Alex Blaze

A review of Femmethology: "My femme is not your femme"

Filed By Alex Blaze | April 09, 2009 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: berkeley, Gina de Vries, lesbian, LGBT, queer, review, san francisco

This post is part of Femmethology's online book tour. For other dates and locations, check out the Femmethology blog. Also too, we're giving away a copy of the anthology here at Bilerico.

Femmethology is a seriously diverse and diversely serious anthology replete with perspectives on femme identity. Open-minded, complex, and self-reflexive, the book presents femme identity as an affirming action in response to often misogynistic mainstream and queer cultures, exploring racism, sexism, transphobia, biphobia, ablism, and classism in these contexts.

That's not to say that it's a collection that focuses on reaffirming one's already-held beliefs. To the contrary, if you think that there is one way to be/do femme, this probably isn't the book for you. It's meant to be read more objectively than subjectively, and serves more to let readers know what they can think instead of telling them what to think.

It's not a collection of essays tied together through a similar starting viewpoint - instead, Femmethology tries to unpack the inherent discrimination in such deployments of stable identity, reminding readers about the diversity even among fabulously single femmes in Brooklyn or Riot Grrrls in San Francisco.

It's hard to keep on writing about an anthology in a book with such a diversity of writers and writing styles, so I'm going to focus a bit more on one particular essay, "Rebel Girl: How Riot Grrrl Changed Me, Even if it didn't Fit Just Right," by Bilerico contributor Gina de Vries.

Gina's personal, inquisitive, semi-academic-semi-slang voice shines through here. Since she's roughly the same age I am, I left knowing a bit more about what other queer kids were doing in the late 90's, far, far away from Carmel, Indiana.

Gina discusses her entrance into the Riot Grrrl world of Berkeley, California, and the instability of that identity. She reflects on that time with both a certain nostalgia as well as criticism of a culture that was formed around one identity, in a way that only folks with money are able to do.

This paragraph is a good glimpse into her thesis:

"I never felt like I was cool enough," I said. "I felt like I belonged to an extent, and that was amazing because I'd never felt anything like that before. But I was never cool enough because I never had enough money - and that was huge. I had no idea that it was classism because my family wasn't on welfare, and we were so much better off than other people in my neighborhood. But I had so little compared to those other punk girls. And I was younger and bigger than all of them, which colored so much of my experience."

I can see where she's coming from when she talks about her weight issues in her family and how they affected her self-image and her relationship to her body. Like creepy see-where-she's-coming-from, because I lived quite a few of her experiences.

Gina's contribution and her criticisms point to the larger idea in Femmethology: that identity is something that everyone has to construct for themselves, and that even if we're looking for an easy way out, it just won't present itself. It's part of growing up and continuously maturing.

And, yes, even though the book is specifically about queer femmes and I'm a mostly-androgynous gay boy, I still benefited from reading it. Check out the Homofactus website for more information about ordering Femmethology.

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