Friday Ephemera
Zoe Just Knows

Nostalgie de la Butch

The Guardian’s Julie Bindel, mentioned here recently, is once again unhappy with the world

Today, the old butches are a dying breed. The veterans of the Gateways [lesbian] club are now as likely to blend in with the rest of us than wear a suit, tie and starched shirt… During a recent trip to Sweden I thought most women I saw in the street were lesbians, and the men sitting around in cafes with their babies, gay dads.

Yes, it’s a bold statement. A classic sentence for our series. The gist of which being that the 53-year-old Ms Bindel, for whom radical lezzer is a profession, is having trouble telling which team a person, a younger person, is batting for. Imagine the indignity.   

A number of lesbians I know who are on the butch side have been asked [by other lesbians] when they are transitioning. Being openly and proudly butch has now… become something that many in the lesbian community look down on. At the same time, within gay male culture, being camp or in any way “feminine” is derided.

I don’t follow such things closely, or at all, but apparently bull dykes and mincing nancies are so last century. Affected burliness for gay ladies and girliness for gay gents is no longer deemed fashionable, and the quaint term “straight acting” has all but vanished into history. The donkey jacket dyke, of which Big Grumpy Jules is so fond, is now a museum piece. Well, a lot can change in half a century. However, this lack of enthusiasm for acting like a caricature is for some a source of rancour and rumblings of conspiracy:

This, I would argue, is a product of plain old sexism and misogyny.

This being the Guardian, Ms Bindel doesn’t offer much in the way of actual argument. But as fashions in lesbianism have changed since Julie’s first flush of youth back in the Seventies, this must be the doing of The Patriarchy and its phallic tentacles: 

Despite feminism and the gay liberation of old, lesbians are only really acceptable if we present as “real women.” Many lesbians seem to seek male approval by not looking too different from the women they judge to be acceptable.

Lesbians are courting the approval of straight men? This I didn’t know.

Let’s face it, plenty of men expect lesbians to look like the women acting out their fantasies in girl-on-girl porn, and there are not that many tool belts and buzz cuts to see in that genre.

Attention, Patriarchs. We must redouble our infiltration of lesbian bars and Sapphic subculture. Our grip on lesbian fashion must be tightened even more. And remember, no tool belts.

Those of us who reject what I would call the insignia of our oppression – lipstick and lingerie – are seen as a threat. 

Or possibly a relic from grandma’s generation.