The Future of Femme: Notes on Femininity, Aging, and Gender Theory

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Age, femininity, femme, gender performativity, lesbian, queer, style


This article begins by contextualizing the author's experience as an aging femme trying to locate herself in relation to the representation of the femme as lesbianism’s “bad girl.” From the point of view of the femme at midlife, it analyzes the construction of the femme as the gender performative subject with agency in opposition to an imagined “mainstream,” heterosexual woman whose gender identity is determined by her internalization of beauty culture. The article calls for a rethinking of how femme theory conceptualizes femininity, with particular attention to how current articulations of femme identity are indebted to voluntarist discourses of subjectivity traced through the feminist sex wars, theories of gender performativity, and subcultural studies of style.