Friday, February 1, 2013

Fuck your Femme Passivity

One of the reasons I stayed away from all things femme for so long was because of the percieved association of femme and weakness, passivity, standing back and letting things happen. I am not that sort of girl - I never have been. There is a t-shirt sold by T Shirt Hell that says, "If I had balls, they would be bigger than yours", and it was one of my favourite things to wear out for a long time. I assumed (because I didn't know any better) that if I started getting interested in being pretty, getting my nails did, all that junk, that I would have to give up being a bad ass. As it turns out, I was totally wrong, and I am so fucking happy about that. But every now and then something turns up that reminds me why I made those assumptions in the first place.

I don't really do Tumblr. I don't understand it, I don't understand what it's FOR, and that annoys me, so I generally keep away from it - although there is now a Reluctant Femme tumblr, just so I have somewhere to push all these posts and my Instagram pictures into the same stream. This distrust/disinterest in Tumblr means I missed the kerfuffle around this particular musician, who used to go by Kitty Pryde but is now apparently just Kitty, because this is meant to make people take her more seriously. Let's have a look at one of her clips and have a little talk about why she pisses me the fuck off.

This rapper is a perfect example of all the problematic associations with femme. Even though this is theoretically HER song, featuring a male rapper, she is standing limp in the background for the vast majority of it. Her lyrics have no power, no assertiveness, and are punctuated with a particular kind of girlish giggle that puts my teeth on edge. I get what she's doing, that whole cutsey thing, and while it's not my bag, I don't think it's inherently bad. You just have to look at Eline over at  A Fluffy Blog to see how cute can be done assertively, even aggressively. But Kitty isn't doing that. Her body language, her lyrics, her vocal delivery all say, "Don't mind me". By standing in the background, arms limp by her side with a blank, passive expression that only alters to flutter her eyelashes, she manages to avoid any impression of ownership of what is allegedly her track. Even her profanities are undercut by "ironic" giggling that smacks of a little kid saying something she knows is wrong, rather than a woman expressing herself with words of her choosing. The male rapper on the other hand is assertive, loud, brash - he vocalizes confidently, gets up close to the camera, gestures to take up space, and most importantly, looks comfortable to be there. We are left with the impression this is his songs, and Kitty is just tagging along. Just watching that video and thinking about it makes me want to go listen to Brat by Magic Dirt on repeat. And now let's look at one of my favourite badass femmes, Princess Superstar. This video is also a collaboration with a male rapper - I personally enjoy her solo work or her collaborations with Beth Orton a lot better, but this clip is a much more appropriate direct comparison to Kitty.

Princess Superstar is without a doubt, femme as fuck. Just look at that hat! The enormous feathers? The stilettos with a slim suit? She is firmly and unashamedly femme. This is the first difference between her and Kitty that I noticed - while Kitty wears her femme trappings with an air of awkwardness, like she's waiting for you to make fun of her because she feels a little silly, Princess Superstar challenges you to make fun of her. She dares you to. It's wonderful. In terms of how she relates to her male collaborator, this one comes across as much more of a partnership - which is particularly interesting given what a noted misogynist Kool Keith is. Seriously, some of his solo lyrics are just vile. But in this clip, Superstar owns her space, even when she's dancing around behind him. She wants you to look, she wants you to notice, and she doesn't come across as embarrassed to be there in the slightest. (I will admit she should probably be a little embarrassed by the amount of fur she's wearing - but that's another discussion for another time.) In the story of the clip, she's active and takes part in what's happening. She's never just standing there. And her lyrics are similarly assertive - when Keith tries to tease her with his short shorts, she demands he take them off. There is no coyness original modesty here. He says, "You totally want to have sex with me," and she doesn't giggle girlishly. She looks him right in the eye and replies, "Yes I do. Let's go." When she uses profanities, she says them with the same assertiveness she applies to her other lyrics. She uses profanities because they express what she wants to say, not out of an effort to be "naughty". Her confidence is far more genuinely challenging than Kitty's half hearted tittering swears.Instead of repeating over and over, "Eeee, I can rap!" Superstar just raps. She doesn't need your permission, or anyone's permission. She's going to do it anyway.

One of the hardest things for me about trying to be more feminist on a day to day basis is getting out of the habit of putting other women down. But seriously, this Kitty's passive, limp bullshit just makes me so angry! Is it just me?


  1. I'll start by saying that I really enjoy your blog, but I disagree with what you said about Kitty. I admire you for being a feminist, but I think that when we cast judgements about what other women are doing and how they are behaving, we are denying the fact that women should be free to live as they want to live, and not as other people say they should be. When we are judgemental of how a woman lives, we are just as bad as the men in the past who told women that their place was in the home.

    1. That's a fair call, and I do understand this point of view. As I say, the decision of whether to cast aspersions on other women or not is one I struggle with. I agree that infighting does hurt the cause of women as a whole - but I also feel there are some women doing more harm than good. While Kitty is certainly nowhere near as harmful as someone like Julie Birchall, I do feel like my right to call unhelpful bullshit still applies.
      ... I do however hope you keep reading my blog, and am really glad you've enjoyed it so far.


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