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  • María López Penalva

Does wearing a suit make you a lesbian?

An article from the New York Post has taken Tiktok and Twitter by storm, with its almost parodic commentary on the “stereotypical lesbian look” that is now becoming mainstream, supposedly validating queer women everywhere.

Artwork by Kate Granholm (Instagram: @katesartthings)

Image description: 'I wanted to exemplify the binary simplification of masc and femme tropes by highlighting two styles of outfits. The paper doll idea came from the [false!] concept that queerness is a costume.'

It is difficult to believe that this article is real and that it was published in 2022. Pictures of suits and descriptions of “Dr. Martens boots and knitted sweater vests” show a seemingly antiquated desire to reduce sapphic women to the constrictive, stereotypical image of a butch lesbian. This challenges the entire aim of queerness to be a non-category, something which is all-encompassing and impossible to place into boxes. Also, I’m sorry, but the fact that they used the lesbian stereotype and didn’t even mention flannel? At least define the cliché properly!

This was then reinforced by using Bella Hadid’s “I dress like a little boy” to drive the point home, which does nothing but underpin heteronormative ideas of sapphic women as betraying womanhood; as more male than female because of their same-sex attraction.

The author, Jill Gutowitz, does nothing for the conception of femininity as a multifaceted thing; presenting the reader with either straight femininity; which is bursting at the seams with high heels, rib-breaking corsets and a ten-step makeup routine, or lesbianism; which is manly and comfortable, if bland. Maybe if we step out of early 2010s Tumblr for a second, we can stop the frankly embarrassing “I’m not like other girls” narrative and step into the realisation that an attraction to men shouldn’t necessarily be burdened with pain and the satisfaction of the male gaze. In addition, gay women’s hyper-femininity is another way in which we can explore our queerness. One only has to look into the aesthetic of cottagecore, filled with long, billowing skirts and floral patterns. Despite being linked to traditionally feminine interests like baking or embroidery, it is an aesthetic movement led by sapphic women. It was created to celebrate an “ethereal, bucolic girlhood” that some were sadly robbed of due to their sexuality. Furthermore, lesbianism is also not confined to the butch-femme dichotomy, with more gender-neutral styles such as emo fashion from the late 2000s being heavily associated with the LGBT community.

In conclusion, maybe we should stop equating lesbianism with masculinity because it just goes to show that we need more (diverse) representation. Try naming more than five worldwide famous lesbians. Impossible, right? And that will only happen once we stop only seeing sapphic culture as cool once straight women embrace it and make it mainstream, and having said women be the flag bearers for queer acceptance. Anyways, time to go and resist the sapphic urge to put on a power suit.

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