The truth about femmes
It’s not that she hasn’t met the right guy yet. Fran Hayden explains why femmes are dykes too.
Sitting on the tube this morning I looked up from my book only to notice a man staring at me. As we made eye contact he smiled and, not wanting to seem rude, I smiled back. I gave a friendly smile, but the one he offered to me was one of those smiles. You know the ones where he hopes we women think: "Oh-my-god-he-bestowed-a-smile-upon-me"? Yeah. That kind of smile. Inwardly, I cringed and gladly returned to my book. Now, I've got nothing against men and nothing against smiles, but my inner lesbian wanted to scream about stereotyping and assumptions. You see, the thing is, Mr. Hopeful w/ Dazzling Smile, I'm a lesbian. I have a one-way ticket to lesbo land - no men permitted.
Don't get me wrong, my encounter with Mr. Hopeful made me grin, not out of flattery, but because all I could think was, "Bless, if only he knew…" You see, I'm frequently told that I don't look like a lesbian, (like a lesbian, or like your idea of a lesbian?) I have long hair, I wear make-up, I like to paint my nails and I like to wear girly clothes, which all stereotypically indicate femininity, but when I come out to people, they find it hard to comprehend. In a 1996 article titled Butch, Femme, and the Woman-Identified Woman by Connie Carter and Jean Noble, the contradiction of being both femme and lesbian is discussed. As stated in the article, "trying to construct self-presentations that read as both femme and dyke seem to work continually against each other". Shock! A feminine lesbian? Surely not?!
Society seems to direct a large portion of critical remarks towards lesbians, and it seems it is only when the lesbian (or bisexual) in question is pretty and feminine that society gravitates towards her. For example, Clare Balding was forced to complain to the PCC after being called a "dyke on a bike" by a Sunday Times critic, whereas reports on Megan Fox's supposed bisexuality (she has since retracted) suggest that she is desirable, and only exists to fuel men's fantasies. So when I tell people that I'm a lesbian they are often surprised and don't know how to react; torn between my "dykeness" and femininity I'm met with a variety of responses:
1. Men want to join in because we (my partner and I) conform to their fantasy.
2. Men think that because of my femininity I am obviously in denial, and I just haven't found the right man. Yes, Mr. Drunk-Neanderthal, you are my soulmate. *Rolls eyes*
3. "So, who's the man in the relationship then?" As you've noted we both have the necessary parts to be considered female. We are in a lesbian relationship. Neither of us is the man, thanks.
4. Straight women either avoid me because I'm "faking it", or flirt with me. Baffling.
5. Other lesbians are suspicious of me.
One response in particular makes me chuckle - when my partner and I are out and about holding hands people glance at me, then her, then our hands and proceed to glare at her. Like she's taken this wholesome straight girl and turned her into (whispers) a lesbian. Well no, she hasn't. I figured it out myself a long time ago, with my little girly brain.
I just can't win. In a world where stereotypes are firmly wedged between assumptions and generalisations in the "Social Dictionary", people are going to assume I'm straight, unless I'm kissing my other half - then of course, they'll probably assume that it's a show for their benefit and store it in a mental space for, uh, the privacy of their own homes.
Proof that we are out there:
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