it’s about the masculinity, stupid

June 23, 2008

In a funny coincidence with my last couple postings, I went to my food group last night and the dinner conversation turned to what it means to be butch.  Somebody asked me how to tell if someone is butch and when I said you’ll know a butch when you come across a butch, everyone laughed in response and teased me saying, only a butch would say that.  But maybe that was the case in point.

Actually, while I’d rather have someone ask or engage in conversation around the topic, I felt a little lonely last night.  The discussion quickly turned in to reciting a check off list of butch behaviors, like working on one’s car, fixing things around the house, and whether a butch could have long hair and wear make-up.  I’m not saying these things can’t signify something, but they alone are not markers. Plus, it’s not unusual for this kind of conversation to disintegrate into who gets to define butch or it becomes some pissing contest about manliness. So after a frustrating twenty minutes I finally said look being butch is ultimately about cultivating and protecting one’s masculinity.  It’s about expressing one’s masculinity as masculine.  Nobody said anything back to me and then everybody started talking about gardening.

But I was thinking about it more today because my dykes were talking about the masculine things they did, like installing a phone jack or pruning their trees and kinda laughing about how that made them butch.  And I wish I would have had more reflective time last night because today I could have articulated the whole butch/femme thing much better.  Approprating male behavior alone does not make one butch.  In fact, in femmes it’s often about expanding the confines of feminity.  So a femme with a chain saw is not butch;  maybe she’s just hot, depending on the femme. I tend to like femmes with the metaphorical chain saw – the opinionated, willfull and overachieving ones.  I like how they express certain traits associated with masculinity.  Growing up in the shadow of the women’s movement might have tweaked me for this desire.  But anyway, unfortunately, feminine women who engage in masculine behavior are so often called bitches and sluts and other denigrating terms. (How about the mom who doesn’t have a maternal extinct – unfathomable to most.)

But I’m getting away from talking about butchness and what I was initially trying to say about the expression of masculinity as masculine.  I know it sounds redundant and maybe it’s too nuanced for this blog. Maybe it would be easier if I said being butch is about expanding masculinity beyond one’s literal anatomy. But really, butches are not expressing their masculinity as part of their feminine selves. We are expressing it as a relfection of our masculine selves and for sure, it’s easier when it’s obvious, like working on your car, or building a deck, or playing football, or driving a big ass pick-up truck or wearing all black with a big chain wallet and a tatoo on your neck. But to limit it to that obvious stuff will fuck you up when the hot femme gets up to bat and hits one out of the park or the butch cooks you this incredible dinner.

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