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Butch-Fem Identitites

Powerful Essays
In Kennedy and Davis’ article the debate over who is constituted as the “true” lesbian reflects the tension between heterosexuality and butch-fem identities when taken into account ethnic background and assigned gender roles in the relationship. While lesbianism is supposed to pose as a challenge to heterosexuality as the norm, as Kennedy and Davis’ article shows, within the lesbian community practices like the specification of butch-fem roles becomes a tool of oppression similar to conformity to heterosexual traditional gender roles. To illustrate the point that sexuality is based on the “cultural interpretation of sexual experiences” and “articulation” of power relations in society (Halperin 424), this paper focus on Kennedy and Davis’ debate over who is the real lesbian, and it draws on examples from the film Forbidden Love and Lee’s article “Why Suzie Wong is not a Lesbian”. I argue that sexual deviance or otherwise is always defined by a power elite in the interest of protecting and legitimating the current sexual norms. While lesbian culture is meant to be a challenge to these heterosexual norms, and yet its definition of butch-fem roles performs its own marginalization that ultimately reinforces traditional male-female roles. Interestingly, it also uses this power structure to establish the racial exclusions of non-white women that can be traced through the history of European colonization.

In relation to how sexual minorities like lesbians are marginalized by the power elite in society, Judith Butler explains the politicization of sexuality through the performance of sexual identity by constantly rearticulating and re-establishing heterosexuality as the norm. Ironically, the term “heterosexual” cannot claim authority as ...

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...lizing oppositions. Yet, why are these clear defined boundaries of sexuality placed with such importance? Is it to protect heterosexuality and marginalize sexual minorities? Or is it simply to provide guidance for the performance of individual sexual identity?

Works Cited

Fernie, Lynn, and Aerlyn Weisman, dirs. Forbidden Love. NFB, 1992.

Kennedy, Elizabeth Lapovsky, and Madelaine Davis. “The Reproduction of Butch-Fem Roles: A Social Constructionist Approach.” Passion and Power: Sexuality in History. Ed. Kathy Peiss and Christina Simmons. Philadelphia: Temple Up, 1989, 199-255.

Lee, Jee Yeun. “Why Suzie Wong is Not a Lesbian: Asian and Asian American Lesbian and Bisexual Women and Femme/Butch/Gender Identities.” Queer Studies. New York: UP, 1996, 115-132.

Rayter, Scott. “Butch/Fem in the 1950s.” Lecture, Professor Rayter. UNI 255, Oct.18, 2011.
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