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"Femme Visibility"

(19 Posts)
TinselAngel Wed 16-Sep-20 18:01:26

I think this is mainly a question for lesbian feminists.

I've seen posts on social media by lesbians referring to "femme visibility", I'm wondering why this is a thing?

Performing femininity is not unusual or revolutionary, and I should think it's the type of lesbianism that men like to look at.

Feminine presenting females are not discriminated against more than any other female - it's how patriarchy wants us to present.

Am I missing something as a straight woman though? Is it different for lesbians? Is it assumed that feminine presenting lesbians aren't real lesbians in the same way as more butch lesbians are?

OP’s posts: |
DryHeave Wed 16-Sep-20 18:11:19

I wonder if it’s because “femme” lesbians are assumed to not be lesbians (“passing as heterosexual” maybe?) and therefore have barriers to being seen as they are - and finding partners.

I think it’s completely valid.

TinselAngel Wed 16-Sep-20 18:16:14

Do other lesbians think they're not serious about it and avoid them?

OP’s posts: |
Butterer Wed 16-Sep-20 18:21:58

Historically there has been a strong butch/femme community - it's part of a long standing identity.

I remember 'lipstick lesbians' being a thing, but that was more about 'straight' women 'experimenting with their sexuality', sometimes (but not always) to tittilate men.

Femme lesbians I knew used to also frequently be disbelieved by men..

CaraDuneRedux Wed 16-Sep-20 18:26:20

DryHeave

I wonder if it’s because “femme” lesbians are assumed to not be lesbians (“passing as heterosexual” maybe?) and therefore have barriers to being seen as they are - and finding partners.

I think it’s completely valid.

I have a lesbian friend for whom this was an issue - all the other lesbians in our social circle (we played football together, majority gay team) assumed she was straight. She eventually got round the problem by making the first move on the woman who became her girlfriend. grin She said it was definitely a thing.

(Interestingly the reverse of that phenomenon seen in gay male dating circles, where apparently men on Grindr or similar will advertise for "straight acting" men.)

riotlady Wed 16-Sep-20 18:32:24

Yeah, it’s about being assumed to be straight all the time.

justawoman Wed 16-Sep-20 19:26:18

I’m not particularly feminine presenting but I’m certainly not butch (I’d quite like to be, but I’ve never managed to make it work for me). I found that other lesbians sometimes didn’t take me seriously and/or assumed I was a ‘tourist’ or trying it out. Two of my exes confessed that they worried about whether I enjoyed sex with them because they thought I wanted a penis involved (spoiler: I didn’t). I also used to get assumed to be a fag hag rather than a lesbian in the days when I used to go to gay bars.

Like someone mentioned upthread, I eventually worked out that the way to solve this was to make the first move on women and to be assertive socially and in bed. People generally stopped questioning my credentials after that!

SapphosRock Wed 16-Sep-20 19:37:46

* Is it assumed that feminine presenting lesbians aren't real lesbians in the same way as more butch lesbians are?*

It's not that they're not real lesbians, it's just there's a lesbian feminist culture that is very much about not conforming to patriarchal expectations of women or the male gaze. No high heels or makeup. No shaving of the body hair. That kind of thing.

Feminine lesbians can sometimes feel looked down on for their heteronormative appearance and behaviour.

stumbledin Wed 16-Sep-20 19:59:38

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

ChocolateCrackles Wed 16-Sep-20 23:07:58

@stumbledin. I'm not sure it is so much about dressing 'like a man' to attract women. It's an aesthetic like any other and signifies a particular type of attitude imo. If I were attracted to men I would not be seeking to date a nerdy one but I do recognise that there are women who like that for some reason. It's interesting to me that lesbians throw each other under the bus in this way.

I think style plays a big part in attraction too, if you are still presenting like you did in 2002 and have refused to adapt because it worked for you at the time, well it may come across some kind of way. I think 'butch' women are especially prone to this type of thinking because there is a delusional mindset that says that women are beyond things like lust and shallowness. A slob is a slob and in my mind, that's part of why butch has become a dirty word.

Anyway. Femme visibility... It's mostly the queers who go on about this these days, and the majority of them are straight with extra steps so yet another useful term that came out of lesbian culture has been made into something I now roll my eyes at. Which is a shame, because I have seen it in action many a time, especially back twenty years ago when said butches were the scene and appeared to gatekeep every bit as badly as the queers do now.

stumbledin Wed 16-Sep-20 23:27:04

My comments were tongue in cheek - not throwing anyone under the bus!

But also, perhaps revealing a bit too much that is personal to me blush that I have always found it strange about a more "male" way of dressing, when I dont want any reminders of maleness. smile

But also being somewhat elderly I am not so aware of some of the changed / changing attitudes within what is left of the lesbian community.

Let alone whatever mind numbing cerebal games with words of the queer community.

Butterer Wed 16-Sep-20 23:33:47

I'm not really understanding the
butch->slob thing - then again, I've never been interested in style or fashion. I've seen butch women looking seriously sharp in suits, and certainly not slobbish .
I do remember excessive amounts of sportswear in the '00s though (I have barely been out on the scene since)..

ChocolateCrackles Wed 16-Sep-20 23:39:46

All good, I don't think you are alone in saying that masculinity isn't something that appeals to you. Strangely enough, I came out in the mid 90's and I would date only femme women for the same reason, and I used to cop a lot of shit for it. Nowdays it's completely the opposite, and masc presenting women are a minority. I think as I've gotten older my attractions have evolved, I just look for people who look comfortable with who they are. There's something really sexy about that.

I have a good friend who is a short fat butch woman and I always argue with her about this stuff. She will only date lean femme women, but goes one step further and gets quite mean about bigger and masculine women. That makes me.so angry because it's a total double standard and I'm sure she wouldn't want others to say that kind of thing about her. It's such bizarre thinking.

WeetabixBananaHipsterFFS Thu 17-Sep-20 00:05:20

^I'm not really understanding the
butch->slob thing - then again, I've never been interested in style or fashion. I've seen butch women looking seriously sharp in suits, and certainly not slobbish^

I’m going to veer right out of my lane to ask wtf? Crackles, have the other poster (quoted) and I misinterpreted you? That seems quite harsh!

ChocolateCrackles Thu 17-Sep-20 05:12:54

No, you haven't misquoted me.

My impression is that the Queer generation do embrace butch women, but they would be more likely to labelh them masc or non-binary. I think that's because the word butch has come to be associated with the worst kind of cliche. I think we all know what I mean and I dare not enter further into it here.

I do also think a sharp looking woman in a suit is amazing but that alone doesn't make somebody butch.

SapphosRock Thu 17-Sep-20 07:38:54

I love a butch lesbian. I also disagree that it's a 'masculine' look, it's more of a 'I don't give a fuck about pleasing men' look.

By the same token I don't fine camp men 'feminine' or even 'effeminate'. They're camp men.

Butterer Thu 17-Sep-20 10:30:39

I'm going to try understanding 'slobbish' a bit better after some sleep blush
Are you describing internal attitude rather than outward appearance?

One thing I do remember is the butch/femme dichotomy always seemed prevalent in a lot of US lesbian fiction I read back then (again, 90s/00s).

Personally these days, I'm just a celibate scruffy git.

I don't actually know what the worst sort of cliche is, but I'm not always great at reading between the lines.

SafeInBed Thu 17-Sep-20 11:45:55

I used to get called a dyke and lesbian at school for having short hair as it was "manly"

I think there is certaintly still an association of lesbian = butch/not adhering to feminine gender roles.

I guess it's trying to show how there is no one way to be a lesbian/you can't "look like a lesbian" iyswim

Butterer Thu 17-Sep-20 11:54:45

Yep.

Thinking more on pp's posts, I'd agree that wider society's default assumption of a gender conforming appearing woman is that she's straight.

When I shaved my head and wasn't wearing a dress/'feminine' clothes, I had kids asking me if I was a boy.
Now I've got shoulder length hair, it doesn't come up any more, obv. I've never worn makeup, don't shave my legs, and as mentioned am a scruffy git anyway. The default assumption from others who don't know me is still 'straight'. And 'vegetarian ' for some reason.

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