Femme has many different meanings, and often refers to a person of queer gender expression that embraces, reclaims, or subverts their culture's understanding of what it means to be feminine. Femme is often associated with the lesbian community, although it has also been used by bisexuals, gay men, and genderqueer people, among other groups. It can describe gender presentation on an occasion or be a term related to a person's gender identity. Some variations are "hard femme," an edgy or hard-rock expression of femininity, and "high femme", usually an extreme expression of the aesthetic aspects of femininity.
In the United States, butch/femme roles were common in lesbian communities during the first half of the 20th century.
Some time after June 27, 2017, and before December 3rd, 2017, the Tumblr blog noodle posted a seven-striped femme flag design. Purple was specifically chosen to match the vibrant orange of the butch flag. It also took inspiration from the pink and red lesbian flag.
Perceptions and discrimination
Although working class butch/femme culture was not a simple imitation of heterosexuality, that assumption led to stereotyping and dismissal by many lesbian feminists, the medical establishment, and more affluent gays and lesbians. The dominant discourse of feminism and lesbian feminism in the 1970s and early 1980s regarded butch/femme communities as incompatible with feminism and marginalized them in lesbian history. From that perspective, butch/femme roles were criticized as reproducing patriarchy and hierarchies within women's relationships; they were not seen as being distinct, transformative, or a form of resistance to the oppression of women.
- The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader by Joan Nestle
- S/He by Minnie Bruce Pratt
- Femme: Feminists, Lesbians, and Bad Girls by Laura Harris and Elizabeth Crocker
- My Dangerous Desires: A Queer Girl Dreaming Her Way Home by Amber L. Hollibaugh
- Indya Moore
- Jonathan Van Ness
- Levitt, H.M.; Gerrish, E.A.; and Hiestand, K.R.. "The Misunderstood Gender: A Model of Modern Femme Identity". Sex Roles. 48, 99–113, 2003. (web archive)
- Kennedy, Elizabeth Lapovsky and Davis, Madeline D.. Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community. 20th anniversary edition, Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group), 2014.