Femme Friday – Yours In Struggle

Back in 1984, three lesbians came together to write a book about anti-Semitism and racism: an Ashkenazi Jew, a white Southerner, and an African American. Yours In Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism by Elly Bulkin, Minnie Bruce Pratt, and Barbara Smith continues to be relevant, thought-provoking, and timely.

Deep gratitude to Elly, Minnie Bruce, and Barbara for their willingness to be vulnerable and truthful in the name of fighting injustice and building community.

Minnie Bruce Pratt: When “I get afraid; when I feel my racing heart, breath, the tightening of my skin around me, literally defenses to protect my narrow circle, I try to say to myself: Yes, that fear is there, but I will try to be at the edge between my fear and outside, on the edge at my skin, listening, asking what new things I will hear, will I see, will I let myself feel, beyond the fear. I try to say to myself: To acknowledge the complexity of another’s existence is not to deny my own.”

Barbara Smith: If somebody asked me to describe how Black and Jewish feminists, or Blacks and Jews in general, deal with each other, I would say what we have going is a love-hate relationship. The dynamic between us is often characterized by contradictory and ambivalent feelings, both negative and positive, distrust simultaneously mixed with a desire for acceptance; and deep resentment and heavy expectations about the other group’s behavior.

Elly Bulkin: I find it easier to enumerate instances of anti-Semitism, current and historical, than to distinguish among them or to distinguish how racism and Jewish oppression operate at different times and places. I am well aware of how the difficulty in making distinctions is compounded by so much effort having to go into simply trying to get other women to acknowledge anti-Semitism as more than historical aberration, something past and done.

Every Friday, I showcase a queer femme goddess. I want to feature you! Write to me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com and let me shine a spotlight on your beautiful, unique, femme story! If you’ve written a femme story or poem or song, oh, please let me post it! Sometimes I talk about books, too…

 New Femme Friday feature starting spring 2020: Queer Femmes Respond. Are you reading more poetry? Are you navigating various technologies in order to see your folx and not be so isolated? Are you still going out to work? Are you able to get out for walks? Who’s home with you? We queer femmes are meeting these unsettling times with queer femme panache, and I want to hear about it! Along the lines of the Corona Letters over at the Sewanee Review, please send in what you’re doing, how you’re staying centered and sane! Write me at thetotalfemme@gmail.com with questions or ideas or a full-on post (with bio, if possible)!

 At the Total Femme, my intention is to post three times a week: Meditations for Queer Femmes on Monday, Pingy-Dingy Wednesday on Wednesday and Femme Friday on Friday. Rather than play catch-up in a stressful fashion on those weeks when life prevents posting, I have decided to just move gaily forward: if I miss a Monday, the next post will be on Wednesday, and so on. Thank you, little bottle of antibiotics for inspiring me in this! (“…if it’s almost time for the next dose, skip the missed dose and continue your regular dosing schedule. Don’t take a double dose to make up for a missed one.”) As I recover from treatment for breast cancer, however, I’m just going to post whenever I can manage.

 

Femme Friday – Minnie Bruce Pratt

This is not a research paper. This is a love letter. Minnie Bruce Pratt came into my baby femme life in the mid-ninties, in the form of her book, S/HE. I was in a doomed relationship with my partner at the time and would remain there for years and two babies to come. Reading Minnie Bruce’s exquisitely written, exquisitely honest, exquisitely femme pieces kept me company as I navigated the long, obstacle-strewn path back to my own true nature. Certain scenes written by this femme national treasure are burned in my memory. They have become part of my femme circulatory system, running in my body true as blood. So much grief in her life, her children taken from her, the loss of her butch, victim of an undeclared war, so much pain in her long femme life, and so much generosity as she continues to speak up and fight back and make us the queer femme gift of posting a poem every Thursday! Love always, to Minnie Bruce, who made me know, without a doubt, that I, too, would one day “be made translucent with desire”.

Deep gratitude to Minnie Bruce Pratt for her uncompromising femme fury, political understanding and inspiring art.

The Ritz

Just before we sleep, I stroke your back and begin a favorite fantasy, how we met each other when we were very young. Outside the Ritz movie theater in thick summer night, I am a slightly plump teenager, self-conscious in white short-shorts and sandals, waiting with friends to see Pillow Talk or Where the Boys Are. You are a stranger, the only person no one knows. (“What am I wearing?” you say. “Blue jeans, and a white t-shirt, and sneakers.” “Yes! How did you know?” “I do know you,” I say. You murmur, to yourself, “Did you really have on short-shorts then?”) Someone taunts you with where you are from, but you flirt with me in front of everyone. (And you in the present begin to talk to me: “What’s your name? What a pretty name. Will you take a walk with me?”)

The other boys and girls have done nothing but tease me about my name since we began school together when we were six. Suspicious, they watch me on the edge of something dangerous, talking to a strange boy, in the spill of light from the street lamp. Junebugs skid through the air and thud into us. Doris Day’s poster face, virginal and blonde, smiles secretively at us. I watch myself looking at you, wanting what I can’t even name. I ask you, “Are you really a boy?” And you say, “Yes….No.” We pay our fifteen cents to go sit in torn vinyl seats. You want to put your arm around me, but I say, “No, everyone is watching. Around here, that’s almost the same as getting married.” You hold my hand instead and whisper in my ear how sweet I am. I say, “You are too nice to be a boy.” Sometimes when we play at being teenagers, you coax me, “Please let me touch your breasts,” and my nipples heat up and then flare out in the fear of being touched. Then I begin to cry, bitter hot tears, wanting so badly to be a girl who had you for her first kiss, her first everything.

 

–Minnie Bruce Pratt, “The Ritz”, S/HE, Firebrand Books, 1995

 

Every Friday, The Total Femme showcases a queer femme goddess. Suggestions welcome!

 

 

Published in: on May 12, 2017 at 1:54 PM  Comments (2)  
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