Femmephobia is nothing new to me: From when I came out, where I was not allowed to enter LGBT venues because I did not look gay enough to recent dating experiences where sexualised objectification is common practise, femmephobia was and is omnipresent. However, it took a recent online discussion for me to realise how deep certain “misconceptions” and in some cases blatent femmephobic behaviour is engrained in our communities. So I thought how about ask around and gather the 8 misconceptions some of us Femmes experience on a daily basis and would love to see disappear in the near future (as in NOW).
- Femmes are straight, or “at least” bi. Let’s start with a classic: Internalised homo- and biphobia at it’s very best – the idea that a feminine presenting woman cannot possibly desire another woman, but rather secretly pine over the tender love of a man. I have to disappoint: This is a problematic reproduction of a ciscentric hetero fantasy, that causes a deeprooted fear of loss, with a splash of biphobia, because Femmes have all sorts of sexual orientations: some of us are bi, some are lesbian, some gay, some queer – some of use identify as women, some as men, some as non-binary – we have as diverse and complex identities as everyone else – don’t cope with your fear of invalidity and rejection by projecting it onto us.
- Femmes are not queer enough. The emphasis is on “not enough”. We are being told we are not enough, constantly. This can be due to our representation, our habitus or our dating preference. I personally found the game “who is the queerest of them all” always a rather tedious and dull endeavor, but some people love it. We break just as much the hegemonic understanding what queer folks are supposed to look like as any of you non-Femme queer folks out there – don’t fall into the trap of transgressing one normativity just to replace it with another one.
- Femmes are apolitical. Now this is something that comes through in activism and interlinks strongly with the “not enough” rethoric: Femmes are not activists. I am always fascinated how people can’t see their reporduction of heteronormativ and mysoginist bullshit. The view of Femmes as the fragile ones that maybe, if at all, play the role of the sidekick of the real activist fighting against oppressive systems – falls just a step short of “femmes belong in the kitchen” and also is plainly false. If you look behind the curtains you will see that your favourite website is created by a femme, the stats that you are citing have been researched by a femme and your local queer bar is co-owned by a femme. We are everywhere, we are political, we are radical, we are activists, we built this. Don’t get it twisted.
- All Femmes are cis and female. No. Just no. Someone needs to increase their circle of reference points urgently.
- Femmes conform to heteronormative beauty ideal. Femmes do not conform: we reclaim, we rework, we transgress, we reinterpret and rewrite, we invent and we rebel: We use our style to create our own visions of femininity, we create spaces were we can feel beautiful and were we live as our fabulous true selves.
- Femmes are high maintenance. In the wonderful world of oppression it doesn’t matter to directly contradicting beliefs: We are not only always “not enough”, we are first and foremost, overall, always and especially, “too much”. Our demands for respect and healthy love is translated into being too demanding or high maintenance. Us voicing our opinions, is considered us being too loud and too sensitive. When we make boundaries clear, we are too bitchy and too serious. When it looks like misogyny, it sounds like misogyny chances are….
- Femmes are pillow princesses. Oh my favorite for more than one reason! Femmes are bottoms, passive, submissive (I am sure you all can continue this list). And it is true some of us love to be submissive, find pleasure in receiving and love seeing the joy our partners have in giving, some of us find comfort in being “power bottoms”, pillow fighters and stubborn subs. But NOT all of us. Some of us love to give, some are dominant through and through, others like to switch it up. Our desires cannot be simplified.
- Femmes don’t face oppression and have it easier. I actually heard this one at one of my gatherings. In a world that oppresses most of us, that has inflicted trauma and pain in so many, and where there is so little space given to talk about it, cope and heal, it can become easily a competition who owns the little space that we fought hard for. Who is oppressed and who is not is often summarised as a clear cut issue, when most of the time in reality, it really is not. Femmes, who pass – or being read – as “straight cis women”, like myself, might not face queer bashing from mainstream society, but it can’t be completely dismissed that the sexism and misogyny we face on a daily basis adds another level of cruelty as it attempts to erase our identity. Also, this applies just to a few Femmes; many of us do not pass or purposefully transgress. In the end it is impossible to assume the lived experiences of any individuals. My love and solidarity goes out to all queer folks, no matter if Femme or not: We all struggle, we all have been hurt, yes indeed some more and some less, but we should focus on solidarity and aim to help each other to reclaim more space for all of us instead of dismissing each others experiences.