Femmepire Records: Sisyphus, Barbie, and the National Femme Authentication Bureau
|Sarah Terez Rosenblum|
Femmepire Records is a series of interviews on femme identity. Click here for the elevator pitch and first interview.
Here's Sarah Terez Rosenblum:
In a few words, define femme.
I don't have some boundary-pushing definition to offer (like "femme" plays with conventional feminine trappings or "femme" is performance) mainly because femme isn't something I consciously cultivate -- it's what I naturally am. "Naturally," of course, is a loaded word. Is it natural for chicks to prefer pink? Unlikely. But no matter how many wooden toys, primary colors, and corduroy pants my mother foisted on me, I longed for Barbies, a pink room, and lacy dresses. And I still do.
Do you identify as femme? Why?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Because "femme" is the only queer-adjacent term which provides (an albeit limited) space for my personal expression.
Regardless of your previous answer, do other people identify you as femme? How do you feel about that?
I'm more likely to be identified as straight than femme, which essentially means I get attention from those by whom I'd prefer to be disregarded (dudes in cars making sounds like they're calling chickens) and ignored by those whose attention I desire (hot dykes). Did Sisyphus have it this hard? Doubtful.
Do you feel like you have to try harder to be read or seen as queer? If so, how do you deal with that?
Definitely. I resent the idea that my identity hinges on a). being just-out-of-the-closet-vocal about my preferences ("Hi, I'm a lesbian! Look at my Pride rings! I'm attracted to women!") or b.) being partnered; I feel 100 percent more authentic when I'm holding a butch woman's hand. I've chosen to address this issue by registering with the National Femme Authentication Bureau, a made-up agency which verifies one's homosexuality. They've provided me with an ID number and a sandwich board.
Do you feel constricted in who you date/sleep with because of your appearance?
I can't imagine myself dating another femme and I sometimes wonder if my preference for butch women represents ingrained homophobia. I'm guilty of being a bit baffled by butch/butch and femme/femme pairs, but when I try to parse that feeling of unease I end up wondering if it's an echo of mainstream culture's distaste for same/same rather than something uniquely my own. Then again, as Woody Allen said, "the heart wants what it wants" and my heart wants muscular forearms, thin lips, and swagger.
What prompts you to present the way you do? Is it something you consciously think about?
When I first came out, I consciously cultivated a more butch persona. I cut my hair sliiiightly shorter and wore shirts with pointy collars. When someone snapped my picture, I sneered. But it was exhausting and it made me feel confused and ugly. Now when I go shopping I buy what I like which means my closet appears to belong to a drag queen hooker with a penchant for horizontal stripes.
Lesbian representations on TV/movies are almost always femme. Do you feel like this contributes negatively (or at all) to your life/gender presentation/identity?
I understand that mainstream depictions of lesbians are informed by the male gaze and therefore disregard them, which is ironic since I just finished bemoaning femme invisibility.