Is it just me, or has "femme" become a handy repository for all the misogynistic stereotypes that used to be unapologetically associated with women in general?
Seriously - what progressive queer woman (or, hell, what progressive, period) these days would say something like "Woman are silly, incompetent, and high-maintenance. They display an utter inability to get out the door without spending hours on their exceptionally long and poofy hair, a single-minded desire to spend all their free time shopping and being pedicured, and the passionate conviction that making the first move is simply not in the natural order of things"? None, right? Because it's not PC, and more importantly, it's pretty clearly not true. This, by now, is Something We Know.
But apparently we haven't figured out how to stop trotting those stereotypes out altogether - we've just started applying them to femmes instead. [I'm talking specifically about girl-femmes here, although it strikes me that boy-femmes carry a lot of the same stereotypes.] Take, for example, the quiz that inspired me to make this post: For Lesbians - Where Do You Fall On The Butch-Femme Continuum? Like most online quizzes, it's pretty easy to tell which responses are meant to lead to which results - and it's pretty easy to tell what the quiz author thinks of femmes:
Strut your sexy self over to the nearest mirror. What's your current hair style (or closest to)?or this one -
- Long and styled just right... which took forever, by the way.
- Long or medium length, cut nice but without too many products.
- Kind of short, but still feminine.
- Medium length, tied up in a pony tail.
- Long in the front, short in the back.
- Short in the front, long in the back (mullet).
or this all-time favorite:Your special someone is taking you to a surprise locale for your one month anniversery. Where do you secretly hope you're going?
- Dinner and dancing at a romantic 5 star restaraunt.
- Moonlit walk on the beach.
- My favorite amusement park.
- Actually, I'd prefer to do the planning and would wine and dine her at the most romantic restaraunt in town, then take her home to test drive my new *toy* from Good Vibrations
- I'd prefer it be casual. I mean, why make a fuss over just one month, but I'll go along with whatever since I know it's important to *her*.
- Dinner at our favorite restaraunt and a movie we've been dying to see.
- Ugh!... Can't we just order take out and go straight to the sack?
I mean, please - Britney frickin' Spears?God, I wish I was...
- Britney Spears.
- Cyndi Lauper.
- Angelina Jolie.
- Ellen Degeneres.
- Annika Sorenstam.
- Simon Cowell.
But since a femme is supposed to be the archetype of womanhood distilled to a potent ultrafeminine brew, she must somehow embody all the bad (or dumb and inaccurate) things we used to think about women. It's just a question of recycling stereotypes here, not examining or dismantling them. And if this is the way we [as a community] think about what we've constructed as some sort of mythic "essential femininity," then we really haven't come very far in our ability to accurately construe and value femininity as a whole.
What's a ponytailed, too-poor-for-five-stars, sex-and-takeout-loving, snarky-Brit-wannabe femme to do?
I'll note that this isn't just about the quiz - I had to stop reading The Femme Mystique when I overdosed on pieces like "A Femme Shops While Her Butch Drops." I was about to throw the book across the room, and it wasn't my copy, so I figured I should put it down gently and walk away.
Also, just for fun, other problems I had with the quiz:
- The "butch-femme continuum" goes from "high femme" to "stone butch," with "stone butch" being the butchiest category. None of the questions, however, address what might differentiate an ordinary very-butch person from a stone butch - nothing about how you feel about touch, whether you belive 'tis better to give than to receive, etc. Instead, if you sport a crew cut, play Nintendo, and scratch your crotch in public, "ou are a stone-butch... even some men aren't as masculine as you. On a scale of 1-10, one being femme and ten being butch, you'd be a TEN!" Mmmmkay.
- No gentleman butches? Excuse me? None of the sweet, hot, butch-ID'ed people I have the great good fortune to know would be caught dead scratching their crotches and burping in front of new acquaintances anyway. It doesn't make you more butch to do these things, it makes you (at best) a different kind of butch, and (at worst) rude. And revealing personal information about your ex isn't about gender, it's about manners and ethics.
- Apparently no place for femmes who aren't complete subs/bottoms, either. Which is a shame, 'cause I like organizing anniversary celebrations and being the pursuer sometimes.
- I'm starting to think gender isn't a spectrum, or a continuum, or whatever similar metaphor you might feel like using. It's not a neat, flowing progression from one point (usually masculine) to another (usually feminine) - not everything fits onto the number-line of gender, and I'm uncomfortable thinking of anywhere as an endpoint. Maybe gender's a scatterplot. In which case, the whole premise of the quiz is flawed anyway.