“Not Femme Enough”…?

This is a post I have been slowly working on, a little at a time, because I am finding it quite difficult to process and articulate this topic; also, recently, I have been focused on my beloved sick cat, Ari, so it’s been hard to focus more than a few minutes on anything else.

Before I start trying to explain today’s topic, I wanted to mention that I’ve written before about being a Femme Lesbian, and this post will continue with that topic.

If you are interested in reading those previous posts, which are directly related to this post and which provide some important background to this post, here are the links:

Deciphering Butch/Femme

Femme: Defining Ourselves

Femme: Fact Versus Fiction

Do Femmes Wear Lipstick?

Today’s post is about the rampant misconceptions and outright lies about Femmes, and how these misconceptions and lies are prevalent, even within the Lesbian community.

There is a huge gap between what people THINK Femmes are versus what we ACTUALLY are.

Many people incorrectly THINK Femme Lesbians:

  • are hyperfeminine;
  • are obsessed with makeup, clothes, hair, shoes, etc.
  • are overtly seductive and hypersexual
  • are helpless, dependent, clingy, needy, etc.
  • are dumb, flighty, stupid, etc.
  • are Stepford Wives
  • are uninformed, unfeminist, old-fashioned, etc.
  • are “mimicking heterosexuality”
  • are an “identity” that can be chosen by anybody
  • are “performing gender”
  • are “really Straightbians
  • are subservient to Butches

Shoes People THINK I Wear: Image: Pixabay: Pexels: CC0

These stereotypes have been perpetuated by a huge number of sources, including, but not limited to, so-called Lesbian experts” who are neither Lesbian nor expert, by purported Femmes who are actually Straightbians, by allegedly  Lesbian magazines/media/blogs/etc. which are decidedly NOT Lesbian, and by websites/forums which falsely proclaim to be for Butch/Femme Lesbians, but instead are just hideous mockeries, chock-full of Straightbians mingling with a few lonely, confused dykes.

Here is the truth about Femme Lesbians ~ we are:

  • Born this way;
  • Equal partners in our relationships;
  • Independent, capable, strong, practical, etc.;
  • Typically outspoken;
  • Just being ourselves (Meaning: We are NOT mimicking heterosexuality, NOT performing gender, NOT playacting, etc.);
  • NOT obsessed with looks, makeup, hair, nails, clothes, shoes, etc.;
  • Dress appropriately for the task; function is important;
  • Can/do dress up if/when we choose to, but we don’t feel the need to impress the guy bagging our groceries;
  • NOT an “identity” which can just be adopted by anyone; because you either ARE a Femme Lesbian OR you are NOT…period.

Shoes I ACTUALLY Wear: Image: Pixabay: Wokandapix: CC0

So, you would assume that most actual Lesbians would be free of such misinformed assumptions, but sadly, this is rarely the case.

This widespread ignorance, even within the Lesbian community, results in real Femmes often feeling invisible. Sometimes, this invisibility presents itself in the form of being rejected and/or unrecognized by other Lesbians. At other times, paradoxically, this invisibility presents itself as being thought of as “not Femme enough” to some dykes who have issues of their own which leads them to partner with Straightbians.

Please see Dirt’s companion post, here, about some of the possible issues dykes might have which would lead them to partner with Straightbians. I won’t be covering that in this post.

Instead, I wanted to address the issue of my being perceived as “not Femme enough” by some dykes. This phenomenon has happened to me, although I didn’t fully understand it until recently. For instance, I was told repeatedly by 2 previous Butch partners that I was “too athletic”, and I was encouraged incessantly by both of them to dress more provocatively and to wear more makeup, etc. I didn’t EVER stop working out, nor did I change my appearance/clothes (because I am a particularly stubborn person, LOL!), but I will admit that such comments did bother me and make me feel criticized and unwanted. Interestingly, although not surprisingly, both of these Butches had only dated Straightbians before me, and both went back to dating Straightbians after we broke up. In other words, both of them were comparing me to Straightbians, and found me quite lacking in the hyper-femininity department. Both of them wanted another kind of woman (a Straightbian!) who would meet the male fantasy of a sexy, seductive woman —  which is so NOT me.

Another instance in which this scenario has affected me is when someone Dirt and I know online (from our blogs or Twitter or Facebook) wants to meet us in person. I always worry about what people’s reactions will be when I don’t meet their incorrect Straightbian/sexy/seductive/MALE-fantasy notions of what a Femme “should” be. Often, it feels that people are expecting me to show up looking/dressed like I plan to be on the cover of Vogue, but when they meet me, I am always dressed as I normally do (which certainly does NOT include high heels, skimpy dresses, or plunging necklines; instead, it usually includes shorts/pants, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes).

It is impossible not to feel that such people are somehow disappointed with me for not being the femme fatale of their imagination. (Not even remotely close!).

When I was younger, I was both puzzled and hurt by such situations. Now that I am older (and hopefully at least a little bit wiser), I finally realize that I am fine as I am; heck, I always was. I am proud to be a dyke. If anyone has the nerve to feel like I am doing it wrong, she is the one with the problem, not me.

29 thoughts on ““Not Femme Enough”…?

  1. You’ve never worn those shoes. They’re much to clean.

    I could go on to tell you how anti-semitically they are laced, but I fear i would be losing my audience (only more proof of how anti-semitic they are, of course).

    I can carry on making up stuff like that as long as the day is long, but I know you can do it just as well yourself, do I’ll stop wasting our time.

    First part is true, though, those are very clean shoes.


      • Sorry, Saye. I didn’t mean to needlessly bemuse you. I once dated a guy whose Dad was an Orthodox rabbi, and he wasn’t allowed to use “criss-cross” lacing on his trainers, or even leave his knife and fork crossed on his plate. There’s a kind of analogy lurking there somewhere, but I won’t dig myself into an even deeper hole trying to winkle it out.

        My gayforward thoughts on the question are too banal to be worth stating, but you know I will anyway (-; – there is no “ideal” level of butchness or femmeness that any fag or dyke should be aiming at, let’s just leave the straights to their own devices on that one.

        Liked by 1 person

      • There are a lot of aspects to that behavior, I think. For some people, it’s kind of a compulsive repetition of their childhood infatuation/failed relationship with their straight best friend. For others, it’s wanting a woman who won’t expect or demand sexual reciprocity because the lesbian in question has intimacy issues.
        The last one I would broadly title “identifying with straight culture”. A lot of the so-called lesbian media we see involve a straight girl leaving her man and “becoming” a lesbian. Or they portray so-called lesbians having sex with men. This normalizes and romanticizes the unhealthy dynamics of lesbian/straightbian relationships and makes lesbians think they have to compete with men. One manifestation of this is obvious (dykes adopting straight-male personas), but it can also take the form of assimilating straight women’s behaviors and interests. These are the women who tend to be very feminist and to go on about how awful men are, how women make much better partners, how much better the sex is, how much women have in common etc. I’m not saying these points are necessarily inaccurate, but you would never have to make them to another dyke.
        So all of these experiences build on eachother, and by the end your whole identity is based on being a sort of savior of straight women. It’s a prop for your ego that another lesbian can never give you.

        Liked by 4 people

    • I don’t know the answer to that either, and even if I thought I did, it would be presumptuous of me to say so. But I do know at least two reasons why some gay men want to “seduce” straight men. The first is the wish to prove that “no men are really straight”; in the rather trivial way that that assertion is true, it hardly seems worth going to such lengths to “prove” it. The other is straightforward gay self-hatred: I can get a “real” man, unlike you poufs who have to fiddle around with each other (you lezzers!)

      I’ve had sex with straight men too, many of whom were surprisingly “competent”, at least. I didn’t get what straight women were complaining about, until a (female, heterosexual) friend tried to make me understand that they may “try harder” with us because they have “more to prove”; I didn’t entirely get it, but as you may already be suspecting, I’m already well outside my “comfort zone” here.

      I can’t make myself think that getting a straight man to fuck you is something to take enormous pride in. Leave them alone in a room with a vacuum cleaner, do you think their first instinct will be to hoover the carpet? I have many heterosexual friends, a few of them male, and don’t wish to slander them. It IS wrong of me to stereotype them so outrageously.

      I have no idea whether my ramblings about men have any “transferability” to the question you pose yourself about women, purplesagefem. There is no a priori reason why they should, or should not.
      In sisterly puzzlement.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I think this does have some applicability to lesbians. I am suspicious that some lesbians who have a domineering personality and view other women as conquests consider straight women to be prettier and more of a trophy to catch over lesbians. I think they get validation that they are “studs” if they can seduce a straight woman. In my friend’s case, I think what she might be doing is dating a straight woman to avoid having a real relationship with a lesbian, because she was recently hurt by a lesbian partner and is now probably trying not to get hurt again by keeping her relationships light. However, I think this is a bad strategy because it looks to me like she is setting herself up to be hurt again.

        Liked by 3 people

    • I shall step in here and give my opinion for what it’s worth. I do not believe there is any such thing as a “straight” woman. The ones who claim “straightness” then sleep with other women are just trying to fool themselves and pacify society. So, those women that your Butch friends are sleeping with are not “straight” they are bi-sexual at the very least; perhaps homo-curious, closet lesbians, prowlers or sex addicts with a kink for women…but definitely not “straight”. 🙂 ~MB

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi, thanks for your input! 🙂 I see what you are saying, but I believe we definitely disagree on this particular topic. I believe that orientation is fixed, while behavior is not. In other words, I believe that a woman can indeed be straight, yet embark on a relationship with another female for various reasons. Similarly, a lesbian may initially have difficulty coming out due to pressure from parents/community/church/etc. and therefore may marry a man first before finally coming out…but she was still a lesbian the whole time (even before she came out). Hope that explains what I am trying to say ~ it’s been a rough morning so I am not at my best, LOL! 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hi MB, my friend isn’t a butch, actually, but she is a lifelong lesbian. I think there are definitely many lesbians who see it the way you do, although you’ll find that Saye doesn’t see it that way at all! BTW have you made a new email account yet?

        Liked by 3 people

      • There are definitely straight women, just like there are definitely lesbians. I know I can’t change being a dyke and wouldn’t want to — and straightness is just as real. The problem is when a straight woman decides to date a dyke, and that problem is: she is still straight even if they stay together a very long time.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Part of being a feminist that most people forget, is that true feminists embrace their authentic selves, and women being comfortable with who they are.
    I do most home repairs myself. I have a husband, but I’m the handy one. It doesn’t make me less feminine, or him less masculine.
    I also don’t become more feminine if I wear red lipstick and paint my nails red. I’m still the same Jen who can replace an oven’ s heating element, or remodel a bathroom myself.
    I look forward to someday, when we can embrace and applaud authenticity versus stereotypes of what it really means to be a woman.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Applause. G.J.! I guess you’re sensible enough to apply the nail-paint after, not before replacing the whatever in the oven. My boyfriend can do all that stuff too, but is not “butch”, and would cackle with unmanly laughter if you suggested he were. I’m guessing your husband can do stuff that you wouldn’t feel so comfortable with. Writing letters to the bank manager? That seems to be my job… )-:
      Hasten the day when we can all be valued for our individual skills, and not thrown into constraining “masculine” or “feminine” boxes.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. There is a specific phenomenon I observe among some lesbians? in my country, and I am curious if you have seen it too. There is a specific group of feminine women looking for feminine women. Preferences as preferences, we all have some. But they are very vocal about theirs and condemn all lesbian, who are not enough feminine in their opinion. They would gladly feminise all lesbian if they could. (and I don’t use feminine in the same sense as you, just in my country we don’t have all this categories like butch, femme, stud, lipstick and so on, we use feminine for all women that present in specific way, regardless of their motives and orientation)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know you have deliberately withheld telling us what “your country” is, but it would be enormously helpful to know. It just could be that there are purely linguistic reasons why you don’t discuss things there in the same terms as we do. I’m a linguist by training, and read English, French, Dutch, Romanian, German, Spanish and Italian; some of my family are fluent in Maghrebi and Classical Arabic. I fear that the Slavic languages are a closed book to me, apart from some (richly deserved) curse-words thrown at the Bulgarians.

      I can’t predict whether this confirms or disconfirms the idea that I am just a prying busybody. Given the above, I have to hope you’re not Bulgarian (wonderful people!, hem, hem).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Why do you assume it was deliberate. It was meaningless. I am from Poland, so my language is Slavic (but not Bulgarian).


        • I’m sorry I misinterpreted your earlier comment in that way.

          You know that I am no Slavist, but when you say “in my country we don’t have all this categories like butch, femme, stud, lipstick and so on” you are simply factually wrong. Polish gay men and lesbians have a rich vocabulary for talking about each others’ sexuality (not always indigenously Polish, I grant you), but very current nonetheless.

          If you have a specific beef about “femme on femme” (which btw pretty much describes me and my boyfriend), just say so, don’t wrap it up in “in my country” ribbons.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Well, maybe you know better what language we use to describe ourselves. Who knows. In the case of gay men that my even be correct, as I am not especially knowledgeable in that matter.
          Words like femme and butch are nor really used by lesbians. There are articles about butch/femme from time to time. Sometimes someone throw a “lipstick lesbian” to sound cool, but it is rare and not treated seriously. There are people, who use this words, who are active in so cold queer activist/academic circles. The rest don’t give a *** about this categories. But I am curious what words you are talking about.
          Masculinity/femininity are not used to describe sexuality but mostly outwards appearance. They may have other meaning, depending on context, but I am not talking about that. From what I understand Saye use femme as a counterpart of butch, and not just feminine presenting lesbian. In that case I don’t write about “femme on femme”. More about feminine presenting lesbians who are into feminine presenting lesbians, who want to police looks of other lesbians to make them look more feminine. Hope It is clear.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yes, reader, that does make it a lot clearer, and thanks for dragging me back to planet Earth. All the Polish gay people (female and male) with whom I’ve had contact are/were indeed political activists (mostly in the International Lesbian and Gay Association), so of necessity we used an “internationalized” vocabulary which is probably not typical of “ordinary” lesbians and gay men in ANY of our countries (except perhaps the USA and Britain).
          Reviewing in my mind the vocabulary we use in such a context in Romanian, I managed to shock even myself by how many words are calqued on, or simply borrowed from English, so there is clearly a great deal of cultural imperialism at work there too. If I was guilty of that myself in my earlier message, as I feel I was, please accept my apology.

          Liked by 1 person

    • I would also like to know what kind of vocabulary Roman is talking about. I know some lesbians use terms femme and butch sometimes, but never in a way that Saye and Dirt do. Polish queer gender studies scholars write pretty much the same shit as elsewhere, using exactly the same words, but most of them aren’t lesbians. I know Polish “bears” have pretty rich vocabulary, but it’s mostly literal translation from English and some of the words are even left untranslated. Hm, and there is also the word “przegięty” which is often thrown at gay men whose behaviour and look is perceived as too much feminine. To “przegiąć” means “to cross the line”, so it’s rather an insult.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m happy to be called “przegięta”, as an “over-the-top” faggot. There’s a lot of cultural, and especially linguistic imperialism at work. I think it’s OK that we have the words “boifrend”, plural “boifrenzi” and “girlfrendă”, plural “girlfrende” in Romanian; neither of those words are used by straights (as far as I know). BTW “girlfrendă” is pronounced “görlfrendă”, but only the Transsylvanans can get away with writing it that way.
        Sadly, I don’t think we have any protection any more against Americans determining the vocabulary we use to talk about ourselves/each other. I welcome contradiction, never more than now..

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Can I just say AMEN! I was invisible alot! It didn’t help that I was a shy person anyway. I hate being told that I am not femme enough just because I am independent enough to take care of things from grocery shopping to changing my car tire .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Basie! I am a very shy person too, so I know what you mean. (I have to force myself to put myself out there to write here and to participate on Twitter, etc.), and yes, I do think being shy does contribute to feeling invisible. And good point about the misconception that Femmes aren’t independent; that is indeed a huge misconception!

      Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.