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Challenging femmephobia

Disparaging or even hostile attitudes toward femmes and femininity I’ve often heard from both cis women and trans women invite a look at a hatred that I’ve found to be very prevalent and yet hardly ever acknowledged, let alone analyzed. We need to call it out for what it is, another form of misogyny.

I suppose in response to comments I’ve encountered like “feminine trans women are hard to take” or "feminine cis women get on my nerves," it would be fair to say that I find femmephobia hard to take, and it gets on my nerves too. Then we’d be even. But it wouldn't advance understanding or dialogue. That'll take some work and caring and thoughtfulness.

I get that being female and non-femme in a society that on the whole demands femininity of females gets really oppressive, and builds resentment. I totally get that. And I support non-femme women's right to defy these conventional gender expectations and live according to their true non-femme selves. Anytime an ironclad gender role or gender expression is imposed across the board, it's going to leave some persons marginalized and cause oppression. Maybe we could agree on the problem being not femininity or masculinity in themselves, but in the oppressive way they're enforced on people whether it suits them or not.

I believe with all my heart that diversity in openness makes for a beautiful world.

The funny part is that while the macro society demands femininity, once you get within the feminist and queer communities, femmes are often placed very much at a disadvantage. As if we get to be the scapegoats for the gender injustices of the macro society. Or whipping girls, in Julia Serano's phrase. Is it hard to see past one's particular oppression to acknowledge that other individuals can be oppressed in different ways?

If non-feminine females naturally exist in the macro society, and suffer oppression because of who they are, is it hard to see that naturally feminine women in feminist and queer communities are likewise made to suffer for who they are? You can argue that that's just tough, because the big oppressor is the patriarchy, and any other oppression becomes small and insignificant in comparison to that.

But femmes don't exactly find shelter or comfort in the patriarchy when we're queer and feminist. We experience it as monstrously oppressive too because we see what it does to women and queer people who we identify with. We need the queer and feminist communities as our haven and solidarity to be able to defend ourselves from the patriarchy too. So it's kind of painful and tragic when the other queers and feminists who we need to be our family turn around and reject us.

You might argue that being femme is inherently taking the side of the patriarchal oppressor. We queer feminist femmes would disagree because our femininity, despite what they say about us, is not a capitulation to the oppressor. On the contrary, we use it subversively. Because if you're queer in sexuality or feminist in belief, there is no way the patriarchy is your friend. We have more consciousness than you might give us credit for. All I'm saying is think twice before starting the femme-bashing. You might be hurting someone who's on your side.

I believe that in feminism and in queer theory, and especially in feminist queer theory, intersectionality is key. Intersectionality allows us to focus in on ending the oppression itself and lay off of each other.

Further reading:

a very awesome remonstration by fatima from the Femme Mafia:

the truth about femmes…or we fuck with misogyny so it's just easier to ignore us

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