Mar 14, 2011
11:32 PM

On Being Femme V. Female

On Being Femme V. Female

I love being a woman.

OK, one might say, this is a no-brainer—I am one after all. But there are many women who are envious of male attributes: The ability to pee standing up, fewer rules about staying out late during adolescence, being able to drink more with less impact, and they would be willing to forgo femaleness for a few days in order to enjoy the benefits of being a boy. 

Not me.

This is somewhat ironic since you’d think that sometime in 27 years of dating girls I might have liked some male attributes. And that I’m immersed in a world that values androgyny, athleticism and non-traditional gender attributes, when for me, a day without lipstick is like a day without oxygen.

In fact, I’m a femme.

Butch seems easier to define. It is usually obvious from a glance. A more masculine woman is identifiable across Western culture, even though some wear camouflage in the work environment and a skirt suit in the boardroom (something that is surely a crime against nature).

Femmes blend more, are easily confused with straight women, bisexuals and confident sex workers, and don’t exactly sport a uniform appearance. Some lesbians are labeled femme because their spouse is obviously androgynous, and popular wisdom dictates that opposites attract. Some lesbians are labeled femme because they are “straight-appearing,” an odd moniker that occurs on dating websites.
How can there be a heterosexual-look, when they are multi-cultural, multi-furcate and most of us gay gals are assumed straight unless we advertise our orientation aggressively?

The true femme (I arrogantly attest) is a rare creature these days. We thrive on stereotypically feminine fare like makeup counters and high heels, yet eschew any claim to weakness, frailty or an inability to cope. Femmes are secretly strong in their little black dresses, with high pain-thresholds and a determination that can be truly frightening.

Clearly, the media would have us believe that femme-on-femme romance is the norm (because it is considered “hot”), while most individuals buy that yin must have its yang (that aforementioned opposites attract thing), and a more masculine woman is the perfect mate.
Though this old-school femme finds current trends in lesbian fashion confusing; why are women trying to look like twelve year-old boys with bad haircuts? Is coming out earning not a toaster oven these days, but a trip to the same hairdresser and clothing outlet? What is with all the lookalike, gender-free girls walking hand in hand at the mall?

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.     

The “High Femme” is more easily identifiable at a distance and without a warning label (though wearing one would be only fair). She requires the best, sleeps on smooth, over three-hundred thread count sheets, and believes that having long nails is worth the worried look in her lover’s eyes. She can run in high-heels, commands with a smile, and has succeeded where straight girls have lost ground: she really does get anything she wants by sleeping with someone.

This is why femmes and confident sex workers can sometimes be confused with each other. Or be both. 

Of course, straight women can be High Femmes, though they have to deal with men. Think of Miss Piggy, Bernadette Peters, Helen Mirren—OK, my pop references are dated, but those gals are still hot (maybe not Miss Piggy, I don’t really like pork). I guess what most defines being a femme for me is the simple lyric by Rodgers and Hammerstein (another dated reference): “I enjoy being a girl.”


Blogger Bio: Beren deMotier is a Carol Brady in Levis/tattooed lesbian mama in a mini-van, obsessed with safety, doing the right thing and the amount of dog hair on her wood floors. She is a regular contributor to both Curve and Black Lamb, and has written for Hip Mama, And Baby, Pride Parenting,, and for her blog, “That Lesbian Mom Next Door.” Her multi-award-winning book, The Brides of March: Memoir of a Same-Sex Marriage, recounts her giddy leap through a legal window, straight onto the barbeque pit of public debate when she and her partner married in Oregon in 2004, their three children along for the raucous ride. (

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