Tuesday, January 1, 2013

On being femme, in a lovely blazer

I'm a femme. I'm a queer, aesthetically feminine person. In the queer community, there are many women who are not feminine; those who are tend to call themselves, or be called, “femme.” It is a label I use proudly in both the straight and gay worlds. To me, it connotes a consciousness of the hegemony of gender, and a conscious attempt to be true to myself within that, not conforming to any prescriptiveness that says one’s sex must correlate with one’s gender.
I loved the way this mossy stone wall echoed the argyle in my sweater.
I am not feminine because I am a woman. I am feminine because I am me. My anatomy is not the determiner of my aesthetic (or sexual) preferences.  Nor is it the determiner of my decidedly feminine mannerisms, which, to me, are the only real marker of my femininity, and have been with me all my life, no matter what I wore or whom I dated. (There are probably as many definitions of “femme” as there are people who have used the word, either for themselves or for others, but, for me, at its core, it’s about mannerisms.) I whole heartedly defend a man’s right to be femme, if that’s who he is, and a woman’s right to be butch or masculine, if that’s who she is. And one can be any combination of these things too.

And if anyone tries to assume that I am passive or timid or emotional or only interested in dating masculine people… or any other silly stereotype, simply because I’m femme, they’ve got another thing coming!

In other words, as the generation before me used to say, “Anatomy is not destiny.” Calling myself femme is my way of aligning myself with this belief.

Cape: Cotton Candy; Scarf: vintage gift from good friend; Gloves: gift from his step-mother; Brooch: vintage

Us femmes can sometimes feel pretty isolated so it's nice to meet each other. I met a femme friend of a friend on Facebook and, today, we finally met in real life, sitting down for an Italian coffee and bonding over our mutual frustrations and joys in our femininity.

This is what I wore:
Jeans and top: Reitmans
Blazer: Old Navy, bought second hand.
Boots: Ecco

Ironically, it's one of my butchier outfits, with its man-tailoring in the blazer, and its more masculine argyle, but I've been told that anything I wear becomes femme, no matter what it is. I have a very butch, black, leather, biker jacket, which once belonged to a very butch girlfriend; whenever I wore it, a friend would say, "Look. Charlotte's wearing her pink leather jacket again."

Bracelet and earrings: vintage Avon, probably 70s and early 80s, respectively. Ring: Birks Links collection.



  1. This is a great entry and it's true on other people this outfit could be more "masculine" but you make it femenine because of what you exude.

    I wonder if I'm femme or butch or??

    1. Oh, you're definitely femme, my dear, if you're the Leah I think you are.

  2. Thanks for stopping by my blog yesterday. I love this post. I never really think about being "femme" but I guess I feel the same way you do...I just dress the way I like to dress! If I were a guy I would probably be a drag queen. Girls' clothes are just more fun for me :)

    ~Sarah of the New and Improved Sarah's Real Life

    1. I've often said that I'd be a drag queen if I were man! Dolly Parton says the same thing and suddenly she makes perfect sense. At some point, I'm going to do a post about how drag queens helped me accept my femininity and added a major sense of camp to the way I dress. You can see that in some of my posts, like this one:


      and this one: http://www.sublimemercies.com/2013/01/circa-1964-frustrated-housewife-goes-to.html

  3. I love that your femme is political statement and commentary on gender norms. It reminds me of what RuPaul said, basically that all clothes are drag-- we're all performing gender one way or another.

    1. Totally! It was drag queens who helped me learn to accept my femme-ness in a very anti-femme, lesbian community. I figured, if men could enjoy dressing up in women's clothes, so could I. Our biological sex has nothing to do with it. I wrote more coherently about gender in a post called Gender Fuck and another called Women in Suits. Check them out.