Published on February 8th, 2012 | by Wild Gender
Femme For All: The Art Of Femmes
The high and the hairy. The tough and tender. The fat and fantastic. The dorky, the dirty, and delectable. These are just some of the incarnations of queer femme identity that came together to organize, network, and revel in each other’s company during the Femme Week of Action last month.
From January 15th to 21st, queer and femme-spectrum artists, activists, and organizers planned an array events in cities across the United States and Canada for the Femme Week of Action. Cities such as New York, Montreal, Toronto, San Francisco, and Los Angeles (among others) hosted in depth discussions and dance parties, burlesque shows and bike workshops in an effort to “illuminate and align” femme communities.
In a quick report back from Femme Week, Damien Luxe all star performer and organizer from New York, said that there were over 100 people at a discussion and over 250 people over the course of a day at organized skillshares, performances, and a dance party.
In Philadelphia, burlesque performer Shannon Windsor and myself organized an event of “unplugged” style performances and an artists panel featuring local artists Notorious OMG, Laura Rabbit, and Messapotamia LeFae. We performed for a full house at the Wooden Shoe Bookstore, we talked about the radical implications of expressing queer femme identity through performance, music, and art.
To me, what made this group interesting was that no one’s performance was considered overtly political or subversive in nature, though all the artist’s work confronted themes of gender violence, transphobia, racial stereotypes, and body issues.
“I’ve just been trying to do activism in the way that i like to do it, which is spectacle,” dancer/ performer Messapotamia Lefae said. They were blunt. “I am not the kind of person that likes to scream and throw signs, I like to do subversive action–if I glimmer just enough I might persuade you into thinking what I’m thinking about.”
Shannon Windsor, who performs under the name Miss Mary Wanna, told a story of moving from a small town in North Carolina to Philadelphia and the radical notions of getting naked in any space.
“I was and still am an outspoken body liberation activist,” Windsor explained, “My art has followed the transition of all the different iterations we all have with our bodies, whether it be gender presentation, or size, or whatever we are dealing with–I just love challenging people’s ideas of what’s hot.”
Musician Laura Rabbit (of Maple Rabbit) had a slightly different take on the discussion.
“I’m not sure me playing keyboard is a politcal act, but it sure is a brave act.” Laura Rabbit was referencing the dynamics of being a woman and being femme in a male-dominated music scene. She also spoke to the importance of working with youth through Girls Rock Camp. “I have been able to help people figure out in a week what has taken me years.”
Many of the artists touched on the dynamic of not being taken seriously as artists because of their queer and femme presentations. Facilitator and sex educator Rebecca Alvarez ended the conversation by commenting on the issue.
“The secret power of femme is when you lay out something pretty–the bon bons, the cupcakes, and they’re like fuck there’s a fire cracker,” they said.
So why am I telling you this now, weeks after the events have occured? Not only because I am a wicked procrastinator but more importantly because the festivities are not even close to being over. The Femme Week of Action was just the beginning of events leading up to the National Femme Conference in Baltimore this Summer.
This April, the queer & femme performance troupe Heels on Wheels Glitter Roadshow will be working its way through the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. The tour features punk rock storytelling, liberation magic, aerobics to combat dissociation, and out-of-body puppetry, as well as community workshops and other delectable surprises. To learn more or to bring Heels on Wheels to your town or city please visit their website.
This Summer, The National Femme Conference will be on the East Coast for the first time! From August 17th -19th the Femme Conference will descend upon Baltimore for a weekend of workshops, performances, film showings, and networking. For more information, find events in your area, or to register visit their website.