“…Though I tried hard acting tough, I just can’t stand the taste of that stuff..” ~Billy Bragg
I know I’ve gotten off the sartorial topic lately, but, I have been reading a lot lately on butchness, what that means, or how to be, or what that should be….blah blah blah. I’m not really one to thrust myself (haha, I made myself laugh) into verbal battles – not just because it isn’t my thing but I don’t quite think I’m eloquent enough to jump on to that level of playing field.
What I have been thinking about, with a little more deliberateness than before, is what being butch means to me. First – it isn’t something I try to be, it’s what I am. Yes, I try to be as well dressed and mannered and lets face it, my narcissism aims to make me be as sharp as possible, and THAT is something I try to do. The butch part? Well, I mean I think that is something that’s been there ever since my mom would walk up behind me, put her palm on the small of my back, and day “straighten up love, you walk like a linebacker.” Well, I kind of think that’s matured into the slight swagger that I wear today, but it’s not something I can control.
Turns out that I have become the type of “young man” that my father always talked about when telling me about how I should be treated by a potential boyfriend. I’m well mannered and take care of myself, and say please and thank you. I’m great with parents, and while I’ll admit that sometimes my exterior can sometimes be jarring for the parents of my partners, that is something that is usually easy to overcome. I open doors. I walk on the outside. I hold jackets and coats, and I pull out chairs. I often throw myself in a “taking care of this” role. I generally fill my girlfriends gas tank whenever I drive her car, and I always check the tires, etc, when I am doing that. I hold the umbrella, and I order the drinks. Sometimes, I order the food, depending on the situation and the restaurant.
I do these things because I enjoy taking care of my partners in this way. It makes me feel good. Not butch, but good. Now it may be a characteristic of whatever it is to be “butch” but the reality is that I KNOW that she is completely 100% capable of doing all of the things that I do for her for herself. This isn’t about me thinking that she’s somehow incapable of providing these things for herself – it’s about me showing I care. And in my relationship, that works. She loves and appreciates this. It makes her feel special and loved when I do what I do. I don’t know if it makes her feel more femme – I think (at least I hope,) It makes her feel more appreciated and loved.
I believe in a 50/50 breakdown when it comes to household chores, though there are certainly things that I tolerate better than others – good thing what I hate are things the SL is ok with. Admittedly, I do take on some of the more physical stuff, but that’s because I ENJOY doing that kind of thing. I take an incredible amount of pride in the fact that my sidewalk is perfectly devoid of snow and ice. Now, that may be a butch thing, but mostly, I think that’s a me thing.
This leads me to some concerns over butch behavior that I’ve been observing both in my real life, and additionally in some web circles. I’ve noticed that there seem to be a good number of butches who objectify femmes in a not so nice and misogynistic way. That the beauty of femmes is somehow an aside from the person underneath – and that it’s okay to view them as property that you get to be around – or worse, that they are lucky enough to be around the almighty butch. No matter how it’s framed, it’s not cool behavior. I don’t know if it is because of a detachment from the socialization we’ve had as women and/or that we are copying some bullshit hetero example of masculinity that means we have to be tough and devoid of emotions and feelings, or something else entirely that causes some to act this way. But it’s so not the way to act, and I’m trying to learn to be brave enough to call out this type of behavior – even when it’s coming from people who I like and am friends with.
I also think that it’s important to have time with butch friends – hanging out, talking, playing pool, whatever – just spending time with like minded folks can be really good for ones soul. I know that one of the things that I bring to the table IS the way I care for myself, and how hard I work at how I dress, etc – and I know that they know they can come to me for advice on that kind of stuff (and they do – those knot tying videos didn’t just stem from my head – I’m not smart enough for that) and I know that I can go to them for help in times when their strengths and experience can offset weaknesses I have.
And my butchness and the way I am also helps me navigate my platonic friendships with the awesome femmes in my life. I know that we’ve kind of got a weirdly charted territory of “butches and femmes can just be friends” thing going on, but really, it’s incredible. They are my “girlfriends,” which is amazing for me because of the insight that I get from them (and hope I supply in return) but also because I’ve never had these types of relationships before. I know that I can go to them for support, and receive it in a way that will come differently than that it does from my butch buddies and different from the care that I would get from the SL. I think it’s incredible to have these wonderful women in my life, and I know that without them, I wouldn’t be half the butch that I am, never mind just the good person that I’m trying to be.
I don’t quite know where I’m trying to go with this, but I guess I just wanted to throw my two cents in about how butch isn’t about being tough. It isn’t about the clothes you wear or how short your hair is. It isn’t about what you drive or how you walk. It isn’t something that is defined by the people that you date or how they identify. Being butch is about who you are – and having a lifetime to figure out who that is, and what it means to you. Everything else is just about trying to be the best human that you can possibly be. I guess that’s my big hope: butch, femme, whatever you identify as – that being the best person that you can be for yourself and those around you trumps everything else.