Yes, but …
That thing going around about women’s greatest fear with men being violence is great, and I agree with all of it.
My only problem with this, and with many other anti-violence campaigns, is that they imply something very untrue: that because the greatest threat to women is men, that women are somehow safe when they are with each other.
And that is most definitely not true at all.
While men, of course, are socialized to see overt physical violence as an appropriate response to conflict, stress or just because they feel like it, women aren’t necessarily socialized differently. They are, generally, socialized not to abuse men (though female-on-male aggression does happen) but they are most definitely socialized to abuse other women and children. And they are socialized to do this abuse for the same reason: maintaining status quo power structures. Yes, many of the women who act out this way do so in reaction to abuse they themselves experience, but that doesn’t excuse the acts any more than racism or classism excuses acts of violence by men of color or working-class men.
It’s a dangerous myth that women are somehow inherently peaceable creatures. They are not. They are simply less powerful than men (in general) and thus, when they act abusively, it’s toward people they already feel they have power over. Additionally, the specific types of violence women do are rather different than the direct violence men tend toward. As the trope goes, poison is a woman’s weapon. But it still kills all the same.
Just because the abuse that women perpetuate looks different and has slightly different targets than the abuse perpetuated by men doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, nor that it doesn’t deserve serious attention. Millions of women commit horrible acts of abuse every day, and it’s almost never addressed because of the myth that women are non-violent. Speaking as someone who has been a victim of violence perpetuated by women, I’d really like that myth to go away.
It’s Coming Out Day, so …
For the 1.4 of you who didn’t already know: Hi! I’m queer and genderqueer/two-spirit.
For shorthand, practical purposes, when I can’t get into details, I’ll identify as bi/tomboy, but I do prefer the above concepts. A friend once called me “gendermeh,” which I think is very apt.
Gender-wise, I have female bits, but I’m slightly male-identified (to use my culture’s utterly arbitrary labeling.) If I had to pick a succinct gender identity, it’d be Alan Cumming. If I could turn into him overnight, I’d be utterly delighted, and would dress like an Edwardian dandy every day. Alas, not possible, and I don’t feel compelled to change my body or legal gender identity anyway. Mostly: I have boobs, but I generally dress and act like a 13-year-old gamer kid, and generally don’t identify with most other women in my culture. People expecting to relate to me as they would to other women are usually disappointed.
Orientation-wise, I’m not fussed about how someone’s body is configured, but I’m vaguely homosexual, in a strict sense of that word: I tend to be most attracted to people whose gender identity/presentation is somewhere in the same ballpark as mine: queer or otherwise non-masculine guys, tomboys, etc. Gentle men and strong women. There are a couple of varieties of femme I’m somewhat attracted to, and a rare few more-macho guys will turn my head, but generally, I find my culture’s butch/femme caricatures a big turnoff (not least because they’re tools of maintaining gender-divided power imbalance: one side encouraged to violent dominance, the other to dependent submission. Gross.)
Truly, I think my culture’s gender and sex labels are ridiculous. They don’t fit me, and they don’t fit how I conduct my social life. Hell, I’m not sure they really fit anyone. But we’re fearful little primates who desperately need to label people friend/foe/mate, so we stuff ourselves and everyone else into tidy little boxes for the sake of sorting our alliances. Politically and culturally speaking, since we live in a world in which people are abused for carrying certain traits or behaving in certain ways, it makes sense for the abuse-ees to form communities and alliances based on those things so we can have strength in numbers. Hence, things like feminist activism and Coming Out Day are relevant and important. But on a smaller scale, the alphabet-soup thing really is very limited, and I hope I live to see the day when we don’t need it anymore. I’d love it if we could see people as individuals made up of hundreds of different, unique things, and not just some sort of biological Ikea unit made up of prefab, pre-labeled parts.
As folks who’ve been around me for more than five minutes know, I’m really not inclined toward femme. I’m tomboy bordering on genderqueer myself, and most of the women I’m attracted to are at least a little tomboyish, too. Really, the only flavors of femme I can stomach are the costumey sorts—punk, goth, period costume, general goddess-femme, etc. If it’s being play-acted, and not taken seriously, it’s just dress-up, and therefore fun. The serious stuff? Not so much. Most of the “normal” expressions of femme in the modern, Western world leave me cold, not just for what they represent in terms of sexism, but because they’re so screwy in and of themselves. I almost never find myself going weak-kneed over modern-femme women … with a few very, very rare exceptions, such the lovely creature pictured above (Primeval’s Lucy Brown, for those unfamiliar.)
I really don’t know what it is about Lucy’s femininity that works for me, but oh, it so does. She’s not just classically beautiful in an effortless way—though she is definitely that. She’s one of those rare women for whom femme fashion seems to have been made. She looks amazing in lush, pretty fabrics and jewelry. She can go classy or casual with equal ease. And—most importantly—it all seems completely natural for her.
I think the problem I have with so much of modern femme is that the women wearing it are clearly uncomfortable with it in some way. They’re trying too hard, or doing a flavor of it that just isn’t right for them. They do it because they have to, because their culture has taught them that they are useless and unlovable if they don’t buy into the ideals of their gender. They’re stuffing themselves into too-tight clothes, teetering on too-tall heels, wearing garish makeup or flashy bling. They’re plucked and waxed and fluffed and peeled and Botoxed and starved until they look like plastic dolls. Whether power suits or dainty dresses or haute couture or club wear, most of what passes for femme costuming is downright cartoonish, and the people wearing it therefore look like clowns to me—and uncomfortable ones, at that.
Lucy has none of those pitfalls. I’m sure she’s thoughtful about how she dresses and presents herself, but it doesn’t look like she’s trying, and that’s what makes it work. She knows what suits her and what she likes, and goes with it. She is confident in her own beauty, and in her own strength as a person, and therefore doesn’t have to prove anything with how she presents her gender.
I wish more women who are inclined toward femininity could take a few tips from her. Not in aping her style, but in finding a style that actually reflects who they are, rather than what they think their culture expects of them. I’m really quite tired of seeing femme women hurting themselves trying to look like someone they aren’t, when really, most of them would be so beautiful if only they let their real selves out to play.
One size—and one flavor of gender—has never fit all. Be who you are, not what a magazine or designer or even your friends say you should be. If you choose a gender presentation based on hating what you already are, you’re doing it wrong.
Also into: Game of Thrones, Sinbad, Arrow, Vikings, Continuum, Leverage, Warehouse 13, Fringe, Criminal Minds, Sherlock, LOTR, BSG, Lost, Sanctuary, Downton Abbey, The Hour, Being Human (UK), Eureka, Longmire, Merlin, Wilfred, The Borgias, True Blood, Grimm and Lost Girl. Among other nerdy entertainment delights.