No Pink Paper Bag Test: Taking a Look at Femme Privilege #lgbt

Skylar Cooper

Skylar Cooper

As a child I had always heard comments about the illusive brown paper bag test. For those who don’t know the brown paper bag test was the practice of only allowing people with complexions lighter than a paper bag entrance to certain African-American social groups and events. Even though by “my time” it was more a casual reference than an actual practice, it was always something that stuck with me. Well that and the FACT (per my grandma) that coffee made you black. All I knew was light was right, and that I would never drink coffee (that didn’t last).

As a sociology major at the University of Florida (Go Gators!) I read countless essays, and books about the environment we live in. It was there that I first studied in depth the privilege that one group has over another, be it the color of their skin, their gender or the zeros in their bank account.

I started to think more on the luxury of being “light skinned” since I wasn’t and how easy white people had it, because I wasn’t one of those either. Even as an adult, I can very easily spot the privilege of being in Hispanic in Miami. Why? Because I am not Hispanic. Yet when it came to the femme/butch dichotomy, I was oblivious (with a side of disinterested). Why? Because I am on the winning end. It wasn’t until a recent conversation with two of my readers, AJ and BK on another post regarding black lesbians obsessions with labels, that I decided to tackle this head on.

Much in the same vein that Peggy McIntosh confronted white privilege, I will attempt to identify some daily effects of femme privilege in my life. I too, will attempt to choose conditions solely related to me being a femme, withstanding my race or gender in general. I look forward to hearing from you all on things that I should add or subtract.

  1. In most cases my sexuality won’t be in question on first meeting someone, unless I specifically bring it up.
  2. I won’t have to have a plan for the first time someone asks my child why their Mommy looks like a boy.
  3. I will not be barred participation in any of my social/fraternal organization’s
    events because I refuse to wear the required dress/skirt ensemble.
  4. I will never be given an evil eye, or worse confronted, when I enter the women’s public restroom.

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    The Butch Clothing Company UK

  5. I will never be called young man or “sir”.
  6. If I don’t desire to be penetrated sexually, it won’t be regarded as me forgetting I’m a woman.
  7. I will never have to explain how I have children.
  8. I can play contact sports, or dress in athletic clothing, without having people attribute these choices to my attempt to emulate men.
  9. If a traffic cop pulls me over, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my sexuality.
  10. I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring women of feminine appearance.
  11. I can be pretty sure of finding people who would be willing to talk with me and advise me about my next steps, professionally.
  12. I can think over many options, social, political, imaginative or professional, without asking whether a person that dresses as I do would be accepted or allowed to do what I want to do.
  13. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my gender identity will not work against me.
  14. I can shop for clothes and shoes without having to go into another gender’s section.
  15. I can wear personal garments that make me feel comfortable without having to alter them or create substitutes.
  16. I can travel alone or with another femme without expecting embarrassment or hostility in those who deal with us.
  17. I will feel welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.
  18. I will not be expected to financially support my mate because of my appearance.
  19. If I am ever physically attacked, my appearance will never be given as an excuse by my attacker.
  20. I will never be rebuked by a lover for being too feminine.

Any to add? Comment below or tweet me @kristiweb