At the workshop someone asked how agender people present, as most people’s gender expression stems from their gender identity. Some people answered that they tried to look as androgynous or as genderqueer as possible. I’ve taken a different approach by using the space where my gender expression would be to parody the construct of femininity and reveal it to be performative - created through collective repeated iterations, a copy without an original. I call this femme.
Broadly there seem to be two main types of femme, queers who use ultra-feminine expressions to denote that they’re queer, and genderfuckers who use ultra-feminine expressions to parody femininity. You might hear the phrase ‘high femme’ used to describe femmes than embrace this type of parody. This has caused friction within the femme community at times as it appears to create a hierarchy, so I prefer to use ‘drag femme’.
The key part of femme identity is intentionality. I think you’re unlikely to be a femme if you haven’t decided to be. The reason that women who happen to be feminine and sleep with women don’t queer femininity in the same way is because their femininity is by default rather than actively chosen. Femme considers feminine trappings, claims those that are useful and rejects the problematic parts.
Femme says it doesn’t matter what bits you were born with or how society expects you to get dressed, wear rainbow glitter to the office anyway. It’s inclusive, and in breaking the trappings of femininity from woman, allows everyone to play with ‘girly things’.
Femme says just because I’m wearing heels and makeup, don’t assume I’m a girl. It says yes, putting this much effort into dressing like this is ridiculous, isn’t it, so why are you expecting it from half the population? It says this (and Dolly, Katie, Jodie, Jocelyn, Pete, Jackie and Joan) is the logical conclusion of what you’ve asked me to do, why you are calling me slut, freak, whore now?
Femme says I’m not dressing like this for your pleasure. It says my artificial dollface tells you nothing about my personality, my talents or what I like to do in bed, so check your assumptions. It says fuck your patriarchal, capitalist, racist, cis-sexist, fatphobic, ableist, ageist, heteronormative beauty standards.
For anyone interested in reading more about femme identity Militant Barbie has put together a reading/resource list.
Individual blog posts on defining femme
FemmeGalaxy.com How Does Femme Queer Femininity?
FemmeGalaxy.com How I Define Femme
http://beyondlipstick.ca/index.html - femme self-portraiture project
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/femmecollectivemedia# - streamed talks from FemmeCon 2012
https://www.evernote.com/pub/jessrgold/queerfemmearchiveportfolio#b=3b6e0d65-31e2-41d3-8659-b99a053408df&n=d547bb60-3e81-478c-8e86-218b5e98f18d – ton of femme resources including PDFs of femme zines
Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity
Ed. Chloe Brushwood Rose and Anna Camilleri
Visible: A Femmethology, volumes one and two.
Ed. Jennifer Clare Burke
Femmes of Power: Exploding Queer Femininities
Del LaGrace Volcano and Ulrika Dahl
http://pittqueertheoryf11.wordpress.com/2011/12/07/queer-femme-archive/ - has a good bibliography if you want to read further