By Jim Koury, Editor, Diversity Rules Magazine
© 2011 Diversity Rules Magazine. All rights reserved
The December issue of Diversity Rules Magazine contained an excellent article entitled, “Femme Visibility.” At the end of the article, definitions of butch and femme were placed, which were taken from a very reputable online source: www.urbandictionary.com. “Femme Visibility” appeared to be a rather innocuous topic and one that had never been touched upon in Diversity Rules. A nice educational piece I thought. Little did I realize that I would be immersed in the middle of the “butch-femme” debate with one writer saying he was “disgusted to call Oneonta my hometown if it’s home to such ignorant people as you.”
I have to admit I was taken aback a bit by such harsh and derogatory exclamations of disgust and contempt for me and Diversity Rules, with the writer stating, “Jesus Christ. I’m going to discourage my friends from reading your publication until such time as you can actually get your facts straight.” Excuse me but there was nothing wrong with my facts, and the definitions used are commonly accepted ones for butch and femme.
In addition to the definitions obtained from Urban Dictionary and used in the article, there was the following definitions from the “Butch-Femme Network” a website exclusively dealing with the butch-femme dialogue:
Butch: A culturally defined masculine female. The masculine gender expression can fall anywhere on a continuum that includes any and all of the following: masculine mannerisms, male clothing, haircuts, tastes, interest pursuits, thought processes and view of the world. May or may not be sexually aggressive (do-er vs. receivers). Is comfortable with the term “woman” as applied to themselves.
Femme: A lesbian/queer woman who expresses the cultural norm for feminine appearance. May or may not wear makeup, heels, dresses. No particular personality traits: runs the gamut from soft, sweet and passive to bold, brassy & aggressive. Is very comfortable with her female body and identity as a woman. Embraces the Femme identity and may consider it separate from lesbian identity. May be attracted to other femmes as well as all types of butches, FtM’s and andro lesbians.
Additionally, information culled from a website entitled, “Butch-Femme.com” is focused exclusively on the terms in the context of women and their interaction with other women. The site describes and defines, “Old School or Classic Butch-Femme,” “Power Femme,” “Stud,” and “High Femme” all in the context of women and their gender expression. I was accused of totally disregarding the fact that butch-femme applies to not only lesbians but men and transgender individuals. Certainly that is a given that it would not be so. However, that does not mean that what was in the article was wrong. It simply was one interpretation of many interpretations of what butch-femme means.
With that said, I find the reaction to the definitions provided in the article rather odd to be honest, given the fact that these high profile butch-femme sites contain the very same definitions used in the article within the same context.
This whole episode is uncannily similar to the debate and dialogue I had when I began to use the word “queer” with more frequency, to not only describe me but the broader LGBT community generally. I got railed on by those who felt the term was obnoxious, derogatory and just not appropriate vs. those in academia and other more intellectual outlets that actually embraced the term. I find this whole “butch-femme” debate quite similar and grounded in this extreme political correctness that is plaguing our society today.
I am an unabashed supporter of liberal causes. I am on the front line of the fight for queer rights. I speak my mind freely and openly and don’t hesitate at all to point out an injustice when I see one. But I do have to draw the line when it comes to political correctness and the slaughter of the English language by those who feel words used for hundreds if not thousands of years, are all of a sudden bad and are seen as derogatory and oppressive.
It is not the word that is the problem it is the perception of those interpreting what the word means. I literally walk on egg shells sometimes wondering if what I say is going to offend someone such as the case with “Femme Visiblity.” A war of words has erupted with insults being hurled at me like I was some stupid fool just born yesterday and totally oblivious to the environment around me.
Demands for an apology swirl with threats of a letter to the editor of the local paper exposing my ignorance of such advanced intellectual thinking as it relates to the butch-femme debate. Needless to say, no apology will be forthcoming, as what was provided was a legitimate definition and characterization of “butch-femme” given the referenced and other information sources. If a letter to the editor of The Daily Star is what one of my detractors related to this issue feel is the most prudent course, I say “GO FOR IT.” I do need to to get more readers in the local central New York area anyway, so press is press, no matter where it comes from!
I welcome debate. I welcome open, honest discourse. If any person out there wishes to rebut the article and contribute their thoughts they may do so in the comment section following this blog post. Additionally, I will provide space in the January issue for anyone who took issue with the definitions provided in “Femme Visibility” to detail their perceptions of this debate.
America is premised upon free thought and tolerance of others’ opinions. That is what Diversity Rules Magazine is all about and will continue to be about! As Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to entertain a thought without accepting it.” That is what we need to do more of instead of name calling and hurling baseless, silly threats to try to intimidate others.