I had hoped that as a femme I would find something that resonated with me I finished the book disappointed Some of it were fun, some bits made me wonder if I was femme enough I m a bi pan femme Femme maybe a queer identity but that doesn t mean the lesbians own it as the final essay and some other works suggested I enjoyed the photography Not sure why Wheels plus was even there Not rereading this one. it took me something like six months to make my way through this slender little volume admittedly, i do not read nonfiction quickly, ever but i ve had a weird relationship with this book i kept finding myself in its pages, and then losing any connection with the content at all, not a touch or a trace of recognizability the essays, poems and comics are, as a collection, very uneven there is some work of sheerest brilliance in here, and there s some stuff that s gazing so deeply at its own navel, it s incomprehensible to an outside eye hard to learn from, because it isn t interested in teaching and, as other reviewers noted, several of these pieces are trying WAY too hard most of the poetry is good, evocative some of it is memorable but all but one of the comics are simply bad which strikes me as particularly unfortunate and then i d pick it up again and the next essay would be relevant, engaging, insightful, would bend my thinking into a new shape and i d have to put it down again so that i could absorb the idea and chew it over so i kept coming in and out of this one, determined to finish it, and finding the effort worthwhile, but not always engaged by the content.but then i d hit a passage like this a working proposition Fem me is la je ne sais quoi of desiring difference prior to any determination of sexual preference or gender identity Fem me is put on, a put on, fetish production at the hands of subject becoming object, becoming fetish, while always retaining a sense of performance, always amused yet possibly bored by its effects What the feminine represses returns from inside and outside as the future of desire Refusing the fate of Girl by Nature, she fem me is Girl by Choice Finding in androgyny the rejection of all femininity too much loss, too little pleasure, and ugly shoes, the fem me takes from the feminine a wardrobe, a walk, a wink, and then moves on to sound the death knell of an abject sexuality contorted and subjected to moral concerns And now, in the postmodern reign of The Queer, the fem me reappears, signifier of another kind of gender trouble Not a performer of legible gender transgression, like the butch and his sister the drag queen, but a betrayer of legibility itself Seemingly normal, she responds to normal expectations with a sucker punch she occupies normality abnormally and i find myself loving this, and thinking i have to sit with it again, see if i can move past the absolutist language a profoundly liminial and inclusive book that seeks to break down the idea of a unified or unifiable femme identity, this volume is nevertheless positively riddled with absolutist thinking and the same passages that i identify with strongly are immediately followed by some dreck about how femmes are never attracted to un ironic masculinity, and i feel exactly like i m in that queer group in college again getting scolded for failure to conform to somebody s arbitrary standard of sufficient queerness, and i want to tell the author to just fucking shove it and into the really golden ideas at the heart of this whole enterprise so i love it except for the part that bored me, and the part that s not very good and i will probably never read most of it again, except for the two or three articles that really did catch my imagination and make me think but those parts are worth owning the book for. Brazen Femme Queering Femininity Is A Manifesto For The Unrepentant Bitch, Straddling The Furious And Fantastic Undeniably Celebratory And Deeply Troubling, This Sharp Edged Collection Of Fiction, Prose Poetry, Personal Essay, Photographs, And Illustration Figures The Un Hyphenated Femme Experience Emerging In Performance, Betrayal, Violence, Humor And Survival Brazen Femme Recognizes Femme As An Identity In Flux And In Motion, As Constantly Being Reinvented This Mutability Sets The Stage For Creative And Thoughtful Representation Featuring Critically Acclaimed Writers Including Michelle Tea, Camilla Gibb, Sky Gilbert, Amber Hollibaugh And Anurima Banerji The Collection Includes The Entertaining And Challenging Work Of Writers And Artists Whose Stories Are Missing From Existing Explorations Of Femme That Exclude Experiences Of Men, Transsexual Women, And Sex WorkersWhether By Choice Or Necessity, These Frenzied Femmes Each Explore Their Desires To Make And Remake Femininity Fit Their Own Queer Frames Darlings, Drag Queens, Whores And Action Heroes A Femme By Any Other Name Is SpectacularWith Writings By Debra Anderson, Anurima Banerji, TJ Bryan, Anna Camilleri, Daniel Collins, Lisa Duggan And Kathleen McHugh, Camilla Gibb, Sky Gilbert, Tara Hardy, Amber Hollibaugh, Suzann Kole, Heather Mc Callister, Elaine Miller, Kathryn Payne, Leah Piepzna Samarasinha, Elizabeth Ruth, Trish Salah, Abi Slone And Allyson Mitchell, Michelle Tea, Zoe Whittal And Karin WolfWith Photographs By Chlo Brushwood Rose, And Daniel Collins, And Illustrations By Comic Artists Sandi Rapini, Suzy Malik And Allyson MitchellChlo Brushwood Rose And Anna Camilleri Have Been Collaborating In Toronto As Curators, Editors And Art Makers For The Past Four Years Anna Co Founded The Interdisciplinary Performance Troupe Taste This, Who Collaborated On The Acclaimed Boys Like Her There s a lot to be said for perspectives on femininity Not much is actually said in this anthology, but at least the perspectives tend to be diverse Very personal writing, not a lot of extrapolated thoughts it s prescient, in some ways, of the kind of theoretical shift that really kicked off in the 2010s Anyway not a bad read But not a good one, either, really. As someone who self identifies as a queer femme, I was curious and excited to read this book Like all anthologies, Brazen Femme contains both hits and misses If you can force yourself through the introduction and first chapter, most of the middle of the book is consistently good, though the Fem me inist Manifesto which closes the book is pretty terrible as well I enjoyed the fact that the anthology contained works created by a variety of femme identified people women, men, non binary genders, trans people, people of colour, fat activists, drag queens, etc It could have used some voices from the disabled community, but on the whole it was surprisingly diverse I was keen on the plethora of definitions of femme, even though in some cases I did not agree i.e definitions which were limited to lesbians or women But can we please agree to stop misusing scientific terms for artistic purposes or inappropriate social studies topics If I see the words science or quantum or any number of other scientific terminologies butchered onetime, my head is liable to explode If you don t understand the term, don t use it simple as that Good lord it s infuriating to try and get through a piece which does this constantly Despite the shortcomings of some of the contributing author s pieces, I truly did appreciate this collection In fact, one poem inside gave me my favourite new expression for vintage femme Femme can feel like someone else s cast offs Another woman s old, worn out frock Hits home for me. I really liked this book, and it s one I d recommend It covers a great cross section of femme identity, and while not all the pieces are good, I found most of them at least thought provoking The mix of mediums throughout the book works really well, and it s one I can see myself referring back to.There are some stellar pieces in this Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha s gonna get my girl body back this is a work in progress , which I had to take a couple of hours to get through because I kept wanting to cry, T.J Bryan s It Takes Ballz Reflections of a Black Attitudinal Femme Vixen in tha making , which I couldn t put down, Zoe Whittall s great Fevers, Fall Outs, and Fast Foods , and Debra Anderson s poetry especially fading femme were my favourites I loved the variety, the perspectives I hadn t necessarily considered before, and their desire to push the boundaries of femme i.e the inclusion of Blessed Be , Daniel Collins chapter on the Radical Faeries and Wheels Plus , Michelle Tea s not overtly queer tale about her early teens These were far from the only ones worth reading most of the book is pretty fantastic.There was, however, some pretty dismisal stuff Sky Gilbert s cissexist and mansplainy Drag Queens and Feminine Women The Same But Kinda Different , Lisa Duggan and Kathleen McHugh s ridiculous and wanky A Fem me inist Manifesto , Suzann Kole s mostly obnoxious and incoherent Rags and Reiterations A Queer Story , Camilla Gibb s How Wide Is Our Circle and Kathryn Payne s irritatingly blind to her own privilege take on sex workers rights, Whores And Bitches Who Sleep With Women That sounds like a fairly long list, but it was all interesting to approach critically and think about nonetheless and the rest of the bookthan made up for it.The one criticism I did have of the books a whole was the glaring absence of trans women from a book that even included two different chapters by men the only thing by a trans woman is one brief poem by Trish Salah It s the second last thing in the book, and it s not one of the book s strong points at that This was made all theglaring by the casual cissexism running through a couple of the pieces.Nonetheless, I d definitely recommend this one, and I m glad it s one for the bookshelf. I think for being published in 2002 this book mostly gets it right The editors seek to explore and define what it means to be femme through the poetry, essays, and ideas of a diverse group of femmes It is intersectional, and includes fat femmes, femmes of color, drag queens and mention of male or trans femmes It also seeks to include a class perspective, including voices from sex workers, poor folks, and others oft excluded or looked down for their occupation or lack of pedigree, depending on the case That said, many of the pieces fell flat for me trying to convey the multiplicity of what it can mean to be femme in a way that either left it completely ambiguous, or still managed to pigeonhole it in an overly specific way I identify as femme and questioned whether or not I am actually femme based on prescribed definitions within this book Mostly, I just find it disturbing how little seems to be written about what it means to be femme, it s history, and evolution as compared to other issues of gender and sexuality I am grateful that I read this primarily because of the questions I am now asking about how to situate, understand, and mobilize femme in today s political cultural personal climates and struggles. This book was not what I expected And it makes that clear from its cover image I was expecting a lottheory talk about femme identities That is not this book at all and that s a good thing We needbooks that feature essays, stories, poems and other art that look critically at structures such as femme and say what that word means to them, in all its different ways.I would have given it a higher review if I felt it was a little tighter Occasionally, this desire to make the discussion about femme to NOT be about femme felt strained But some that never mentioned femme at all, such as Michelle Tea s story about being a middle schooler at the roller rink fit in perfectly as did the story that takes place at a radical faery party I like the connections frequently made between sex workers and femmes though at time it felt a little forced, a little too much There are so many femme experiences out there that are brazen without wielding weapons and I wish we sawof those BUT that pic in the front would not be so sexyhotscary without that knife, right between her legs. I started and finished this brief anthology during a three hour train ride I would agree with other reviews that this collection is a mixture of brilliant and mediocre work I was especially impressed by Anna Camilleri and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna Samarasinha This book is a nice introduction to femme identities as it includes women of color, immigrants, drag queens, gay men, bi women, fat women, etc Another thing I like about this book is that it explores femme identity as separate from normative femininity and also discusses femme outside of the context of butch femme A good primer for the beginner, but not the greatest as a whole. Like others have said, this book is not bad, but falls short in some areas I did question the inclusion of some essays Wheels Plus for instance, even though I enjoyed reading it , and I also questioned the manifesto at the end which sort of said, If you date men you can t be in the club, which I found kind of off putting considering I identified heavily with the rest of the book, consider myself queer pansexual, and am currently in a relationship with a man.But aside from that, I did enjoy it, especially some of the poetry, and I would recommend it as a general queer identity read.
Chlo Brushwood Rose is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at York University.
- 176 pages
- Brazen Femme: Queering Femininity
- Chloë Brushwood Rose
- 11 February 2019 Chloë Brushwood Rose