Pingy-Dingy Wednesday — Unsettling American

I was bussed to a new junior high when I was in 6th grade. My neighborhood elementary school had been integrated, but now we were in a place where kids from all-black and all-white elementary schools were mixing it up. A lot of things happened at once for me. I got bullied by some of the black girls. I fell in love with others, who could and did perform “Rapper’s Delight” in its entirety in the locker room, wearing only bras and panties. I saw how the new principal didn’t know how to deal with the racial tensions exploding in school, and it was extremely frightening to see that a grown up in charge was clueless. At the same time, my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Brown, with her afro and great big tortoiseshell glasses, was determined to educate us, white and black alike. She took us on field trips to the projects, to see “Shaft,” and to tour downtown St. Louis, where slaves used to be auctioned off. In 7th grade, my hippy teachers turned me on to reading books like Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and The Gulag Archipelago. Not every little nascent white baby femme got the radical wake up call that I did so early. I was fucking lucky.

“Unsettling America”, you get one pingy-dingy, in memory of and gratitude to Hanley Junior High and all its students and staff, Mrs. Brown, and the Team Zero teachers: you woke me up and you started me on my way, long, long before the word “intersectionality” became part of my vocabulary.

https://unsettlingamerica.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/support-the-all-others-gathering-for-two-spirit-and-lgbqt-people/

I’m a typewriter whompin’, card catalogue lovin’ girl from back in the day, and I yearn for a time before the covers of trade paperbacks were all squidgy, so you can imagine that I don’t actually understand what a pingback is. I do know that it can in some way be part of spreading the love, and since that’s what I’m all about at The Total Femme… every Wednesday, I pay homage to the laughter and inspiration to be had elsewhere online.

 

Meditations for Queer Femmes — Queer Femme Insight

This week, our local paper had a horoscope column for the first time I can remember. The astrologer talked about the upcoming solar eclipse as a time when things formally hidden will be revealed, particularly around the doings of our political leaders.

The more the ugly erupts, the harder it becomes, even for those deep in denial, to ignore that America is a country monstrously off track and deeply wounded because of its historical and present-day violence.

We queer femmes know that things may not be what they appear. We are used to looking below the surface, in nooks and crannies. And we know a thing or two about dealing with denial. We know that when the truth is ignored, people get hurt, even when we’re talking on a personal level. When it’s on a national level, we’re really in trouble.

We queer femmes know truths about the world that other folks have had the luxury of ignoring.

We may be afraid to look, but we can’t afford to look away. As Zamarra Perri says in her post, “What Every Black Femme Fears When Dating a Black Butch”, (Black Lesbian Love Lab, Dec. 2, 2015), “One of the most dangerous things to do in in front of a heterosexist man is to be an openly stud-femme couple. “And, “The double whammy is the white racist who is enraged by our pride, confidence and very comfortable existence in spaces that they think belong only to them.”

We queer femmes are always on the lookout. All queers are always on the lookout. We have to be. That nice man over there? Maybe not so nice. That group of innocent picnickers? Maybe not so innocent. That event at which “All are welcome?” Maybe not so much. The neighbor who had been friendly and helpful until he saw you with a butch or genderqueer friend or lover, and who now watches you silently in a way that terrifies you. He knows where you live.

We queer femmes already know so many dirty secrets. We aren’t surprised by the big reveal happening now in our country. Because we’re already so far along in understanding the political situation, we have the ability to help our straight, white, cis friends, neighbors and family members – you know, the ones who can’t stop being amazed and horrified, who are frozen and don’t know what to do – we have the ability to help them through so we can all take action.

Our queer insight is in high demand right now. This country’s secrets, never out of sight for those of us who are targeted, are exploding. We can help with the grief and the anger because we live our lives with grief and anger. We can help with feelings of being the outsider, the uninvited, the lost, the victimized, the scape-goated, the hated, because we live with that reality. And we find strength. And we make art. And we understand how to make community. It is through art and community that we will survive.

I woke up thinking about horses and the sea of possibilities. Patti Smith’s song “Land: Horses/Land of a Thousand Dances/La Mer (De)” from her album, “Horses,” blew my little teenage mind when I first heard it. Back then, I didn’t know it was about heroin, and even now, listening again, even knowing that heroin is a subject, I am challenged and comforted and inspired, because she’s also talking about violence and resisting violence.

Asked about the obligations of poets, Adrienne Rich had this to say:

I don’t know that poetry itself has any universal or unique obligations. It’s a great ongoing human activity of making, over different times, under different circumstances. For a poet, in this time we call “ours,” in this whirlpool of disinformation and manufactured distraction? Not to fake it, not to practice a false innocence, not pull the shades down on what’s happening next door or across town. Not to settle for shallow formulas or lazy nihilism or stifling self-reference.

 Nothing “obliges” us to behave as honorable human beings except each others’ possible examples of honesty and generosity and courage and lucidity, suggesting a greater social compact.”—Adrienne Rich, interviewed in 2011 in The Paris Review

When the light shines into darkness, many things are revealed, including that sea of possibilities Patti Smith sings about. We need our poets right now. We need our queer femmes right now, our honorable human beings all.

Every Monday (or Tuesday!), I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

Published in: on August 15, 2017 at 11:56 AM  Comments (4)  
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Femme Friday — Shar Rednour and The Femme’s Guide to the Universe

Currently tweeting apace at @SharRednour, our featured queer femme goddess, has, in her long and glittered career, co-authored a book with Carol Queen (THE Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone!), been an editor at On Our Backs, written and published on many important queer topics, including virginity (Virgin Territory 1 and 2), toured with Sister Spit, gently guided Susie Bright in an understanding about the difference between stilettos and Stouffer’s, created and edited starphkr the zine, which later was published by Alyson as Starf*cker, and taught classes like, “Great Sex, Good Parent: The Missing Chapter in Your Whole Life Parenting!”. And that’s not even the half of it! In short, Shar has had her impeccably manicured finger right smack on the pulse of all things queer femme for some time.

The Femme’s Guide to the Universe was first published in 2000. The Guide was updated by Her Shar-ness in 2012 to include even more essential femme content, and is a must for every femme, new and experienced alike.

If you’re like me, for example, and grew up with a very down-to-earth mom who had very little to give in the arena of girly tips, it’s fun to have an accomplished femme like Shar walk you through, say, nail care and “The Power of Delightful”, but The Guide is au fond a beacon of queer femme love from one big-hearted queer femme to you and to me.

Deep gratitude to Shar for being so fucking femme!

What I absolutely do not want to do is put femmes into a box or to perpetuate, in any way, the silly notion that gender identity is rigid. I think women are so used to the whole fucking world trying to contain and define us that we get defensive and see opposition where there often is none. Girlfriend, you’re welcome here even if you’re a boyfriend tomorrow. So, with that said, allow me to sexplain….

Femme dykes come in a cornucopia of sexualities. We are not all bottoms, vanilla or otherwise. Nor are we all whip-wielding, corset-wearing dominatrixes. Some femmes are high femme, some medium. Some look corporate, some punk. Some live quiet and some loud. Some make quiche and others make noise. But I’ve found that whether we like to put a butch over our knee or another femme between the sheets, we’re all objects of desire. You might think that I just misspoke, that I should have said, “We all love being objects of desire.” No, I wrote what I meant.

 The phrase “object of desire” (OoD: pronounced “oo” as in coo-o-ool and “dee” as in de-e-elicious) usually refers to a person being the subject or object of another person’s lust, obsession, and desire. I have determined that “object of desire” is its own class of sexual orientation, the way the terms fag or femme or dyke or S/M are often used. OoDs get their rocks off independent of others’ reactions to them. This is my turn-on, no matter who I’m with or even if I’m not with anyone. Being an OoD means our levels of arousal rise when someone gets excited by being with us or looking at us. We get turned on simply from turning on others.

The Femme’s Guide to the Universe by Shar Rednour (2000 edition)

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

Pingy-Dingy Wednesday — Be Transformative, Not Transfixed

There is solid advice, as well as much-needed inspiration and ideas for fighting the power in the generous and brilliant work of our shakers and movers. Because of the nature of oppression, work done last year, 5 years ago, 15 years ago, 25, 50 years ago and more still calls us to action, comforts us, connects us to the long resistance, and reminds us that we are not alone.

Today, let’s all SWOT with Urvashi Vaid, whose giant, queer, compassionate, creative brain and heart are giant, queer, compassionate, creative gifts to the entire world.

Urvashi, we need you more than ever, and you get one pingy-dingy!

Be Transformative, Not Transfixed

I’m a typewriter whompin’, card catalogue lovin’ girl from back in the day, and I yearn for a time before the covers of trade paperbacks were all squidgy, so you can imagine that I don’t actually understand what a pingback is. I do know that it can in some way be part of spreading the love, laughter and inspiration, and since that’s what I’m all about at The Total Femme… every Wednesday, I pay homage to the laughter and inspiration to be had from other online queer darlings.

 

Published in: on August 9, 2017 at 6:00 AM  Leave a Comment  
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Meditations for Queer Femmes — Useful

It’s wartime once again. The straight men, young and not-so-young, are caught up in a fever. They’re desperate to fight for their country. The straight women are anticipating, grieving for sons and husbands, scheming, trying to make the best of a situation driven by forces outside of their control. Many of them remember the last war. Two lesbians, lovers, discovered and threatened by authorities, approach their untenable situation very differently: one uses all her money to purchase tickets for them on a ship going to America, the other decides to be useful. To serve her country, to do her part. She refuses herself, her lover, and a chance at a life together. She will stay in England, closeted and alone in this small town, teaching straight people and the children of straight people. Everyone in wartime makes sacrifices. The difference for the lesbian is that no one will ever know the extent of her sacrifice; no one will ever know how desperately she, too, is in need of comfort and support.

The above example is from the Masterpiece Theater show, “Home Fires”, but the story is one that is repeated over and over, in fiction and in real life. The lesbian daughter who everyone assumes will take care of ailing or elderly parents. The helpful lesbian, always available to fix a bike, babysit, give a ride, shovel a walk. The details of our lives are hazy and unclear to most straight people, easily dismissed. Out of our own, often unexamined and hidden guilt and internalized homophobia, we can have the tendency to prioritize being useful. We find time, we always find time, to answer the demands of straight society.

Alternatively, we may angrily withdraw from straight society, using all our resources to connect with other queers, erect bulwarks to protect ourselves. But a life spent in constant reaction against something as huge as pervasive, historical homophobia is a sure way to drain the soul.

We queer femmes are so often doers, fixers, creative thinkers, connectors. Many of us can move skillfully in both straight and queer worlds, but we are seldom able to relax in either, given we are so often read as straight wherever we may be. Whether attempting to appease our straight families or workplaces, or lift up the culture and lives of other queers, we are constantly pursuing useful activities. In that pursuit, have we left room for finding healthy, sustainable ways to care for ourselves? Have we given ourselves time to let loose and to play?

Being useful all the time can leave us very alone. It can hide from us personally fulfilling opportunities and challenges. Being useful can be a protective shell, but one that may not allow us to grow. Helping others is one of the most deeply meaningful of human activities, but allowing oneself to be taken advantage of will sour it in the long run. Of what use will you be to anyone, let alone to yourself and to those for whom you are responsible, who are most best beloved, and who give you so much love, if you have burned out after being so useful for so long?

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

 

Published in: on August 7, 2017 at 7:03 PM  Comments (1)  
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Femme Friday – Tina D’Elia

You may have seen her in Season One of “Sense8”, where she makes a brief appearance as a transphobic lesbian jerk or as Neets puts it, “nothing but a loudmouth, Berkeley bitch!”. In her own work, however, Tina D’Elia uses her big queer talent to focus on the lives of queer people of color, including femmes, butches and trans people. In her 2015 work, “The Rita Hayworth of this Generation,” for example, she tells the story of a queer femme, Carmelita Cristina Rivera, who has embarked “on a journey of self-discovery; but before she can find answers inside herself, she faces heartbreak, shame, and failure”.

Deep gratitude to Tina D’Elia for queer femme inspiration, creativity and healing.

If you live in or near San Francisco, please take advantage of having the great good fortune of being able to see Tina in an excerpt from “Overlooked Latinas”, Monday, Aug. 7, at the Marsh.

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

 

 

 

Pingy-Dingy Wednesday — Bathtime Fun with Darby and Ken

Mommy with a Penis, you get one pingy-dingy!

Mommy says the blog consists of:

The humorous musings of a gay man who is the mommy of two small whipper snappers, and wife of an ex-drag queen. No wonder I have a complex. Mommy needs a cocktail!

Sunday, August 2, 2015 is the last post here, and I’m with the Anonymous, who commented in June of this year (2017): We want more!!! Come back Mommy with a Penis!!!!

Any updates on MwP would be appreciated – The Total Femme hopes all is well with Mommy and Mommy’s family! In the meantime, read ‘em and weep with laughter!!

http://mommywithapenis.blogspot.com/2010/02/bathtime-fun-with-darby-and-ken.html

I’m a typewriter whompin’, card catalogue lovin’ girl from back in the day, and I yearn for a time before the covers of trade paperbacks were all squidgy, so you can imagine that I don’t actually understand what a pingback is. I do know that it can in some way be part of spreading the love, laughter and inspiration, and since that’s what I’m all about at The Total Femme… every Wednesday, I pay homage to the laughter and inspiration to be had from other online queer darlings.

 

Meditations for Queer Femmes: No Straight Femmes

BEAUTIFUL

It’s morning in Sheffield, Iowa, sometime in the late 60s. I’m probably about 8, visiting for the summer. My grandmother is getting dressed in front of the big mirror in the bathroom. I’m sitting on the closed toilet, watching, because at my house, with my no-nonsense mom, nothing this exciting ever happens. Grandmimi pulls on pantyhose, a slip. Her skirt, the matching blouse. A pin, bracelet, her rings. She steps into her high, high heels. Fluffs up her hair, nails it with hairspray. Spritzes perfume. She uses an eyelash curler, mascara, powder, rouge. And finally, she untubes her red lipstick and deftly colors her lips. Now I’m standing next to her. She knows I’m down here, by her hip. She tears herself away from her fabulous reflection to swoop down in a cloud of perfume and hairspray for my morning kiss, full on the lips. Now I’m beautiful, too.

That is an excerpt from my piece, “Tamago”, in Wild Girls, Wild Nights: True Lesbian Sex Stories edited by Sacchi Green. I wanted to post it here because it goes a little way towards explaining why I used to say the below every Femme Friday:

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was a fabulous straight femme, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

I have to say, I never felt completely right about saying that Grandmimi was a straight femme (although I have no qualms about describing her as fabulous!), and I have been meaning to revisit this for some time. Recent conversations with femme friends both during and outside of Femme Klatsches, have made me understand how important it is to me to reserve the term “femme” as utterly queer, utterly unavailable to straight women.

I know that I used to confuse the two: straight women’s fabulous femininity and my own queer femme. I remember once at a secretarial luncheon, where I was the only queer, whipping out my lipstick and reapplying after the meal. Some of the women looked at me askance, and when I asked, murmured that it’s a bit rude to apply makeup at the table; better done in the powder room. Today, I would not care a titch about what straight women think is or is not proper. Back then, I thought, “Oh, I’m doing it wrong!”

I love how Maggie Cee articulates why she has reclaimed the spelling “fem” over “femme”:

I’ve recently decided to reclaim the older spelling of fem after seeing use of “femme” by straight cisgendered people explode in the past year.  I am all about an expansive definition of femme/fem across all kinds of people and bodies,  but I am not here for straight women appropriating a term with very specific queer meanings.

That’s it: “very specific queer meanings”, meanings we continue to reclaim, rediscover, invent and revel in. Straight feminine women may have influenced us, inspired us, loved us, been good friends, but they can not be femmes. Their relationship to femininity is and always will be different from ours. As for the spelling, I’m still mulling over what Maggie has to say about it. I like that it’s a French word (I still haven’t been able to find out what “femme” is in French, though!), because I love French, and I haven’t been exposed to the offensive appropriation of the word that she has, so I’m in a bit of a bubble. To be continued!

Every Monday, I offer a Meditation for Queer Femmes, in the spirit of my maternal grandmother, Mimi, who was fabulous, and from whom I inherited her Meditations for Women.

 

Femme Friday: Angela, from “Cannon Street” by Lee Lynch

I love this short story! It reminds me of how important it is for children to see adult queers, and how powerful intergenerational connection can be. In this sweet story, a tomboy takes charge of her own haircut. Despite her mother’s instruction to go to the beauty parlor, Ericka opts instead for a newly opened establishment, the Snip’N’Shape. Angela, the femme beautician, gently allows her nervous, 9th grade customer the space and time to tell her what kind of haircut she wants, and it isn’t some frou-frou pixie nonsense, either.

Deep gratitude to Lee Lynch for loving Angela onto the page!

The sign in the window that said NO APPOINTMENT NECESSARY was still there. She pushed the door open, eyes to the worn maroon linoleum floor. The shop smelled just as bad as the Elegante. Dark nylons and white shoes appeared in front of her. She looked up. The beautician, just her height, wore a tight white uniform and held out her arms, hands open, as if Ericka were a long lost friend.

            “Hi, honey. Here for a cut?”

            Ericka felt her breath stop. The woman’s long, narrow eyes were dark as semisweet chocolate and welcoming under angular eyebrows. Her nose was sharply yet elegantly curved, her dusky-brown hair so waved it looked ruffled. her broad, keenly-etched lips smiled, dressed up in a grapey lipstick. Ericka looked quickly away when she noticed that behind the hairdresser a row of three ladies under silver space-helmet driers stared past magazines at them, cigarettes between index and middle fingers. Another beautician, this one very tall, bent over a sink and scrubbed an old woman’s white hair. Ericka saw no sign of the whistling woman who washed windows like a proud shop owner.

            The small beautician was never still. She swung a stiff transparent cape over her as soon as Ericka was seated, then sprayed her head wet with an excess of movement that made a performance of her attentions. “Like this again?” she asked, holding up a hank of overgrown pixie hair. She smelled of a kind of flowery powder that Ericka’s mother patted on with an oversized puff. Did she cut the whistling window washer’s hair? Ericka’s insides quivered.

            She got chills as the beautician, warm-fingered, refastened the cape at the nape of her neck. Her heart worked like a bongo drum as she answered, “No.”

                                                            –“Cannon Street” from Cactus Love by Lee Lynch

 

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

Pingy-Dingy Wednesday — “The Sound and the Furry”

I’m a typewriter, card catalogue girl from back in the day, and I yearn for a time before the covers of trade paperbacks were all squidgy, so you can imagine that I don’t actually understand what a pingback is. I do know that it can in some way be part of spreading the love, laughter and inspiration, and since that’s what I’m all about at The Total Femme, I’m going to try for a weekly Wednesday shout out to other people’s posts. Needless to say, that’s other queer people! So, here we go: Reading Femme, you get one pingy-dingy!

This hard-reading Midwestern femme has the following to say about herself:

Reading is such an important part of my life. Growing up, trips to the library with my father were the highlights of my week and it was so exciting taking home stacks of books. It didn’t seem real, this system of having books there for free for anyone to take.

I always have a book with me, and am happiest at home with my partner, my cats, and my books!

I definitely recommend taking a look at her book reviews, in which she always remarks on the cover of the book, which strikes me as a rather adorable femme thing to do! But for this Wednesday, I suggest you read her post “The Sound and the Furry”, which made me and Tex laugh so hard we just about coughed up a hairball!

https://readingfemme.wordpress.com/2016/01/25/the-sound-and-the-furry/