Have you made any of these assumptions about what it means to be butch?
These misconceptions are really damaging, and way too common – and you might not realize how much they recreate harmful ideas that come straight from patriarchal thinking.
It’s time for a reality check.
The Editors at Everyday Feminism
Click for the Transcript
Text: 11 Assumptions About Being Butch (and why they need to stop)
(Next to the title is a dapper butch person wearing a button-down shirt, a tie, and formal slacks, posing confidently, and holding a briefcase as she slings her blazer across her shoulder. She is tall, thin, and white.)
Protagonist: People make so many assumptions about me because of the way I dress. Well it’s time for a reality check…
(A butch woman, the same character from the title, is shown wearing only men’s clothing, her chest bound, with short hair and no makeup.)
Text: Assumption: Shuns all feminine presentation.
(The same character from Panel 1 is putting on eyeliner at a mirror surrounded by nail polish, makeup, ties, wigs, perfume, and cologne. It is clear she varies her gender expression)
Text: Reality check: This assumes feminine and masculine are incompatible/opposites and that a person’s gender presentation cannot change from day-to-day. In truth, masculine and feminine can exist to varying degrees in the same person at the same time.
(A butch person holding a wrench poses in victory, motor oil on their hands. They are fat, nonbinary, and have a faint moustache.)
Text: Assumption: Can fix anything.
(The same character from Panel 3 is looking at a computer repair manual in confusion while another person explains it to them.)
Text: Reality check: No one person knows how to fix all the things, and this stereotype implies femme people are less capable.
(A black butch trans woman is on a motorcycle, looking tough as nails.)
Text: Assumption: Is always tough and impervious to pain.
(The same character from Panel 5 is tearing up because she has a splinter. Her partner, a cis woman who also presents as butch, is patting her sympathetically and patiently on the shoulder, holding a pair of tweezers at the ready.)
Text: Reality check: Pain and vulnerability are a part of the human experience. We all have different levels of pain tolerance, and that changes throughout our lives for many reasons.
(A butch-presenting man is looking at a recipe book titled Hearty Meals, seemingly irritated and confused while a small child looks on.)
Text: Assumption: Is disinterested and/or bad at tasks that nurture others, like childcare and cooking.
(The same character from Panel 7 has replaced the cookbook with a new one called 201 Healthy Vegan Treats and is now smiling while the child helps them mix ingredients into a bowl)
Text: Reality check: This assumes that nurturing tasks are only suited for feminine people (they’re not) and implies that all femme people are interested in those things (they’re not). People of all presentations and identities can be successful at nurturing tasks.
(A couple who appears to be butch/femme is walking down the street together, smiling and holding hands. The butch person is partially off screen. They are both black and fat.)
Text: Assumption: Is only attracted to femme-presenting people.
(The couple from Panel 9 moves farther into the frame, revealing three people instead of two. Two of the people in the triad are butch and are holding each other’s hands sweetly and they walk with their femme partner.)
Text: Reality check: Attraction and gender expression are different things. One can present in a variety of ways and still be attracted to any type of gender expression and identity.
(A group of queer men are hiking, one is butch-presenting and the other three have femme presentation. The butch-presenting man is looking at a map and seems confident as his traveling companions behind him.)
Text: Assumption: Is always assertive and a leader.
(The group of hikers from panel 11 are all gathered around the map, deciding together which way to go next. Everyone is contributing and comfortable in the situation.)
Text: Reality check: This implies femme people cannot or should not be assertive, and that assertiveness is the always the best way to solve problems.
(A well-dressed butch/femme couple are at a restaurant. The butch-presenting person is white and is wearing glasses, a suit, and a bow-tie. The femme-presenting person is appears to be Latina and is wearing an elegant dress and expensive jewelry.)
(The server hands the butch partner the bill.)
Text: Assumption: Is a provider and breadwinner of a relationship.
(The femme partner takes the check and pays it, rolling her eyes at the server’s assumption.)
Text: Reality check: This assumes that femininity is dependent on masculinity for financial and material support. In truth, all partners contribute to their relationships in a variety of ways, including financially.
(A butch person is smiling at zir partner while holding a pair of plush handcuffs.)
Text: Assumption: Is sexually dominant and/or a top.
(We see the character from panel 15, wearing the handcuffs and beaming happily. Zir partner is kissing zem on the cheek.)
Text: Reality check: This assumes feminine people can only be passive, submissive receivers and that masculine people cannot be those things. The truth is that all gender presentations and identities can enjoy any number of activities.
(A butch person flexes at the gym, showing off huge biceps.)
Text: Assumption: Is physically strong and able.
(A zoomed-out show of Panel 17, where we see that the character from Panel 17 is using a wheelchair. All around them are people with a variety of body types, presentations, and abilities.)
Text: Reality check: All bodies are valid in a butch identity, regardless of health or ability level. There are also many physically strong people who are very feminine. Strength/ability does not correlate with gender expression.
(Shows the archetypical Western vision of butch in the form of a white, able-bodied, entirely masculine CAFAB person with short hair and a flat chest. Other figures are around her but they are greyed out/silhouettes.)
Text: Assumption: Must have a particular gender identity, body type, and relationship with their body.
(The same scene as in Panel 17, but now we can see the people who were greyed out. This is a big panel of lots of butch characters of many identities, body types, and appearances.)
Text: Reality check: This confuses gender identity and gender expression, assumes that trans men cannot be feminine, that genderqueer people must be masculine and/or CAFAB, and that trans women cannot be butch. The reality is that butch presentation can be performed and/or identified with by any body type and gender identity.
Text: Assumption: Must recreate traditional patriarchal ideas and gender roles.
(We see all the characters from the comic standing together, crushing an inflated sign saying “Patriarchy” under their heels, wheels, and crutches.)
Everyone: Not today, patriarchy!!
To learn more about this topic, check out:
- Celebrating Butch: A Powerful Photo Collection on Female Masculinity
- Being a Butch Woman Around Men Sure Would Be A Lot Easier Without the Patriarchy
Rhea Ewing is a queer artist living in Wisconsin. Rhea is involved in a number of comic projects, including the monthly comics challenge site “The Radome” and a 350+ page nonfiction graphic novel about gender identity in the Midwest called FINE: A Comic About Gender. You can find more of zir work at rheaewing.com and finecomic.com or connect on Twitter @finecomic. Check out zir work here!