“Pass Right By Your People”: Femme Invisibility and Postwar Lesbian History
This paper historicizes femme invisibility within lesbian communities in postwar America, arguing that the cultural archetype of the “mannish lesbian” left queer femininity in a precarious state. Lacking the masculinity that was supposed to accompany same-sex desire, some femmes simultaneously doubted their queerness yet felt queerer than the butchest butches for failing to fit into a recognizable paradigm. Moreover, although they comprised half of most couples and many butches expressed a desire for glamorous feminine partners, femmes remained suspicious, prone to reverting back to straight life at any time. Confronting the “problem” of their gender normativity, femmes employed creative solutions to understand themselves as queer beings and assert membership in lesbian communities, manipulating dominant constructions of postwar femininity to produce distinctly queer gender identities.
See more of: Queering Historical Scale
See more of: AHA Sessions