Those who talk to me on a regular basis know about my psychological struggle with the new leftist norms surrounding gender. I’m a gender-nonconforming woman. The women who raised me, the women I admire most, are also gender nonconforming — but still decidedly female. A lot of the discussion of gender leaves me puzzled, annoyed, and bothered by the people who claim to be the most accepting of people like me. But I don’t want to talk about them today. I want to talk about the left’s newest way to refer to female people. Not women, no — women and femmes.
I’m declaring war on the phrase "women and femmes."
My first attack is on the stylistic front — it sucks! It’s an ugly phrase, clunky and full of sounds that don’t necessarily belong in the straight, English-speaking lexicon. Tagging onto that, it’s not a word for people who aren’t lesbians! Femme is a term created by and for lesbians to describe women who prefer traditionally feminine presentation but do not do so for the sake of attracting and pleasing men. It has a long history that, once again, doesn’t involve people who aren’t lesbians.
For the love of God, it’s cultural appropriation.
Believe it or not, those are my minor concerns with "women and femmes." My main problem with "women and femmes" is that it creates a category of oppression that just straight-up doesn’t exist. Femininity is not a category. Femininity is not some kind of soul-based essence that’s totally out of your control. It’s not fate, it’s not destiny. It’s a socially constructed category that some people (women) are expected to participate in for the sake of other people (men).
Femininity is not oppressed. Women are. And enforced femininity is one of the tools of women’s oppression.
I’ve been over this before, in various articles I’ve written; femininity is a stumbling block that only exists for women. Being expected to constantly worry about, check up on, and buy products to improve our appearance slows women down. It’s an added financial burden, and it’s yet another front on which women are open to public critique.
Want to know the first thing someone calls me when I cross them on an issue of politics, religion or — God forbid — gender and sexuality? Ugly. They call me ugly, sometimes with "bitch" tagged on for emphasis. Enforced femininity is a hammer used to crush women, not a goddamn category of oppression.
A headline of an article I found while Googling: "50 Ways People Expect Constant Emotional Labor from Women and Femmes."
I’m sorry, who?
Wearing lipstick does not automatically opt non-female people into a thousand-year-old system of oppression that requires female people to cater to male concerns.
Putting on nail polish doesn’t drop a man’s paycheck or make everyone in the boardroom stop taking them seriously.
Femininity isn’t a category of oppression. Femininity is the problem.
So the next time you start typing ‘women and femmes,’ just don’t. Hit backspace around, oh, 10 times. The category of oppression we’re talking about in this day and age is just women. Femininity has nothing to do with it.