Today I was reading a post on The Femme’s Guide about the policing of femme identity. It linked to a second post, from a queer woman, which expressed her opinion that femme identity belongs to all women - not just queer ones. Sassafrass @ The Femmes Guide disagreed with this, saying that she believes that femme identity is “inherently queer”.
If you had asked me 18 months ago I probably would have agreed that femme identity should “belong” to queer women. With regards to femme as an orientation (as opposed to identity), I still think it’s very much a queer thing.
However, in the last year I have come to realize that my femme identity is a gender identity for me. That is, I don’t consider myself female, I consider myself femme. Likewise, femme is not about who I’m attracted to and is distinct from my sexual preference. Even if I wasn’t attracted to women, I would be a femme. In my view, what it means to be a femme is so personal that it transcends sexual orientation*.
As with any other gender identity, I believe that any woman (cis or otherwise) should have the right to identify as femme, no matter her sexual orientation. Maybe even men too, if there is that aspect to their personality.
While I imagine it’s relatively rare for cis-women to identify as femme I think we should embrace them. The identity may have it’s roots in the queer, but it is universal.
* This is my personal view, I can imagine that many femmes have attraction (to women, butches etc.) bound up in their femme identity/orientation.
Last night I did a meditation. It involved looking at myself at various stages of my life. Before I’ve gotten powerful responses from it, but something truly HUGE clicked into place last night. I found out the reason for my being on this earth in this incarnation.
Basically, I’m destined to be an outsider, and to learn to be true to myself no matter how that impacts on my life. Of course, that means I am also here to teach others to be more tolerant of difference through the many alternative lifestyles that I inhabit. I’m a queer, kinky, polyamorous, femme and pagan.
What does that mean to me?
- I love people regardless of gender
- I’m a switch interested in bondage and service (but still discovering this side of myself)
- I maintain multiple romantic (but not necessarily sexual) relationships and care for all my partners deeply (i.e. IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT SEX)
- I gender identify as being femme - that is more female than female, more feminine
- I worship the goddess in all her forms as my primary deity.
It was funny that even though I made a mental note to remember this revelation of purpose when I woke up, it took half a day to kick in. So when I drew my Celtic Messages card this morning I had temporarily forgotten what I learned last night. The card I drew was number 9, Herne (Cernunnos) which is all about chaos and dramatic change. I left the house hoping that my uni work wasn’t going to fall to pieces!
It wasn’t until the middle of the day that I remembered my meditation, and realized that the dramatic change was happening within myself, not outside. It was something of a relief but also a bit scary.
I’ve been living through the Hermit over this last year (also number 9!) which I think fits quite well with the whole outsider theme.
I love you all dearly, and every action I take in life, every relationship is formed in love. I hope you can all continue to love me despite my difference (or sameness, as the case may be)
So, while I was down for the count on the couch with this stomach bug, I was surfing Twitter and I noticed that celebrity blogger Mia Freedman had posted about Glee cast members Dianna Agron and Lea Michele getting their gear off for GQ magazine. The predictable disappointment that ensued in the comments inspired me to write up my thoughts on the matter, first as a comment to Mia’s post, then as a blog post in it’s own right
I don’t have a problem with the shoot. Any raunchy photo shoot about Glee was bound to play on the schoolgirl theme. As a premise, it’s exciting. Photos with an idea behind them, rather than just a generic “chicks in lingerie” theme, are always more exciting and why shouldn’t a photographer use such an opportunity when it is so obvious and readily available?
It is also important to remember that these actors are adults. Dianna Agron and Lea Michele are both 24 (my age). If they want to take their clothes off and pose like this they shouldn’t be ridiculed or looked down on for it. I know that if I were acting in a family show, and was told by my network I couldn’t participate in a photoshoot like this one because it was inappropriate, I would be angry and probably go ahead with it just to spite them. Of course, I have no way of knowing if Lea and Dianna are as wilful as me, but I would imagine that when your day job is pretending to be in high school when you’re actually in your mid-20s, you would want to make it pretty clear in your public life what your actual age was.
Of course, it’s not the raunchiness of the photos which is really the issue here. The real bone that people have to pick with this shoot is that it encourages sexualization of teenage girls. I don’t see how anyone who has seen Glee can argue that the show doesn’t do exactly the same thing. Sure, the clothes for the most part stay on, and the sexual references are generally of the kind that go over younger viewer’s heads (such as the recent reference to scissoring). I’m sure that there are plenty of people up in arms about Britney and Santana making out on camera too. The show may be fun and generally suitable for family viewing, but it’s as much for adults as it is for young people.
There has also been some concern about For those of us able to distinguish fantasy from reality it’s a fun, sexy shoot. I can see why it might be viewed as dangerous for encouraging the sexualization of teenage girls, but honestly anyone who can’t see this shoot for what it is (adults playing dress up) is probably going to be casting all sorts of sick ideas onto even completely innocent an wholesome situations.
I would hope that parents would try to stop kids who weren’t of a suitable age from buying/viewing the magazine, but at the end of the day the fact is this is nothing new. I am particularly reminded of a shoot Alyson Hannigan did for FHM UK in February 2001. She was 26 at the time and playing the role of Willow (who in the show was around 20 years old) in the supernatural dramedy Buffy the Vampire Slayer (in it’s 5th season). Despite the fact that Hannigan’s character was a college student in the show, the photographer chose to playfully refer to the teen appeal and origins of Buffy in the shoot. Buffy is another show which, although arguably aimed at a teen audience, has much wider appeal.
Though most of the photos taken of Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar are quite tame, the one taken for Rolling Stone in 1998, when Gellar was about 21, involves a racy leather leotard and wings:
It wasn’t just the stars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer who were taking their clothes off - some of the actresses in teen sci-fi drama Roswell were too.
Probably the best known of these was Katherine Heigl, who in 2000, while playing Isabel Evans in Roswell, appeared in both Maxim and FHM. She was 21. From the Maxim shoot:
And from FHM:
Heigl’s photos are clearly far more risque than those of the Glee stars. Her co-star Majandra Delfino also appeared in FHM during Roswell’s run. It was 2001 and she was 20.
Emilie de Ravin, another actress on Roswell also posed from FHM in 2001, when she was 19:
So clearly stars of teen shows have taken their clothes off before and they will in the future. In my opinion, it’s of much less concern when these stars are adults. We should be worrying about actual teenage stars like Miley Cyrus who are sexualizing themselves as a part of their “brand”, not just in a one-off photo shoot.
That said, sex isn’t the devil. As long as children are raised to have a strong sense of self and a healthy self image which isn’t dictated by peer pressure, trends and celebrities, viewing a few raunchy photos isn’t going to hurt them. It might be a big ask in a world where sex is everywhere, but isn’t it better to let them get used to it than trying to shelter them from the inevitable?
Katherine Heigl images from Katherine Heigl Online
Majandra Delfino image from MAD-Online
Emilie de Ravin image from Emilie Online