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)

Please welcome our newest ThreeWay chatter, Professor C, in her lesbian processing gangbang debut! Oh yeah, baby! We're talking FOURWAY chat...

Professor C: Oh, wow. This is high tech.

KL: How hot is this?!!!

Julia: I love this! It's an old-timey chat room.

Professor C: It's cool, but I wish we had a hot tub.

Amy: Wow.

Julia: Word.

KL: I'm eating a fistful of almonds. What are we talking about in here?

Amy: Spit it out, Julia.

Julia: Okay, today we're talking about the cultural divide between butch-femme lesbians and garden variety lesbians.

KL: Oh, Jesus. My wet dream.

Professor C: You mean lesbians who garden?

Julia: Yes, precisely.

KL: Butches and femmes sure as hell don't garden. It's too fey for butches, too unladylike for femmes.

Amy: Ummm, yes we do!

KL: Well, if you do garden, it should be your dirty little secret. It's on par with rock-climbing or batiking large sheets of cloth.

Amy: (By garden I mean reap what Ali sows in our garden. Meaning she plants and I eat.)

Julia: Ha ha. Okay, so here at Vp we have lesbians who identify within butch-femme and lesbians who don’t. There's been a lot of controversy in our online community arising out of folks from these different camps misunderstanding or just not getting where each other are coming from.

KL: Butches and femmes are such assholes.

Batiking and you; all that's missing here is a lavendar labrys tattoo.

Professor C: Hahaha.

KL: But we're right, you know?

Julia: How are we assholes, and how are we right? (LoL)

KL: We're assholes because we're all homophobic, no matter how hard we try to intellectualize it, and we're right because it's just hotter.


Professor C: Garden variety masculinity and femininity are kind of boring.

KL: Expound.

Professor C: Gender’s better when it's over the top and annoying. Or distracting, rather.

KL: YES.  aka Diana.

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

Amy: Totally.

Julia: Yes. Genders that are larger than life.

KL: But then why do straight-up Melissa Ferrick lesbians loathe us so? And vice versa?

Julia: I have a theory about that, Katie.

Amy: MF lezzies. Perfect.

Professor C: They think butch-femme is constraining and labels freak them out.

Julia: Exactly. I think they feel pressured, too, to pick "a label" that doesn't

Comments [76]

minniesota's picture

For now

Okay, it will take me more time than I have right now to absorb all of this conversation but I want to say this now:

I hope some of KL's dreams include little ole me! ::big smiley face::

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

mickey06's picture


What a great conversation to read. Ive also never heard the term "garden variety" before, but I have a distinct feeling that I would probably fall in that category. Ive been recently thinking about the butch/femme thing A LOT. At first, I didnt get it at all. I couldnt understand the idea of such (what I thought at the time) constrained mode of being. But I think Im over that now. What mostly annoys me is being out with my gf and having people tell us that we arent real lesbians all the time because we are both perceived as feminine. It gets old really fast.

But I will say that I am a bit tired of masculine women always being framed as butches. I see problems with that in terms of silencing and making invisible other  forms of female masculinity that it outside the trope of the butch/femme. I might even write my dissertation (eventually....Im still a first year) on that topic.


But Im loving this conversation

Julia Watson's picture

That's interesting. I've

That's interesting. I've never heard of anyone having that take before, about butch identity silencing other forms of female masculinity. Can you elaborate on that so I can better understand what you mean?

mickey06's picture


Ive re read through my post and its very poorly articulated. But keep asking if it makes no sense. I love this site in making me think through things from the classroom to everyday life. Love VP!

Julia Watson's picture

No, it does make more sense

No, it does make more sense now. Thanks!

I guess I tend to think of butch and femme as being pretty wide gendered categories. I joke that I'm a "soft" femme sometimes, like the counterpart of a "soft" butch. It doesn't have quite the same ring to it, though, does it? If I referred to myself as a "soft femme" to CaramelTeddy, she'd probably assume I was talking about my infamous "Succubus of the Bed" powers of nap-time persuasion.

mickey06's picture


soft femme...I like that....

mickey06's picture


the weird smiley face thing was supposed to be  "s" lol....although that face might be fitting!

mickey06's picture


So...Im really interested in talking about the Black Female Masculine "subject" (and I use subject because Im not sure if I will be talking about the material, i.e. performance/presentation or the discursive). But their is nothing really out there (at least nothing published...maybe soon fingers crossed) that talks about her. All I can find in relation to this is the work around the butch. And dont get me wrong, I think that butch identity is completely worthy of page space....but when I look around thats all I find. No mention of masculine women, no real mention of Black masculine women, no mention of women who dont identity as butch, no mention of masculine women who---surprise surprise---arent even Lesbian/Lesbian identified/same sex lovin...none of that. Those bodies get erased/silenced because all outward makers of masculinity are placed under the category of the butch woman. But I know that there are other forms of masculinitie(Drunk out there.


does that make sense?

minniesota's picture

Interesting questions

Mickey06, gracias for raising those interesting questions. I'm particularly interested in the issue about invisibility: that any woman--no matter her sexual orientation--who exhibits what people classify as "masculine" behavior, manner or dress automatically becomes more invisible in our society. Also, as you note, race also likey plays a role in being invisible.

Also, thank you, for raising these questions in an undefensive way; in a way that makes us think.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.

Conlite's picture

Total sense.  Keep it up!

Total sense.  Keep it up!

Professor C's picture


yeah, the vocabulary for masculine (formerly "mannish") women has really expanded (as i think it should)--i think especially so in the black lesbian community, where--i think you're right--there's already a more nuanced language. on the one hand, all of lesbian history has been whitewashed, and on the other hand black women's bodies (not to mention black lesbian bodies) have been masculinized (think about slavery and "work") and sexualized in particular ways. but historically (in the past 50 years or so) butchness has been ascribed to people of any color.

this is an awesome topic though. if you can get your hands on it, you might want to read SDiane A. Bogus's "The Myth and Tradition of the Black Bulldagger"--it's in the anthology called Dagger: On Butch Women.

loved your comments!

mickey06's picture


thanks for the recommendation!

SMBrown's picture

Cool topic--I say go for it! 

Cool topic--I say go for it!  (and agree about the trap butch can inherently set for various forms of female masculinity)

KL's picture

re: diana's comment

so true. and so hot, how rusty takes it in stride and doesn't harp on it.

also, for clarity's sake, "garden-variety" lesbian doesn't mean bland or ordinary, it just means not existing on either end of the gender spectrum.

re-reading this chat, i was delighted by how many priceless one-liners leapt out at me (mostly my own. jk), but i was also struck by how fiercely ADD we all are.

Lots of love.

ShadowCat's picture

you went from

2 way to straight up orgy. nice.

i have noticed that queers can be just as close-minded as straight people and that's annoying.

i had this dyke friend that i suppose would fall into the garden* type (though i've never heard that expression describing people before. can someone elaborate on that?).  she just could not get her head around me being queer. she would always ask if i bought my ticket for the gay train yet.  at a pride parade the dykes on bikes came by and i said how hot one of them was. her and her girlfriend looked at me like i had just kicked a cat or something. 

the world isn't black and white. it's all in greyscale.  there's always going to be butches and femmes and people who are in the middle somewhere. i don't think that is ever going to change. and i'm not talking about just lesbians, this is people in general. i wouldn't want it any other way.


*garden variety - does this mean that if someone doesn't fall into the butch-fem spectrum, they are bland/ordinary? i don't like that, if that's what it means.

Julia Watson's picture

I find's

I find's definition of garden variety to be useful in terms of this discussion, if taken with a grain of salt. I have occasionally referred to non-butch-femme identifying lesbians as "garden variety lesbians" just as a way to distinguish between the two camps, but also as a way of tacitly poking fun at those of us in the butch-femme camp by comparing us to nature's most colorful characters, those animals who use the over-the-top way they look to attract a suitable mate.

garden variety

buy garden variety mugs, tshirts and magnets
the usual, something/one which is indistinguishable from a group that is used to describe it/them.
i.e. My little brother is your garden variety brat.

ShadowCat's picture

i see

thanks for clarifying.  that's not so bad i guess.  Smile


Diana Cage's picture


Riiiiight, honey. I'm sure the fact that all three girls in this chat have crushes on you didn't even register!

Amy Nicole Miller's picture

We gotta get Diana in on the

We gotta get Diana in on the action next time.

Rusty's picture

For Diana and KL

As far as I know there's no emoticonthingy for a hands in the pocket, red-faced, aw shucks. But if there was it would go _______.

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

Diana Cage's picture


this comment was supposed to be a reply to rusty but I got cockblocked by Moon's comment

Grace Moon's picture


I got through the first page... and I already know I'm going to need a couple hours to get through this blog. I love it.

You know from the Jungian perspective your 3 ways have been calling out for a fourth to complete its lesbionic wholeness.

tweet tweet @gracemoon

Rusty's picture

pop goes the analyst

You went Jung and I went TV: Facts of Life, Golden Girls, & Designing Women. Hmmm. TV, women, and Jungian analysis.

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

Rusty's picture

pop goes the analyst

2 x post

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

SMBrown's picture

Right, I'm only on page 3 and

Right, I'm only on page 3 and had to stop before my head exploded (in a good way)!

Rusty's picture


What a great way to start the week—Any blog that has KL talking about baba ganoush gets bonus points.

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