Being seen as butch for years has been considered an insult, it’s common to describe a masculine woman as butch or a dyke. It’s this reason why the LGBTQ+ community has refrained from using such terminology until now. We got to speak to Esther Godoy who is the editor at Butch is not a dirty word.
This amazing publication is preaching the message that identifying as butch isn’t wrong. In our modern society, it’s about time that we finally speak about the way masculine lesbians are treated & what we can do to help.
Butch women are taking back their identity
So we should really start looking at why butch is considered a dirty word. We spoke to many butch women along the way and realised simple things such as haircuts & clothing has changed individuals views on them. To understand more, I asked Esther why she felt butch has been used as a slur for so long.
Why do you personally thing butch is considered a dirty word?Esther: Queer folks equate butchness with a certain stereotype that has been particularly vilified during feminist movements in the past. Whilst ‘Butch’ encompasses many more genders than just ‘female’ or ‘womxn’, a large percentage of those who identify as butch do in fact identify as womxn, and as we all know, masculinity in womxn is not seen by society as a valuable or desirable thing. You’d think that amongst queer community this would be different, but sadly, masculinity in womxn is vilified across the majority of queer communities across the world (with exception to some of the major cities in the USA).
By lesbians, to be butch is seen to be ugly, outdated and embarrassing. The queer community has tried to squash this identity and a very large piece of its history because it doesn’t align with what is deemed to be conventionally attractive or socially valuable. People view us as broken womxn, or just queers who are “too fickle or scared to come out as non-binary or trans-masc”. (nb* there are a TONNE of trans butches out there!).
I’ve heard all kinds of narratives from queer folks about how this identity and presentation is “pushing the queer community back decades”. I’ve also had multiple queer folks assign every other gender BUT “womxn” to me, assuming that anyone who likes like me couldn’t possibly identify with femininity or being female in any way shape or form. With the conversation around gender continuing, as a community, we have to be careful about who we erase and squash in the process.
Female masculinity isn’t a topic that often gets covered & we often ignore the problems that face butch women. Due to the lack of representation in mainstream media, it’s caused a lack of understanding and with this, fake stereotypes. People aren’t being educated or exposed to the world of masculinity, which is leading to many masculine women feeling excluded within society and their own community.
It’s a real problem and after talking with our readers, we’ve found that on many occasions ‘butch’ & ‘dyke’ have been used as insults. Which isn’t surprising when you put everything into retrospect. To get a further insight into what masculine women go through, we need to ask the question!
What struggles do butch lesbians face on a daily basis? Esther: I can only speak from my own experience here and as a thirty-something year old, white, cis butch womxn, my words in no way shape or form encompass the entire butch experience. I’m lucky to live in a time where the hets aren’t as repulsed by my existence anymore.
I personally don’t ever deal with physical violence but I do deal with microaggressions on a daily basis. As one simple example, people don’t serve me at most establishments i attend, be it a bar, restaurant, supermarket, hotel, bank or beyond, they won’t look at me or greet me, they look through me, they’ll serve every other person in the place and wait until it’s completely dead before even considering looking in my direction. This experience is not isolated to a specific event, it happens consistently day in and day out everywhere I go. I am not treated like a human being, in most places I am invisible, somebody that everyone in the room would prefer wasn’t there.
That said the most oppressed I’ve ever felt in my butchness has been at the hands of other queer folks. Some of the ways in which I mentioned earlier. Outside of the USA, at first glance, lesbians don’t like me. They don’t want me platonically, they don’t want me romantically, they would prefer I wasn’t there muddying up the dyke narrative they’re trying to re-write, that aligns them more closely with the ways of being a woman that are socially valuable. Internalised homophobia is rampant amongst the lesbian community and in that masc womxn continue to suffer the repercussions.
So what’s the answer to improve the stigma around masculinity?
With anything, we need to start the discussion and be aware of our actions. It’s human nature to pass judgement & assume certain elements about individuals. I admit, I’m sometimes the worst for presuming someone is gay. Maybe my inner queerness hoping everyone is like me, but it’s starting the process of eliminating the negative thoughts that come with it.
Esther said it beautifully, to reclaim the word butch we need to “not let the dominant cultural and social norms dictate our desires & world views.”
Check out the butch is not a dirty word movement here.
Check out Butch is not a dirty word Instagram / Website to join the movement.