Gender Studies II
EN2012 – Winter 2011 – Terry Goldie
Reading – ‘The Fem Question’ by Joan Nestle – Jan 31
- Hard to explain the special nature of butch-fem relationships to feminists and
lesbian feminists who consider butch-fem a reproduction of heterosexual models,
and therefore dismiss both lesbian communities of the past and of the present
that assert this style.
- Butch-fem means a way of looking, loving and living that can be expressed by
individuals, couples or a community.
- In the past, the butch has been labeled too simplistically the masculine partner
and the fem her feminine counterpart.
- This labeling forgers two women who have developed their styles for specific
erotic, emotional and social reasons.
- Butch-fem relationships were complex erotic and social statements, not phony
- They were filled with a deeply lesbian language of stances, dress, gesture, love,
courage and autonomy.
- In the 1950s particularly, butch-fem couples were the front-line warriors against
- Many lesbians dismiss the author as a victim, a woman who could do nothing
else because she didn’t know any better, but the truth of her life tells a different
- If fems seemed to be ‘wives’ of passing women, the feminine protectors of the
couple’s propriety, it was so easy to lose curiosity about what made them sexual
heretics, because they looked like women.
- Thus fems became the victims of a double dismissal; in the past they did not
appear culturally different enough from heterosexual women to be seen as
breaking gender taboos and today they do not appear feminist enough, even in
their historical context, to merit attention or respect for being ground-breaking
- Politically correct sexuality is a paradoxical concept. One of the most deeply held
opinions in feminism is that women should be autonomous and self-directed in
defining their sexual desire.
- If we close down exploration, we will be forcing some women once again to live
their sexual lives in a land of shame and guilt; only this time they will be haunted
by the realization that it was not the patriarchal code they have failed, but the
creed of their own sisters who said they came in love.
- In 1980s lesbian activist who defines herself as a fem poses the problem of our
plight as an oppressed people