Femme objectification of butches is a problem.
I have experienced fetishization and objectification from femmes because of being GNC. I identified as femme for over a decade, but I was visibly GNC and so other femmes identified me as butch. The subsequent objectification included grabbing/touching me without permission, commenting negatively on my appearance and actions when they weren’t “masculine” enough, telling me that I should be “fixed” for being attracted to butches, expecting me to pay/fetch/carry for and wait on femme womyn, and more.
I have been in the LGBT+ community for fifteen years, half of my life. My observations are drawn from years of real-life experience and a lot of time in real-life LGBT+ circles. I have observed behavior like this for years, and I have spoken with many other GNC and butch womyn who have similar experiences.
I’ve heard butches talk about femmes expecting butches to be “dominant” in bed, and to derive their own pleasure solely from pleasing the femme; that their femme girlfriends treat them as though their bodies are repulsive; that they are expected to make love to their femme partners for hours, but their partners are unwilling to reciprocate or, sometimes, even touch them. It is painful and isolating to be treated this way. I have also heard accounts of femmes abusing butch womyn without consequences; where other lesbians have supported femme womyn who were the victims in abusive relationships, butch womyn’s pain was laughed off because they were “masculine.”
My personal theory is that femme objectification of butches is viewed as a power reversal, a kind of lesbian misandry, and thus acceptable. This is because GNC womyn are presumed to have privilege over feminine-presenting womyn. But this is a lie; we do not have privilege for being visibly GNC. “Butch privilege” and “masculine-of-center privilege” are myths. And it is not acceptable to objectify womyn, even if they are visibly GNC or “masculine.”
Also, and this is important, butch does not exist solely relative to femme; butches do not exist to light femmes’ cigarettes and fetch them drinks. We exist on our own terms. Butch-butch and GNC lesbian couples exist. (And frequently experience a whole new level of objectification from femmes; for the record, we are not together to “get” threesomes, we are not a “waste,” we are not in any way like gay men–all things I’ve heard from femmes.)
I started talking about this a few weeks ago because there was an (old, from print) piece about butches servicing femmes making the rounds that was fetishistic and objectifying. If butches calling out objectifying behavior from femmes makes you defensive, I would ask that you sit with that discomfort. I understand that it is difficult; I used to be in those shoes, and a few years ago, this discussion would have made me incredibly uncomfortable. It is only recently that I have begun to unlearn my habits of objectifying all womyn, both GNC and not. It is a long and arduous process, but it is worth it.
Femme objectification of butches is a problem. It is similar to butch misogyny, but without its own name. And it seems we are only allowed to talk about one of these problems.