These incredible people entertain, empower, and inspire us, with their words, actions, and presence.
Unfailingly Fierce. Unabashedly Femme.
Thank you all.
ANITA DOLCE VITA
HIV Clinical Research Nurse/Managing Editor for DapperQ
Seattle Based Poet
Chicago based anti-violence program director
BEVIN BRANLANDINGHAM // Queer Fat Femme
NYC Femmecast Producer
MASINA WRIGHT, ND
Naturopathic hormone therapy for the trans* community
The Wright Doctor
Captain of the Texas Rollergirls Allstars , Transitional Living Program Director at Austin Children's Shelter /
Girl's Emergency Shelter
Author / Poet
Internationally touring poet and teaching artist.
Passionate activist, MoveOn.Org
LEAH LAKSHMI PIEPZNA-SAMARASINHA
Queer disabled Sri Lankan cis femme writer, performer, organizer and badass visionary healer.
Mangoes with Chili
Educator, Writer, Activist
University of Southern Maine's Assistant Director of Student Life and Diversity;
Coordinator, Center for Sexualities and Gender Diversity
Author, Performer, Artist
Bay Area DJ
Founder of Spirit Boxing
Writer, performer, director
Performer, activist, educator, curator
Queer and trans* health advocate. Gender researcher. Writer.
Photographer, punk rock femme programmer/IT professional
A movement artist, choreographer, queer showgirl, performance artist and producer
Mangoes with Chili
Author: The Femme’s Guide to the Universe
Award winning author and poet
Writer and Performer
Founder and Co-Director of Justice In The Body
NYC based blogger
AJA JONES AGUIRRE
Fit For A Femme
Educator, artist, writer, former adjunct professor of gender studies, cultural studies, and media arts working as a union organizer on SEIU’s Adjunct Action Bay Area campaign
Educator, author, artist
MISS BETHIE BEE
Ms SF Citadel 2011, Ms San Francisco Leather 2011, Bawdy Storytelling
HEIDI CARRINGTON HEATH
UCC pastor, Vermont
Organizer of the Femme Show
August 13, 2014
Since sharing the Fifty Fierce Femmes post two months ago, Jack Tar 207 has received both positive and negative feedback, for which, ALL of which, we are so grateful.
We created the post to honor fifty people who identify as Femme. We wanted to begin a conversation about femme visibility, meant to inspire more conversations with and by more femmes and people who appreciate them. In curating this post, we made mistakes. We would like to apologize, and make amends where we are able.
We did not ask for consent before including people on the post. Some were thrilled about their surprise inclusion, and others saw it as a major failure. We apologize to all for not asking consent in advance, and particularly to those who were displeased with their non-consensual inclusion. We understand that, by including them without asking first, we took away these femmes’ agency over their name, image, and work. We have offered to remove any member of the group who contacted us; as of the date of this post, none have asked to be removed from our post. We are currently in the process of seeking consent from each individual on the post. It will be updated if anyone requests to be removed.
In not reaching far enough outside of our personal network, we failed to share a diverse enough group of femmes. This is, very simply, a major failure on our part. We did not include enough femmes of color, trans femmes, Indiginous femmes, or trans femmes of color. We need to do better, and we vow to do better. We are actively building the tools for this, and hope you will see it reflected in our photography and our social media presence.
We take complete responsibility for the mistakes we made, and have been reflecting as a group and as individuals about the experience. We have talked about ways we can be better advocates and be an even more positive presence/blog for more people. The positive reactions to the post were exciting, the negative ones brought with them an important realization and again, we are grateful for them. I, LK Weiss, founder of Jack Tar 207, have sought the advice of a local anti-racism activist who has, since privately asking to be removed from the post due to these very issues, become one of my closest confidants and advisors. I am forever grateful to people who are caring enough to call us out, and also compassionate enough to help us make it better.
After the post went public, it received about 25,000 views. While many of these were likely from people who already knew at least one person on the post, not even one of us on the team knew, or knew of, each of the fifty femmes before this post was curated. We shared the names, images, and work of 50 people who actively promote femme visibility with some people who didn’t know about them before the post. We hope that, with the corrections and apology and new knowledge we are taking with us, this feels good to everyone involved now.
We are committed to being 100% transparent about the feedback, both because it has been requested, and because it’s the right thing to do. Here is one of the responses we received, and have been asked to share with you.
In our effort to be 100% transparent, we preempt this by saying many of the assertions made in this letter are incorrect simply because they are assumptions without the proper information. We encourage you, if you have concerns about some of the content, to please get in touch. We would love to hear from you and clear up any concerns you may have.
Here is the letter we received August 3, 2014:
Dear Jack Tar 207 and Associates,
We are some of the femmes who you included, without our consent or consultation, in your recent “50 Fierce Femmes” feature, as well as femme cultural workers and organizers not included on the list. We are writing because we have serious concerns about the way you created this feature and its negative impact on our communities.
We are disturbed by the ways your choices to create a list that was largely made up of white or light skinned femmes and cisgendered femmes, with very few Black and, to our knowledge, only one trans femme of color and no Indigenous femmes. This is unacceptable. Our revolutionary femme genders do not support a vision of femme that centers white and light skinned, cisgender women, that supports a racist, shadeist, transmisogynist agenda.
Before we begin our more detailed list of concerns, we’d like to say that this letter is not meant as a slight to any of the femmes on this list. We know/love/respect many of these femmes, and believe that they deserve to be celebrated. We are particularly pleased that you chose to include femmes whose work is not always visible or celebrated. However, this doesn’t detract from the central issues of concern. It is critical that any publication that uses the images and brilliance of femmes take the time to understand why we are committed to not just including (in some tokenizing fashion) but actually centering Black femmes, indigenous femmes and trans femmes of color.
Our concerns are as follows
1) Your "blog" is actually a graphic design/product design company that is selling services. This list, while highlighting femmes, is actually using femmes' social capital to market yourselves. We’d like to ask for the people who run the site to step forward on the site for accountability. Who are you? What are you doing in the world?
2) You didn’t ask any of us for consent before we were included in your project. In one case, you first approached a femme’s butch partner to let them know about her involvement before you spoke to the femme herself. In a world where we and our images are objectified and used without our consent all the time, it is incredibly important that we have agency over the ways our names and images are portrayed. We understand that you have stated that your intention was to honor femmes. But there is no honor without consent.
The use of this list, to drive attention to your blog and your business, is highly unethical and problematic given that Femme images have a long history of being used without our consent. Given the very long history of Femmes not being respected as sexual actors in our own lives (including psychological torture) and the history and present day involvement of Femmes in sex work where the struggle to control their images is ongoing, your use of our images without our consent calls to mind this type of ongoing exploitation. Sex workers have and continue to advocate for our right to represent ourselves on our own terms.
Femmes of color continue to do this work, including La Chica Boom, and others continue to reclaim the Black history and Black origins of burlesque, including dancers like The Lady Vagina Jenkins, Alotta Boutté, and others who no longer perform like Simone de La Ghetto, and the entire Harlem Shake Burlesque troupe.
3) The lack of Black, Indigenous and dark-skinned Femmes, of all ages, but especially those that are our elders, is also highly problematic because between the 2nd and 3rd waves of feminism, femmes of color, specifically Black femmes, were described and seen as anti-feminist “throw backs” in their expression of being Femme. It was the Black community that was attacked and it was the Black community that held down Butch and Femme until the mid-90’s, when it became more acceptable to express ourselves as Femme again. It was Black Butches and Femmes, specifically writers Cheryl Clarke and Jewelle Gomez, among many others, who expressed the contemporary and historical joys of our existence and made it possible for the rest of the community to share it and celebrate it. Other Femmes of color, including Chrystos, Happy Hyder, Sharon Page Ritchie, and Pratibha Parmar, also held down Femme identity, sharing it through their poems, visual art, dance and films. It was their example in the arts and political analysis, that allowed any of the younger white Femmes to be able to even reclaim Femme as an identity. South and East Asian Femmes like Pooja Gehi (of Sylvia Rivera Law Project) and Pacific Islander femmes like Lisa Kahaleole Hall, or darker-skinned and other Latinas like Karla Rosales (who produced the film “Mind If I Call You Femme?”) and Maya Chapina, and countless others have been revealing how Femme is lived and defined within our specific cultural communities.
4) The lack of inclusion of trans Femmes of color including Isa Noyola, Lexi Nepantla Adsit, Reina Gossett, Ryka Aoki, Cecilia Chung, Miss Major, Miss Billie and the late Miss Melenie and everyone involved in the International Trans Women of Color Network Gathering is not only a serious lack, it reveals a singular kind of transphobia that reinforces the idea that feminine is white and light-skinned. The Stonewall Rebellion was crafted in part by transgender femmes of color, like Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. In a world beset by transmisogyny and violence against trans femmes of color, including only one trans femme of color in your list is a slap in the face, and helps contribute to that violence.
Cultural capital is powerful. Your list isn’t just some random person deciding to honor femmes that they like. This is a public declaration and something designed to have cachet and visibility. From what we can tell about your website and business, it was also designed to drive traffic (and thus make money) from the brilliance, hard work, and tenacity of Femmes. And yet it was done in a way that was under researched, not consensual, and replicates the very systems of racism, misogyny and transphobia that so many femmes work their assess off to fight. When we do public cultural work, we have to do better.
In light of our concerns, we are asking you to take several steps:
1) That the Jack Tar 207 team read and reflect on this letter as individuals and as a group, and use that reflection and discussion as an opportunity to deepen your understanding of the systemic forms of privilege and discrimination perpetrated - intentionally or otherwise - by lists such as yours.
2) That the Jack Tar 207 team write and post an apology in response to this letter. Here are some resources that might be helpful in crafting your apology:
3) That the Jack Tar 207 team post our letter in its entirety on your website, and that you share that link through your social media channels.
4) That the Jack Tar 207 team reach out to the femmes profiled in the list to receive consent from each person to be included, as well as confirm that their photos and bios are an accurate and respectful representation of each person’s public image and contributions.
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
A few days after we received this letter, we came across a post from The Trifecta Tribe, which gently calls us out and also, in response to our post, continued the conversation by creating a post of all Femmes of Color. We reached out to Marcia, the curator of The Trifecta Tribe, to thank her for being so kind and also for being such an effective activist. You can see that conversation and links to her groundbreaking post on our Commentary page.