Guest Post — A Black Butch Speaks: Addressing Female Oppression by Pippa Fleming

A Black Butch Speaks: Addressing Female Oppression

Guest Post by Pippa Fleming

I’ve been holding silence for quite some time but now it’s time for me to speak.

When a Black child presents with signs of internalized racism, we want to protect them. We want them to know they are perfect as they are and loved for exactly who they are. If we are conscience Black folks, we try to infuse our young people with the knowledge, skills, wisdom and support necessary, so they may survive and thrive in this racist society.

If little Lakesha comes home with “mommy I hate being Black and I want to be white” we are shocked, dismayed and sadden by her self loathing and rush to find the source of her oppression. Is it school, the media, her peers, society or all of the above?

So why when little butch Lakesha comes home with “I hate my body and I want to be a boy” is she encouraged to take on male identity or the subject matter is avoided all together and she is left to flounder in a sea of gender conforming beliefs that lead to dysphoria and a life lived in the shadows?

From the moment a female child presents as butch she is loathed, feared and rendered invisible by her peers and elders alike. Why are we not outraged by butch oppression and willing to explore gender oppression like we look at race or class oppression? Why is it seen as status quo for young butch girls to hate their bodies the goddess blessed them with? Why are we ushering our baby butches towards male identity rather than exploring the causes of this type of self hatred?

We are quick to say that a Black person is suffering internally if they want to bleach their skin white or have plastic surgery to look more european… but if a child wants to cut their breasts off and get rid of their vagina this is acceptable! In turn, if I question this as a butch female, I am seen as transphobic.

 I am a gender non conforming female butch, who uses the men’s bathroom, is perceived as a man everyday I walk out my door and rendered invisible by society. Instead of expanding the boundaries of female identity to include all of it’s nuances, we have fallen desperate prey to that 1% we claim to despise!

To be Black, female and butch is to be a warrior, let us pray that more of us have the courage to love ourselves wholly and be outspoken mentors to young butches struggling not to conform to the impossible.

 And ain’t I a woman!

January 7, 2012

About Bev Jo

I’ve been a Lesbian from my earliest memories and am proud to be a Lesbian. Lesbians are my people and my blood. My life’s work has defending Lesbians and our culture and existence against those who oppress us. Working-class, ex-catholic, mostly European-descent (with some First Nations, probably Shawnee, ancestry), from poverty class culture. I’m a Lifelong Lesbian, born near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1950. I became lovers with my first lover in 1968, became part of a Lesbian community in 1970, and became a Dyke Separatist in 1972. I helped create Radical Lesbian Feminist and Separatist community and worked on some of the earliest Lesbian Feminist projects, such as the Lesbian Feminist Conference in Berkeley in 1972, the newspaper “Dykes and Gorgons” in 1973, the women’s bookstore, Lesbian coffeehouse, and taught self defense to women and girls for ten years. I’ve been published in journals and anthologies, including “For Lesbians Only,” “Finding the Lesbians,” “Lesbian Friendships,” “Amazones d’Hier, Lesbiennes Aujourd’hui,” “Mehr als das Herz Gebrochen,” the Journal for Lesbian Studies, Lesbian Ethics, Sinister Wisdom, Trivia, and Rain and Thunder. With Linda Strega and Ruston, I co-wrote our book, “Dykes-Loving-Dykes: Dyke Separatist Politics for Lesbians Only” in 1990. Our book and my more recent articles have been updated at my blog I’ve been disabled since 1981 with ME/CFIDS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.) I love nature and plants and animals — and especially the animals who are feared and hated and killed by people who don’t even know them, just as Lesbians are. I’ve learned to love rats especially, who I do not consider inferior to humans. I’m a spiritual atheist, but I’ve found out that there is definitely life after death because a little rat returned from the dead for three days to comfort us. These hated little animals are so kind and loving, and willing to die for someone they love. I say, in our fight to protect the earth — distrust all “truths” we are taught by patriarchy. The true truth is often the opposite.
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10 Responses to Guest Post — A Black Butch Speaks: Addressing Female Oppression by Pippa Fleming

  1. BigBooButch says:

    This is a fantastic read and perspective. Thank you for sharing your voice and story.


  2. BigBooButch says:

    Reblogged this on BigBooButch and commented:
    This is a fantastic analogy on how we treat young black and butch girls who hate their bodies and wish to change things about themselves in order to become more like the rest of society instead of being taught to love themselves and their bodies, society be damned.

    As lesbians and especially as butches, we need to step out more, be more visible, let our voices be heard, and even mentor a young butch struggling with her body and how it does not conform to society’s standards.

    Society needs to change, not the individual it chooses not to accept.


  3. skulldrix says:

    But I always saw the idea of butch inherently harmful because it’s reinforcing sado-masochistic hetero-characteristic of the “manly” dominating lesbian, and submissive femme lesbian.

    I don’t get the whole using a man’s bathroom, is that because women don’t accept you in theirs?
    That’s shit, I’m sorry. Being in a man’s bathroom must be traumatizing.


    • Bev Jo says:

      What you’re saying is the usual Lesbian-hating, Butch-hating stereotypes that scapegoat Butches for male crimes. Please read our updated fourth chapter from our book:

      Heterosexuality is sado-masochistic and Lesbians who chose men first do bring that into our communities. Butches are oppressed by Fems, who are 90 to 95% of Lesbians, and who are those who obeyed and absorbed male rules of femininity as girls. The most extreme, who I call Hard Fems, can be the most female-hating and Butch-hating.

      You have it reversed, which is the usual heterosexist propaganda designed to stop women and Lesbians from really thinking. Women who worship men will say Butches are like men as if suddenly men are bad and say they are afraid of Butches. What they are afraid of is the most Lesbian-identified Lesbians. It’s the Fems with privilege in patriarchy, and who have the power to dominate.

      Butches are victimized by everyone because we say no to men and male rules. Women who refuse to play the game and dare to look the ways men reserve for themselves are hated and targeted. Most women are afraid to think and realize they choose to look like caricatures. Any woman not obeying male rules looks male to most women. So then they are targeted when using public restrooms. It’s far worse for African-descent Butches, which is what Pippa is writing about. Pat Parker talked about that too. No coincidence that so many African-descent Butches died young from stress-related diseases.

      In spite of your other comments at my blog criticizing Lesbians for being “patriarchal and male-identified,” you sure are adding to that with your Lesbian-hating/Butch-hating comments.


      • skulldrix says:

        I don’t think my intention is lesbian or butch hatred, I’m just questioning the roles and the idea of “butch and femme”. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with “butchness” or just being a female who doesn’t conform femininity. But being butch is obviously an identity characterized by an appearance and way of life, and it is a way of being that is undoubtedly hated and oppressed because it’s women looking like women and dressing practically. I look butch most days, despite my long hair and occasional dress and skirt.

        But I just wonder whether lesbians can be patriarchal and woman hating because I really can’t relate to the aspects of lesbian culture where there are women who are wearing strap on’s in male clothing and then with girlfriends who are plastered in makeup and totally feminized. I’m sorry but I’ve seen “butch” lesbians say that they are only attracted to feminine women, and then try objectify women the way men do, like judging women on fuckability etc.

        I haven’t been in the lesbian community for over 40 years, so I obviously wouldn’t know that it is “femme” lesbians who originally were oppressive to butches instead of vice versa ( even though I think “oppressive” is not the term I would use to define female-on-female hatred because it’s not femme women who make the rules or are responsible for the murdering of butches, I think only men deserve the title of oppressors women are just token reinforcers that are also oppressed when it comes to this topic).Even though I’ve seen enough of the l-word and saw how badly all the women treated the only butch character, and then the writers making the butch “transgender’ somehow justifying the femme’s mistreatment of her. Which gave me a clue.

        Also I’m in no way saying that all butches are like this but i have known a few butches who were kind of violent towards other women and hung out with men, and I was just confused. My ideas were because femme women rejected them they found it easier to try to blend in with the boys.

        I’m sorry If I seemed offensive or trying to attack, because I was just trying to present a question and perception that i’ve had for a while. I’m just unsure.


  4. Bev Jo says:

    No, you don’t “look Butch” if you are passing as het and in a dress and with long hair. This kind of statement is so bizarre to me since you clearly have no idea of what a Butch looks like. But this is also typical of those who at the same time as claiming to be Butch keep making Butch-hating comments.

    Obviously, most of who you think are Butch who are saying and doing oppressive things are not Butch. Most of who I’ve seen posing as the worst Butch stereotypes are not Butch.

    It’s interesting that the same women who wouldn’t dream of posting racist or classist stereotypes that are perpetrated in the media do feel justified in posting Butch-hating stereotypes. Plus of course there are always members of oppressed groups who do play out self-hating stereotypes….AS WE EXPLAINED IN OUR BOOK SO WE WOULD NOT HAVE TO INDIVIDUALLY RE-EXPLAIN REPEATEDLY FOR DECADES.

    There was no Butch character in The L Word. That is part of the problem. Butches are basically forbidden to be shown in the mainstream or Lesbian media except as a joke. (A rare exception was in Boys Don’t Cry, with of course Teena Brandon being tortured, raped, and beaten to death.)
    The “transgender” character wasn’t even a Lesbian since she was played by a Fem, clearly feminine, and wanted to be a gay man. Meaning, that was a het or bisexual woman, as many F2Ts are.

    Denying the oppression that exists among women is the liberal, diluted anti-feminist line given by those who do not want their dominance questioned and who are invested in inequality remaining between women and Lesbians. I explain here in my most recent post.

    All the Butch-hating stereotypes you keep posting are answered in our book and the posts here that I linked to. Please just read them before repeating them.


  5. Pingback: Secretly Radical: Transing kids | Stop Trans Chauvinism

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