Sunday, April 20, 2014

Female masculinities: tomboy vs butch

I was a pretty notorious tomboy as a kid, and continue to dress in a rather mixed mode as an adult, but I didn't realize growing up that the way I was acting (and sometimes behaving) was unfeminine or considered somehow atypical. Growing up and subsequently becoming more immersed in gay culture and in spaces where there are critical discussions regarding gender, sexuality, and the way these things can be outwardly project/presented, has made me think a lot about the power of something like clothing and personal grooming.

Interestingly, I have largely been uninterested in adopting any kind of title that would make any kind of parameter for my dress or representation. I go through long periods of time where all I will want to wear is jeans, flannel, and vans, and had short hair and didn't wear make-up for much of my adolescence. This didn't feel ever like a deliberate choice, or even like a pronounced aspect of my identity, and has indeed been something that has fluctuated a lot as I've gotten older. My older sister has gone through something similar - as a child she was even more difficult regarding feminine clothing than I was, and my parents were thankfully very cool about allowing us to wear even formal clothes in whatever style we felt most comfortable in.

It was almost a bit of a culture shock to see the degree to which identities and identifiers such as "butch", "tomboy", "boi", et cetera, are used to describe a certain aesthetic or ethos, particularly in the queer community. I feel like I'm still learning a lot of this stuff, and it still doesn't really align with the way that I view myself and gender representation in general, but it is really valuable to read the varying ways that people have come to define the terms. This article on autostraddle breaks down some of the ways that the terms butch and tomboy can be defined, and shows the amount of relativity to the terms in describing images of female masculinity.

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