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In Fierceness & Vulnerability: Deconstructing and Resisting Femmephobia

Los Angeles Femmes Of Color Collective

Kim Katrin Milan

on 1 October 2015

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Transcript of In Fierceness & Vulnerability: Deconstructing and Resisting Femmephobia

Deconstructing Femmephobia
The Gulabi Gang is an extraordinary women’s movement formed in 2006 by Sampat Pal Devi in the Banda District of Uttar Pradesh in Northern India. This region is one of the poorest districts in the country and is marked by a deeply patriarchal culture, rigid caste divisions, female illiteracy, domestic violence, child labour, child marraiges and dowry demands. The women’s group is popularly known as Gulabi or ‘Pink’ Gang because the members wear bright pink saris and wield bamboo sticks. Sampat says, “We are not a gang in the usual sense of the term, we are a gang for justice.”
HIPS assists female, male, and transgender people engaging in sex work and drug use in Washington, DC to lead healthy lives through a harm reduction model. From 11pm-5am, the HIPS van goes out to the “strolls” to provide condoms, syringe exchange, emotional support, and HIV testing, since we have found that sex workers are more likely to access services offered at the time they are working. Most poignantly, one sex worker told us that HIPS doesn’t “treat us like animals or waste, you save our lives!” We will cultivate a deeper relationship with the communities we serve by training and incorporating sex workers and drug users on our outreach van. Peer educators will gain skill sets like counseling skills and safer-sex knowledge, as well as financial compensation. Moreover, HIPS’ volunteer group will include the very community members we wish to assist, gaining knowledge about contemporary sex work as it is experienced on the ground
Fuck you for constantly asking me why I wear so much makeup on a day to day basis. Fuck you for questioning my gender and asking me if I want to be a woman. Fuck you for making me feel bad about myself. Fuck you for thinking I use cheap foundation. Fuck you for never having my right shade. Fuck you for telling me my makeup is too much for the workplace. Fuck you for saying I shouldn’t wear makeup. Fuck you for saying “guy’s won’t find this attractive.” Fuck you for saying I look so much better without it. Fuck you for thinking the only reason I wear makeup is because I’m insecure. Fuck you for thinking men shouldn’t wear it. Fuck you for clocking my chin contour, I tried motherfucker.
My face is beat everyday and if you shame me one more fucking time about the pigments I decide to slather all over my face that day I will legitimately whoop your ass
All white women in this nation know that their status is different from that of black women/women of color. They know this from the time they are little girls watching television and seeing only their images, and looking at magazines and seeing only their images. They know that the only reason nonwhites are absent/invisible is because they are not white. All white women in this nation know that whiteness is a privileged category. The fact that white females may choose to repress or deny this knowledge does not mean they are ignorant: it means that they are in denial.

— bell hooks
Dozens of people held a rally and demonstrated at the Minara road to protest against Nato supply routes being reopened and drone strikes. According to the protestors, drone strikes are counterproductive and result into collateral damage, which is intolerable.
Fakir said that the US claims that it is targeting terrorists by the drones but asked who was responsible for the deaths of innocents. According to Fakir, drone strikes are greater acts of terrorisms. To further elaborate, Fakir asked that if terrorists were to enter a school in the US and take students hostage, the US would not send drones to fire missile on the school but would find the safest way to kill or arrest the terrorists without harming the children.
Women routinely have to spend more money, and more time, to make ourselves visually presentable and fit society’s basic expectations of grooming. And of course, women get caught in a very nasty double bind with all this. We’re valued for our looks, encouraged and indeed pressured to make ourselves beautiful and ornamental… and are then derided as shallow and vain for doing so. Men can't wear womyn's clothes because it is not desirable to wear femmeness unless you are making fun of it.
Understanding Intersectionality
Source: apaxicana
Rigoberta Menchú Tum is an indigenous Guatemalan, of the K’iche’ ethnic group. Menchú received a primary-school education as a student at several Catholic boarding schools. After leaving school, she worked as an activist campaigning against human rights violations committed by the Guatemalan armed forces during the country’s civil war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996.
Descriptively Femme
Politically Femme vs. Descriptively Femme
Source: fordwor-shades
Source: thanksomuch
Source: bethsiveyer
Daily Instructions:
Stand in front of your mirror
Get out some lipstick
Write the following
“Colonialism is why we can’t have nice things”
Kiss it
Walk out into the open, prepared for the hunt
Source: bethsiveyer
Warren Evans, an openly bisexual student at Calvert High School, was suspended for wearing a skirt, [allegedly] violating the school’s dress code.
Evans says the school is discriminating against him and does not believe he violated any dress code.
“I don’t think so. Why not? It didn’t say anywhere in the code of conduct or dress code that says boys can’t dress like girls,” Evans commented.
The school district’s dress code policy states schools can regulate dress or even hair lengths.
Students at the school told News4’s Shomari Stone that female students wear skirts of the same length that Evans wore, but they were not suspended.
School officials will not comment on the suspension. They did say the dress code applies to all students, regardless of gender.
Defining Femmeness
Femme is a term used by many feminine-identified queer people—including lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, genderqueer, and other queer folks of any gender—though not all feminine-presenting queer people self-identify as femme.

Femmes come from diverse and equally valuable backgrounds, and we all experience gender and sexuality in different ways—and each of us has our own definition of what it means to be a femme. Even as I use the word “we,” I recognize that I cannot speak for all femmes.
What cannot be silenced is the fact that femme women have a visible history in the butch/femme lesbian bar culture of the 1940s and ‘50s—a time when these identities were highly valued in the lesbian community.

This changed in the 1960s and ‘70s when butch and femme lesbians were stigmatized by predominantly white, middle-class lesbian feminists who thought that these identities were heteronormative and oppressive.

- No Queer Girls Are Queerer Than Others
Resisting Femme Invisibility
Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.
Kahlil Gibran
Empathy is not weakness and weakness is not feminine.
The reality is that fat people are often supported in hating their bodies, in starving themselves, in engaging in unsafe exercise, and in seeking out weight loss by any means necessary. A thin person who does these things is considered to be 'mentally ill'. A fat person who does these things is redeemed by them. This is why our culture has no concept of a fat person who also has an eating disorder. If you’re fat, it’s not an eating disorder — it’s a lifestyle change.
Lesley Kinzel
cultural fatphobia

I’d define cultural fatphobia as the norms, values and practices of a culture that devalue fat people, and value thin people as the norm.

I find comfort in knowing I shouldn’t take any of this rhetoric personally, because I understand that it isn’t about me. It is about the insecurity of people who are afraid of losing their ill gotten gains. Once I realized that, loving myself, loving other folks, other womyn, loving us when we are on social assistance, when we are sex workers, when we are trans womyn, when we are womyn of colour was easy - all these people are surviving and challenging the patriarchy with every single breath they take. That means I have so many examples of beauty, of resilience, or creatively navigating the system. Every time we organize, we love each other, we forgive each other, we heal other, every time we name this shit, we are a threat.
We must challenge all those who insist that women
who act or dress in a feminine manner take on a submissive or passive posture. For many of us, dressing or acting feminine is something we do for ourselves, not for others. Its our way of reclaiming our own bodies and fearlessly expressing our own personalities and sexualities. Its not us who are guilty of trying to reduce our bodies to mere playthings, but rather those who foolishly assume that our feminine style is a signal that we sexually subjugate ourselves to men.

— Julia Serano, Whipping Girl: A transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity
“May we continue to disagree,
may we continue to distinguish our movements by their bases of accountability, may we continue to give different accounts of how we got here and where we are, and may we collaborate but never compromise our visions of where we ought to be.”

Our truths, our paths and our experiences as ‘femme of centre’ do not have to be the same. There is enough space for all us to be here.

— Alexis Pauline Gumbs on feminism vs. feminisms in the the Spring issue of Signs Journal of Women in Culture and Society (Volume 37, Number 3)
The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence.
Another’s experience does not invalidate your own, but it should and necessarily does complicate your own.
Privilege happens at the expense of others.
Treat others the way that they want to be treated. Ask.
Imagine that your allyship card expires at the end of the day.
It is no one’s responsibility to educate you but your own.
Listen. Learn. Practice. Repeat.
Acknowledge Privilege. Dissolve Guilt.
Take up less space. Fall back.
Collect your folks.
Center. Listen/Receive. Acknowledge. Inquire. Move towards resolution. (C(L/R)AIM)
Systemic Power & Systemic Advantage vs. Relational Power & Relational Advantage

System Combines social power, institutional power (policies & practices), cultural messages, and individual actions.
The Single Story
That We Can't Be Radical
Divide & Conquer
That We Are Vain & Superficial
That this prevents us from being other things
That these are bad things
That this is an inherent flaw
That this is solely a product of the 'system'
That Bodies Only Have One Purpose
That Femininity In Any Body Should Be Punished
That Femme Is Weak And That Weak Is Bad
Make a boundary
Respect a boundary
Engage in an economy without money
Trust your struggle
Take up space
Don't apologize for your emotions
Make space for multiple truths

source: thesavagesalad
Individually &/Or Collectively Negotiate Shame
Bash Back
Strategies For Solidarity
How We Do
Definitions & Systems Of Advantage
Defining Femme
Deconstructing Femmephobia
Resistance, Resiliency & Care
That We Are Objects
That We Are All Cis
Systems Of Advantage
Whiteness: A racial identity created by upper-class colonialists to distinguish themselves from indentured servants and slaves. A guarantee against being enslaved. White does not refer to a colour but to a process of being endowed with unearned privilege
Colonization: The violent taking of land, wealth, labor of indigenous peoples through domination & conquest leading to extermination in some cases & the Transatlantic slave trade which created a permanent underclass based on race and gender.’ #idlenomore
Privilege: An unacknowledged system of favoritism and advantage granted to people as the beneficiaries of historical conquest. Benefits include preferential treatment, exemption from group oppression and immunity from perpetuating social inequity.
Institutional Racism: A system of advantage based on race rooted in and reinforced by cultural, political, economic and educational foundations. Never accidental.
Sexism: A system of advantage based on gender. The subordination of femininity by masculinity.
Heterosexism: A system of advantage based on sexual orientation. The subordination of GLBTQ-Two Spirited by heterosexuals.
"to remain exempt from perpetuating social inequity"
(cc) photo by medhead on Flickr
Resisting Femmephobia
Kim Katrin Milan
IG: @theladymilan
TW: @KimKatrinMilan

Educate & Reduce Harm
Deconstructing & Resisting Femmephobia
In Fierceness & Vulnerability
Source: albinwonderland
“My kind of femme is about drag, with every false eyelash, every pair of fishnets I’m constructing a new identity.
I believe in the power of costume to make a grrrrl.

But never break a grrrrl-

-life does that to us everyday.”

-The Lady Vagina Jenkins (photo credit: L Haskell)
That’s not even to speak of the harassment that I experience every day on the street. Not just the street, everywhere I go. It is frequently terrifying, and it also leads to more terrifying things. Of course, omnipresent harassment is afforded to masculine of center folks as well: because in both cases the harassers are targeting our gender presentation. For real, they are. The truly hate us both, for the same reason. Our harassers are deeply invested in the control and ownership of bodies they perceive as “women”. They want to decide who gets to be included in that category, and what that identity means. It is not a complement when I am catcalled, grabbed, pushed, smacked, and groped on the street, it is an insult. And it is certainly not a privilege.
I identify as femme partially because masculinity has given me nothing in terms of validation and self-actualization. Being a femme man allows me to perform masculinity outside of its heteropatriarchal gaze. People who are invested in hegemonic conceptions of gender may label my gender expression ‘effeminate.’ My gender expression is femme, not effeminate. The latter is an adjective couched in a web of patriarchal, cis normative, trans misogynistic assumptions. The former is a self-identification grounded in the divine feminine. I very much claim my masculinity, it just happens to be a feminine manifestation of masculinity. Notwithstanding the sociopolitical imposition of an inaccessible world and cultural paradigm, disabled femmes of all genders teach able bodied ness new ways of being beautiful in the world. We firmly belief that there is no shame in seeking glamour, power and magnificence if you have been labeled undesirable, useless and inconsequential; there’s no shame because those things already abide within the spirit, they’re yours for the seeking.
Single mothers are the largest group of people in poverty in this country – historically in our welfare state the answer is, ‘well just get them married’ rather than disentangling financial support from a sexual relationship. We have this historical baggage about women being in a sexual relationship in exchange for financial support during their mothering years and I think that’s dangerous."
Harriet decided that she couldn't enjoy her freedom while her people remained in bondage. Using the code name "Moses", she returned to Maryland TWENTY more times, each time delivering her people from the chains of slavery to the promised land (which in this case was Niagara Falls, Canada, a 350-mile walk from the Maryland border) where they didn't have to worry about shit like getting whipped for insubordination or not having enough food to eat. Tubman rescued over 300 slaves over the course of 20 years, and was one of the greatest and most fearless heroines of antebellum America.
What we need is to move away from dissension into recognition of the diversity of our realities and voices. Feminism should not be an individualized movement. It is not just about me and (people) like us. As a movement we need to adopt a “no (person) gets left behind” policy. No (person) is free until we are all free. This is not a naive fantasy but the bedrock of our movement. This is not difficult. All it requires is empathy. […] Activists, of any movement, must be self-critical and examine their own prejudices and privileges.
Chitra Nagarajan and Lola Okolosie
“Tokenistic, objectifying, voyeuristic inclusion is at least as disempowering as complete exclusion.”
— Kimberlé Crenshaw in Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Colour
“Stop telling women that we should find ourselves beautiful and that we should love ourselves when you are standing right there, judging us on how our knees look in short skirts and how prominent our boobs are in a sweater and how much makeup we are or are not wearing.
Instead of us working harder on “love your body” and “find your inner beauty”, the rest of the world should be working harder on “stop telling women their bodies are a shameful place to live but that if they’re strong enough, they will learn to embrace that shame.”

This is my body. It’s not “beautiful”. I don’t “love it”. I don’t have to. I don’t have to have any strong feelings about my body. And whatever feelings I do have are not somehow invalid if they’re not glowing reviews.”
— (via dictionarywrites)

I say this all the time, self-love flourishes with community accountability.
Street Harassment & Body Policing
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