A transwoman who calls himself a “lesbian” explains that “Femme is Radical, and Femme-Shaming Isn’t Feminist.”
The first time I read this article, I just thought it was a hilarious bit of liberal “feminism,” but then it was pointed out to me that this author is not female! Now it’s even better!
The author calls himself “femme,” so I have to say a quick word about that before I continue. The word “femme” is used in two different ways in the lesbian/gay community. An actual lesbian (meaning a female homosexual) who calls herself femme is referring to a lesbian-specific personality type where she has feminine traits and is attracted to butches. For us, “femme” does not refer to a specific clothing style or haircut, it refers to a personality, although we may also look feminine. The word ‘femme,’ or often ‘high femme,’ when used by gay men refers to a feminine presentation worn by a drag queen, and this has much more to do with hairstyle, clothing and makeup—it’s an exaggerated superficial femininity. This author, however, is attracted to women, so neither of these homo-specific terms describes him. He’s not a lesbian, because lesbians are female, and he’s not a gay man, because he’s attracted to women. He would be more accurately described as an autogynephile— a heterosexual male who “becomes what he loves.”
Pictures of him on social media present him as someone fully transitioned and looking very much like a woman. I’m guessing he probably passes for female around strangers until he speaks. His partner is a “queer” woman.
All right, here’s the article. Let the train wreck begin!
“I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I’m femme
Okay, so that’s not really all that shocking–I’m sitting here in a coffee shop, wearing a low-cut red sweater dress and knee-high boots. It should also, however, not come as a surprise that I am a feminist. The idea of a girl with straight-passing privilege who displays traits commonly associated with femininity, does not fit most people’s’ paper cut-out image of an iconic feminist. It’s 2016 and feminism is still conflated with bra-burning, hardline man-hating politics, and utilitarian fashion. I am none of the above.”
Only idiots are conflating feminism with bra-burning, because that never actually happened, and the people who claim it did are people who prefer to promote myths rather than understand the history of the women’s movement. Somehow I’m not surprised that a male autogynephile doesn’t want to be a part of a “hardline man-hating” movement. Ha! No kidding!
“I’ve always been the kind of girl who believes wholeheartedly in fighting the good fight, albeit without breaking a nail. I try to live by core tenets: promoting social equality, loving myself, defying oppressive gender norms, etc.”
LOLz! Of course he doesn’t want to break a nail in order to fight for women’s rights. What man would? And LOL again at the idea that one of the core tenets of feminism is “loving myself.” Feminism is a movement to liberate women from oppression, not a movement for men to paint their nails and love themselves. You’re confusing feminism with autogynephilia.
I also like how he’s “defying oppressive gender norms” by wearing the oppressive gender norms assigned to women. News flash: men fetishizing women’s oppression doesn’t challenge women’s oppression!
“Yet, despite all this, I’ve been shamed for being a “bad feminist” and reinforcing gender norms rather than defying them.”
Well, yeah, if you think feminism is about painting your nails and loving yourself, then you definitely are a bad feminist, since you don’t even know the first thing about feminism! However, since you are male, I would say you’re not a feminist at all. Men who are in favor of the liberation of women from oppression should be called “pro-feminist” or “feminist allies,” and men who have a fetish for women’s oppression should be called “MRAs.”
“There are some radical feminists who perceive being femme as sympathizing with the oppressors; a reinforcement of negative feminine stereotypes and not a legitimate feminist expression.”
Let me clarify a few things about this. Feminism is not about policing people’s personal choices, it’s about making the world safer for women by doing things like making it possible for women to control our own bodies and stopping violence against women. Whether or not a woman has makeup on while she’s doing this important work is irrelevant. When you eliminate sexist requirements in terms of appearance for women, you find that far fewer women want to wear makeup and high heels, because those weren’t things we wanted in the first place. For lots of us they are uncomfortable, unnecessary, costly and time-consuming. Feminists do want women to be able to be comfortable. However, if a woman enjoys wearing a dress and earrings while doing anti-violence work, no sane person would kick her out of feminism. I certainly wouldn’t! It’s not people’s clothing that’s important, it’s the content of their character. I only think that women are reinforcing negative stereotypes about women and complying with patriarchy when they’re artificially trying to look and act like men’s idea of a pornified woman. I know that some women do that, but I’m not in the business of scrutinizing women’s appearance and kicking them out of feminism for wearing the wrong thing. I am not interested in defining what is a “legitimate feminist expression” because feminism is not a movement for us to express ourselves through fashion choices.
“Femme-shaming is more than an abstract concept–for many women it is an all too tangible and traumatizing reality.”
Really? I’m supposed to believe that there are all sorts of women who are going around traumatized because someone shamed their desire to paint their nails? Hogwash! This is gender-compliant behavior for women, so no one shames us for it. However, people do shame women for not being feminine enough. And people also shame men for being too feminine. This guy might have been shamed for his femininity and he might be traumatized by the shaming he’s received, because that would be gender noncompliant behavior for a man. He might have been able to say something useful here if he acknowledged that he received his so-called “femme-shaming” as a boy.
“Though it is often associated with radical feminist circles who regard femmes as not feminist enough,”
Nope. Feminists do not regard feminine women as “not feminist enough.” We just identify that the enforcement of artificial, male-defined constructions of femininity are a part of our oppression as women.
“the real roots of femme-shaming stem from centuries of misogyny. At the core of femme-shaming belies femmephobia, a fear of all things associated with women: their bodies, their sexuality, etc. It reinforces the patriarchal dogma that being male and/or masculine is superior, and being female, or feminine, is shameful and inferior.”
The fear of all things associated with women is called misogyny, not “femme-phobia.” This paragraph makes no sense when applied to women. Women aren’t shamed for being feminine, we are forced to be feminine, whether we like it or not. However, if you consider that the author is male, it makes more sense. The reason that he was shamed for being a feminine boy is because femininity is considered inferior and femininity gets beaten out of boys.
“Femme-shaming oppresses not only women, but any gender-variant person who doesn’t equate their personal empowerment to masculine presentation. This brutal way of thinking stratifies people into a kyriarchal caste system according to their biological sex, forcing them into corresponding boxes of gender norms; arbitrarily socializing people in ways that betray their authentic selves.”
“To be clear, I am not femme because I am a woman, rather, I am femme because I am a feminist who is self-empowered to express herself and make choices according to her personal preferences, even if some of those preferences coincide with the patriarchy’s superficial notions of appropriate feminine behaviour. What is more feminist than standing up for the right for women to be and self-identify in ways that honour their authentic selves? Yes, I may like haute couture fashion, makeup, and ponies, however, I do so, not as a woman, but as my own self.”
Oh god, make it stop! Feminism is not a personal lifestyle choice that makes women feel “empowered” by their “choices!” That would be neo-liberal individualism.
“A few days ago I met with a good friend of mine, one hell of a badass lady whom I’ve always admired for her strength and punky attitude. She was lucky enough to come of age in the early 90s, at the peak of riot grrrl and third-wave feminism. We’ve always managed to have really great discussions on this subject; on this particular day, however, the conversation turned a bit sour. I’ve recently forayed into the wonderful world of long nails -1.25 inches long to be exact; however, despite my own excitement, my friend was less than enthusiastic. “You need new, stronger female role models”, she said. As if to suggest that my desire to have long nails is a concession to misogynistic socialization and a betrayal to respectable feminist values.”
The fact that you bring it up yourself tells me that you already know you are “conceding to misogynistic socialization” and “betraying feminist values.” For the record, if I met with a friend and she had long nails, I wouldn’t say a word about it. Who cares? I wouldn’t tell her she needs better role models based on her fingernails for fuck’s sake, how weird is that?
“I love my friend, and I know that her intention is not to be cruel, however, femme shaming, whether intentional or not, hurts. In fact it hurts everyone, not just those being directly shamed. Women challenging other women for being femme is rooted in the same misogynistic processes behind toxic masculinity and men policing one another’s behavior for signs of “effeminacy”. Why do feminists scoff at Kleenex for men but then bully one another for long nails or lipstick?”
Well, I would scoff at Kleenex for men because that sounds like a marketing gimmick to try to get men to buy a product that they consider to be for women, even though all of us have noses. Also, I wouldn’t bully someone for long nails or lipstick.
“For feminists to argue that women’s choices are the product of socialization, when they coincide with traditional femininity, suggests that such women are incapable of independent thought. A similar argument would suggest that my proclivity for spicy food is also a product of my having been socialized as Mexican. There may be some truth to this idea of socialization, but people are capable of making their own choices. My choice to wear long nails may be partly influenced by the way that I was socialized, and it may also coincide with misogynist expectations of women, however it is my choice which I made through thoughtful analysis of pros and cons. In this case I chose in favour of my own aesthetic preference, knowing full well that they can be impractical and invite unwanted attention from disapproving feminists and chauvinist trolls alike.”
You made a pro and con list before getting your nails done?
Socialization does encourage people to behave in certain ways. That doesn’t mean they’re incapable of thought, it just means they have been influenced to think a certain way.
“In 1973, Janice Raymond, wrote The Transsexual Empire. The name itself is heinous, let alone the transphobic rhetoric it espouses, which continues to this day among a small circle of radical feminists, TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists). Much of TERF thinking circles the argument that trans women engage in mimicry of feminine behaviour and that they do so by reinforcing genderist attitudes that further marginalize cis-gender women. They also go so far as to say that trans women set back feminism by promoting an agenda of “colonizing womanhood.”
It just wouldn’t be a good libfem article without mentioning how evil the TERFs are! He actually seems to understand our position, cool! Yeah, trans women do engage in mimicry of feminine behavior in order to prop up their identities, and this does reinforce sexism. In fact, the author describes himself doing just that! The trans community really is good at proving our points for us.
“Transphobia is femmephobia. At the core of these concepts is a general prejudice against women veiled behind anti-patriarchy rhetoric. At the core of these concepts is a general prejudice against women veiled behind anti-patriarchy rhetoric. These attitudes hurt trans and cis-gender women alike, by invalidating our choices and delegitimizing us as women and feminists because of those choices. Policing women’s fashion and aesthetic choices to justify their womanliness, is not unlike suggesting that short skirts and high heels justify rape. Patriarchy is wrong, and shaming women under the guise of feminist dogma is also wrong. Furthermore, it only serves to foster stigmatization of feminism as extreme, which in turn repels women who might otherwise be drawn to it. We should all be rallying behind the real threats, those posed by centuries of misogyny and oppression: wage gaps, glass ceilings, rape culture, violence against women, etc.”
No, no, no. Understanding human reproductive anatomy doesn’t come from a “general prejudice against women.” This is a load of incoherent rubbish. Those people you label as TERFs are doing the exact opposite of “policing women’s fashion and aesthetic choices to justify their womanliness.” We are saying that all adult human females are women, regardless of their fashion choices. No one gets judged on their degree of womanliness, we’re all worthy of the title woman no matter our personalities or sense of style. Further, understanding human reproductive anatomy and wanting to liberate women from oppression is not ‘extreme,’ it’s quite reasonable. What is ‘extreme,’ though, is drastically modifying your body in order to pretend to be someone you’re not for the rest of your life.
“Dressing femininely, wearing long nails and makeup, and regularly updating my handbag wishlist board on pinterest is my way of expressing myself, not just as femme, but as a self-empowered feminist. I wear skirts like picket signs. My being femme, in a society that persistently marginalizes women, is my radical protest. Femme is my way of telling the world, “you may judge me, you may objectify me, and you may even take me less seriously as an intelligent person for the way that I look, but you will not determine my identity. You can keep your opinions and I will keep my style.”
Nah, sorry dude, but updating your Pinterest doesn’t bring you any sort of power, wearing clothes doesn’t dismantle systems of oppression, and feminism isn’t about “expressing yourself.”
“I know that wearing my hair long and my dresses short invites unwanted attention and catcalling, but I don’t allow those things to keep me from going out and being myself, though I do avoid the dark and empty streets. Why should I allow femme-shaming to define me anymore than I allow misogyny to do the same? I wear my style with intentionality, and I owe accountability to no one other than myself. In much the same way as we stand up to misogynists who dictate to us how we should look and behave, we must also stand up to femme-shamers who would have us think that being a good feminist means compromising our authenticity.
I’m proud to be femme, not because it’s better than any other form of gender expression, but because it is my true expression. I am also proud to see other women who blur society’s gender lines by redefining what it means to be feminine. After all, being a feminist isn’t about living up to a specific ideal of femininity, it’s about being able to define femininity personally and for ourselves – one size does not fit all. Whether femme, butch, tomboy, trans, cis, straight, queer, and anything around or in-between, we are strong and -we- are radical.”
Nope, feminism isn’t about “defining femininity personally for ourselves.” It’s a movement to liberate all people who are female from sex-based oppression. You have absolutely no idea what feminism is, and what you’re promoting is actually neo-liberalism: a political agenda that takes us away from class consciousness and away from a material analysis of structural oppression, and limits us to looking at individual “empowerment” and choices in a way that leaves systems of power intact and ultimately benefits capitalist patriarchy.
No thanks, dude!