It’s Hard Out Here For a Femme

ScarletTentacle_FierceFemme

Illustration from Scarlet Tentacle

Some of us cringe when we use qualifiers to explain our femme identity, or cringe when we try to drop the qualifier, knowing how it sounds to most other people. I know saying “I’m femme, but…” or using labels like “hard femme” or “aggressive femme” feels good for some femmes, but for me it always just sounds like placating to the standard definition of femininity that tells us to be feminine means to be weak and to be passive, and that these are necessarily bad things. I’ve seen some femmes resist the term “hard femme” because they insist that all femmes are hard femmes.

Urban Dictionary tells us a “hard femme” is not like your typical femme: she’s queer, she’s political, and she can kick some ass when prompted. But, any time we take on a femme identity, we are queer, we are political and we are kicking ass. It is inherently political to choose, embrace, and celebrate femininity in a misogynist world; it is undeniably radical to choose to be ourselves, to love ourselves, and to find sexual pleasure in a sexist, racist, and queerphobic world; it is unequivocally powerful to make choices about our own lives, including how we look, who (and how) we fuck, and what we believe in. All femmes are hard femmes, in the sense that it is difficult and in the sense that we are badass.

But, I’m only a hard femme ’cause I gotta be.

I wish I didn’t have to be brave and aggressive enough to give you the finger, but until you stop shouting HEY SNOW WHITE and VERY NICE and CAN I GET A SMILE from your car, I gotta.

I wish I didn’t have to be bold and assertive enough to call you out and argue with you, but until you stop trying to butchsplain gender to me (ooh, you’re so much more radical than me), or until you stop saying I look “so gay” when you really mean I look butch/masculine/androgynous, I gotta.

I wish I didn’t have to defend myself and my femininity from sexism, misogyny, and femmephobia, but I gotta. I wish I could be gentle and quiet, but I can’t. I wish I never had to worry about my voice shaking or being too afraid to speak up, but I can’t.

It’s hard out here for a femme, so you gotta be hard if you wanna be a femme.

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3 thoughts on “It’s Hard Out Here For a Femme

  1. Reblogged this on XCLUSIVX fanzine and commented:
    “I wish I didn’t have to be brave and aggressive enough to give you the finger, but until you stop shouting HEY SNOW WHITE and VERY NICE and CAN I GET A SMILE from your car, I gotta.”

  2. This is an interesting post! I gotta admit, I’ve loved the term “hard femme” since a first heard it- to me it represents a version of femme that is comfortable with mixing masculine and feminine, it suggests that I don’t need to feel confined to what femininity is supposed to be even if I do tend to be more feminine. I guess part of why I liked it was that I’ve struggled a lot in my life coming to terms with being masculine in certain ways, and struggled with being my own unique mix of masculine and feminine as there seems to so often be an expectation that one fall neatly into one box or the other. I remember the first time a friend of mine described me as femme and I though it was not fitting to me- I’m not that feminine enough to be a femme! So to say hard femme to me has usually meant that I can be femme without always fitting what is feminine.
    Though I’ve also seen it more as an extra descriptor than a separate category, so while I’ve identified myself as a hard femme, it was never at the exclusion of being a femme. (Also I took the urban dictionary part about queer to mean those who identify primary as queer. There are quite a number of lesbian women out there who reject to term “queer”, stating that they are lesbians not queer whenever grouped under “queer” as an umbrella term.)
    All that said, I think you make a really good point about what it means to feel the need to qualify femininity as if it’s a negative that needs qualify. So thanks for giving me something to think about 🙂

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