"I OWN MY FEMININITY"- Hank Bobbit on 'butch' in response to Michelle Tea.
This is a post from Facebook by Hank Bobbit, (Berlin based musician, barber and butch) who performed at the last Butch, Please! Dykes on Bikes. I think it speaks to so many of us who identify as butch - and the ways in which our way of life is misunderstood.
It is in response to an article written by Michelle Tea - which you can read here:
Michelle Tea writes: "...masculine - what was once called butch, a word that can feel a little 1990s, if not 1960s."
Michelle, I respect you and your work, but to this I have to strongly object. I identify as Butch and so are many others - who often are less visible or outspoken than you or me. Who do not live in former gay hubs like SF or Berlin, who do in fact not live in the US or the Western Hemisphere at all.
To me Butch is a classy, solid word with a long history, that -like tuxes and brogues- never goes out of style. And some Butches refuse to call themselves "masculine" and they do so for a reason. I am read "masculine" by others, because unfortunately I still live in a violently binary, patriarchal society and not in an anarcha-feminist, mulitgendered matriarchal Utopia.
But I don't have to reproduce a stereotypical form of masculinity just because I like wearing men's clothes. I have male style icons, but I don't identify as masculine. I am a feminist and I have grown into an extra strong version of a woman, exactly like many of my fat queer femme friends. In fact, I am as feminine as they come. I am powerful. I own my femininity and I define what my femininity is. I can show my vulnerability and speak about (some of) my emotions. It took me years to get to this point and most of it wasn't pretty. I choose to express my feminity in the way I want, without giving much attention to what others would call it. That kind of strength of standing up for myself in the face of complete rejection by heteronormative society is feminine not masculine, in my eyes. To persevere when everyone beats down on you and tells you that you don't matter is the essence of feminine, in my eyes. To own ones femininity in a world where the masculine is fetishized and worshipped and the feminine is constantly devalued, ridiculed, violated and murdered is a powerful political act. I bow my head in respect to all my powerfemme and trans*sisters.
Please don't fall into the trap of publicly judging other people's identies that are not your own. Words have the power to heal or hurt. Butch is not a hipster thing that outdates. In the spirit of our Butch elders, like Gertrude Stein, Stormy Weathers and Leslie Feinberg, Butch has been and will be. People can find other words for it if they feel it doesn't sit right with who they are, but that doesn't mean the word Butch is outdated. We're not back in High School and there is no "cool crowd" who gets to define what or how cool Butches are. Butches are diverse. Some Butches are older, some are just coming out as Baby Butches and are choosing this term, right now, today, to set themselves off from other identies that don't sit right with them. A lot of Butches are working class and do not enjoy reading Butler and Foucault. A lot of Butches are not white. A lot of Butches do not live in countries where they could get married to their partners.
Please check your privilege(s) and please refrain from the entitlement of deciding whether the term I choose to describe my identity is cool or not. Butches need love and support from you and queer family, not subtle bashings.
Sending love. <3