Another aside…

“…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.

17 Responses to “Another aside…”

  1. Oh SB, have I told you lately that I love you? This is a GREAT post. You’re my kinda Butch! xoxox

  2. We do have kind of an awesome, mostly unheard-of thang going on with the platonic b-f friendships, huh? *hug*

    Thank you for essentially calling out butches who embrace the dark side of masculine privilege. Not only are butches capable of misogyny, it fills me with even more disgust than misogyny from males, and additionally, shame, because (a) they are – whether they identify with it strongly or only somewhat – women*, and (b) I spend, not a *lot* of time, but quite a bit of time, explaining my love for butch gender to people who don’t “get it,” and when I see that kind of behavior, it makes me feel like I’ve inadvertently validated their actions or words.

    * The exception here is, of course, butches who are also transmen, genderqueer, or otherwise non-woman-IDed. I’d like to think that cissexed females who don’t ID as women retain a certain amount of understanding of and respect for women because they were socialized that way, and not because they have ever identified that way. I won’t, however, hold them to the same standard, as I don’t know their past relationship to the gender.

  3. “it isn’t something I try to be, it’s what I am.”

    So very true, great post I enjoyed reading it.

  4. […] on the ways misogyny is not reserved for males/men. I hope you’ll take a moment to read this thought-provoking post, and let me know what you think. How can you relate to the topic even if the language is different […]

  5. I have soooooooooooooo many things to say about this, and I’ve been saying a lot of it on my own blog and in other blogs around “town” but i just want to say this is a kick ass post and I’m so proud to count you amongst the rad butches I consider part of a cadre of folks I’d defend in a duel.

  6. That’s exactly it! I don’t call myself butch to be associated with, let alone exemplify, the wordy traits associated with masculinity. Being butch is at least in part about showing “feminine” care through “masculine” actions.

  7. FemmeInBoots Says:

    Wow. This is a fantastic post. Thank you for calling out the misogyny sometimes present in the community. As a survivor of an abusive relationship with a woman, I think it’s REALLY important that we address those hard questions. Alas, the lesbian utopia does not exist. Onto the happier aspects of your post… I’m femme, but I’m also a tomboy at heart. When I first came out I think I tried pretty hard to be butch, but even with my head shaved and my feet in Doc Martens I fooled no one- I’m femme. I just am. It took me a while to accept that, I think. I didn’t want to feel like I was conforming to gendered expectations by presenting femme. But then I realized that I was rejecting a set of SOCIALLY imposed expectations by conforming to a different set of SELF imposed expectations. I also realized that butch is something I am attracted to- not something I am. Now, I rock my femme identity hard core- whether in Docs or heels or high heeled Docs… I take boxing lessons. I ride a motorcycle. And I look girly while I do it. I just do. I think that’s most subversive. And that’s one of my favorite things about myself… 😉

  8. Others have already said this, but, great post, especially calling out butch misogyny. And I love everything you say about doing those “masculine” things because you want to. Yes. Those things make me feel butch and good, of course. 🙂

  9. Well spoken!

  10. femmeinboston Says:

    now that is more like it.

  11. Great post! When I see butches behaving badly it makes me so sad. I also do all the things you mentioned in your post, helps with coats, pull out chairs hold doors etc…and I spend a lot of time making sure I’m stylish and generally well put together (I have to… my wife is extremely hot and I have to keep up! lol). Butches should be a beacon for straight men and an example of what they should be doing. My role (as I see it) is to get men who are ill-mannered and inconsiderate to learn from me not the other way around. Let’s face it, all the great qualities that butches have (like those listed in your post) are things that straight ladies would love their boyfriends and husbands exhibit. Go Go Homos!

  12. Excellent post, right on in so many ways.

    Femme, for me, is about who I am not about who I fuck or what I wear. It is a stand-alone identity. I hope more butches like you heed that call and start living authentically however they can!

    Thanks for blogging this and also calling out Butch misogyny. F misogyny from anyone, and especially people who should know better!!

    • Oh but it happens more that even I’d like to admit. And it’s really challenging to call out a bro on something like that, but….really really important. More to come on the fucked up hierarchy of “butchness,” I’m hoping to break it down a little bit.

  13. “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.”

    Thanks for noting this. This trend stifled my desire for a while to keep up with some blogs while I was basically “coming out” as butch this past year.

    I had a conversation recently with my partner about similar fears regarding when I first came out as gay, and then butch/queer…and how it started from a place of worship, admiration, delight in feminine and female people. My concern resides in that in the process of coming out as butch, owning it, considering it, could cause this “worship” to shift instead to self-worship of the masculine and hyper-entitlement.

    It’s especially frightening to see so many “public” (in our microcosm) figures sanction it and proclaim it as a source of strength in identity. Thank you for being another to temper self-recognition and growth with sensitivity to this too often crossed line.

    – D

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