Femme, Adjective or Noun?

I’ve always been a bit confused by the word “femme.”

This might surprise people who know me. I’m a dyke who wears dresses and skirts 98% of the time, who almost never leaves the house without makeup, who has her shoe collection in a display case and her boot collection hanging from racks on her walls. But “femme” as an identity has always puzzled me. I don’t object to it, I totally support people who use it — it just doesn’t resonate with me. I’ve often said that I’m “femmey, but not a femme.” For me, femme is a description, not an identity; an adjective, not a noun. And part of the reason is that I don’t really grasp, intellectually or instinctively, what that identity means. People who identify as femmes have a strong, clear sense of what this means to them, and how it shapes not only what they wear but how they think of themselves. I don’t have that.

But even people who do identify as femme, as a deeply personal identity-noun, sometimes struggle to define the term. Years ago I attended a femme conference: one of the panels was asked, “What does femme mean?” — and almost all the panelists fumbled and stumbled. That’s not to slam them: it’s a hard concept to define. But the clearest definition, the one that’s stuck with me over the years, was given by Susan Stryker:

Femme is adopting the trappings of femininity in a way that subverts them.

That stuck with me. And I think it explains why I’m happy to take on “femme” as an adjective but not a noun; as a description but not an identity.


Thus begins Femme, Adjective or Noun? It’s my first contribution to Femme Feminism, the new magazine dedicated to joyous expression of femininity within the context and exploration of feminist values. To read more, read the rest of the piece. And check out the rest of the magazine! Other articles so far include On Respectability, Afrocentrism & Accepting Fashion as Self-Care, not Self-Indulgence by Tajh Sutton, Redefining Fem(me)ininity by Lauren Munro, and Femme: a Case Study by Rebecca Aylesworth. Have fun!

Femme, Adjective or Noun?

Frivolous Friday: Reuniting the Beatles

The Beatles

Short tale about weird kid things.

I was eight when the Beatles broke up, and I was devastated. I mean, DEVASTATED. They weren’t just my favorite band: I’d grown up with the Beatles, I’d never lived in a world without the Beatles, and it had never occurred to me that they might not always be together.

So for a while after they broke up, I had daily fantasies in which I reunited the Beatles. With the help of Batman. The Beatles, Batman, and I would save the world in some way — usually by fighting some villain who was trying to destroy it — and in the process of saving the world, the Beatles would realize that they should get back together.

I’m tempted to write something schmaltzy and deep here, about how this showed some sort of character truth about me. Something like, “In a way, I think I’m still trying to reunite the Beatles and save the world, with Batman’s help.” But I think I was just a weird kid. Although maybe not so weird: I’m reminded of the bit in Amy Poehler’s memoir Yes, Please, where she describes her childhood game of pretending she was being chased by Russians. “I would pretend to wait until they were gone and then jump out of the leaves to get to the business of delivering the microchip into the hands of Pat Benatar.”

What was some of your weird kid stuff? Did you imagine saving the world with the help of celebrities and fictional characters?

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Check out what some of the other Orbiters are doing!

Frivolous Friday: Reuniting the Beatles

On Bubbles, Conservative Friends, and How Robert Reich is in a Bubble Of His Own


Marginalized people aren’t in a bubble. Conservatism is the polluted air we breathe every day. Why do we have to be friends with people who spew it at us?

We’re often chided for living in bubbles. We’re told that we only listen to people who already agree with us, and that this narrows our thinking. We’re told that a willingness to have friends with different political views means having an open mind and an open heart — and that there’s something wrong with us if we aren’t doing that. Recently, politician and commentator Robert Reich voiced this idea on Facebook:

I have a conservative friend with whom I make a point to have lunch at least once a month. Why? I like him but that’s not the main reason. He makes me think. In forcing me defend my assumptions and ideas, he gets me to examine them more deeply. I hope I do the same for him. One of the biggest problems in America today is most of us live in ideological cocoons surrounded by people who think like us. Yet there is no better way to learn than to talk to someone who disagrees with you.

I don’t just want to pick on Reich here, though. This notion gets spouted a lot. And just off the top of my head, I can think of three major things that are wrong with it.

Wrong Thing Number One: Do you seriously think marginalized people don’t know what people think of us? Continue reading “On Bubbles, Conservative Friends, and How Robert Reich is in a Bubble Of His Own”

On Bubbles, Conservative Friends, and How Robert Reich is in a Bubble Of His Own

Taco Trucks, and Making America Great

In response to the dreaded spectre of taco trucks on every corner, Ingrid and I did our part this weekend, and visited one of our many local taco trucks. Hashtags: #ImWithTacos #TacoTrucksOnEveryCorner

Streatfood taco truck with Greta and Ingrid

Streatfood taco truck

Of course, there are other possibilities. There could be ramen trucks on every corner.

Streatfood ramen truck
Continue reading “Taco Trucks, and Making America Great”

Taco Trucks, and Making America Great

Godless Perverts Social Club in SF Tuesday Sept. 6 – Game Night!

Godless Perverts Social Club Game Night Sept 6

Godless Perverts is having another game night in San Francisco on Tuesday, September 6! These are big fun, and they’re becoming some of our most well-attended events — so we’re making it a regular event. As you may have noticed, Wicked Grounds has a huge stash of games including chess and checkers, Fluxx, Slash, Scrabble, Snake Oil, Gloom, and much, much more. Feel free to bring your own games if you’re not sure that Wicked Grounds has a copy of your favorite. So please join us at Wicked Grounds, the kink cafe and boutique, at 289 8th Street at Folsom in San Francisco (near Civic Center BART). 7-9 pm. Admission is free, but we ask that you buy food and/or drink at the cafe if you can: Wicked Grounds has beverages, light snacks, full meals, and milkshakes made of literal awesome sauce. We meet at Wicked Grounds on the first Tuesday of every month: we also meet in Oakland at Rudy’s Can’t Fail, on the third Thursday.

All orientations, genders, and kinks (or lack thereof) are welcome. Community is one of the reasons we started Godless Perverts. There are few enough places to land when you decide that you’re an atheist; far fewer if you’re also LGBT, queer, kinky, poly, trans, or are just interested in sexuality. And the sex-positive/ alt-sex/ whatever- you- want- to- call- it community isn’t always the most welcoming place for non-believers. Godless Perverts is committed to feminism, diversity, inclusivity, and social justice. We seek to create safe and welcoming environments for all non-believers and believing allies who are respectful of the mission, and are committed to taking positive action to achieve this.

Godless Perverts presents and promotes a positive view of sexuality without religion, by and for sex-positive atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers, through performance events, panel discussions, social gatherings, media productions, and other appropriate outlets. Our events and media productions present depictions, explorations, and celebrations of godless sexualities — including positive, traumatic, and complex experiences — focusing on the intersections of sexuality with atheism, materialism, skepticism, and science, as well as critical, questioning, mocking, or blasphemous views of sex and religion.

Godless Perverts Social Club in SF Tuesday Sept. 6 – Game Night!

Why You Should Vote in Downticket Races — and a Neat Trick For Doing It

Anyone who cares about electoral politics will tell you how important it is to vote downticket. But actually doing it can be daunting. You hear a lot about who’s running for President, maybe even who’s running for Senator or Governor. But how do you decide between the twelve candidates for judge, the five candidates for city council, the seven candidates for school board? It could take weeks researching their positions and records, and you probably don’t have that kind of time.

I hear you. I have a trick for that. I’ve been using it for years. First, here are some reasons you should care — like, really, really care.

Local elections profoundly affect your everday life. What’s taught in public schools; whether your landlord can raise your rent any time they want; whether streets and sewers are repaired (and which ones get attention first); whether racist cops are disciplined; whether the community college is funded; which buildings can be torn down and put up; whether your city has a minimum wage that reflects economic reality; whether AirBnB gets to ignore hotel and housing laws; whether the homeless people on your block will be sheltered or arrested — all of this and much more gets decided on the local level.

Local elections profoundly affect other people’s everyday lives. See above. If these issues don’t personally and immediately affect you, they affect your neighbors, your co-workers, your friends, your family.

Local and state elections are how national candidates are born. If you want good progressives in national offices in twenty years, start by getting good progressives in local offices now. Most elected officials on the national level get their start in local politics. There are exceptions, of course. Donald Trump has never held office in his life, and while Hillary Clinton had extensive experience in politics before she was elected to anything, her first elected position was in the Senate. But in general, voting in local elections now is a great way to get national candidates in the future who you actually want to vote for.

Local elections move the national party. If you’re wondering how the Republican Party moved so far to the right, look at local elections. The Tea Party got into school boards and city councils across the country. There are other factors, of course — for one thing, the Tea Party has had significant national funding from big corporations. But to a great extent, local elections are how the Tea Party got into power.

So if you want the national Democratic Party to move further to the left, a really good way to do that is to support progressive candidates in local and state elections — especially in primaries. It lets the party know that voters really do want progressive candidates, and will support them. And it lets the party know that progressive voters will consistently vote — not just every four years when we’re deciding on the president.


So now you’re convinced (I hope). Local and state elections are important. But there are so many of them! How do you decide? In one word:


In a few more words: Find some organizations you trust, whose values and positions are more or less in line with yours — and see who they endorse.

You know all that time it takes to research candidates and ballot initiatives, the time you don’t have? For many organizations, that is literally their job. They do have the time. And they have the knowledge. In many cases, they’ve actually worked with these people. They know that Jane Doe is great on health care, less great on gentrification, and knows City Hall backwards and forwards. They know that Richard Roe is solid on the issues but is a hostile pain in the ass to work with and has a hard time getting anything done. They’ve done the research you don’t have time to do.

Here’s my trick. I look at the endorsements of three or four endorsing organizations. Tenants’ rights groups, TBLG groups, environmental groups, progressive alternative newspapers — you get the idea. I compare them. If they all agree, and I don’t personally know enough about the candidate or initiative to disagree, I do what they recommend. If they don’t agree, I look at the arguments they make for why they’re endorsing the way they are, and see who I agree with.

In San Francisco elections, this usually takes about a hour, maybe two. If I’m super-busy and don’t have that time, I just pick a couple of endorsing organizations to compare and contrast. If I’m completely and utterly swamped, I just pick one.

It’s less than ideal. I think local and state elections are really important — see above — and I do have reservations about trusting my vote to someone else. But if I don’t vote downticket at all, I’m doing that anyway. I’m trusting my vote to everyone else who happens to be voting. I have a lot more reservations about that.

Why You Should Vote in Downticket Races — and a Neat Trick For Doing It

“We are a miniscule piece”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen

"We are a miniscule piece of the matter and energy of the universe, looking carefully at some of the rest of the matter and energy, and asking, "How would you like to get off?""

“We are a miniscule piece of the matter and energy of the universe, looking carefully at some of the rest of the matter and energy, and asking, ‘How would you like to get off?'”
-Greta Christina, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life
(from Chapter 50, “To Give Itself Pleasure: An Atheist View of Sexual Transcendence”)

(Image description: above text, superimposed over image of bed)

I’m making a series of memes/ inspirational poster thingies with my favorite quotes from my new book, The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life. Please feel free to share this on social media, or print it and hang it on your wall if you like. (The image above is pretty big: you can click on it to get a bigger size if you like.)

Way of the Heathen cover
The Way of the Heathen is available in ebook on Amazon/Kindle and on Smashwords for $7.99. The audiobook is at Audible. The print edition is at Amazon and Powell’s Books, and can be ordered or carried by pretty much any bookstore: it’s being wholesaled by Ingram, Baker & Taylor, IPG, and bookstores can buy it directly from the publisher, Pitchstone Publishing. Check it out, and tell your friends!

“We are a miniscule piece”: Meme from The Way of the Heathen