identities: my assertion of “femme”, my claiming of “bottom,” particularly. with the exception of the last two or three years, these have never been easy words or titles under which i’ve stood. i did not learn these pieces of myself from others. i did not do only as i saw them do and come to these places. they are both identities that, for me, are wrapped in complicated personal histories of a host of things: love, inadequacy, pleasure, guilt, passion, unhappiness, and two hundred other emotions. these identities are not ones i take lightly or for granted.

in short: these are not playthings.

my journey to femme was a hard one ripe with insecurity and an absence of community or language to define who i was and what i was feeling. where i came out as queer was certainly a positive space to do so, but only in particular ways, ways that embraced an androgynous aesthetic that was doubly inaccessible and undesirable for myself.

growing up femme there was heartbreaking.

my queerness was questioned daily by my lovers, friends, my community, the definition of myself by others as nothing more than a “lesbian until graduation”. and i tried, and i tried, and i tried to fit in there, to be that non-femme thing they wanted me to be and even donning sports bras and cargo shorts, i failed. miserably. i didn’t pass as anything non-femme.

i remember, there was this time, friends of mine were throwing a “frat row” party, and all these dykes just slightly amped up their already masculine clothing to get closer to that douchey, frat boy image. i was supposed to do the same. i was able to hold it together long enough to put on those cargo shorts, t-shirt and borrowed a visor from my next door neighbor. but it was actual fucking tears i cried when my best friend told me i couldn’t possibly go if i was going to keep on my make-up. there was no place for that. no mascara allowed. no place even for “sorority girls” at this party either. no femininity. period. i left two hours in, cried my way home, and wrote heart-wrenchingingly in my journal that i wondered if i’d ever find space where i fit. “will i ever be able to make this queerness work?”

that was a breaking point for me. a moment when i realized it was hurting too much to be queer in this way. and i slowly started to let it go and started to embrace my femme. and as i shed that sorry excuse at androgyny i was trying to pull and stepped up to the plate femmed out the way i’d always wanted to be, i met her. this big, ol’ rugby playing butch. this rough, tough femme-lovin’ butch. and i was home. i flourished. things fell into place. and i was accepted, my queerness was embraced in this community suddenly. but then, just as quickly as it was handed to me, it was stripped away in my realization that it was just because of her. because i was counterpart to her uber masculinity that was so revered in that space. i was femme, but not my own.

and this went on long after college. still, i held strong to my femme in the midst of queers completely ignoring and straight up disavowing my sexuality and gender. read me, called me, named me “ally” to my face because i was all girled out at dyke night at the bar. how could i be anything other than straight looking like that, they asked my friends. i cried my way home again.

i am home now though in my skin, in my femme, but it wasn’t ever easy. it’s still hard sometimes, but it’s improved. this things is volatile though and i hold it close to my chest because of everything it means to me; that road was rough, but i don’t regret the conversations with myself it forced me to have, the questioning of my communities it made me do, the loneliness it caused and the absolute joy and love it has become.

my femme thing is not a plaything.

nor is this thing i claim as bottoming. they are not the same, they are not inextricably linked, but they are related in the depths of me. this identity is newer to me than femme in that i have only in the past few years named it for myself, but hardly a new need or want. this part of me that weaves itself between memories and history of myself alone and myself with her and constantly has me digging for evidence of it that proceeded and followed her. proof that this has been me all along. i find it everywhere.

bottoming is not new to me, not new like her and that love whirlwind we had. it is not trendy to me. i do not will it to be radical so that i might have my points raised as some kinky, subversive queer type. i claim this space because of desire foremost and an investment in all that desire contains – respect, dynamic, communication, need. a big part of this is because of having experienced those desires, knowing what it’s like to have them and knowing what it’s like to feel their absence. and this is not to say that if you have not done x, you cannot claim y. more so, it’s a feeling inside me that is very tied to the act of doing and having done, both being undoings and redoings of me.

i come to bottoming first from a place of love – because that’s where it was first really named for me. of giving, of expecting to be valued and respected for this generosity of giving myself, of allowing you to take and experience me. this is not about who gets fucked and who does the fucking, it’s about yielding and holding, ebbing and flowing.

i do not claim this identity as a mere desire to occasionally have a little control taken from me. i do not claim it as something i think i want, but have never done nor thought about beyond actual physical results. i do not call myself a bottom to satisfy an equation of “femme is…” or use it as a way to critique someone else’s needs or desires…

and i wish you wouldn’t.

because this femme thing, this bottom thing, they are not playthings.

these are heart things, soul things, me things and my chest is heavy when they are cheapened by your carelessness with them.



big apple red.
September 5, 2008, 11:29 am
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you were laying back on my couch, that carefree way you do when you’re relaxed, at home, contentedly in the presence of so much girl. your arms were behind your head, ankles crossed, your bare feet on top of my lap. i was polishing my nails a second coat of “big apple red” between loving threats – you, to smudge the color on my wobbly left hand and me, warning that i would not hesitate to paint your toes in retaliation.

we’ve sat like this fifty times now you and i, but tonight you finally asked: “why that color always?” it wasn’t criticism, but genuine inquiry. i know i smiled and you detected it, but all i could do was shrug and murmur something about matching lipstick before trailing off.

do you want to know the truth? those prior forty-nine times i’d waited for you to ask. i had it planned in my head, the blush of your cheeks, when i’d tell you oh-so-sweetly and truthfully that it was nothing more than my love of contrasting colors: the bold, bossy red of my fingernails zigzagging through the black-as-night hairs that cover your scalp when you’re hovering above me, my hands – at least for that moment – free.



The Femme Archive
August 31, 2008, 7:30 pm
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At the Femme Conference, I attended “The Trouble with Femme History,” a workshop co-presented by Cookie Woolner and Mira Bellwether on the history of femme. One of the discussions after the talk centered around the need to create and/or add to femme archives to aid in solidifying our own collective and individual presences in history. Obviously, one of the difficulties in locating “femme” in history is the absence of tangible evidence of its existence (as well as other things being barriers to this like language and identifiers that span time and place). So I’ve had this on my mind the past few weeks: how I can personally be more responsible in contributing to a larger history and future of femme identity by being conscious of what evidence I physically hold onto and eventually leave behind.

This post is a longtime coming in many ways, as I think continually about creating space for femme community both offline and online; this is part of the reason I’m so excited about *this* blog, after all. Creating an archive now, as spurred by Cookie and Mira’s talk, not only will serve queer communities in the future, but also help us right now in finding each other, sharing experience, and creating space for those of us detached from any sort of femme or queer communities at present. I’m specifically thinking about sublimefemme’s Love Letter to a Femme in Need (one of the best posts I’ve read in a long while), about my own evolution to being femme, and about the stories of so many others who’ve traveled a long, bumpy road to get to claiming this fierce, but sometimes volatile, f-word. Last week, I received an email from a reader of femme FATale about the “lack of good femme role models” and about resources that aided in coming into one’s femmeness. I was able to respond with a few things that have personally affected me or felt validating, but there’s so much more that others could contribute if there was a space for it – a composite of our femme resources!

So let’s do this. Let’s post the who, the what, the where, the when of how we got to call ourselves “femme.” There’s no wrong answer here. It could be a book, a song, your best friend, your uncle, that time at the homo bar, that time on the bus. What were the things that got you to this place? This is our chance to share information that moved us, that got us, that made us cry or laugh or just made us finally feel fucking recognized. Here’s a space to share stories with each other, to thank the people who helped keep our femme hearts pumping. Post your contribution to this wee start of a femme archive below or link us to your own blog where you flesh out your own list. Send it to your friends, forward it around. You get the idea. Ready? Go!

my list of contributions:

– jennifer tilly’s character, “violet,” in the film bound. silly, maybe, but i watched this movie nearly 50 times my junior and senior years in college. after the first two years at my women’s college where butch and androgynous were the only two queer identities seemingly present and after hiding my awesome rack under a puffy vest and actually crying when i was told i couldn’t wear mascara to a dyke frat party, violet reminded me that i could be every bit as queer and still love and wield my skirts and eyeliner as trophies of that.

jen cross. her essay “surface tensions,” in the anthology nobody passes. jen cross is an inspiration, an amazing femme role model, and an incredibly talented writer. her spoken word should never be missed. everything she writes gives me chills.

– chris. though we’re not together anymore, she loved and nurtured my femme. got me, got it. taught me how to be good to a butch. real good. validating. we made sense, made fireworks. she taught me to love, love, love, and made me strong enough to love myself, respect my hot femme self and get up, get out, and get on with it. without her.

– charlotte. my best friend, my femme sister. she keeps femme fun and exciting for me. she also reminds me of how important it is to always keep my sense of self, my femme sense of self, in check. she is always true to herself and i love and respect her for it. thanks. for so much. always.

– e. she has always respected and loved the way i do femme. i have grown and cultivated this femme self through us and her arrival into her own butchness. in ways, she helped to bring my femme heart back to life after a good ol’ smash-up. she reminds me of what i’m good at.

femme mafia. if there is a femme mafia chapter near you, you’re a lucky femme. if there isn’t and there’s community for it, you might want to consider taking the time to start one. a year ago, there was no femme mafia twin cities, now there is and i’ve been connected with some of the smartest, most thoughtful femme friends, role models really, a femme could ask for. thank you, fmtc for reminding me of the importance of having so much femme love in my life. minneapolis/st. paul femme community never looked so good!

– as a fat femme, bevin’s femmecast, for sure, as well as just knowing of the existence of fat femmes who organize like fat femme mafia, queer fat femme l.a., fat and queer/f.a.q.

– linda. mommy. she is my favorite embodiment of femme. though not queer, she taught me at four years old that even dressed up pretty in heels, hair pinned in a french twist, it’s still ok to raise hell when you’ve been done wrong, curse like a trucker, and spit on a guy’s car window who has just stolen your parking space in a crazy new jersey mall parking lot at christmastime.

– the brazen femme anthology. for being there in words when femme community wasn’t. for instilling in me so deeply that femme is so much more than merely an aesthetic and never, ever “just” a counterpart to butch.

– femme conference 2008. leah lakshmi-piepzna-samarasinha. dorothy allison. julia serano. veronica combs. i will trust and honor and love my fellow femmes. i will, i will, i will.

ok, your turn.

This post is cross-posted over at the The Femme’s Guide to Absolutely Everything. I listed it here too because I didn’t want readers only of this blog to miss out on contributing to a list of femme resources. Also, the post is partially inspired by a femme FATale reader, Corri, who emailed me seeking some information on where I had found support in my own femme identity. I’m turning off comments here so that you can post them over at the Femme’s Guide and so we can have one central location of a bunch of different resources, tips, experiences, etcetera. Whether it’s a book, a favorite film, some wise words once spoken to you, the love and support of your family/friend/partner, a performer, a collective, a group, an experience, your cat, whatever, I want to hear about what aided you in your journey to claiming “femme.” What keeps you strong and fierce and claiming “femme” as a part of your identity? Check out the post and leave your contributions or thoughts in the comments! I’m so excited to hear from you all.



body deliberate.
August 19, 2008, 1:28 pm
Filed under: butches, chicago, crush, dynamic, femme, femme conference, lust, swooning | Tags: , , , , , , ,

“are you two going to kiss?” the man who stumbled before us asked. he was drunk and wobbling on his two long legs in a way that suggested too much alcohol had mixed with a heart too weighted to keep balanced, to keep the body stable.

but i barely noticed.

because when you started to walk across the sidewalk to me, before he showed up swaying and destroying lazy-to-arrive-but-so-glad-you-finally-fucking-got-here moments like this, my vision tunneled to you. a body deliberate. calculated, intent on reaching, on doing, you sidled up to me mumbling some words about how it had been some twenty minutes since we’d talked and hadn’t that been too long? i searched for a response from a brain too tired of producing witty banter for you all day. see, those past 24 hours, saw me in a contest with myself, racing to see how fast i could make those crevices in the skin around your mouth deepen and turn darker as your smile stretched further every time. found me delivering package after package to you of smartly wrapped snark and flirt all wound tightly and made ornate with knotted heart strings for bows.

so i just smiled. and for once in the whole day, despite the frenetic swirl of drunk, happy queers tapdancing on cigarette butts outside the barroom door, allowed a bit of quiet between us. maybe my body sensed what was about to happen, knew that if it didn’t curb the firing of my brain’s synapses, i’d make some joke and we’d erupt again in a series of guffaws that of course felt good, but that didn’t end with the mingling of each other’s sweat on our upper lips.

when your hand found the bend in my waist that gives way to my hips that roll strong but pliant when you pull them just right, i knew silence had been the right choice. knew it twice as hard when, in seconds, there i was three inches from your face staring into eyes that wouldn’t release my own unless to quickly survey the state of my mouth which was, on this night, stained scarlet and heavy with the anticipation of you.

did you feel the drop when we fell into the vacuum of each other? when things around us slowed almost to the point of nonexistent as we considered the idea of halving and then obliterating all together the slowly shrinking space between us?

i remember i was thinking about your glasses and about the angle at which i’d bend my neck to avoid any sort of minor calamity of frames smashed into browbones or lenses fogged to the point of visual impairity when his voice, loud and sluggish with booze, slammed our feet back down on the concrete. i swear now that there were tiny spider-like cracks around our shoes from the impact of so brutally being forced to once again find the ground.

“are you two going to kiss?” he slurred with whiskey breath.

but we barely noticed. we didn’t even speak. not even to each other.



femme con – post 1 of lord knows how many others
August 19, 2008, 1:53 am
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so i’ve been back from the femme conference for 24 hours and every time i’ve tried to sit down and write about it, i’m too overwhelmed to do so. who knew that 2.5 days could really feel like a month, where being around people of various shared communities that are separate at times and converging at others could so quickly feel like home, that i’d go to chicago excited and leave with a heart full and achey with missing?

to answer the questions i’ve received from readers and from friends: the femme conference was amazing. it was validating and caring, but it was also intense and hard. there was support and there was community, as much as there were the reminders of how much further we need to go to be good to each other as femmes. as loving and thoughtful and supportive as we are to our butches and our bois and to our allies, we need to be good to ourselves and to each other.

i have so much to write about, but need a little bit of time to do so. staying in a hotel room with five other people, meeting new and inspiring friends around every corner, and trying to keep my game up with the handsome company who traveled all the way from cali to hang with me and my crew makes for little processing time. i promise that more is coming though. i’ve got the works of a creative non-fiction piece in my head, as well as a heck of a lot to say about allyship, about solid butches, the workings of a pastie-making how to, and about the improvements needed between us and this identity we call ‘femme.’ this identity that, after this weekend, i’ve never been more proud to call my own.



femme conference & moving?
August 13, 2008, 9:54 pm
Filed under: chicago, femme, femme conference, femmes, wordpress | Tags: , , , , ,

well, thursday it’s off to the femme conference in chicago! this week has been so busy preparing – there are *twelve* of us from the femme mafia twin cities roadtripping together, not to mention another member meeting us in chicago, as well as a handsome out-of-state friend i met at an academic conference a few months ago. full reports when i get back! i’ll have access to a comp, but i’m guessing not much time to do on-site blogging. we’ll see!

also, i’m thinking of making the move of femme FATale over to wordpress. while blogger suits me relatively fine, i like the option of being able to keep posts private and only accessible via password. i thought this was some fancy html magic you were all using, but it turns out that it’s just another awesome wordpress feature! my readership has been increasing more and more and with it comes the possibility of people stumbling on here that needn’t read certain things, things i want to keep to a select audience, etcetera, thus the switch. i’ll have more info about the move as it happens, but i’m guessing over the next few weeks?

for now though, off to chi-town!

xo.