Femme FATale


R.I.P. Bettie Page
December 12, 2008, 1:44 pm
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bettiepage7

Such sad news that Bettie Page has passed away. She has always been, in my head, a bit of a femme icon – at least aesthetically. Though I’ve never heard or read of her having partners other than cisgendered men, she knew how to work fishnets, thick-cut bangs, and stilettos better than most. Bettie, if not in her own personal sexual practices, was a bit queer because of the nature of her work that started out as mere pin-ups, but quickly transitioned to fetish modeling that included bondage and spanking shoots. Most of these latter photos were of her with other women.

Last summer, I was on a road trip with my family. My dad was passed out asleep and my mom, grandma, and I were playing a game in order to pass time. One of us chose a famous person they would embody and the other two would have to ask questions to find out who they were. I chose Bettie Page once and my mom and grandma were guessing for nearly 30 minutes before they gave up. When I enthusiastically yelled, “Bettie Page!” they both looked at me all confused. Neither had any idea who she was.

For someone so “notorious,” it seems that Bettie Page’s revival and now legacy will go on living in the hearts of very particular subcultures. I’m glad that she’s a little bit part of mine.

R.I.P., Bettie Mae.

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pittsburgh sweet.
October 11, 2008, 9:32 am
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it’s almost something sacred. the word “you,” when you speak it in reference to me. it is one word in a sentence made of many others, but it’s the only one that hangs on your tongue like the way honey drags down the length of a spoon – slow and thick at first and then rushed and ribboned towards the end. my punched down, plumped up heart doesn’t care about the sentiments or about the words that surround this mention of me in your mouth. i am focused only on the way it feels to be cradled by your lips like that; attention paid only to the feel of your breath grazing when you exhale me.

this is about absence. the kind that causes me to rock away grief. because sitting still with it is just too great an ache.

i am responsible for near tidal waves.

when we were a part of one another still, i noticed not the way you held me in your mouth – pulled me in, pushed me out – but more the sound. the gravel of your generations-deep, southwestern pennsylvania, coal miner family accent and the way it snuck out between the cracks of a crooked smile passed down from a grandmother every bit as pretty then as you are handsome today.

my concentration on the way you spoke me, the way you still sometimes do when i let my guard down a little too early, is about the ways i loved you. i wonder now if something as simple as how you wore your lips when you grinned – practically a right angle instead of a more even, upwards bevel – should have been a sign of the unpredictability of you.



a fall aesthetic.
October 10, 2008, 8:34 am
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fall has always been my favorite time of year and it’s no doubt for many of the same reasons as the rest of y’all: cooler weather, the change in foliage (if you live somewhere where this happens), and of course the transition to a different and, in my case, better wardrobe. for years my summer wardrobe was a sorry excuse for clothing and i’m sure that was in relationship to where i was in my head as far as body image. i grew up with a pretty fat positive mom, but still one who enforced some sort of “sleeve at all times, on all shirts” rule that i later tossed out as being total bullshit. my summer clothes have evolved into something i no longer dread, including skirts i’ve sewed myself in recent years and new and thrifted dresses. oh, and tank tops. and tube tops. lots of them. behold! a fat person with fat arms! gasp! how unusual!

but fall? fall is my joint. say it with me: sweater weather…mmm. and this is ironic because i’m not huge into sweaters. going to class and teaching in colleges and universities, as well as several office buildings in between when i lived in d.c., made me a fan of layering: cute camisoles, light sweaters, carrrrdigans (drool), and shrugs. jeans, of course too, pencil skirts, dresses, but with tights. this season, because i’m hopelessly flawed in keeping tights for long without running them? black ribbed ones, deep purple, turquoise, and gray! fall equals jewel tones after all, no? oh, and scarves! fall is scarf weather and thanks to a grandma with fast crocheting fingers, i am a queen to many lovely, homemade ones. my favorite is made of a deep red wool that is of the same skeins my grandmother knit my baby blanket.

oh, fall aesthetic! you are, of course, not just for the femmes either. the butches and bois, the transmasculine folk, this is button-down shirt and sweater weather. argyle sweaters. wide striped sweaters. sweater vests. tweed pants. boots. plaid wool scarves. swoon! the fun of thrifting with a butch for a fall wardrobe. or merely just observing their dashingness from across the street…with a wink!

fall, it’s about time you got here. last night, you had me dreaming of houndstooth and herringbone.


i took this picture in northampton, ma two weeks ago. the trees there are already so stunning. my foot? maybe not quite as much!



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September 27, 2008, 11:51 am
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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.