Like so many other differences

I shouldn’t laugh, but…who could possibly help it?

What We Mean When We Say “Femme”: A Roundtable

Oh wow, don’t you just long to know what they mean when they say “femme”? I’m all agog, myself.

Femmes. We live in different places. We’re different ages. We have different gender identities. Some of us are people of color, some of us are white. In this representative sample, we are Autostraddle writers, or artists, or musicians, or educators, or all of these things. The only thing we have in common is that we’re queer and that, in our own deeply personal way, we breathe life into the word femme. But like so many other differences, we don’t agree on what the word femme means to us. This is the beauty of gender fluidity. We live in a world where it is totally possible to claim the same word as someone else and completely disagree on what the word means.

We are this Word, but we disagree on what the word means – yet all the same we know we are it. Isn’t life exciting? Isn’t having everything both ways a joy? Isn’t it fabulous to be fluid and rigid at the very same time? And by the way, don’t you just hate femmephobes?

In organizing this roundtable, I did have some questions in mind, like: what does the word femme mean to you, personally? How do you think the meaning of the word femme has changed in the past ten years? Do you tie your experience of femme to emotional labor, or care work? What are your femme roots? And do you lean on a queer femme aesthetic to signal your queerness, and if so, do you think this aesthetic has been co-opted? The answers revealed the exciting ways the queer world is living the word femme, right now, in this moment.

And are you totally self-obsessed, or mostly self-obsessed, or very self-obsessed indeed? The answers reveal the exciting ways self-obsession has completely replaced actual politics while nobody noticed.

Or did someone notice? Did Rudy notice?

None of the ways I describe femme are based on how someone looks. When I re-discovered femme, it was really linked to witchy things, and spirituality, and care work. Femme is connected to emotional labor and healing. It’s based on the energy you put into the world, the connection you make with people and the care you have for them. It’s allowing a particular kind of tenderness to be part of your identity. That might sound really woo-woo, but it’s true. It’s not just an aesthetic. Having something based on just aesthetics is really dangerous because it removes the politics from things.

Look around you, Rudy. It’s coming from inside the house.

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