The term "femme" originates from 1940s Western working-class lesbian bar culture, wherein femme referred to a feminine lesbian who was typically in a relationship with a butch lesbian. Expanding from this original meaning, femme has since emerged as a form of femininity reclaimed by queer and culturally marginalized folks. Importantly, femme has also evolved into a theoretical framework. Femme theory argues that "femme" constitutes a missing piece in queer and feminist discourses of femininity. Attending to this gap, femme theory centres queer femininities as a means of pushing against the deeply embedded masculinist orientation of queer and gender theory. Thus, femme theory offers tools to shift the way researchers and readers understand femininity as well as systems of gender and power more broadly.
This book is an introduction to femme theory, showcasing how femme can be used as a theoretical framework across a variety of contexts and disciplines, such as Film & Media Studies, Psychology, Sociology, or Critical Disability Studies; from countries, including Canada, China, Guyana and the USA. Femme theory asks readers to reconsider how femininity is conceptualized, revealing some of the many taken for granted assumptions that are embedded within cultural discourses of gender, sexuality, and power.
The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of the Journal of Lesbian Studies.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction: Can femme be theory? Exploring the epistemological and methodological possibilities of femme
Rhea Ashley Hoskin
2. Why femme stories matter: Constructing femme theory through historical femme life writing
Laura Brightwell and Allison Taylor
3. What do glitter, pointe shoes, & plastic drumsticks have in common? Using Femme Theory to consider the reclamation of disciplinary beauty/body practices
Jocelyne Bartram Scott
4. "Femme ain't frail": (Re)considering femininity, aging, and gender theory
Jami McFarland and Allison Taylor
5. Theorizing TL aesthetics: Forming a femme gaze through Yes or No 2.5
6. The cauxin-femme binary: Femme performativity as a response to violence in Guyana
Preity R. Kumar
7. Queer eye for the housewife: Julianne Moore, radical femme-ininity, and destabilizing the suburban family
8. Making intelligible the controversies over femme identities: A functionalist approach to conceptualizing the subversive meanings of femme genders
Heidi Levitt and Kathleen Collins
9. TBG and Po: Discourses on authentic desire in 2010 lesbian subcultures in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan
Carman K.M. Fung
Rhea Ashley Hoskin PhD, is interdisciplinary feminist sociologist whose work focuses on femme theory, critical femininities and femmephobia. Her work examines perceptions of femininity and sources of prejudice rooted in the devaluation or regulation of femininity. Rhea is an Ontario Women’s Health Scholar and an AMTD Global Talent Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Waterloo.