A Final Shot at Love

Posted: 1 January 2008 in observations, queerlife

I watched Tila Tequila’s reunion and found I was less impressed with it than I expected.  Sure, reunion shows are just eye candy anyway – see how the stars have cleaned up since they’ve seen themselves on television.  Invariably, the contestants are prettier.  They sparkle a little in their newness.  Tila’s show wasn’t much different.  D. and I watched much of it on fast forward (my probably very annoying addiction) since we didn’t see the early episodes of the show stopping only on shots of Dani to confirm that, no, she didn’t usually wear make-up and yes, Tila’s connection with her was uncertain.

Since seeing the show, I’ve heard more commentary about Dani and her “futch” label (curious? here’s her myspace.)  I don’t often think about my own identity as a lesbian, but I suppose I have unconscious markers for others.  I don’t defend this about myself.  I know that no one marker defines a person but I use them as I do when browsing in a bookstore.  Do I like the cover?  Does the title say something to me?  Who wrote it?  Is the blurb something I’m interested in?  Is the first paragraph compelling?  The book might have the most beautiful cover in the world and still be horrendous.  My impressions of the markers simply serve to help me make a reading decision. 

When it comes to women, I’m not looking for a partner.  I’m not even particularly looking for friends.  It’s just sort of a constant scan to give me some impression of what kind of person she is.  Do I think she’s gay?  What is her personal style?  Does she carry herself a certain way?  I admit that I do look at hair length, voice tone, body structure – very stereotypical indicators of butch/femme.  She has long hair, walks with a sway, has pretty drop earrings, a high pitched voice, make-up?  A femme.  She has short hair, a swagger, a deeper voice, an austure fashion sense?  A butch.  I’m okay with being wrong.  It’s just a first impression after all.  It’s more complicated than that, of course.  It’s age and how she handles it, where I’ve met her and what she’s doing.  Dani did and still does, register as butch on my scale.

While you can call yourself anything you like, a lot of what others know about you is formed by how you present yourself.  I won’t belabor the make-up point since I hit that already but her stance, tone, attitude, style, and style say butch.  Like a trashy romance masquerading in a hardback with a sleek, black cover written by Stephen Hawking, her make-up and self-styling as futch are incongruous. 

Dylan mentioned that it would be nice to have a butch representative on tv (I paraphrase.)  I agree, unlike femmes who often “pass” (and that’s another post altogether), butches don’t often have a mirror in the public eye.  It seems that to be commercially successful, you need to have some femme markers regardless of your own identification.  As far as I’m concerned, butch women can be hot and I’d like to see more of them.  Well, not just because they can be hot, but because we need to see people like us.  We need everyone to see gay women, to recognize that we come in all styles and aren’t aberrations of nature.  It would be nice to get the foothold that gay men have acquired in the public eye, though I’d like to do that without seeing caricatures of ourselves.

People, you’ve got to stop me when I monopolize the conversation like that.  Regardless of your own reading preferences, I’d love to hear what your own markers for butch women are (and femmes too for that matter.)  That said, I don’t expect m(any?) more Tila posts but D. and I are still stuck on the concept of Tila as a dominant or submissive personality and how that related to her choice.  However, I can’t think of a nice way to bring it up in mixed company so we’ll just keep the pot on to simmer.

  1. rye says:

    So I’m a little intimidated by your insight. Mostly because I have none. But that just means points to you and none for me 🙂 I do agree with you that there needs to be more of an honest representation of gay women (as well as other misrepresented groups) on television. And in movies. And, well – everywhere, I guess.
    And honestly? I think we all have certain “markers” for people. I don’t think it’s necessarily meant to be judgmental, and yes – sometimes those “markers” are misleading. But this is how we get to know people.
    Oh, and Tila! Well, we flipped between her show and Ryan Seacrest on New Years, and she and Bobby have already broken up anyways. Shot at Love, my ass! But you know what that means?? A SECOND SEASON OF TILA TEQUILA!!!
    Happy New Year, by the way!

  2. backlist says:

    oh yay! I was hoping someone would have the new years eve update! I didn’t think that Bobby was going to work out at all. Not that Dani would have, I mean we’re talking different worlds for all three of them.

  3. dylan says:

    There are a lot of markers I look for on femme women and a few that I have consciously constructed into my own identity so that my butchness is more visible. For femmes the obvious markers are things that are traditionally feminine, but then there is what I usually call the quirks. I think that femmes often have something about their style that isn’t mainstream… piercings, maybe they’re wearing a tie, they have short nails, or shorter hair, femme swagger, the way she carries herself, speaks, makes eye contact with me… femmes don’t usually have the same submissiveness/shyness that straight women do in public interactions… I’m not sure how to describe them really now that I’m trying to… but it’s certainly something that I can pick up on easily.

    Butchness. Man, I represent my butchness is a lot of very little common place gestures and movement every day. The way I sit, stand, walk, how I touch my face/body during conversations, the way I hug, the words I choose… a lot of my butchness was natural as a tomboy, but I did cultivate it for sure. I did unlearn some feminine things in order to strengthen it.

    Dani definitely read the same way many of today’s butches do. Butches today aren’t the same as they were last time there was a butch/femme scene. Too bad that Tila and Bobby didn’t work just a few months later… but we all knew that would happen.

    I think you should write the top/bottom entry. Mixed company or not!

  4. backlist says:

    Dylan – Interesting. I tried to insist (in mostly butch company) that I didn’t have femme markers and they laughed me out of the room. I don’t consider myself truly femme and, like you have intentionally tried to unlearn some of that. But on the surface – long blonde hair, curves the twitch when I walk, and a penchant for long, dark lashes I’m nothing but femme.

  5. bipolarlawyercook says:

    As long at butch lesbian women continue to be uninterested in men, whether they are attractive in their own way and as such “deserve” to be more represented in popular culture will be beside the point. Men are threatened by women who could care less about them, so when they don’t meet male notions of female attractiveness, they won’t make it into mainstream media representations. Femme lesbians are pretty and therefore still objects of fantasy. I simplify, of course, but I honestly believe it. The rub may be that it’s harder for any man to portray himself in a “femme” way unless he’s a tran- and those are not visible, either. Lesbians, however, have a range of appearances they can choose, and the more masculine ones are the ones who get short shrift.

    My idea of what is “butch” is fairly narrow– short hair, unisex and male clothing, no makeup, minimal jewelry, lack of hairtwirling behaviors. Leather, boots, tattoos are all secondary markers for me. Posture and stance, maintenance and observation of personal space are also indicators. Finally, anyone wearing CK One doesn’t count as butch, since I never knew a boy who wore it, ever.

  6. backlist says:

    I’ve had similar thoughts myself – that the patricarchy doesn’t accept things which aren’t fulfilling somehow and butch appearing lesbians have nothing to offer on that front. I’m sure that’s why Tila chose a man, it was part of preserving her projected fantasy persona. It’s interesting that there is a second season – she’ll almost certainly have to choose a woman or risk losing the whole bisexual schtick. I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

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