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

I’m a femme in a relationship with a butch and I mow our lawn. Why? First, due to 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.

Defining Gender Roles

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 some 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 she took it up on herself to to mow the lawn, and since I loved gardening, I planted pretty flowers. Washington, D.C., winters soon made me realize just how ridiculous we were being to adhere to ANY TYPE of 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.

What Goes on Behind Closed Doors

I love watching my hetero neighbors because they are the embodiment of black love. They are from Texas. She keeps the house looking pretty while he mows the law, washes the car and grills. He drives her everywhere. Whatever they are doing clearly works for them. They are always laughing and seem to be having a great time with each other. I have a lesbian friend who looks and acts very feminine. She loves dressing up, looking pretty, playing with make-up, cooking and taking care of home. Her woman, a butch, brings home the money. But in the bedroom, my femme friend straps up and has her stud woman calling her name and God’s name.
READ: We Are Not Freaks! Why We Love Being an Old School Butch-Femme Couple

Why do I even care about what other people do in their relationships? I honestly don’t. If traditional butch-femme roles work in your relationship, then I love it!
But what I realize is that unfortunately some butches and femmes have usurped the worst parts of patriarchy and determined that because someone literally wears the pants, makes more money or has more education, that she is somehow entitled to make unreasonable demands on her partner.
This conversation seems to crop up a lot when people talk about keeping the home clean or about who gets to deliver pleasure in bed. My belief is that every woman should experience the joys of being a pillow princess and know how to wield a strap. I also believe if we both work, then we both need to contribute to keeping our home clean and that has nothing to do with who is more butch. For some couples, it’s important to them to have someone take care of home while she goes out and gets the bacon. But the interesting thing that I’ve noticed is that it is often the more butch half of the couple that insists on these limiting roles to keep the femme woman in “her place.” To me it gets dangerous when it becomes about more than just what we wear but about power and control. I can’t get with that. I prefer being with a woman who is always thinking about how she can lighten my load and not just about making unreasonable demands or having unreasonable expectations because I like wearing lipstick. Here is what works for me and my butch boo: I work an office job and commute about an hour each way. My honey has a flexible schedule because she works for herself. But even before she went back to working for herself, she was all about keeping the house clean. My honey is very particular about the laundry, I personally don’t care and will have her clothes jacked up if she lets me do them. I care a little bit more about cooking because she’s just not good at it 🙂 So I do all the cooking. We both clean the bathroom, vacuum, wash the dishes, etc. My butch ends up doing more housework than I do, and I know how lucky I am.

Do What Works for You and Your Partner

I would never go around thinking that every relationship should be just like mine. If what you have with your partner, wife, boo thang works for you both, then it’s not broke, so leave it be. Honestly, I really think it all comes down to two things: supporting your partner and doing what works best for you as a couple. And to be honest, the biggest thing that any femme or butch can do for her partner is to show her how much you respect and value what she brings to the relationship no matter what that looks like.

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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. Avatar
    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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