The Rise in Visibility of Masculine-Presenting Individuals as Parents
By Alex Temblador
Masculinity has long been thought of as qualities that are associated with men or the qualities that differentiated men from women. However, it has come to be understood now as traits that society associate to gender are typically unrealistic and stereotypical. Men, women, and gender non-binary sexes all share “masculine” traits, but having said that, there has always been a push against females who break gender norms and present themselves in masculine ways. Even worse, masculine-presenting moms or parents have been almost nonexistent in media, until recently.
What is female masculinity? Buzzfeed recently created a video that discussed what it meant to be female and masculine. The video introduces women that identify with a variety of terms, some of which you may have never heard before and others you have, such as “butch,” “MoC” or masculine-of-center, “gender queer,” “mahu,” “gender neutral,” and “LHB” or long-haired butch.
The video asks these women what is female masculinity? Many of their responses reflect how they’ve identified with more masculine rather than feminine attributes, while explaining that there is a wide spectrum of female masculinity that is reflected in personality, character, one’s mind, and also physical appearance. They also explained their advantages and disadvantages of being a masculine-presenting female.
What makes this video so significant is that ten years ago we weren’t having discussions like this and there was little visibility of masculine-presenting females in the media. Now, there are celebrities, musicians, actors, and athletes like Lea DeLaria, Abby Wambach, Ellen DeGeneres, Ruby Rose, AzMarie, who fall on the wide spectrum of masculine-presenting females and masculine-presenting gender non-binary individuals and are highly visible to society. This visibility has encouraged others to bring more visibility to masculine-presentation of individuals in new ways, such as with a Tumblr blog that puts masculine-presenting females, as well as those that identify as gender neutral or trans, in a whole new light: parents who are considered “butch” and their babies.
Butches + Babies is a blog on Tumblr (they have an IG account too!) that presents “butches” with children. Creator Meaghan O’Malley told BuzzFeed that she started the blog because: “I wanted to provide a space to normalize a dynamic that is rarely seen in the mainstream.”
A description on the blog further explains that O’Malley is “fascinated by the juxtaposition of a baby nestled in a butch’s arms.” She goes on to say, “I can say quite confidently that I love [butches] vulnerability. It’s not at all easy to march through the world shattering gender norms at every turn. So when a butch holds a small child, relatively unaffected by gender (in a cognitive/behavioral sense), it is a simultaneous exchange of healing and freedom.”
O’Malley makes it clear that her blog is not meant to define the word “butch” or limit it in any way: “BUTCHES + BABIES will not define butch for you – you have the freedom to do that yourself. I believe butch exists on a spectrum, just like gender, and it without a doubt includes our trans* brethren. I will not judge or critique you, and I encourage the same from the readership. Butch, in all of its iterations, is welcome here.” She has also stated that she doesn’t presume or state that these individuals’ gender identity are female. This Tumblr blog is inclusive of trans, gender queer, gender neutral, and masculine-presenting females.
“For people who are butch, I hope they feel seen — as friends, parents, aunts/uncles, cousins, etc. And more than that, just seen as a person of value who deserves to give and get love,” said O’Malley. O’Malley seems to understand that visibility in mainstream media is important for butches who are parents. Better, yet, the blog understands that these person’s expression of their identity doesn’t denote who they are or their places in their family, and it sure doesn’t prevent them from being parents if they wish to be.
The response to Butches + Babies has been positive and many people are excited to see parents and individuals that look like them with children. O’Malley explains though that “while the majority of the butches and babies seen on the blog are not in family dynamics together, I hoped that [the project] would at least give young butches permission to hope for that life (if they wanted it) and to construct that life in whatever way they see fit, including pregnancy, childbirth, adoption, co-parenting, breastfeeding/nursing, and so on.” However, many of the people featured on the blog are parents (and grandparents!) and they are featured with their children.
And we couldn’t agree more. With the rise in visibility of gay and lesbian parents with families, there has been a rise in gay and lesbians realizing that they have the capability and the choice to build their own family. It appears that Butch + Babies could be doing the same thing for masculine-presenting females and masculine-presenting gender non-binary individuals. It will be interesting to see how many butch, MoC, gender-neutral, mahu, LHB, and masculine-presenting individuals, will be inspired to build their own families with the rise in visibility in the media.
Photos from Butches + Babies
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