ThreeWay: The Butch-Femme vs. Garden Variety Lesbian Quandary (Pt. 1)

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ThreeWay: The Butch-Femme vs. Garden Variety Lesbian Quandary (Pt. 1)

make sense to them in terms of how they identify…

Professor C: Which in turn angers me because I think people forget that butch-femme is an important historical legacy for lesbians, whether you identify as that or not.

Julia: … and also pressured because butch/femme is such a strong historical construct within gay culture.

Professor C: Holla my sister.

KL: But it's gross to make love to your long-haired partner over a plate of babaganoush, as tendrils of your own long hair fall into the eggplant concoction.

Amy: I think a lot of Dinah Shore lesbians don't even know about that history.

KL: True.

Professor C: Def.

Amy: Yes, I'm trying to offend as many lezzies as possible today, too.

Julia: LoL We're supposed to be bridging the gap, people!

Amy: Ooops

Professor C: I think the essential problem is this: neither camp really BELIEVES the other one.

Butch icon Rick Moranis confronts his own inner Garden Variety Lesbian in the off-Broadway musical, Little Sapphic Horrors.

KL: Like how I can't wrap my head around my straight sister. And when my butch lesbian friends introduce me to their new butch gf, I'm like, “yeah right.”

Amy: HAHA.

KL: Does anyone know what I mean?

Julia: I have a hard time with some of that, Katie, but I'm a unique case. I started out identifying as a garden variety lesbian. Because I had no butch-femme role models for a really longass time, and I was uncomfortable with my gender.

KL: Yeah, but look at who you're dating... like, look at who stole your heart. A bonafide man butch. Dapper, but bulldagger-y nonetheless.

Julia: Of course! My permanent lesboner for butches is what started to get me more comfortable with the idea that I’m femme. I was freaked out about my femininity for years. It wasn’t until I started having relationships with butches that I started to feel more comfortable in my own skin that way.

Amy: That's why we all need an older butch in our lives.

KL: Ugh. So true.

Professor C: But seriously, people look at butch-femme and see it as "uncreative" and limiting.

KL: (p.s. that was really unfemme of me, the "ugh.")

Professor C: So they don't try to understand it

KL: Yes, but it goes both ways.

Professor C: Absolutely.

Amy: I think they also see



Comments [76]

Tosha's picture

omg

thanks for pulling this out of the vault.  wonderful.  since ive been ensconced in the topic all week anyway...love it

jane's picture

doin it better

.......

Keeli M's picture

well that was a nice way to spend an hour

what a great discussion! Reading, getting fired up, cooling right down, scratcing my furrowed brow, looking up recommended reading material... damn ladies talk about bringing it. 

blow up my ego @lvrandafighter

whyjersey's picture

jersey shore lesbians

Professor C: I prefer genders that are distracting from the everyday.

Amy: Totally.

Julia: Yes. Genders that are larger than life.

 

Just reminds me of MTV's Jersey Shore.... juice heads and their counterparts... I get the whole conversation and where it's going though. It was entertaining. 

whyjersey's picture

jersey shore lesbians

Rusty's picture

and also

I’ve avoided commenting on this blog after my original response because I needed a cooling off period. I think I can tackle it in a way that won’t piss everyone off. At least that’s what I’m going for.

There were several comments about people not seeing an anti butch-femme vibe on this site or in the lesbian community in general. I don’t for one second doubt the sincerity of that response. But, the fact that someone doesn’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Let me use another example to make my point. Bi women also frequent the site. If one of them had posted a blog that claimed they felt ill-treated and I said, “There’s no anti bisexual sentiment on this site – I haven’t seen it.” I’d be only half right. Maybe I hadn’t seen it but that doesn’t change the experience of the women who experienced it. (And I’m pretty sure I’d be pilloried for being so insensitive.) We have no business telling anyone that their experience is “wrong” or that they aren’t feeling what they say they’re feeling. If someone perceives that they’re having a crappy experience then they are*.

And this leads to my second point. Several people were offended by the blog. I admit that I was surprised by that reaction because even after re-reading it I still loved it. Does that mean I should tell anyone who was offended to get over it? Or should I say “Hey, I wasn’t offended therefore it wasn’t offensive”? Nope. Wrong answer. No one has any business telling anyone else what they should or should not find offensive.

This is not limited to this particular blog. There have been some recent comments that fit as well; I’m tired of the bandwagon that goes rolling along as soon as someone claims they are offended by something. The immediate response is “Well, I wasn’t offended.” Seriously I could care less. Again, we need to stop telling each other how to feel. We all have different buttons. Some people are offended by coarse language. Some are offended by snark. Personally the whiny and / or poorly constructed arguments set me off.

It would be a pretty boring place if we all agreed on everything, but we (me included) need to work harder on disagreeing without being disagreeable. A good place to start is not disparaging what people say they feel.

*I have zero interest in a “who has the more legitimate claim for being crapped on” game.

PS: I have never typed the word “feel” so many times in a so short a space. Gag.

"When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will." ~ Pollyanna

Robin Rigby's picture

"PS: I have never typed the

"PS: I have never typed the word “feel” so many times in a so short a space. Gag."  Hahahaha!

skate's picture

OK just throwing this out

OK just throwing this out there:

How often does everyone here have conversations like this offline in your actual daily life?

For me, barely ever because I'm in a smallish town where we have a randomized potpurri of gay people, not a "dyke community," and also because it seems like people in cities take these classification systems insanely seriously, but we don't think about it that way.  Not saying it's good or bad - this is just my take.

Olivia Mistelle Maxell's picture

Skate on...

Dude! I'm in the same boat...and like you said not saying in a good or bad way. 

Olivia Mistelle Maxell's picture

I wear a mix of guy and

I wear a mix of guy and female clothing. I wear little make-up when I leave the house. I cross my legs like a female I but I stand and play sports like a guy. I go a year with short short hair and then grow it out because the girl in me wants to be heard. But my body resembles that of a 13 year old boy. 

I have super man-crush on a stay-at-home dad at my sons school. I  do prefer women but once every two years I crave a man in bed. It comes and I go before the sun comes up without leaving my name or wanting anything more.  

With women, I guess it depends on the personality of the particular female I'm attracted too. I will either be the dominate or submissive. 

I stopped trying to identify myself so much because I just confused myself even more. Some have a name to identify themselves and I think that's great. Some just are fluid. Some like this and some like that...

I like what catches my eye and I really love b-i-t-c-h-e-s (they are and they take it as a compliment) but I prefer a good-hearted woman with a strong will--:)

With certain people like myself, preference doesn't have a label. It just is what it is because it's unpredictable. 

Not2Taem's picture

Sounds lovely

If you're ever in Texass...  Smile

Olivia Mistelle Maxell's picture

ha!

Going into Texas either gets me laid or arrested...Smile Double-edge sword!

Amy Nicole Miller's picture

I can't wait till part 2, in

I can't wait till part 2, in which we get sidetracked into converstation about fashion, gets posted. Let's hope that one proves less controversial, though somehow I doubt it will. Bring on the batiked sarong vs. high heel debate!

Diana Cage's picture

eggplant

OK I just barely skimmed these comments and I'm on the way out the door to yoga so I don't really have time to read this, but the one thing that sticks out here is that I don't think KL said femmes boning each other is gross. She said baba ganoush with hair in it is gross.

Joanne Robertson's picture

Oh

Good grief.

Rockets's picture

First...

Seriously - I'm crying right now, no joke, because I've been trying for a week and a half to get people to talk about nearly most and maybe a little more of the same thing/topic you were three-waying only with no sucess aside from being called a pervert and possibly alienating a few of my friends thru pressure and harassment.

I am a batiking, queer who waffles between a femme and butch personality (depending on how I feel) nearly daily. I pine for silicone-dick clad butches and 6" heal wearing femmes along with the understanding that comes from souls that are attrackted in parallel directions and all I can say is...

I've never found my soul's mirror.

I don't think there is a full stop spot for femme or butch and sorting thru crayola boxes is exciting and fantastic and WHY would you want to be the exact same color as the crayon next to you? Growing up my brother's favorite book was Mr. Pine's Purple House. I hated that book. (Because he wanted to hear it 5 times a day) - but I loved that Mr. Pine fought the entire book to be different. And that was okay.

THANK YOU for writing this and I'd like to ask permission to use some of the things you've said... (now I need to go back and read all the comments)

P.S. I <3 PERVERTS TOO.

Visit the FREE Lesbian Coloring pages at ~ illustrocity.blogspot.com

KL's picture

lovely

I'm happy you didn't find it "odious."

Lots of love.

Not2Taem's picture

Did odious come into this

Did odious come into this before you used it?

*** edit: Never mind; I missed it on my first scan, but just found it. While I didn't originally remember using it, the blog did arouse a strong dislike, so yeah, I found it odious. ***

Rockets's picture

Got

people talking... lol

Visit the FREE Lesbian Coloring pages at ~ illustrocity.blogspot.com

Not2Taem's picture

Coming back later

because if I read one more judgemental THEY, I am going to go mental. How can you have this discussion with any productie result if you just they it to death?

Luv ya, but

SMBrown's picture

I'm alternately a bonsai-, or

I'm alternately a bonsai-, or rock-garden-variety lesbian (depending on the day) and I didn't feel remotely  'they'd' to death.  Like it or not, judgement is a part of daily life--we do it without even realizing it. 

Dialogues like this give us not only a window into a world that may not be our own, but challenge us to look in the mirror.  I admit that early on in my dykedom I had some prejudice regarding butch-femme--didn't particularly want to be associated (by others) with it, but that eventually changed as I became more comfortable in my own skin--not just as a lesbian, but as a human being.   Frank discussions like this and others regarding identity have truly been an education for me, and I'm forever grateful to VP for them.

Grace Moon's picture

bonsai rock garden?

okay i'm trying to imagine this

http://images.businessweek.com/ss/06/03/japan_temples/image/ryoanji.jpg

as a person... and I'm not coming up with anything but the void.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

SMBrown's picture

I said one OR the other, not

I said one OR the other, not both at the same time!  Though Tae's done a nice job (below) of merging the two aesthetics...

On the other hand, maybe I do lurk in the 'void.'   Wink

Not2Taem's picture

Rock Plaza?

There is something serene yet tenacious about the bonsai, and calmly serene about a well formed rock garden. Both have a deliberate casualness. Sounds like a rather fetching combination.

This is not as traditional, but reminds me of the one on Nana's back hill.

http://www.wildgingerfarm.com/RockAccentedGarden.htm

SMBrown's picture

I feel more serene already

I feel more serene already looking at those pics. 

yonks's picture

I'm sorry but what is "they"?

I'm sorry but what is "they"?

OK sorry, i figure out myself Smile

 

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

Conlite's picture

I was wondering if it would

I was wondering if it would have been more productive to have had this conversation with a "they" (garden variety lesbian) participating and giving an opinion or two.  I'm not sure any of our bloggers fall into this category though.

Not2Taem's picture

Exactly

Exactly what kept going through my brain. It got odious around page 2, but I pushed through the first half of page 4 and just couldn't get any further. How do you combat judgment with judgment? And up till now I thought the butch femme thing was valid for those who felt it, and even kind of cute. Especially on the Prof.  Wink

KL's picture

no

discussions such as these are meant to promote dialogue. it was an earnest (and yes, sometimes vaguely silly and/or hyperbolic) effort to get to the heart of things that perplex us in the arena of lesbian gender.

no one was "combating" judgement with judgement. no one was "combating" anything with anything. it wasn't a sword fight, nor was it an attack on the "they" that you so defensively and moralistically reference. people acknowledged and questioned their own less-than-totally-honorable, haphazardly-held prejudices in attempts to dismantle them.

i find it strange that "up till now" you thought the butch-femme thing was valid, but reading this discussion somehow served as evidence to the contrary. when my (for lack of a better term) "garden-variety" lesbian friends mock butch-femme culture, i take it with a grain of salt. i don't arrogantly deride their "attempts" at humor.

Lots of love.

Not2Taem's picture

Do you feel better, Katie?

sword fight, attack, defensively, moralistically, arrogantly deride

Damn girl! You went to town. When really, I did not. I feel that the way I state my response was pretty sedate. Guess the reason you didn't invite anyone with an opposing opinion is that you don't want to hear it. If you didn't get the up till now part  Wink

you might ask the Prof what the odds are that I would still make a pass if I ever met her. Or Lady Di.

Who's defensive?  LOL

SMBrown's picture

Tae, what exactly would an

Tae, what exactly would an 'opposing opinion' be?  And why do you cast it as oppositional, if your primary problem with the blog (which I don't actually agree with) is that it's about 'us' and 'them'?

KL's picture

Do I feel better?

How adorably patronizing! I do feel better, actually. Your responses to our chat were needlessly aggressive and didactic.

I am completely open to new ideas, particularly when they come from someone who is genuinely interested in putting forth a new idea. Maybe I'm a little less likely to be receptive when it's coming from a sanctimonious douchebag with an anime profile pic.

 

 

Lots of love.

Not2Taem's picture

You just crossed the line

There is a line, and you just crossed it. No one on this site has any business calling anyone else a douchbag, much less someone writing for it. I'm not going to bother flagging this. I much prefer it to remain here so people can see your true colors.

Grace Moon's picture

yes

we knew KLs true colors before this... and we still hang out.

funny I just checked myself on ratemyprofessor.com and found that either my students found me entertaining and interesting or they found me condescending and sarcastic. It was really 50/50.

I decided that I needed to be more careful at how i addressed my students, try to be a bit nicer... cause we're all trying to be better people aren't we?

this is just to say, can we all acknowledge that we have all incensed each other. Inwardly (or outwardly) apologize and end this one for now. We will no doubt talk about gender and identity again.

that's the nice Moon speaking.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Julia Watson's picture

Lieds

1) You know I always have your back.

2) I appreciate your frustration, but let's try to keep this civil, okay? Name-calling isn't going to help with making this conversation more productive either.

KL's picture

perhaps you haven't noticed

diplomacy isn't really my thing.

but i love you and your gentle approach and will do my best to respect your wishes.

xoxo

Lots of love.

Julia Watson's picture

Tae, I'm gonna take off my

Tae, I'm gonna take off my editor's hat for a minute here and respond to this as a community member.

"And up till now I thought the butch femme thing was valid for those who felt it..."

Dude. Harsh. Tacking a smiley emoticon and a flirtatious comment to the end of a statement like that does not erase that you just said another person's sexual and gender identity is no longer "valid" as far as you're concerned. It doesn't make it sound like you're joking either, if that was your intent. 

In this part of our discussion (on pg. 3), the Prof brought up a really good point about how queer people who would never say they "don't believe in" other kinds of queer identities (like being trans, for instance) find it perfectly acceptable to say that they don't think butch-femme is a "valid" identity. You may find our chat odious, but you've just illustrated the need for this particular conversation to happen here.

It's important for us, as a community, to prod sensitive spots like this and talk about them, precisely because I don't think some folks, both in this community and in the larger LGBT community, get how hurtful it is to butch-femme identifying folks when we hear our queer sisters say things to or about us like "your identity is not valid." And butch-femme folks hear that A LOT from other queers. So it is especially hurtful to hear it in a place like Vp.

That is why I have been wanting to do this topic for so long. And it is even more hurtful and baffling to see you deflect and dismiss Katie's very valid observation that it is weird and hurtful that you would get halfway through this conversation and decide that butch/femme is no longer "valid" as mere defensiveness on her part.

How does that lead to the "more productive" conversation that you and other folks have wished aloud for regarding this topic? I would like a more productive conversation about it too. That's why I suggested this topic to the other 3Way chatters and that's why I wrote this response to you, so please take it in that spirit.

Not2Taem's picture

Julia

If my response upset you, I find it surprising that KL's comment didn't seem to bother any of you.

KL: But it's gross to make love to your long-haired partner over a plate of babaganoush, as tendrils of your own long hair fall into the eggplant concoction.

Is it OK to call two femmes in love gross, because it is coming from someone you identify with, as opposed to a garden variety lesbian who declines labels but is perfectly happy with others owning any that give them comfort?

You saw the funny in KL's put down of a group of people within our community, but having read me for this long on this site you missed my tongue in cheek use of up till now to point out that you can't have it both ways? I realize we have never met, and I am certainly not part of the close knit inner circle of this site, but do you really think that I was trying to put down the entire butch/femme community? Do you think that a blog by even the most capable writer would so offend me that I would change my opinion and suddenly become recklessly prejudice against a whole group of people?

If you are going to criticize my tone, then I suggest you reread the blog while imagining yourself a garden variety lesbian. Or find a few and ask them to read it, and listen to their responses with an open mind.

Julia Watson's picture

I didn't mean to suggest that

I didn't mean to suggest that you were intentionally trying to offend the butch-femme community. I said and I meant that what you wrote was hurtful to me personally, and likely to other people, too.

I know you didn't read the whole blog, so you may have missed the part where, right after the babaganoush comment, I talked about being a femme who used to identify as a garden variety lezzie. So I don't have to imagine that response to all of this; I've been there. I'm also a femme who is attracted to other femmes in addition to being attracted to butches, which gives me a unique perspective on all of this amongst the other femmes of Vp. I have talked about that part of how I identify in previous ThreeWay chats, and both that and my garden variety days inform a lot of my particular interest in trying to get at the root of these kinds of issues not just in the larger queer community, but in the butch-femme community, too.

It sounds like I read your comment in a spirit in which in was not intended, and I'm acknowledging that. It bears repeating that I think that the sensitivity displayed by everyone involved in this thread, myself included, points to the importance of this topic continuing to be discussed in our community. But for now, I'm going to take Moon's and Mysty's advice and back off.

 

 

SMBrown's picture

Maybe we could all cut each

Maybe we could all cut each other a bit of slack?  Have a bit of faith that although identity issues (whether gender, sexual orientation, race, etc.) can be a bit dicey, no one on here actually wants to offend?

yonks's picture

"And up till now I thought

"And up till now I thought the butch femme thing was valid for those who felt it..."

I'm not sure if i understand correctly but that doesn't mean she had anyhow change her thought for the future. how i understand it is, she never thought it so she wonder why she have to pay the price of it.

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

KL's picture

julia:

amen

Lots of love.

Conlite's picture

Well I think the foursome

Well I think the foursome here were aiming for light-hearted discussion, but missed the mark a bit.  Please don't stop thinking butch/femmes are cute though, cuz I think "garden variety" girls are cute and interesting too!  (Though I think we could come up with a better moniker than that!)  People will continue to feel their varied gender identities regardless of what other folks say, so it really would be more convenient if we learned to get along.

But then, I'm Canadian and we tend to think this way!

Not2Taem's picture

I love Maple leaves.

I'm all for any way anyone identifies; in my book, it is all valid. And I'm sure you're right, about this crew aiming for the funny. I think I have just read one too many of this type of thing lately. I know very few people who are anti butch/femme. On the other hand, I am becoming increasingly aware of the ways that many butch/femme paired folks separate themselves from the more diverse queer community. The grossed out by a couple of long haired gals getting it on comment, accompanied by terms like garden variety; that humor was lost on me.

seismickitten's picture

"I know very few people who

"I know very few people who are anti butch/femme. On the other hand, I am becoming increasingly aware of the ways that many butch/femme paired folks separate themselves from the more diverse queer community. The grossed out by a couple of long haired gals getting it on comment, accompanied by terms like garden variety; that humor was lost on me."

This. Exactly. I've often felt, as a lesbian who is not in a b-f relationship (nor am I turned on by those particular dynamics) excluded, to an extent, on VP. Precisely because of the sentiment above. However, I've perservered, because some lesbian community is better than none, I suppose.

Thanks for putting my own thoughts into words.

- SK

Robin Rigby's picture

It is true that here at the

It is true that here at the Park the preference of the majority of the editors and bloggers is butch/femme and while I don't think that their intention is to exclude or speak disparagingly of those of us who do not identify that way it can be difficult to discuss these issues without offending someone.  I remember the first blog that LHR posted about being post butch/femme and how that was received by many, so the offense can go both ways.  It doesn't help when folks are already on the defensive.  

I'm not talking about a particular person when I say folks are on the defensive (certainly not you, Seismickitten), just speaking in general terms.  

seismickitten's picture

Well said. I'd like to think

Well said.

I'd like to think we can all just get along. Smile

- SK

MacLass_19's picture

Tae.

Thank you for a very reasonable and thoughtful perspective. I guess to me, this humor feels old and worn out. 

ShadowCat's picture

another question for you ladies

what in the world is batiking?  at first i thought liederman misspelled baking but baking large sheets of cloth. that can't be right.  

gardening and batiking, i feel so out of the loop all of a sudden.  hahaha. 

Not2Taem's picture

wax resist dying

In the most basic sense, it is a process of painting wax onto fabric, and then dying it. The areas covered by wax resist the dye. Though there is a lot more to traditional batiking. I played with it a bit in younger days. You know, to make things to wear to the garden parties.  Laughing out loud

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batik