February 02, 2006

Conversations That Hurt God's Ears, Part the First


Em0: because they upped my dose before Xmas so I could travel
Em0: I have become SLEEPY
Em0: all the time

Em0: it's annoying me a lot.
Em0: i can't wait to have my nether regions chopped into pieces and put back together inside out so I can stop being sleepy.

Em0: ... wait.


gromphus said...

aw, lovely em0. have sweet dreams then?

Max said...

I can't seem to find a way to contact you--- so I have to respond to your post on my blog here...

I don't know what you know or understand abou butch/femme or gender. I know that when you refer to the "gender binary" you are not talking about it the way J. Butler does, in terms of limited performative acts. There seem to be a flux of young queer radicals reading butch/femme in this horrific 1970s lesbian feminism way. You do seem to be aware of this in your initial sentences. However, your arguments seem incomplete. Perhaps you are familiar with Adrienne Rich, Monique Wittig, and most importantly (in this case) Iragaray?

I support all variety of gender identity and expression. I don't think that everyone must be butch/femme/andro or trans. I don't require that everyone play with their gender expressions in ways that you can explicitly understand. But I do want to know where this refusal to see butch and femme as legitimate identities went? And I do want to know why these "categories" are still seen as capitulations to some patriarchal gender proscription. I would argue that they are two identities that require some of the most thought about gender and society and the most action in order to fuction regularly. As Iragaray explicates, it is impossible to subvert gender norms simply by refusing expected gendered behavior. It is just as much of a concession to alter one's dress and appearance to REJECT men's paradigm of desire. And, in my own opinion, the only unmaking of the patriarchy we can do with our presentation at this historical moment lies within attention, analysis, and community. This means understanding how and why we dress and act and where our motivations and desires come from as well as how they read to the world at large. The community aspect is about education, committment, empathy, and concerted effort towards unity. This is a feminist pillar, of course. But as long as we actually read diversity as concession or cowardess or a hand of The Man, we are not in concert.

Butch/femme's butch and femme are specifically constructed identities which interact with the world quite differently than the identities of male/female partners in a heterosexual relationship. You are right that we need to recognize all of these genders as valid, you are right that we need to credit and respect our own gender expression as well as others. You are right that we have to recognize the gender defiance necessarily within patriachy. The problem is in thinking that gender defiance can free us FROM the patriarchy. It can't.

I think you should understand a little more about concious gender identity construction and the history of butch/femme before you speak to it. I only say this because it truly seems like you are interested in gender/sexuality studies... Maybe you identify as butch or femme in the most classic way. Or maybe you identify as some derivation. I don't know. I do know that when I was coming out I felt this specific push by my queer cohorts to "defy gender" which meant to cut my hair and wear less make-up OR to "be myself" which meant to just keep my long hair and be a girly lesbian. It took me a long time and many friends and lovers before I became comfortable identifying the way that I do.

You seem to be well-educated about some things and a capable reader. So I'm thinking you like to read more about this stuff... and that you want to. So, before you read another sentence of J. Halberstam, why not give J. Butler another shot. Or, take a look at My Persistant Desire, Stone Butch Blues, or my very favorite My Dangerous Desires (by Amber Hollibaugh.)

Perhaps we can talk at greater length. For now.

Goodbye. Happy Blogging.


wannatakethisoutside said...

Hi Max,

I was wondering if you could explain which post you are referencing on or commenting on.

I guess I am a little bit confused as to what you are reacting to, since quench does explicitly address butch/femme issues and I know that we have writers who identify as both butch and femme.

I am just responding because I do read a lot of J. Butler stuff (some of which I agree with, and some of which I disagree with, and sometimes I notice that Butler doesn't really take a side at all.) And Stone Butch Blues is probably something I could call a quench favorite.

I guess I am just wondering what you were referencing when you felt that we were being anti butch/femme or refusing to see butch and femme as legitimate identities. I don't want to do that and I don't want anyone to feel like we're doing that which is why I would like to understand further where we may have offended.

Max said...

Dear Wannatakethis,

I am actually referencing message that Em0 left of my website. I was criticizing the way 'The L Word' deals with Shane's butchness with the advent of Moira. You can see what I wrote and how Em0 responded at www.themthat.blogspot.com. I'll be posting in the next day or two about femme identity and confrontations with queer expectation and "the binary." I do read the site regularly and know that author's opinions are diverse if not all-inclusive. Sometimes I totally agree with what's being said and sometimes I find it terribly offensive. Regardless, there you go.

Thanks for your response.



calypso said...

"I can't seem to find a way to contact you"
You can contact Quench at quench.zine@gmail.com

"Sometimes I totally agree with what's being said and sometimes I find it terribly offensive."
That's the glory of "internet democracy" blogging.

raine said...

As someone who has wrestled with the butch/femme identity issue, I can see where it has both its pitfalls and its inherent comforts. Knowing that you identify as butch or femme seems to come with its own code of dress, conduct, etc. that isn't necessarily negative, or even always corresponding to hetero society's male/female norms.

On the other hand, when someone doesn't present strongly in either direction, I've found that there's always pressure to push them one way or another. It's not an inherent flaw of the butch/femme paradigm as much as it is a human desire to give people neat little labels. Butch/femme is fine, as long as its not a binary. Those can't be the only two choices.

yyphhqaa: the liberating squeal of a labelless lezzie.