Femmepire Records: In Defense of '50s Housewife Chic
Femmepire Records is a series of interviews on femme identity. Click here for the elevator pitch and first interview.
Do you identify as femme? Why?
I don't, actually. I don't feel a strong attachment to being defined as female, and I don't identify very strongly with what I know of femme culture. Nothing against it, it's just not something that has ever resonated very strongly with me in terms of self-definition.
Regardless of your previous answer, do other people identify you as femme? How do you feel about that?
I would imagine so -- I mean, I have long hair and wear dresses pretty frequently, and that seems to be just about all it takes for most people. I feel sort of ambivalent about it, with an edge of irritation that physical appearance beats out all of the other ways I move through the world.
Do you feel like you have to try harder to be read or seen as queer? If so, how do you deal with that?
Absolutely. If I don't say anything I almost inevitably pass as straight, so in situations where it seems relevant and important I try to make clear as soon as possible that I'm not. It was the worst when I actually did date a boy for a while about two years ago -- the combination of long hair and a boy holding my hand seemed to erase my day-to-day queer identity so completely that I found it incredibly unnerving.
It's also hard to deal with the feelings of shame that can arise because I can and sometimes accidentally do pass for straight. I'm never going to have as much negative attention leveled toward me as my more queer-looking friends do. It's a complicated feeling though, because it also means that I don't get to have the experience of connecting with a random stranger over our shared queerness very often unless we're already talking. All of my more queer-appearing friends have stories about seeing someone who looks similarly queer across a crowded train platform and feeling less alone. If I smile at the same person, my intent gets read totally differently.
Do you feel constricted in who you date/sleep with because of your appearance?
Not particularly. I've never had a "type" anyway, and that hasn't changed just because I wear pink sometimes. Although I am more reluctant to get involved with men, for the reasons above.
If you could make up your own category to describe your appearance/gender presentation, it would be: ____ and why?
Hmm. Femme-esque? I definitely take some physical cues from people who identify more concretely as femme, but it's not quite the same. At least, in my head it isn't.
What prompts you to present the way you do? Is it something you consciously think about?
I do think about it, but it's not so much based on feeling "right" or anything like that. I think that my presentation is largely based around a sort of playfulness, a thumbing of my nose at the cultural associations that are prompted by my appearance. I like dresses that feel anachronistic, sort of '50s housewife chic, because the friction between the values that appearance brings to mind -- for instance, something along the lines of properness, obedience -- and who I actually am amuses the hell out of me. And I know, there were plenty of housewives in the '50s who weren't those things at all, but the stereotypes are still there.
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 find this trend frustrating because it erases the incredible diversity of our community. When only one small part of a larger whole is shown in mainstream media, we're not being represented accurately and people aren't learning that much about what our communities are actually like. It also has associations for me with mainstream lesbian porn, something that exists for society's male-centric gaze instead of for the eyes of actual queer people.