Hey femmes & friends! This is Cherry Poppins here, Programming committee chair for Femme 2012. I wrote this recently and posted on my own blog, and I thought I’d share here. I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on how transformative my first Femme Conference was for me, and this post is telling one small piece of that story.

The First Time I Heard the Words “Hard Femme”

I first heard the term “hard femme” in a zine-making workshop at the 2008 Femme Conference. Two wicked hard femme babes, Elokin and Pamela, were leading the workshop. They passed around their own zine, leopard print collaged onto the hot pink cover: Hard Femme Core #1: Hard Femme Bike Tour.

Hard femme. I said it out loud, quietly. Just rolling the phrase around on my tongue. It made everything make sense. The contradictions I was holding – femme as armor; strength in vulnerability. A breathless combination of ferocity and sweetness. A desire to stomp in puddles in heavy boots. To scowl and laugh riotously and to whip a lighter out of my cleavage to light your cigarette.

Elokin and Pamela led us in a series of writing exercises. It was early in the day. I think it was the first workshop I attended. I’d traveled far – a 20-something hour train ride from Austin to Chicago – so I was exhausted already, even before the weekend had started. When I’m exhausted, all of the typical barriers I’m so good at having in place to control my emotions come tumbling down.

“Why are you here?” Elokin asked. “Write about it,” Pamela urged. One full page. Five minutes. Go.

I’m here because I feel disconnected from a femme community. I’m here because I have a sense that it may be time soon to move on from where I am now – and I don’t know what comes next – but I think this (zines and femmes and community and art) might be a part of it.

Until I’d put my pen to paper, I’d had no idea why I was there. My friend who was chairing the performance committee convinced me to come up and perform in the Saturday night show. I thought it would be fun. I put my pen to paper, and I felt the tears rising in my chest, a combination of the exhaustion and sheer overwhelm. Years of exhaustion and overwhelm, trying to force their way out. I continued to write furiously:

I’m here because my body has changed and keeps fucking changing. And I need to shed the many layers of Southern, good-girl, white-girl, ladylike shame and fat hatred. I don’t know how.

I’m here because I got married and that’s still a little weird – and he’s a boy, and I’m still a femme, but wow – just because he’s stealth doesn’t mean I am too.

I don’t remember what else happened in that workshop. I think we went over the mechanics of zine-making, but it was, honestly, a blur. Most of the rest of the weekend is a blur of emotions and new experiences. Like sneaking past security into the hotel pool to swim naked at midnight with 150 other femmes. Chlorine stung our eyes, and most of us had brought no towels. The guards sent in the one woman on the night shift to tell us we had to leave. She was grinning. I smelled like chlorine for the rest of the night. I never wanted to wash it off.


2 Responses to Reflections on Femme2008 and “hard femme”

  1. Aries says:

    Thank you for sharing this experience with all of us. The Femme Conference is about the experience of community, fierceness, and empowerment and all those emotions come through this writing. Thank you

  2. Aries Hines says:

    After reading this
    I walk out of the pool with you
    greatful for the sting in my eyes
    in hard solidarity

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