To The FemmeMobile! Away!











{March 17, 2010}   The femme side of male pronouns

So, I had an interesting occurrence the other night that I feel I MUST SHARE WITH YOU ALL, because you care about my every interesting occurrence, right?

Right?

Guys?

(I’m in a mood. RUN NOW, EVERYONE, RUN AWAY!)

I was contacted by another hot butch on one of the dating sites I’m on (seriously, I love hot butches, I really really do). So I went to check out this butch’s profile, and right there it says, “If you must use pronouns, please use male ones.”

“Okay!” I think to myself. “No problem! I’ve been reading butch blogs, I’ve been dealing with Q, I am totally ready for using male pronouns. This is so not a big deal. Kinda neat that he just states it and I don’t have to guess or ask, really. :D” (Yes, I did think that smiley face BECAUSE I’M JUST THAT AWESOME.)

So then later I’m posting in my personal blog (I’d link it, but the post is protected anyway) about this butch, and I talked about how I emailed him back and had had an unrelated quirkiness issue. But next to the word ‘he’ I put an asterisks, because it occurred to me that people reading my blog might very well go, “Wait, what? He? I thought JB was dating shes these days!” So I added the asterisks and said this:

*Yes, I am still dating estrogen-based organisms. But this estrogen-based organism says right in his profile he prefers male pronouns. This being my first encounter with this, I’m finding it interesting in a confusion aspect — for instance, I feel the need to clarify he’s still an estrogen based organism, and I’m not sure how that works on a “what is the right thing to do” scale. Hmmm. Interesting. Something for the femme blog!

And now here I am on the femme blog, talking about it. See how that works?

So here’s my tangle of thoughts: first off, if someone’s using male pronouns, do I still say, “I’m dating this woman,” or do I say, “I’m dating this man…”? Really, I think I should just say, “I’m dating this butch,” but I don’t because I get flak for that. (That is a whole other post. A ranty one. A pissed off, ‘why do you think I shouldn’t date butches you fucking fucker, you’re just jealous and they’re hotter than you and they totally get hot-me and get me hot, don’t fuck with my peeps and hurt their feelings because I will rip your face off’‘ kind of rant.) BUT — well, when I put it that way, I think I should definitely use ‘butch’ just for the visibility and making-people-aware of it. Okay! One question answered! (The other answer is, of course, to ask the butch in question and find out if I should use ‘man’ or ‘woman’ when saying I’m dating them. BUT LET’S NOT BE SENSIBLE. *grins*)

Second tangled up thought! It seems to me that the ethical thing to do is not put the asterisks there, because it sort of undermines what the person asked for. I mean, if they asked to be referred to with masculine pronouns, and then there’s me going, “But don’t worry, he’s still female!” it seems kind of… like I’m making other people comfortable by giving them privileged information. It feels slimy, the same way it would feel if someone said, “JB is an author! But really, she pays her bills by training dogs.” I’d want to slap that person — that second bit was not their business to add, and it belittles my authordom. (I’m totally an author. I make up words. :D)

But on the other hand, not putting the asterisks there will have a whole slew of side effects, ranging from vague pain-in-the-assiness, like having to answer twelve hundred confused questions from friends, to ethically uncomfortable, like having people assume I’ve gone back to dating men (returned to the light side, so to speak, and I am totally aware that the connotations for that are gay = bad), and/or not becoming aware that sometimes you can refer to estrogen based organisms with male pronouns, because gender and sex aren’t the same thing.

Looking at THAT tangled thought, I think the answer is to explain about gender and sex and pronouns to promote knowledge among everyone… but man, that gets exhausting. So where, exactly, do I draw the line between “the right thing to do to promote tolerance and understanding is to explain” and “oh my god, I need to have a life other than explaining for everyone else all the time and the easy thing to do is put in the dang asterisks so I don’t have to answer twelve hundred emails”? Hmmm.

AND THEN, my friend Andy pointed out something else. Andy has two transman roommates who are dating lesbians. These lesbians are struggling because by introducing their partners as he, which is very definitely correct, they’re erasing their own lesbian identity AND appearing to have gone back to the light side.

That’s something I hadn’t thought of, but as soon as Andy mentioned it I realized that was part of my asterisks-needing above. I was making sure people realized that I was still identifying as mostly lesbian, even though I’m actually bi. As soon as I realized that’s what was going on I was able to shake it off, in large part because I am bi, and so I’m not really challenging my own identity no matter which pronouns I use.

It’s an interesting conundrum, and in a lot of ways I think it’s something everyone has to solve for themselves (that last identity part, at least). Do you change your identity as others perceive it to honor the person you’re dating? Do you walk around constantly explaining, assuming the person you’re dating is all right with that? Do you honor your own identity and clarify for people? Do you just make sure you’re so unshakable in your identity that it doesn’t matter?

It makes me think of the nitty gritty details in dating someone who uses male pronouns. So if I don’t add the estrogen-based-organism disclaimer,  for the most part it isn’t going to affect my life. People can think what they want or ask me. But what if I talked to my folks about it?

Me: Hi, Mom! I’m dating this really hot guy, blah blah blah, etc etc.

Two months later I bring said guy home to meet the folks. The polite thing to do for my parents is to tell them first, “I’m still dating a woman, he just prefers male pronouns,” because if I didn’t my parents would meet him and be surprised, off-kilter, and feel rude and upset. But if I did, my parents would know what to expect and take it in stride. (They’re cool like that. My mom bought DK all butch gear for Christmas, and thought it was a blast.) That’s the polite thing for my parents — but what’s the polite thing for the butch in question? To just use male pronouns with my parents, not tell them I’m dating a woman because of the aforementioned undermining, and let them deal? (Just for the record: parents would totally trump.) I think this is another talk-to-the-butch scenario, but it’s still made me sort of wake up and realize there’s a whole other side to this masculine pronoun thing.

…It’s kinda cool. 😀 I’ve heard the butch side of things before, but until now it never occurred to me that this would impact my life, too, and that I’d need to sort out what to expect and some coping mechanisms for stupidity.

Dear butches: I know you can’t comment on all butches, but where do you fall on this line? Would you want your partner to say, “I’m dating an estrogen based organism who uses male pronouns” because it increases visibility and understanding (or for some other reason), or would you rather they just stick with all-male language and let other people wonder and/or ask? Is this flexible — what if your partner is upset because it challenges their own identity, does that factor into what to do next? Is this something you would compromise on, or is it such a major identity thing that it would be like asking someone to compromise on race?

Mwahaha, gender fuckery! God, I love this blogging community. 😀

J

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[…] March 2010 21:38 So. Once again JB has written a post that I started to reply to and ended up with my own entry on the same topic instead. This time […]



Nezuko says:

I wrote another whole long thing in my own journal in response. I expect your awesome readers will, if they read it, tell me where I’m going off the rails. Actually I kind of half expect hate male but…

Mostly it’s your last paragraph that threw me. Why can’t a butch prefer female pronouns? Isn’t butch as much a female identity as a male one?



Nezuko says:

OMG that is a tragically appropriate typo there, and you can’t edit replies! Hate mail.



JB says:

I saw, and I’ll respond to that eventually, too! 😉

Mostly it’s your last paragraph that threw me. Why can’t a butch prefer female pronouns? Isn’t butch as much a female identity as a male one?

Uh… nowhere did I say a butch can’t prefer female pronouns. I just happen to be talking about those butches who prefer male pronouns atm. There are lots of butches who do prefer female pronouns, but those ones don’t challenge lesbian identity or create any of the situations I was talking about above, so I didn’t talk about them. 😉

As for butch being a female identity, there’s actually a school of thought that says since butch and femme are gender identities, you can’t say they’re only female. Men can also be butch or femme. Usually this is more obvious when they’re femme because then it’s genderqueer, but I know of several guys I could describe as butch, too. Of course, there’s another school of thought that says yes, they’re only female identities — but if the people involved prefer to be referred to as male, I don’t think it’s right to force them into a female category.

J



Nezuko says:

Hmm, maybe I misunderstood.

When you said: Dear butches: I know you can’t comment on all butches, but where do you fall on this line? Would you want your partner to say, “I’m dating an estrogen based organism who uses male pronouns” because it increases visibility and understanding (or for some other reason), or would you rather they just stick with all-male language and let other people wonder and/or ask?

I thought you meant that though you understand individuals can’t answer for everyone, all butches prefer male pronouns, but some might like to have their non-maleness called attention to in some other way.

Anyway, I agree with you about the not forcing people into identities that don’t fit them. This whole topic is bringing up all kinds of interesting issues for me, Wish I had answers instead of just more questions and discomforts.

Nezu



aneke says:

LMAO at ‘hate male’!

I don’t have any answers here, since I’m hardly an expert… I will say however that I’d feel like I still need to identify myself as a lesbian, and I can see how that could possibly cause some problems.

I think every relationship is unique, and as long as the two people that are in it respect and honour each others wishes and identity, the rest of the world can just suck it up. No hard and fast rules here.



JB says:

the rest of the world can just suck it up.

LOL! That might be the best answer anyone could possibly give. ;-D

I think you’re right, and it really does boil down to what each person in the relationship is comfortable with. It does make me wonder, if I had a problem with ‘he’, what I’d do about it. Possibly not date anyone in the first place who identified with male pronouns, I suppose. *laughs*

J



DK says:

I love you.

(They’re cool like that. My mom bought DK all butch gear for Christmas, and thought it was a blast.

Which was so awesome. That was pretty much the coolest Christmas ever — despite the breaking up. >.>

As for male pronouns — I’m still dabbling with them myself, finding out where my comfort levels are. I’m leaning more towards male than female, but every so often I hit a moment of “!!!” with male pronouns (too much! too male! too scary!) and back way off to female. But female pinches, whereas male has more room to grow, so I always come back again. *amused*

Which totally doesn’t answer your question.

On the hypothetical assumption that I went totally male-pronouned, I think I’d want to hit a compromise with my partner that was comfortable for both of us. One that leaves me feeling validated and supported in my choices, but also one that doesn’t cause a shitload of hassle for her. I’m also a big fan of Educating The Masses, so I reckon I’d fall of the line of ‘Call me ‘he’, but feel totally free to explain to people that that ‘he’ actually applies to an estrogen based organism. And if they have a problem with it, direct their questions towards that estrogen based organism.’

I also think part of the appeal for me is the gender-fuckery. And you lose edge if you just say ‘he’ in describing your partner to others but neglect the ‘but actually, there’s an underlying pair of overies there’ part.

Make sense?

(As for the ‘my partner is a man/woman’, I think that’s entirely dependant on the person in question. Neither one of them currently feel truly comfortable to me.)



JB says:

Despite the breaking up — LOL! Seriously. ;-D My mom thought that was so much fun, too. You should have heard the multiple phone calls. *laughs*

Hypothetical — *nods* Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me at all. 😉 Though I have to admit, had this been us, I wouldn’t have been very likely to direct anyone with a problem to you. I’d have been more likely to rip them a new one. But I’m violent like that. >.>

Underlying pair of ovaries — *DIES LAUGHING* I’m going to have to remember that description… ;-D But yeah, I get that. It’s kind of like what we were talking about earlier, with the queerness of queer being hot — very butch with girly side dishes, so to speak. You and your baths, Q and her romance novels. 😉

(We need a new term, don’t we? Hmmm. I think that’s where using ‘butch’ as a category comes in. :D)

J



JB says:

It is SO annoying that I can only respond to someone once. What’s up with that?

Nezu — I said that I realize one butch can’t respond for all butches everywhere. The reason they can’t respond for all butches everywhere is because lots of butches have lots of different preferences, and NOT all butches even want to use male pronouns. I definitely wasn’t trying to imply that all butches use male pronouns!

J



Nezuko says:

Yeah, I see what you’re saying. Thanks.



I take serious issue with butches who prefer MALE pronouns. I know it’s not cool to take this issue, but the RESULT is the same as patriarchy’s feminine mandate: women should not and cannot be masculine- when they are, they’re no longer Real Women. Butch women are WOMEN. They have breasts and hips and vaginas and body hair and estrogen and everything else that comes along with being female. It’s beautiful! I believe we should be fostering female pride, not glossing over the pain that causes non-feminine women to hate being female.
In short, I’d never date a woman who didn’t identify as one. That’s why I’m a LESBIAN.



DK says:

I take serious issue with butches who prefer MALE pronouns. I know it’s not cool to take this issue, but the RESULT is the same as patriarchy’s feminine mandate: women should not and cannot be masculine- when they are, they’re no longer Real Women.

Excuse me?

Dude, I’m not even sure what to respond to, here. Are you taking the “patriarchy’s” side by saying that women cannot take male pronouns — or indeed, masculinity — for themselves without failing in some way? What the hell is a Real Women, anyway? Because if a Real Women is purely about having breasts and hips and vaginas and etc, does that mean Real Men are nothing more than dicks and testosterone? No.

People are complicated, multi-faceted beings, and we are all beautiful.

I believe we should be fostering female pride, not glossing over the pain that causes non-feminine women to hate being female.

I’m battling the urge to ask you if you’ve ever spoken to a real butch. And listened to them. In person, for preference. Either way, I’ll tell you right now: being butch is not about hating being female, and you need to step the hell off your soapbox.

I can’t speak for all butch women, but I can talk for myself. I do not hate femininity; I’m just not comfortable with femaleness being the full expression of my gender. Masculinity works for me. It’s where I feel comfortable, it’s what makes me happy, and it makes me feel like myself. And being masculine does not automatically make me a misogynist, nor some Societal Tool Of Evil Oppression. It means I have thought about what makes me personally feel free, and that I’ ve had the stones to act on it despite idiots like you making sweeping statements about what is acceptable in terms of gender and sexuality.

Congratulations on being a LESBIAN. I’m a BUTCH, and you can call me he, thank you.



DK, I do not have a problem with butches or female masculinity. At all. I have a problem with women who disown being FEMALE. Not feminine; FEMALE. There’s a huge difference between between being a WOMAN and being feminine. I think you know that.

What I’ve said is that women who are not feminine are not MEN. Yet it seems that a male persona is increasingly preferred.

By so easily leaping from non-feminine/masculine women >>to>> MAN (and he), we reject the idea that Masculine Woman is an authentic way of being FEMALE. Just like patriarchy!

If masculinity=MAN, then the sex/gender binary must be “Real.” And you must be Trans, not Butch.

Do you see what I’m saying?

Butch/Femme is not the same as Man/Woman. They are LESBIAN identities.

Unless you are just generally “butch” the same way that I’m descriptively “femme”…?



Nezuko says:

Undercover Punk, I’m getting the impression you are getting stuck on the inadequacy of pronouns here. The English language has only three third-person singular pronoun forms: the male he/him/his; the female she/her/hers; and the neuter it/its. It is very much wrong culturally, though not so grammatically, to refer to a human of unknown gender as ‘it’, and it is grammatically wrong to refer to a person of unknown gender with the plural third-person they/them/their. And there is no pronoun for a person whose gender falls in between male and female.

People are not as black and white as our language is. There are more than two flavors of sex and many more than two flavors of gender. For a butch to ask to be referred to by male pronouns isn’t inherently a rejection of females or an expression of misogyny, and it doesn’t make the butch in question transgendered. It’s an attempt to use a pronoun that fits his self-concept, in a language that doesn’t really have the right pronouns available.

I don’t use male pronouns, but I certainly don’t consider myself feminine, and I definitely have a masculine/butch energy. Being “non-feminine” doesn’t make me “hate being female”. I don’t hate being female. On the contrary, I quite like myself and my neither altogether female nor altogether male gender. I don’t hate other women, either. I don’t hate femininity (in fact I find it highly attractive) it’s just not who I am. This is not me “buying into the patriarchy” (and who on earth is this nefarious patriarchy, anyway?) but simply knowing and being myself. Just as you woke up this morning knowing yourself.

No one here is arguing that butch/femme is the same as male/female. It seems to me that you are the one bringing that equation to the discussion, when you insist that butches should not use male pronouns.

Instead of being restrictive in your definitions, and insisting that there is only one way to be a lesbian, and that all lesbians must embrace femininity as a gender expression, I’d like to suggest you broaden your view just a bit. For some of us, masculinity is natural. It is as natural to us as your femininity is to you. It doesn’t make us something other than “Real Women” it’s just who we are. Why can’t we be proud of that? Why can’t “Real Women” include masculine women, bois, genderqueer women, butches, etc?

For that matter, why does it have to be about estrogen and breasts and vaginas? I know a couple of women who were born with testosterone and penises who certainly are more womanly than I am. And what about women who have been through menopause? What about women who have lost their ovaries (as I have) to illness?

Finally, just because you’d never date a butch who uses male pronouns doesn’t make you a better lesbian than someone who would.



JB says:

Interesting. Having read everything else, I’d like to thank you for this response, and suggest that when people aren’t used to reading things in capitals it doesn’t come across as emphasis but rather as screaming, attacking, and/or condescension. I know it’s common in the feminist blogs, but it’s not here. 😉 I assume that is not what you meant, and I don’t know if you realize people are reacting as if that is what you meant, so I thought I’d say something.

For the rest — I, uh, disagree on pretty much every point. Luckily, I don’t have to agree with you! But please keep in mind where you are as you argue, who is reading this, and tread accordingly. Thanks!

J



Bond says:

I think one good solution — one that I’ve heard a few folks in your position use — is to refer back to the person’s stated identity, for example, “X is genderqueer and uses male pronouns,” or “Y is a butch lesbian who uses male pronouns.” That is, I think, simple, clear, and respectful to all parties. If the person ID’s as female, or as estrogen based, if perfectly appropriate to mention that; if not, it would be disrespectful to pigeonhole him that way, but surely he identities as something else that you can mention.

I’ve thought before about how butch terms affect femme visibility… The one and only reason I’m okay with my girlfriend referring to me as her girlfriend (the sole exception to my rejection of the word “girl” for myself) is the centrality of that word to her being seen as queer.



JB says:

*grins* I knew I was asking around in the right place — leave it to someone living it to have a great answer. Thanks, Bond! I’ll definitely keep this in mind if it should come up!

It’s interesting, when identities and dynamics all start getting tangled up together. Makes communication that much more important, huh? 😉

J



Nezuko,

Instead of being restrictive in your definitions, and insisting that there is only one way to be a lesbian, and that all lesbians must embrace femininity as a gender expression

WHAT are you talking about?? Are you so defensive about your masculinity and anxious to disagree with me, that you’re willing to misrepresent my entire belief system? I am NOT promoting femininity. Yes, I DEFEND the virtues of traditional femininity on my blog. But I do not purport, here OR there, that it is a Superior Way of Being. I respectfully request that you cease speaking as if I have. In fact, traditional femininity encompasses many ways of being–such as continuous self sacrifice– that have been very harmful to women. Again, I do NOT have issue with women displaying masculine traits, embodying traditional masculinity, or even passing to the casual observer.

Secondly, when I capitalized “Real Women” in my first comment it was in reference to normative standards of hetero womanhood as presented and expected by mainstream culture (aka the nefarious patriarchy! please don’t ask me to describe institutionalized messaging regarding successful womanhood/ femininity). It was sarcasm, really. If I could insert the little TM symbol for extra affect, I would.

Finally, there is a significant DIFFERENCE between favoring non-binary pronouns (such as ZE) and adopting binary-based MALE identifiers. I believe that when a person is MORE COMFORTABLE with male pronouns *than with* gender neutral OR female pronouns, they are implicitly disowning their woman hood. That may not be your internal, personal meaning of the act; but the social result of preferring MALE names is a deliberate separation from women as a CLASS.

WOMAN, for my purposes, means one who was *socially* conditioned as a female human from birth. This assignment is usually predicated on biological traits such as having a vagina.

No matter which definition you use (social assignment/biology, or self-selection), I passionately contend that being a WOMAN is a necessary prerequisite for being a LESBIAN. Further, I assert that using SHE pronouns is an essential act of *owning* one’s womanhood (and in any event, certainly NOT favoring the male “he”). Therefore, I believe that the Lesbian Identity BUTCH requires owning your womanhood.



Messypeaches says:

Saying that to be a woman you must be *Socially Conditioned* to be one is the part where I banged my head feverently on the wall for a minute, before realizing that what I need to know about you is this-

Nature or nurture?

Because I’m nature all the way. I did not choose to be a lesbian, the fact that I see myself purely as a female does not actually correlate to my self worth. If I were to chart how sure I was I was a woman against my self worth, well, woman would be a flat line, an X=11 sort of chart, and self worth would look like a fucking Richter scale line as various ex and in ternal forces battened down and bolstered up my defenses.

All the points where that self worth is high? Generally have to do with acceptance. Accepting that your self image doesn’t involve female pronouns, and all the social baggage that comes with it? That’s an amazing victory, one that’s probably borderline scary.

If you don’t want to date a male identified lesbian, then. well. Don’t. No one’s forcing you too. In fact, the writer of this blog has a whole post about how she doesn’t want to date femme lesbians. They do not tickle her fancy or any other bits of her anatomy. Butches do.

It’s a matter of taste. I actually agree that I wouldn’t date a estrogen based life form that identified as male, because, well, I like my girls a little more on the girly side.

Here’s a question for you though. After you decide on the nature vs. nurture bit-

If you met a male born person, bits still intact, who identified as a female, used female pronouns, would you be interested in them?



Messypeaches, I am a NURTURE person. All the way.

No, I have no interest in EITHER male bits OR persons socially conditioned as male. BOTH are deal breakers for me.

My DEFINITION of what constitutes a woman (social conditioning *from birth*) fundamentally conflicts with the trans definition thereof. I know this. I’m well-versed in gender issues and I’ve read Julia Serano’s Whipping Girl, wherein even she concedes that her social experience *as* a woman was far more demoralizing than she’d expected it to be as an outside observer (aka, experiencing the world as a man). But I’d rather not break into a separate discussion about my transphobia.

I understand that we probably differ about this, as well as about the nature/nurture issue. That’s OK with me. I hope it’s OK with you too. I don’t want you banging your head against the wall or anything!



Nezu says:

Hey, UP, I wasn’t trying to pick a fight, though I will cop to having been a bit nettled by your tone. I apologize for causing you distress.

Are you so defensive about your masculinity and anxious to disagree with me, that you’re willing to misrepresent my entire belief system?

Of course not. What I said was not my attempt to misrepresent you, nor was it a response to anything you posted on your own blog. It was what you said here, and the way I heard it, that cued my response. In fact, perhaps I was misled by your formatting and your use of all-caps for certain words such as in, “I’d never date a woman who didn’t identify as one. That’s why I’m a LESBIAN.” In my head as I read that, it sounded like a condemnation of lesbians who are or date people who do not identify strictly as women. Similarly, I misunderstood your irony. Irony is very difficult to convey in a first-person text format. Perhaps inserting markers such as the (TM) symbol you mentioned would have made it more clear.

Your point about pronouns raises some questions for me. How is preferring pronouns such as zi/hir not also a separation from women as a class? It also seems to me that one might prefer male pronouns simply out of linguistic distaste for the new words combined with a discomfort in using female pronouns, which comes back around to being more a condemnation of the inadequacy of our language than a condemnation of femaleness.

I think in your summary paragraph here, you were much more clear about what your belief is, and I thank you for taking the time to restate it. If you were to read my own recent entry on this very topic, you’d find I actually pondered butch as a female identity. Perhaps this is a topic over which we will continue to disagree, but I hope we can do so without rancor.

Nezu



Nezu, thank you. I might’ve been exaggerating a little by saying my Entire Belief System. Regardless, yes, I think we disagree.

Thank you also for asking about moving away from women as a class and the how it relates to choosing either binaried or non-binaried pronouns.

To be honest, I don’t like women disowning their womanhood with ZE or HE. However, there are plenty of women who, simply by rejecting heteronormativity and the binary it requires, also disown their “woman”ness– which they perceive as an essential by product of the patriarchal ideology they detest. I understand that, I respect it, and I’m sympathetic to those who wish to reject the binary and everything that it entails.

But FAVORING– and it is a deliberate choice– the name used by men (he) is *more than* a total rejection of the binary. It is consciously adopting an identity that is specifically oppositional to female beings.

And that’s my objection. I do not believe that people who purposefully adopt male names and male identities retain the necessary prerequisites for engaging in lesbian relationships, such as Butch/Femme (see below).

Some people like to argue that they’ve put their own, personal, idiosyncratic meaning onto some act of self-identification. And that’s fine. But there is ALSO a Social Implication to everything that involves (group) identities. And the social reception of such acts cannot be ignored– or if they are, one shouldn’t be surprised or OFFENDED when others are confused by it and ask questions!

So yeah, we disagree. And I’m more than happy to do so respectfully. It’s true that I’m proprietary about the woman-centered nature of Lesbianism, within which Butch/Femme has a looong, loving history. I do not agree with gay men appropriating this terminology (except as adjectives– lower case), nor do I agree with queer bois appropriating “faggotry.” But Queer Theory says everything is everything! Whooo! Unfortunately, these terms and labels and identities (lesbian, butch, fag, etc.) serve an important social function: to find kinship and pride in ourselves as *differentiated* from other groups of people.

I do not believe that a person who calls himself HE *owns* his womanhood or is a (Butch) Lesbian.



DK says:

Undercover Punk,

I’ve been letting my response rest for a few days because JB requested we all play nice, and it’s not terribly chivalrous to react with nothing but four-letter words. Though, wow, you are so gosh darned cute with telling me what I know; I just want to pinch your cheeks and throw you down a flight of stairs.

(That is mostly a joke.)

Okay, let’s get back to your argument. You said:

“By so easily leaping from non-feminine/masculine women >>to>> MAN (and he), we reject the idea that Masculine Woman is an authentic way of being FEMALE. Just like patriarchy!”

I’m going to put aside the evils of the ‘patriarchy’ for the moment, because that is clearly an Issue with you, and I don’t want to spend the next ten years of my life debating it. Instead I’m going to focus on what you’ve said. Firstly ‘by leaping so easily‘ —

Have you ever lived a non-gender-normative life? And by that I mean have you ever tried not looking one-hundred per cent identifiably female? (I figure you’re probably having a feminist-based spasm at the very idea, so likely the answer’s ‘no’.) There’s nothing easy about it. There are wonderful things about it, but none of them are easy. So let’s hobble that high horse, for starters.

‘from non-feminine/masculine women >>to>> MAN (and he),we reject the idea that Masculine Woman is an authentic way of being FEMALE’.

Yes, in the same way that wearing high heels rejects being short as an authentic way of life. Bullshit. Firstly, using male pronouns does not automatically = man. That’s the whole damn point. Secondly, my choice of personal pronouns does not in any way invalidate the existence of other butch women, or the existence of masculine women as a lifestyle choice, it merely means that I have chosen to define myself in a way that steps outside societal norms. A woman who is not a man who calls herself ‘he’.

Jami Weinstein, who teaches philosophy and women’s studies at Vassar College, has another interesting take on it here. To quote directly from the article:

“[Weinstein] says that if biological females use the pronoun “he” enough, then the power of “he” as an essential category will be eroded and maybe one day “he” and “she” will be on an equal plane. But Weinstein also understands the animosity the movement attracts. “The idea of a woman getting the power from ‘he’ troubles the idea of male supremacy. Women fear it, too, as they’ve bought into the binary idea and derive material benefits from it.”

Do you have fear, Undercover Punk?

Moving onto the rest of what you said:

‘If masculinity=MAN, then the sex/gender binary must be “Real.” And you must be Trans, not Butch. Do you see what I’m saying?’

Oh yes, I see exactly what you’re saying. I just disagree. And sadly, I don’t think you have the faintest grasp of what I’ve said. I did not say that masculinity = man. I did not say that I wanted to be a man. And whilst I agree whole heartedly that I am trans (transgender, in the sense of transgressing gender boundaries), that certainly doesn’t give you the right to slap your own label on me. And frankly, your entire argument is facetious, rudimentary, and based on very tenuous logic.

‘Butch/Femme is not the same as Man/Woman.’

Obviously. I’ve never claimed otherwise.

‘They are LESBIAN identities.’

Wrong. They are gender identities, and embraced by gay men as well as lesbians, and that is okay. Furthermore, many butches — and, I’m sure, femmes — embrace a number of labels that extend beyond a rigid definition of ‘lesbian’. Myself, for starters: I am butch and queer. JB is femme and bisexual. Nezu is god-knows-what and happy.

‘Unless you are just generally “butch” the same way that I’m descriptively “femme”…?’

Lady, I wouldn’t even know where to begin describing you. But that’s okay, because it’s not my right.



Don’t EVER joke–even MOSTLY– about throwing a woman down a flight of stairs.

It’s not fucking funny and you’re *totally out of line.*

I am not responding to the rest of your patronizing comment.

You clearly do not engage with respect.



DK says:

Don’t swear, love, it’s rude. And you’re right, I’m not feeling especially respectful right now, despite my best efforts. Are you insinuating that it would be perfectly fine to throw a man down a flight of stairs?

As for not responding to the rest — well, that’s sad, and a shame that you’ll let your temper get in the way of responding to a debate. But I suspect I’ll survive the loss, and I suggest you never get into politics.



Messypeaches says:

I agree that it’s sad you neglected the rest of DK’s post.

This thread is starting to feel like this-
http://xkcd.com/386/
and not in a good way.

I think the stage we’re reaching is called ‘shaved monkey touchy-ness’.

But we’ve gotten here in a fairly respectable fashion, which you should all congratulate yourselves on (that faint sound you hear is me patting myself on the back.

I’m going to summarize.

UnderCoverPunk: Believes firmly in Nurture, and in her own perspective on lesbian sexuality, and that the two are firmly related.

This is an alternative view point, and what I really disagree with is the fact that she’s disqualifying people I know are females and gay as springtime as lesbians/bisexuals is why, while I wont’ even say in jest I want to see her hurt, may her soda’s all go flat quickly for a month or so. This is roughly approximate to the level of ‘arrgh’ she has caused me and seems karmically fair. Ah. here, have a cookie, Undercover Punk.

Everyone else: Is still working out exactly where they stand, and dislike intensely the Authoritative Tone of telling them that they Are Doing It Wrong. Nezu in particular tends to automatically take the ‘no, fuck YOU’ stance when approached in this manner.

Now that we’ve firmly established that Undercover Punk will never agree (or, likely, really respect more than lip service) our stances, can we move on with our lives till the next post? Please?

I’ve got toast that just popped up and things that need doing.



Bond says:

This thread is disturbing to me.

I think respect is something each of us is obligated to show others, whether we feel like it or not.



JB says:

All right, guys. I owe everyone here an apology for not playing mod sooner. First I was busy, and then I was deluded by thinking things were almost civil and you’re all adults (and the shit storm seemed to be dying off, anyway). Then I realized things aren’t really civil at all, and regardless of your adult-and-therefore-shouldn’t-need-a-referee status, I’m refereeing. Perhaps this is the wrong thing to do, but I’m tired of looking at my email and tensing.

Actually, I owe thanks to Bond with the comment about respect. It’s exactly what’s been lacking. So, I’m going to start modding comments. If I don’t deem them to be respectful, I’m going to send them back to you. You are welcome to re-write them and try again. I’ll even tell you what didn’t seem respectful and why. If you’re wondering how to respectfully disagree, take a look at Nezu’s comments.

Thanks for playing. The sandbox is still open, we just can’t kick over anyone’s castles anymore. 😉

J



Nezu says:

Undercover Punk, I have been sitting on this all day, trying to put words to the discomfort I was feeling. I think I can make a stab at articulating it, and while I don’t expect you to agree with me in any way, I do feel I need to speak up, not because I think I can convince you to see things my way, but for the sake of my own integrity.

You said:

But FAVORING– and it is a deliberate choice– the name used by men (he) is *more than* a total rejection of the binary. It is consciously adopting an identity that is specifically oppositional to female beings.

It’s that phrase specifically oppositional that’s distressing me, and the underlying implication that any identity not completely female is adversarial to women. It seems to say that women who use male pronouns, transgendered people, intersexed people, and men are all inherently enemies of women.

While it’s certainly true that the last several thousand years of dominant cultural forces have promoted men over women, I take exception to the assumption that people who are not completely female are by their very nature enemies of women. I’m not going to use the “Some of my best friends are non-female” argument, because that allows the underlying assumption to remain that most non-females are malevolent. Instead I believe that the path to cultural change lies in inclusion and cooperation, not opposition.

And that’s my objection. I do not believe that people who purposefully adopt male names and male identities retain the necessary prerequisites for engaging in lesbian relationships, such as Butch/Femme …

This, too, bothers me, but more because of the assumption that a butch using male pronouns and/or a male name is adopting a male identity. Names are not identity. My own name, the one I go by to my family and have been called since I was a teenager, is usually a male name. That name hasn’t made me male. In fact, using a male name and/or male pronouns could be seen as an act of reclaiming the power inherent in those names and making them female. DK’s referenced article by Jami Weinstein makes the case far more eloquently than I can here.

Additionally, the assertion that male names and pronouns disqualify someone from claiming a lesbian identity is personally repugnant to me. It belittles both the butch in question and zer partner(s). As Messypeaches said, I tend to have a problem with being told You Are Doing It Wrong, so perhaps this is cutting too close to the bone for me to be entirely rational about, but it strikes me as deeply offensive to tell someone ze is not who ze claims to be.

Some people like to argue that they’ve put their own, personal, idiosyncratic meaning onto some act of self-identification. And that’s fine. But there is ALSO a Social Implication to everything that involves (group) identities. And the social reception of such acts cannot be ignored…

I think there is an underlying assumption here that might be stated “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” I disagree. There are many ways to promote a feminist agenda, and many flavors of feminism. I have always considered myself an ardent feminist, and, as I said above, I believe social change can be best accomplished through inclusion. Allowing women to claim their own identities gives them agency, even when those identities are masculine.

…or if they are, one shouldn’t be surprised or OFFENDED when others are confused by it and ask questions!

Finally, I would like to point out that I didn’t see any questions from you, just assertions and accusations. It was those accusations that made me (and I suspect others here) bristle.

You say

…terms and labels and identities (lesbian, butch, fag, etc.) serve an important social function: to find kinship and pride in ourselves as *differentiated* from other groups of people.

Instead of excluding, dismissing, belittling, and dividing, which weakens us as a group, I’d like to think that we can, as queer folks, support and encourage each other in a spirit of inclusion.

As I said at the outset, I don’t expect you to come around to my way of thinking, and I’m not trying to prolong a pointless argument, I just felt that I couldn’t in good conscience sit idly by.

Nezu



JB says:

UP is quite upset with me, and may or may not check back here to see this and respond to it. Just giving you a head’s up and letting you know that silence may have more to do with me than your response. 😉

J



Nezu says:

I’m sorry to hear that. Thanks for allowing me to say what I needed to. I wasn’t really expecting a reply, but I feel better having not let the assertion that all non-females are enemies go unaddressed.



Ches says:

Hey Nezu!

While this whole thread got quite crazy, I actually enjoyed reading your posts and the thought process of everything that you put down. Thanks for some insight into something I know nothing about 🙂



Nezu says:

Thanks, Ches! It’s been a bumpy ride here! I really appreciate your voice of support.

Nezu



G says:

Um, I’m really not going to jump into the previous comments – somewhat because it’s going a little bit in circles, but mostly because I don’t want to engage in a conversation that is lacking a bit in boundaries.

When it comes to pronouns, I guess I respond to both, but feel most at home and identify most with male adjectives. I think it’s my responsibility to express my preferences, and if someone is interested in me, I’d hope that she’d find a way to respect my preferences and still feel true to herself. She definitely needs to take care of her own comfort level, and I kind of refuse to be responsible for that.

And just like any other subject, when my needs AND her needs are met, that’s a pretty good match.



JB says:

Thanks for not jumping into the other conversation. 😉 It seems to have died now, anyway. People took offense at my stepping in. Ah, well. Now I know to step in sooner.

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, here: if it’s a good match, then everyone will be comfortable with the others’ boundaries. Good point, thank you!

J



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