Wednesday, June 20

Feminine or Femme? Which label fits you?

How would you label me?
As many of you know by now, I'm in Florida on vacation. I brought some books to read, but am only reading one at the moment, Two Whole Cakes by Lesley Kinzel. It's really a great read, and I recommend it to all of my followers who really enjoy my body positivity posts! Towards the beginning, Lesley talks about the definitions of women, most specifically femininity and femmeness. These labels go right along with the body of woman, but both are very different. 

The idea of femininity is ancient. Truly feminine women are sensitive, soft, culturally beautiful, thin but not too thin, and muscular but not too muscular (or they'll be deemed masculine). They don't take up much space. To be feminine, you are on the search for the perfect man, and you shave every night so you don't have stubbles if you happen to meet him. Check out this website, and try not to puke. 

The idea of femmeness is very different, and I love what Lesley has to say about it. 
Femmeness, however, is interrogated femininity. The main thrust of the idea of femmeness is not a faithful reproduction of the feminine, but is instead a reinvention, reclamation, or ironic performance of it, taking place outside the traditional context of a misogynist world. 
If I had to put a label on myself, and I do it often, I would definitely be femme. I don't qualify as feminine, in the historical concrete definition. I'm not thin. I'm not on the search for a man. I don't have long flowing beautiful hair. I say bad words.. a lot. I speak my mind. I take up too much space because I'm fat. And well, I frankly don't give a fuck. 

The idea of the 'femme' came from the LGBTQ Community, to categorize or place yourself in a specific area in order to find a mate. As Lesley explains, many femmes understand the concept of drag, and embrace it. A flamboyant gay man, for example, is described much of the time as being feminine, but I think that's a mistake. He, instead of being feminine, is femme in my terms of the word, because if I, as a cis-woman, can't even identify as feminine, then how the hell would a cis-man who is gay be able to be labeled as that? Lots of different people can be femme, but not many people can be feminine, and I think that's an important idea to recognize. Femmes can have all of the qualities and characteristics of being feminine, but fight the idea of femininity at the same time.

Now, I don't want everyone thinking I'm sitting around putting labels on everyone I see. This post is really just to differentiate the ideas of feminine and femme. Since I am a die-hard feminist, fight the patriarchy and misogyny everydamnday of my life, and the idea of femininity stems from oppressing women, then there's no possible way that anyone could label me as feminine. And I don't want them to. 

How does the world label you? How do you label yourself? Are you feminine or are you femme? 
xo, cort


  1. This post described exactly how I feel. Absolutely fabulous!

  2. I think the world labels me along the lines of dyke, butch, and female. Growing up I was labeled a tomboy (which I loved) or a girl (which I hated because it was always said with a disapproving look or second-class emphasis). My mother wanted a daughter who would "be" a girl - wearing dresses, interested in boys, wearing makeup, etc. Anybody who knows me, knows I'm not that kind of girl. Sure, I tried to play that game in high school because I thought maybe it'd get me the attention I needed. And I did get more attention from my mom and aunts when I dressed up with makeup and all. But eventually I realized they were only giving me attention because they approved of those sorts of things. Not because they were really seeing who I was as a person. To this day my mother has never told me that I'm pretty. Maybe that sounds crazy because I don't identify as feminine. But for me, it's not about being feminine or pretty. It's about being truly seen for who I am. Which is something my mother and many people have never been able to do. Labels like feminine, femme, masculine, pretty, handsome, etc. are too often used by people as shortcuts to size each other up quickly. It makes them feel better to think that they know you - but ultimately it prevents many people from truly seeing each other.