To The FemmeMobile! Away!

{June 3, 2010}   Femme confrontation

So, the other night Q and I were at dinner (keeping in mind time is fluid, and by ‘the other night’ I mean a MONTH ago), and she ordered a fillet mingon. Or however you spell that. I’m spelling impaired and vegetarian, what can I say?

When her cut of meat came, it was quite clearly a steak. Even I, the spelling impaired vegetarian, could see that. Given she’d paid extra for her fillet, this wasn’t impressive. She was like, “Eh, it’ll be fine,” and I was like, “*flap flap flap!* Get their asses back here!” Only attempting subtlety. (I probably failed.)

It reminded me of the time someone made a nasty crack about DK, but not to DK, at the gym while she was working out. I flailed around when I found out about it, because let’s be honest, here: if someone made a nasty comment about me, especially if it were boys/young men, I’d sulk and be hurt and sad. But THEN I’d find the manager and have them thrown out. And then they’d be more butthurt than me, ha ha, and if I wanted to pretend like I was doing it for moral reasons than I could also say maybe it would teach them to treat people with respect, but let’s be realistic here.

DK, however, licked her wounds and didn’t say anything. She and I talked then about how femmes — myself, of course, and the other femmes whose blogs I read — seem to be much more proactive and assertive when things like that happen than most butches, who seem to shrug it off. DK and I theorized that maybe butches were just more used to it, or more laid back as a whole. Who knows?

But when the thing happened with Q, she pointed something else out: butches spend their lives trying not to be noticed, to avoid more trouble. Complaining isn’t a way not to be noticed. I, however, have the privilege of looking hetronormative. If I scream, I fully expect that people (*coughs*men*coughs*) will COME RUNNING. Sure, I might meet the occasional sleeze, but most guys will help.

If I complain, I fully expect that women will help me from a feeling of solidarity, and men will help me because I’m attractive (and, obviously, vain. I know it’s bad, but I’m totally willing to use social conditioning in my favor.) and because I’m “the little woman.” (It’s also useful that while I’m of average height, I’m still slim and come across as small.)

Don’t get me wrong, there are definite drawbacks to this. But I’m not talking about those right now: I’m talking about how this has shaped my behavior when it comes to things like telling someone to fuck off, or to either refund my money or get me a new steak, god damn it (all with a smile, and preferably done in such a way that people do what I want before they realize they can say no).

It’s interesting to me the ways in which butch and male differ: men act much as I do, for different reason. They generally expect the world will do as they ask because they’re taught from childhood that they’re the higher caste (in, of course, the loosest sense of the word). Butches, however, are taught not to create too much of a fuss, not to draw more attention to themselves, because they’re outside the norm: drawing attention can be dangerous.

Femmes, on the other hand, are working within the system; we seem like we’re the norm. I get what I want because I’m helpless, to be doted on, to be aided, to be coddled. Female and feminine. Corrupting from the inside, mwahahaha.

Uh. Back to my original point. I just thought it was interesting, both to see how butches and femmes often seem to differ when it comes to confrontation (as a generalization, obviously), and to see how men and butch differ on the same lines.

Gender and social constructs. Fascinating stuff. πŸ˜€



aneke says:

The most aggressive I ever got was with a straight couple that were being total morons (to my very gay boy friend). That kind of thing makes me GO MAD and I’m not naturally confrontational.. picture me yelling at them in the middle of a busy coffee shop ‘I’m GAY too you ASSHOLES but I’m ok cause I LOOK STRAIGHT huh?’ LOL, they were, um, very taken aback.

I guess it is because we’re working within the system like you say.. For butches its probably safer not to get noticed.

JB says:

*LAUGHS!* Oh, man, that’s a hilarious image. Wish I could’ve been there. *grins*

*nods* I’m a little glad to be working within the system!


Jolie says:

Rhett and I talk about this semi-regularly between ourselves… and we have a couple of different theories.

I think you’re right, and most of the butches I know do seem to be a lot more laid back than I am when it comes to public interactions. I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that I don’t have any expectation of getting negative reactions when I go into demanding-chick mode. The “dudes” among us don’t have that comfort level in public (obviously).

Which is also why it’s all the more sexy, to me, when Rhett swaggers into a room and commands the attention of the place. πŸ˜‰ Mmm… butches. Yummy!

JB says:

*cracks up!* Mmmm, seriously yummy! I think the butches I know are mostly more laid back than I am — better at letting things roll off, and that’s part of it. Maybe they start out laid back, and get better at it when they realize not to be laid back means you get negative reactions… and then us girls can leap all over and be ferocious. ;-D


hotdamnfemme says:

(I’m glad I stumbled across your blog!)

In my experiences with hostility or mistreatment directed at me or a butch partner when we are being seen as a couple by a man, I am always the first to instantly want to retaliate because I assume that men may be reluctant to attack a feminine presenting woman over a masculine one. I also ire easily and have problems with seeing someone else being mistreated – but those are my own issues.

JB says:

(Me, too!)

*chuckles* You know, I have those same issues… πŸ˜‰


Also: race! Even the most femme of Black women can’t depend on male chivalry. :/

JB says:

Ohhh, definitely. I am very lucky to be what society considers “right” in so many ways, but I would expect that if I were femme and black, I might be more non-confrontational. Thanks for pointing that out!


freyr says:

this is true and very interesting. thanks for bringing it up. A good example of this that i can think of is how butches and people of color interact with the police. I was @ a party last night and the police showed up because the music was too loud. My immediate reaction was, stay out of dodge and let someone else who the cops will want to trust, or who the cops will react to unquestioningly(as in looks straight to them and is white) deal with them. The cops are a kind of prime example of authority and an authority that butches/trans folks ect and people of color cannot trust. what i think about is cues, and how people respond to cues. I often feel that i don’t want to interact with the police or don’t like to cause ripples or conflict is because i cannot always trust people to respond to my cues in a way that is appropriate. I don’t feel that i can trust that someone will interact with me in a way that transcends a lot of misconceptions about masculine female bodied people in particular and also people of color.

I hear examples of things like this a lot, such as an interaction a friend of mine was having where she was telling a story about being put in the back of a cop car for sitting on her porch. she is a person of color, and is a masculine female and the combination of the two was cause enough to put her in a cop car on suspicion of drug possession. A friend who is white and feminine said that she would never stand for being treated that way by the police and indignantly asked why my other friend did not read the cops the riot act. Another friend turned to her and explained that that is simply something that was not an option. she explained that my friend who was put in the cop car could not prevent the police suspician or alter the police reaction to her by simply not standing for that kind of treatment, that’s not a choice we get to make very often because it can be very dangerous and can ironically result in our voices not being heard.

I think that things like this happen in varying degrees depending on the type of situation and the type of conflict. I think that there is a vibe of always trying to choose one’s battles wisely, what feels worth it? there is the annoying bigotry that comes up on the regular @ the gym or in the store, that can just be shrugged off and then there is the kind of bigotry that is more dangerous, like with the police. both require a certain understanding about what serves personal safety and personal space and what will ultimately have a negative effect and what will not. It would make sense that this kind of dynamic could start to infiltrate other parts of a persons life.

JB says:

Yes, exactly. In both cases — butch and PoC — it’s outside the “acceptable” standard of society, and people have to be more careful. I think your point about choosing battles is a really good one, too. Even I choose my battles, and if I fight everything I wear myself down — which is extremely frustrating when dealing with something that’s completely prevalent.

she explained that my friend who was put in the cop car could not prevent the police suspician or alter the police reaction to her by simply not standing for that kind of treatment, that’s not a choice we get to make very often because it can be very dangerous and can ironically result in our voices not being heard.

*nods* That’s that horrific slavery catch-22: “If black people didn’t want to be enslaved they would say so/They’re rebelling and rioting, obviously they need us to control them because they’re only well behaved when we do.” I find it appalling how often a more subtle version of the same argument is used today, on anyone outside the norm. 😦


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