Posted by: alphafemme | January 12, 2010

defending my version of femme

Still sitting on the post I was tweeting about yesterday, the one in response to all the Mary Daly stuff that’s been floating around. That should come tomorrow, hopefully.

In the meantime, see this reaction to my posts on growing into my identity as femme (see here and here), and my response to it in the comments. (As of this posting, my comment hasn’t yet been approved, but hopefully it will be soon.)

She writes about how my definition of femme, and my femme fantasy, are not hers, as a femme domme, and it seems that she equates her version of femme with being both feminine AND powerful, and my version of femme with being … not powerful. Which I take issue with. I thought it was pretty clear in those posts that (a) I don’t think my version of femme is THE definition of femme, and (b) coming out as (my version of) femme was EMpowering me, and the way I am femme continues to empower me, rather than (as she seems to think) DISempowering me.

So, I just wanted to reiterate that for me, being femme and being a nurturer/submissive type IS being “utterly feminine and unquestionably powerful,” as she puts it. That’s where I get my power. And, also, I do not live as a full-time submissive, and I do make my own decisions and do make sure my needs are met, whether by mi’lady or my family or my friends or me, and I’m very capable, kind of a control freak, pretty assertive, and of course feminine and powerful. Femininity does NOT equal submissive. But for me, the two are increasingly intertwined.

My femme fantasy is not to be the Betty to Don Draper. On the surface, it might seem that way. But their relationship is my femme fantasy gone horribly wrong. Betty Draper does not get her needs met, and she doesn’t have any space to even communicate what they are, because it’s her job to be the perfect housewife. That is not remotely what my fantasy is, to be disempowered and living solely for and under another person, unable to stretch my legs and meet my own needs. But I do, in a weird way, want to be a Betty Draper. I want to be perfectly put together yet delicate, host dinner parties like the Heineken one in season two, be a perfect socializer, make my husband slash whoops I totally mean my wife look totally put together, be the quiet engine in her background (who makes noise when called upon… ahem) because it’s all so effortless. Those things make me feel immeasurably powerful. But that’s the extent of the way I want my relationship to resemble Don and Betty Draper’s. That’s IT. Because Betty doesn’t have any power. And I do. (I could also do an interesting discussion on how I relate to Joan, but I’ll save that for another time.)

Apologies for those of you are are not totally obsessed with Mad Men and have no idea what I’m going on about.

(Photo from



  1. Hi alphafemme! I do not consider my-feminine-lesbian-self to be a Femme, but that’s primarily because I’m not into Butch/Femme! I mean, I love masculine AND feminine women, I intentionally perform and Defend Femininity, but I’m NOT committed to the B/F dyad. It doesn’t seem like Amazon is either. Which, IMHO, makes the context of her “femme” inherently and substantively different from yours. (I realize that your Lady isn’t a Butch, but I sense– particularly because of your interest in being the submissive, domestic half– that you draw on the historical narrative of Butch/Femme to construct your identity.)

    So, although your version of femme-ininity IS more submissive than mine, and although I’m personally uncomfortable with identities defined by asymmetrical power dynamics, Amazon’s reaction seems more defensive than objective: “I feel like someone is telling me that I don’t have the right to self-define.” Wha? Who? Here?? Where? You’ve been VERY clear about the idiosyncratic aspects of your femme-ininity. Who You Are and how you live Your Life takes NOTHING away from me or my manifestation of femme-ininity. Please ROCK ON with Yo’ Bad Self and continue to share the POWER you feel in being femme– however that manifests for you.

  2. amen, dear!

    though the mad men reference is a bit lost on me, i’m not sure i could explain my own femme fantasy any better.

    i have so many thoughts about this. like how i don’t see *anything* inherently wrong with wanting to do things or even be things to please someone else – though i know it can go in very wrong directions quite easily, i don’t see that as a reason to throw out the whole concept. i also think that the most empowering thing for me was accepting and embracing personal qualities of mine as *positive* – even if they are the opposite of someone else’s qualities, which are *also positive.*

    i guess i’m just a little bitchy about people’s black-and-white view of the world…

  3. Hi alphafemme…I’ve really enjoyed your last few post. I think when it comes to who we are or how we see things we all have our own opinions. There’s nothing wrong with that because we should. That’s what makes us different from one another. I’m a heels and dress/skirt girl. I dress us pretty much most of the the time…make-up, finger/toe nails..the works. My gf is a (femme) goth girl and dresses in the gothic lifestyle. Lot of cloths from Hot Topic and places like that. When I met her I was introduced to kink and we started spicing up our play. I’m generally submissive to her, however she usually takes charge with me. So in our relationship we have one femme submissive and another one who enjoys being in charge. Though recently we started playing with 3rd femme who will take charge of both of us. (More on my blog if you want to read it). So some femmes like to take charge, other like to be in charge and some just want an equal partner. In the end where who we want to be and can be classified anyway we want. Everyone has the own opinion in the end and that’s great.
    Take care, Kara XOXO

  4. I think finding who you are, your place in the world (in this case as a sub femme) absolutely empowers you.

    Don’t pay too much attention to other peoples definitions of who you are. You know your truth.

  5. I’ve actually confused myself at times reading your posts about your “nurturer” fantasy, because it seems like I want the exact same things out of my “protector” fantasy. I derive some sort of power from protecting my girl, which is probably the same sort of power that you get from taking care of yours. In short, if my girl and I are getting the same thing out of it, then we’re both powerful, and equal, and that’s awesome.

  6. I seriously really DO NOT understand why people think that THEIR definition of FEMME is right…there is no ONE definition that is better than the other. I’m no gender scholar but this truly makes me upset. There are too many gender ID’s and ways that people can CHOOSE to express whatever they feel that they are. How can someone try to gender police anyone? I’m a Sub/Bottom Femme who loves her Daddy and can whip up a good meal but sometimes would just rather go out to eat. I love the whole pin up era and YES if I could go back and be a housewife in the 1950’s I WOULD. Do I have a voice in my relationship? YES. Would I quit my good paying corporate job to tend to our home and be more active in my community if my partner could afford to support us both on just her income? YES. Does that make me less of a Femme than a Femme who ID’s as a Dom who wants NONE of these things? NO.

    I really think that ALL of our process into becoming or ID-ing as Femme is a sacred and special one and NO ONE should have the want or power to make ANY Femme have to write a post entitled ‘Defending My Version of Femme’

  7. I’d agree with Undercover Punk, that the domme femme sounds more like she feels you’ve challenged her version of femme than anything. It’s also hard, because we’re taught that being nurturing is co-dependent and sexist, and it’s difficult to get out of that state of mind. It’s sometimes hard to see that you can be nurturing and still in an equal relationship: that you’re nurturing because you enjoy it, and not because you feel like you have to.

    One of the biggest things I have to remember in my own feminist work is that if we’re going to tell women to choose for themselves, that includes respecting their decision when they choose to be a wife, mother, and nurturer. ;) It’s one place where I think feminism is doing more damage than good, telling women that they aren’t “allowed” to do that anymore — which means all the women who feel like you do, who want to be able to be home and nurturing, are being told they’re wrong, or there’s something wrong with them. :(

    On an aside note, I’m guessing the domme femme considers the women who play with her to be femme/feminine, and yet they’re submissive. Just a point. ;)

  8. Thanks for all the comments people, keep ’em coming. Wanted to just add that although I’m defendING my version of femme, I don’t really think I’m being defensIVE. I fully support amazon’s right to have her own definition of femme, without thinking it’s necessarily an attack on me.

    That said, her post did come across to me as a wee bit of an attack (the more when I re-read it than it did at first read). She says “I have this visceral, miserable reaction” to what she understands my femme fantasy to be (which I don’t think is accurate, but more on that in a minute). That, to me, is a *judgment*, and it stings. No one should have a miserable reaction to an identity that someone else feels empowered by. You don’t have to understand it, but please don’t judge.

    She also says, “I feel like someone is telling me that I don’t have the right to self-define.”

    Um, no. As Undercover Punk said in her comment, I’m definitely NOT saying that, not at all, and if she’d read actually read m posts, which I sort of doubt she did in their entirety, she would see that I make perfectly clear that I’m talking about my OWN interpretation of femme, what it means for ME, and I even go so far as to explicitly say that I KNOW it’s not the same for everyone and that I hope no one feels like I’m stepping on their identity.

    And then to go back to her assumptions about my version of Femme — she seems to have this notion that I basically just do whatever mi’lady wants me to do, which is so far from the truth it’s laughable to consider that. If anything, our relationship is more the other way around — I’m so much more detail-oriented than she is that I tend to be the one running both of our lives! (And I need to work on NOT doing that so much!) And in most of my life, I am ambitious and assertive and very on top of things, very independent, so that it feels like a release to be able to feel like I’ve got someone taking care of me in my home life, my romantic life.

    And like Harrison TB gets at, it can be really hard to actually define who is the care-taker, because the truth is we both take care of each other, just in different ways. I’m the domestic caretaker, because that makes me feel powerful and useful and strong and productive and sexy. She is more of an emotional/physical caretaker, because she’s stronger than me, more protective, more quieting, calmer, affirming. So in no way is our relationship unequal, and in no way should I have to justify any of this anyway so I’m going to stop.

    Also, JB, I think yes she probably does consider the women who play with her to be femme submissive, but I think she’s presuming that I’m NOT like them, because I would really hope that she wouldn’t have a visceral miserable reaction towards them. That would be a really unhealthy dynamic to bring to a sexual relationship as a top, and would be highly disrespectful to the sub. So I’m really, really hoping that she somehow distinguishes me from them (though I’m not entirely clear on what she uses as her distinguishing factor).

  9. I must say that I am a bit confused. I completely understand what both you and Harrison TB are talking about – these concepts are something that I’ve had in previous relationships and would like in the future. My confusion comes at the point which Amazon begins to describe her Femme Fantasy and how her sub/partner’s role is different from what you have described here. Does she expect the person that she dominates to not find power in their submissive role? People do not delve into the BDSM/Kink/etc realm unless they enjoy it or find some sort of power and pleasure in what they are experiencing.

    I also take issue with Amazon stating that your expression of Femme is sickening to her. Anyone in this community should understand and embrace a diversity of gender expressions. I consider myself Femme, and yet I know that by many other’s standards I am not femme in my daily life (I love my heels but 7/10 times you will probably find me in purple chucks).

    I appreciate your candidness in these past few months with your femininity and wants and needs. My own writing/blog was inspired by your blog and openness with readers. If it were not for the support of the wonderful Femme community online I would very much feel lost and out of place in this world. Thank you.

  10. Hey there,

    I don’t understand why someone would think that your opinion of yourself is domineering. I’ve been following your blog for a while now, and have never once considered defining-others to be part of your identity. And I totally hear you on the coming out as empowering part. There is nothing quite as empowering as understanding your own history (so that’s why I act this way!) and creating your own identity in a positive feedback loop with that history.

    The only problem I could see happening is becoming entrenched in one idea of self. The gray areas can be pretty nice; I am dykey as hell, dress like a boy 100% of the time, would identify as genderqueer, but still LOVE. IT. when my ladyfriend calls me “Katie-girl.” Who knows why this is. But it’s true.

    This constraint, however, is not something I see you falling under. Maybe there is a fear internalized in the other blogger that she sometimes wants to be passive….but who the hell knows, that may just be pure conjecture.

  11. I realize this is totally off the wall (but what else should you expect from me after all this time) but I think you should find and watch a movie called Fido. Yes, yes, I realize it’s about a boy’s pet zombie and that sounds like a terrible idea, but the REASON I want you to watch it is for the mother character, who starts out very Betty Draper and then manages to take control without losing her femininity. In the beginning she really only uses underhand blackmail kind of tactics to get what she wants, but in the end she’s confident, but still entirely feminine.

    Also, you know, zombies.

    • I added it to my Netflix queue! Also, the mom is played by Princess Leia. <3

  12. My version of femme and how that plays out in my own life is really only my business. The same for you. The fact that you choose to share your version, to write about it, articulate what it is and what it means to you takes a modicum of courage. I would never deign to tell anyone that their version of femme or butch isn’t right – it just is.

    I love the distinction you made about defendING your position without being defensIVE. I think you’ve done it wonderfully well here and I do believe that having an open mind approaching others with the best of intentions will serve you well going forward with your life.

    Seriously, rock on with yourself and please keep sharing.

  13. Wow, where to start. Besides the fact that I’m a little late to this.

    First of all, I understand your blog to be a telling of your experience. Not how you think others should think, feel or act, but what your experience is. I believe you’ve been clear in this. You’re staying in your lane and not crossing over into anyone else’s.

    Secondly, what happened to accepting that we can all have different perspectives in our community? I’ve kind of assumed (and you know what that means) that we all know and understand that, while we might all feel differently about our identities, we all have that right. The fact that Amazon feels entitled to downplay your experience blows me away, quite frankly. That’s like me telling other butches that the way they identify or present is wrong, because it’s not how I do it.

    The self-policing in the queer community concerns me, as we wouldn’t tolerate that from anyone in the hetero community. But it’s almost like some folks feel that they have the right as a fellow queer to say what’s right or wrong for another.

    I’ll get off my soapbox now while there’s still time. You’re doing good work, Alpha. Don’t change a thing.

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