“Many feminine queer women consciously avoid queer communities for fear of being rejected”

BY FELICITAS SOPHIE VAN LAAK

“Straight-passing is mainly considered a privilege, and although it facilitates a smooth daily life, it suspends femmes to suspicion and hostility from their own community.

In 2018, Hannah Gadsby started the mainstream discussion about hostility towards queer women and “female masculinity”, a term coined by Jack Halberstam, with her show Nanette.

In her relevant and touching show, she comes to terms with accounts of her past that she had hitherto processed into jokes, prohibiting herself from dealing with her trauma accordingly. Personally, I think that every straight, white man should watch this show. It ought to be part of formal education, really.

However, until today, the discussion about discrimination against queer women still excludes femmes – queer (cis) women who perform in a feminine, seemingly gender-conforming way. 

Most of the time, this can be traced back to a blend of misogyny and displaced “feminism”. Femme negativity has its roots in misogyny, which can be seen in the connotation of words that are semantically related to “woman” and “femininity”. The pejorative use of “pussy” for example associates femininity with weakness and cowardice just as doing something “like a girl” implies that something is not done properly.

Additionally, from the 1960s, feminists urged women to reject patriarchal beauty standards that were inherently linked to a feminine gender performance – think lipstick, dresses, high heels, etc.

Recently, it has become a feminist statement to grow out body hair again. In Easy’s episode “Lady Cha Cha” for example, where a lesbian couple deals with each other’s perception of feminism, one female character says, “I’m a bad feminist, I shaved my legs today.” This results in a form of double oppression of feminine queer women as they face “common” sexism while also being accused of being anti-feminist.  

Moreover, in queer communities, femme identities tend to be erased as they are not visibly queer. Our society generally understands gender performance and sexuality as inherently linked. Thus, we immediately associate a masculine woman with being lesbian whereas feminine women pass as straight.

Straight-passing is mainly considered to be a privilege, and although it facilitates a smooth daily life, it suspends femmes to suspicion and hostility from women of their own community.

Additionally, feminine women who love women are sexualised by straight men, whether they form a voyeuristic circle around them making out in a club, or feel the need to inform them that they find it “hot”.

It is not for you fellas, so back off. Also, what many people tend to forget is that sexualisation and propensity towards violence go hand in hand. We always assume that hate is the main catalyst for violence, but we forget that sexualisation already is a form of hate.

The violent attack on Melania Geymonat and her partner Chris on a London bus is the only example you need.

As many queer communities are situated in left-alternative circles, the notion that femininity and capitalism go hand-in-hand is part of the discourse too. Similarly, people seem to have preconceived notions about what it real and natural, and what is fake and unnatural. Talking about body hair, growing it out is considered to be natural whereas shaving it is unnatural. Long nails are fake, short nails are not.

Essentially, the differentiation between “natural” and “unnatural” is a constructed binary that simply does not hold up. The same thing is true for capitalism. Buying lipstick is capitalistic, buying a North Face jacket is capitalistic too.

It is for these reasons that many feminine queer women consciously avoid queer communities for fear of being rejected. This casts a hypocritical light on a community that claims to be accepting, tolerant and open-minded. 

Eventually, femmes are reclaiming and constantly reassessing their femininity in accordance with societal changes. Our gender performance and our identity is not for the male gaze, it’s for us alone – and we kindly ask you to accept that.

Only reading DIVA online? You’re missing out. For more news, reviews and commentary, check out the latest issue. It’s pretty badass, if we do say so ourselves.

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