Brooke Bolen Femmethology author

Femmethology Author Brook Bolen

How do you define your femme identity?

While I definitely use my femmeness to attract potential suitors, it is my something I create and use primarily for myself. As I discuss in my essay, I’ve don’t consider femininity to be an indicator of weakness, but rather power. This power is amplified by the fact that I actively choose to present myself in flagrantly feminine ways rather than simply acquiesce to gender norms. My femininity is made even more powerful because I use it to make myself happy above all others. My femme identity enables me to feel like my best, most authentic self. Therefore it is something I define as a fabulously performative and powerful choice.

How do other identities you have not only intersect with femme but also contradict it?

What a great question! I feel that all identities intersect and inform each other. I identify strongly as white, femme, feminist, queer, rural, working class, and as a survivor of sexual abuse. There’s the notion, for instance, that femmes are apolitical and frivolous. I find this idea particularly troublesome not only because of my own views and activism, but because of the many politically-oriented and activist femmes I know. Conversely, there’s the belief that feminists are not feminine, which is ridiculous. I am but one example of a wildly feminine and staunchly feminist individual.

Likewise, there is a disturbing trend broadly of erasing poor people in the media—from advertisements to entertainment, the overwhelming images and representations are of affluent people. I see this even more with regards queers. This obscures the obstacles poor and/or rural queers encounter such as homelessness, no access to health care/insurance, un/underemployment and the like—all of which are compounded by heterosexism ad homophobia. These representations make us look like our biggest concern is which florist to hire for our weddings, as opposed to how we’re going to eat today! I don’t feel like my history or identity as a sex abuse survivor contradicts my femme identity, but bleed onto each other. My sex abuse taints everything I do with real debilitating grief and anger, but my femme identity gives me a much-needed sense of fabulosity so that when I feel worthless and sad, it reminds me to keep my head up. Sexual abuse so often makes the victim feel powerless; my femme identity helps counter this by making me feel powerful.

What are some joys of being femme?

Of the innumerable pleasures of being femme, chief among them are the sound of high heels in motion. It is a sound that commands attention. Wielding my hard, glossy nails gives me joy. Butch admiration, respect, awe, and lust are the sweetest, gooiest icing on the cake. The sensuousness of makeup—the colors, textures, smells are too good! Flipping through magazines and looking at makeup is like porn for me. Another joy is the way I am able to use my femme privilege to influence people who would discount my so-called queer looking brethren. To quote Digable Planets, I’m a creamy spy. My non-threatening (read: gender normative) self-presentation enables me to make connections with people who might discount those who “look queer.” This has been especially helpful in the rural South in which I grew up and still frequent.

What role does writing play in community-building for you?

Writing plays an ever-increasing role in community building for me. Reading about femmes was the first way I ever knew they even existed—and it was my first exposure to queer identities and communities, so it is wildly important. Since I have been out of graduate school and struggling to make a living, writing and written communication has been one of the critical ways I’ve maintained contact with revolutionary people and ideas. It has always been helpful for me in terms of clarifying my thoughts and ideas and its utility continues to grow.

How does it feel to be part of the Femmethologies?

For a country girl like me, it is truly a dream come true. Adding to the growing body of femme voices is both personally and professionally fulfilling. Representations, particularly in the media, (and to a lesser degree, academia) often have the troubling effect of homogenizing folks; as a result, we only see pieces of the picture. I am pleased to be able to represent fundamental parts myself and suspect that these volumes are at the forefront of a femme revolution!

Femme is _____ (one word only, please)

agency.