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My Butch Cleans Up Good: Why We Don’t Subscribe to Gender Roles

Written by Zamara Perri


I’m a femme in a relationship with a butch and I mow our lawn. Why? First, for medical reasons my partner is unable to use the lawn mower for more than a few minutes.


Second, she prefers to pay someone. In our neighborhood that’s about $40 each time. When I multiplied that to around 10 cuts for the entire summer, I decided that as an able-bodied person, I’d rather spend the $400 on pretty dresses, pretty flowers, some braids and home décor.


Third, we don’t believe in using masculine pronouns or subscribe to gender roles that stem from a bygone, oppressive patriarchal system.


Fourth, I do a damn good job mowing the lawn! I’m always happy and proud about how great it looks after I’m done.


Definition, Please


But before we go any further, let’s get an understanding of exactly what it means to play into the idea of butch-femme roles. For some femmes they are ecstatically happy about and do not deviate from the traditional roles and expectations assigned to women from a bygone era. That means that they cook, clean, dress up and look pretty, raise the children if they have any, lay on their backs and defer to their more aggressive or masculine partner in every way. Their partners expect them to “act like a lady” and get upset when their more feminine partners deviate from certain traditional roles.


On the masculine/butch side, the butch takes on only the traditional male roles and ideas assigned to men from the middle of the century. This often means that butch women, simply by virtue of looking more masculine, are expected to earn more money than their femme partners, mow the lawn, literally wear the pants, take care of home repairs and be more aggressive in bed.


That. Does. Not. Work. For. Me. And. My. Partner. I laugh now because even though I mostly dated aggressive femmes in the past, I adhered to strict gender roles. I remembered buying a house with my first love. She was an aggressive, power femme. She brought home the bacon and I resentfully cooked it.


I didn’t like feeling like I had to do something because I was the softer femme or made less money. I remembered how it was her job to mow the lawn, but it was my job to plant pretty flowers.


Washington, D.C., winters soon made me realize just how ridiculous we were being to adhere to gender roles. We had two driveways and a long sidewalk. That meant that whenever it snowed it would take hours for one person to clear the snow, but if we both worked together we’d be able to clear it in half the time.


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Article written by:

Zamara Perri

Zamara Perri is the founder and editor of the Black Lesbian Love Lab blog. She loves black love and loves mangoes, cats, reading, cooking and writing about some of the challenges and joys of black lesbian relationships.

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  1. Eboni Morris

    This article was interesting and very relevant. I never fit into the “L Word Roles” myself, or I fell under stem. I do want to be the queen in a sense, I actually call my GF my Quing. But for the most part we balance each other out more than fitting into any traditional roles. I am terrible at eating breakfast, but love to cook; she loves cooking breakfast. She does breakfast I do lunch and dinner. We work together in the house, at the moment I am a stay at home mom-partner so I do feel the need to maintain home more so. I wash the clothes but since she doesn’t mind folding, that’s her thing. She may dress in men clothes, and look good doing it, at the end of the day she is the woman I love and I feel its important I show her that. I am also the handy-man, mixes fix and love carpentry. I change my tire faster than most men and at 5′ tall I have driven large forklifts. I love that she make me feel comfortable in my more masculine side that I felt I needed to hide in the past. At the same time she makes me feel like the most enlightening women ever.

    I think focusing more on the dynamic of each individual and the optimum functioning and natural flow, learn and let it build outside the box no constraints; you give each other a chance to understand and know each other and fall into roles that are best suited for the couple as a whole.

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