If I could time travel without, like, disrupting the space-time continuum, one of the many things I would tell a younger me would be that: It's not the interest in appearance that's wrong, it's how you do it. Fascination with the visual is something as broad as the history of human signing (as well as something that underlies ubiquitous ableism in the social and built environment, since not everyone has the ability to see said visual). Sometimes I like to put it in perspective for myself like this—if I were thinking about non-Western cultural and aesthetic forms, I would be less likely to criticize and more likely to think about these practices as a way of being culturally competent, enjoying shared symbols, and evoking continuity with a cultural history.
This past weekend, we at Bitch were honored to be a community partner in Portland's Queer Documentary Film Festival's screening of FtF: From Female to Femme. QDOC is the only festival in the United States (and apparently one of two worldwide) devoted to queer documentaries, and FtF: From Female to Femme is – to my knowledge – the first feature length documentary that explores the experiences and identities of femme as a queer identity. This lack of femme analysis is a little alarming, considering the breadth and depth of analyses focused on butch, FtM, and other masculine(/queer) identities. But then again, as books like Julia Serano's Whipping Girl: A Transsexual woman on sexism and the scapegoating of femininity illustrate, femme identities and femininity in general continue to be misunderstood and maligned (and in some senses, masculinity so fetishized), so it also makes sense.