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Beyond Lipstick: Expressions of
Femme Lesbian Identity through Dress


Connie Laalo #500387417

MRP proposal
FINAL

October 17, 2011
2


Connie Laalo

October 17
, 2011


Introduction and Background to the Problem


In recent years, there has been increase
d

interest, both academic and colloq
uial, in
femme identity. This interest has instigated questions on the subject of femininity,
beauty and body image (Crocker & Harris 1997, Atkins 1998). “Femme” in this context
refers to a lesbian gender identity that is characterized by adherence to conv
entional
feminine codes of beauty. Harris and Crocker define femme “as a model of critical
reshaped femininity and assertive sexuality” (Harris and Crocker 1). The femme has
often been presented as the historical and contemporary counterpart to the butch o
r
masculine expression of lesbian gender identity. In the defining paper “The Fem
Question” (1982) Nestle wrote:

. . . butches were known by their appearances, [femmes] by their choices. . . . Thus
[femmes] became the victims of a double dismissal: in the
past they did not appear
culturally different enough from heterosexual women to be breaking gender taboos and
today they do

appear

not feminist enough, even in their historical context, to merit
attention or respect for being ground
-
breaking women (Nestle
543).


This research project explores the autonomy of femme identity, independent from butch
identity and apart from the butch
-
femme dyad. In the past, major research has focused
on this dyad within the lesbian community but has concentrated on the subjec
t of female
masculinity (Halberstam 1998,
Butler 2006
). Academic interest in female masculinity
has validated this gender expression as a true experience of lesbian identity and, as
consequence, the butch is over
-
represented in academic literature. In addi
tion, the
butch is highly visible


her sexual difference is written in her dress, behaviour and
mannerisms. Viewed in the dyad, the butch has marked the femme. Without the butch,
whose representation of female masculinity marks her sexual difference, the
femme is
invisible. This invisibility has constructed femme identity as passive and dependent in a
manner that mimics heteronormative conventions of femininity.
In order to fully establish
and assert femme as an autonomous identity, it must be engaged inde
pendently

in a
manner that

validate
s

this expression of femininity as an authentic expression of lesbian
identity and lived experience
. Femme identity is equally deserving of attention and study
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Connie Laalo

October 17
, 2011

from the academic community
. Femme subverts
heteronormative
c
onvention by
transgressing
notions

of
the

masculine
-
feminine binary and engaging issues of dress
and identity, homonormativity, and self representation. I therefore recognize femme
identity and its representation as subversive and transgressive.

In our vis
ual world, our identity is

partially
coded by how we choose to represent
ourselves through dress. The postmodern concept of identity allows us to manufacture
our selves in order to influence how we are perceived by others (Finkelstein 3).
Finkelstein argue
s that “certain styles and self
-
fashioning can be used to produce
groups who recognize each other, who are, in effect, a community of practitioners” (12).
By
utilizing dominant

codes of representation,
people

give information about our status,
personality
, occupation, and sexual preference. In
a

heteronormative
culture
, high heels
are coded as female; in
a

homonormative
culture
, high heels (
worn by
a woman) are
coded as heterosexual
,

agreeing to the codes of representation
that embeds

us in
cultural conven
tions (Finkelstein 8). Both the ability to manipulate dress to reflect these
codes
,

and the ability to interpret these codes
,

are
important factors in

social interaction.
Femme dress and identity intentionally challenges and contradicts these codes by
repr
esenting the queer body
with
signifiers of heterosexual femininity. Femme dress
thus subverts heteronormative
codes

and

transgresses homonormative culture by
refusing its system of codified dress.
This research

project will explore this relationship
betwee
n femme identity and dress, and the femme’s refusal and rejection of society’s
codes of representing identity.


Feminine Dress, Femme Identity

Dress acts as a mediator of identity in contemporary Western culture. An individual can
manipulate fashion’s code

in order to demonstrate social status, wealth, religious beliefs
and sexual identity

(Davis 191).

Gender is communicated through binary
heteronormative conventions of Western fashion which make the particular relationship
between dress and femme identity
problematic.

Feminine dress and appearance, such
as skirts, high heels
,

and bright lipstick, constructs the wearer’s gender and sexual
identity as that of a woman: to be an authentic woman in Western culture is to be a
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Connie Laalo

October 17
, 2011

heterosexual woman (Davis 46). Femme
identity is therefore femininity redefined and
appropriated by queer women who have placed new meanings on feminine signifiers
(Ruby 7).
Femme representation exposes the weaknesses of dress as a communicative
media for self
-
expression. While the femme may b
e articulating her queer identity
through her choice of feminine clothing, that clothing is coded as adhering to
conventional standards of heterosexual femininity. As a result, there is tension between
the messages intended and those actually received
, and

confusion in regards to her
true sexual identity
.


This research project

examine
s

dress as an influence on femme identity and explore
s
how dress impacts visibility, representation and recognition within the lesbian
community
,

and how identity through dres
s is perceived
by the general public
. Within
the LGBT community, how do femme lesbians recognize one another within the context
of both heteronormative and homonormative cultures?
What role does
“passing”
play
in
the construction of femme femininity
?


What

role
does
dress play in the performance
and maintenance of a lesbian femme gender identity
? This research project seeks
answers to these questions and examines the relationship between dress and femme
identity.

The primary goals of this research are
:

1.

To
examine the intersections of femme identity and visibility and to seek out
what, if any, are the visual signifiers of femme identity.

2.

To expose and engage the tensions between femme identity and issues of
hetero
-

and homo
-

normativity, dress and identity a
nd self
-
representation.

3.

To position femme identity as a subversive and transgressive expression of
femininity.

These go
als

will be explored

through artistic and creative methods of self portraiture by

self
-
identified femmes presented
publicly through an on
line exhibit
. The
exhibit

will
disseminate an expression of lesbian identity that is often marginalized within
heterosexual
and LGBT cultures.
This project will expose and give voice to
those who
have been invisible and
often

unheard in the dominant discou
rse of lesbian studies.
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Connie Laalo

October 17
, 2011

This project will

further the understanding of dress as a mode of personal identity and
expression
,

and its implications on gender in the lesbian community.


Key Definitions:


Butch: A category of lesbian gender characterized by the

use and manipulation of
conventionally masculine codes and signifiers (Munt 95).

Femme: A category of lesbian gender characterized by the use and manipulation of
conventionally feminine codes and signifiers (VanNewkirk 75).

Passing: “Seeking or allowing o
neself to be identified with a race, class, or other social
group to which one does not genuinely belong” (
Gianoulis

par. 1
). A femme lesbian may
be able to “pass” in heteronormative culture for a heterosexual woman, whether or not
that may be her intentio
n.


LGBT:

Acronym for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered.

Homonormativ
ity
:

A cultural bias within the LGBT community that demands assimilation
to assumed homosexual norms (Aragon 8).

Heteronormativ
ity
:

A cultural bias that naturalises a masculine
-
fem
inine dichotomy with
heterosexuality, biologically
-
determined sex, gender identity and associated roles (Ward
& Schneider 434).


Review of Relevant Literature


The literature that
informs

this research
project focuses on femme identity and
intersects the f
ollowing areas; heteronormativity and gender; homonormativity and
sexual difference; self
-
representation, dress and identity. As previously stated, femme
identity has been under
-
represented in academia

(Maltry & Tucker 90),

in particular as it
relates to d
ress and identity. This literature is assembled from foundational pieces in
each subject
area that this project

intersects.

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Connie Laalo

October 17
, 2011

This research seeks

to examine the acts that constitute femme identity beyond imitation
of traditional femininity and towards a sub
versive performance of feminine gender.
This
research is

critically informed by Judith Butler’s theory of performativity which was first
proposed in the article “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution” and further
developed in her book
Gender Trouble

(1
989). Butler posits that, “[g]ender is what is put
on, invariably, under constraint, daily and incessantly, with anxiety and pleasure” (1988:
491). Butler suggests that we
are

not a certain gender, but that we instead
do

gender
through the “stylized repeti
tion of acts” (1988: 482). In
several

studies (Halberstam
1998, Case 1988), including Butler’s seminal work, female masculinity is assessed as
the active expression of lesbian sexual difference. Through “doing” masculinity, butch
lesbians visibly express t
heir queering of heteronormative assumptions of gender. In her
adherence to seemingly conventional standards of femininity, the femme exposes the
tension of those assumptions.
The

performance of femme identity
is therefore

a radical
act that undermines and

transgresses normative heterosexuality.

In
Lesbian & Bisexual Identities

(1997), Kristin Esterberg explores the performance of
lesbian identity, but focuses on interviews that point to butchness as a primary indicator
of lesbian identity and performance
(80). Esterberg includes a section called “What a
lesbian looks like” (88) that points out some visual and interactional cues as stated by
her interview subjects. These “cues” include short hair, no make
-
up, an athletic body
,

and an assertive and confident

stance. She concludes that “to be lesbian is to be coded
as not feminine


but masculine” (90). The authentic expression of sexual difference is
found to reject conventions of femininity in order to represent lesbian desire. If short hair
and an athletic
body are coded as lesbian, the femme’s claim to lesbian identity with
long hair and a curvy body would therefore be inauthentic or suspect. The femme’s
failure to conform to these norms of homosexuality is viewed as a passive act, rather
than a radical per
formance of lesbian identity.
T
he body and dress of the butch are
analyzed as communicative symbols of lesbianism,

while the femme’s body and dress

is deemed heteronormative and pushed aside, unanalyzed and invalid. The femme
lesbian is deemed invisible to

the point of being non
-
existent. She is unseen and
unheard, in pictures and interviews, in hetero
-

and homo
-

normative cultures.
The online
exhibit of self
-
proclaimed femme self
-
portraits

will defy silence in a visual and textual
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, 2011

exploration of femme dres
s and identity, engaging the tension between normative
culture and representation of identity.

Various authors have remarked upon the codification and privileging of masculine
performances as indicative of lesbian identity. In their article, “Female Fem(m
e)ininities:
New Articulations on Queer Gender Identities and Subversion,” Melanie Maltry and
Kristin Tucker analyze and critique the historical authentication of the lesbian
experience as masculine and offer new perspectives on femme identity as subversiv
e,
both within lesbian and heterosexual cultures (2002). This work also addresses the
subjects of invisibility and passing. Passing poses a particular challenge to femmes as
“their fem(me)inine gender expression still [leaves] their queerness open for scru
tiny”
(92). Extending from and progressing beyond this literature,
this research project
intends to

position femme dress and self
-
representation as a radical queer act, one that
challenges both hetero
-

and homo
-

normative conventions and engages both cultu
res’
presumptions of gender, sexual difference and authenticity.

Representations of femme lesbian identity are marginalized by both the LGBT
community and heteronormative society. In fact,
Angela Pattatucci Aragon has

argued
that there exists a culture of
homonormativity that contributes to the marginalization and
oppression of femme lesbian identity

(8
.
)

Aragon explores the question of authenticity
and legitimacy in the LGBT community and defines homonormativity as:

1. An unwavering belief in the anatomica
l facticity of the female body.

2. A rejection of the patriarchally defined feminine gender role (with the exception
of motherhood) and standards of appearance, as long as that rejection does not
manifest itself in the embracing of masculine identities.

3.

An exclusive desire and attraction to individuals meeting the first two criteria
(Aragon 8).


Homonormativity has contributed to the marginalization of lesbian femme identity and
questions the femme’s validity as a true lesbian experience due to her embra
ce of the
codes and signifiers of traditional femininity and consequent invisibility in both dominant
and LGBT communities. This invisibility is the essential tension at the intersections of
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, 2011

hetero
-

and homo
-

normative cultures, dress and identity, and sel
f
-
representation
inherent in femme identity. This research project confronts this tension through the
candid exhibition of femmes in an online public gallery, exposing femme dress and self
-
representation


making the invisible visible.


Women’s dress has b
een judged to only effectively communicate sexual difference if it
rejects conventional femininity for a more masculine aesthetic. In her article, “How to
Recognize a Lesbian: The Cultural Politics of Looking like What You Are” (1993), Lisa
Walker examines

invisibility within the LGBT community. Called a “lipstick lesbian” by
her butch lover (866), Walker examines lesbian constructions of identity, the celebration
of visible signifiers of those identities that are apparent in the appearance of butch style
a
nd the consequences faced by members of the lesbian community who fail to identify
themselves as such and who can therefore “pass” within the dominant heteronormative
culture. Walker critiques writers such as Butler and Case for their primary focus on
visu
al signifiers of sexual difference that has consequently privileged butch identity as
true lesbian performance and further marginalized femme identity as suspect and
inauthentic, “as the femme appears to be an integrated, stable subject according to the
ru
les of normative heterosexuality” (884).
This research project

will investigate the ways
femme identity and dress contradicts and subverts rules of normative heterosexuality.
By examining femme identity and how dress is used to mediate against the rules of

homonormative society,
this project exposes a

radical identity that
communicates a
femininity redefined and queered, one that challenges lesbian norms and empowers
traditional feminine signifiers with new meanings.



Fashion and dress have a long acknowle
dged role in the construction, negotiation and
mediation of identity. In her study of identity performance in LGBT people, Ruth Holliday
explores the relationship between the clothes her
participants

wear and their daily
performance of their queer identity
. Holliday recognizes the role dress plays in the
construction of queer identity and the tensions it can create and/or expose when that
identity is performed in heteronormative spaces such as the workplace and
homonormative spaces such as the night club (H
olliday 1999). In the heteronormative
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, 2011

workplace, queer identity is expressed through dress, whether through subverting the
uniform of the hospital by wearing dress code
-
prohibited garments or through the
rejection of traditional feminine conventions, such
as makeup and long hair, in the
office. Female masculinity is coded as the true expression of lesbian identity in a
homonormative manner.
The subjects’ reaction to LGBT spaces is of particular interest:

o
ne lesbian
feels what Holliday articulates as the di
sciplinary gaze of the group and
often feels evaluated
.

“Looking like what you are” again becomes important in these
homonormative spaces. Holliday hints at the limited identities available to LGBT people
.
Self
-
identified femme lesbians are notably absent
from this study, exemplifying the
limitations in prevailing academic discourse.

If adherence to homonormative
conventions, i.e. a rejection of femininity, marks LGBT identity, the femme lesbian is
invisible in this study and more importantly in the LGBT co
mmunity.

In surveying the academic
literature

on the intersections of gender, dress and lesbian
identity, several gaps are discovered. Femme identity and dress are often ignored in
favour of research into the articulation and exploration of butch identity

and dress. While
the idea that femmes are not authentic lesbians is never explicitly written in text, their
absence from major papers on the LGBT community implies a level of marginalization
from homonormative conventions. Although authors such as Maltry
& Tucker, Esterberg
and Walker explore what it means to be femme in LGBT communities and spaces, the
signifiers of femme identity are never fully articulated beyond a general description of
femininity: are there in fact visual signifiers of femme identity?

Long hair, curvy body,
high heels, skirts and dresses


D
o these symbols of heteronormative femininity take on
new meaning when appropriated by lesbian women and if so, how? Do femme lesbians
assume their invisibility in the LGBT community or are they act
ively communicating their
queerness through their articulation of their gender identity? If butch identity is the norm
for lesbian experience, does that position femme identity as a queer identity that
challenges homonormative conventions as well as subve
rts heteronormativity? This
project seeks to fill gaps in knowledge and engage femme identity in order to create a
more complex

understanding of how visibility

and dress

impact

sexual identity.


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, 2011

Methodological Framework

A
Postmodernist
framework
allows fo
r the analysis of the complex intersectionalities of
gender, sexuality and identity which are inherent to this research.
Although lesbian
issues and feminist views have
informed
this research,

they
do not

lead
the project’s

theoretical framework into lesbi
an feminism
.

Rather,
LGBT studies and queer theory
are

the primary

influence
for

this research
. While
the project

examine
s

the familiar feminist
conceptual territory of gender,
it is

equally concerned with sexuality and the construction
and performance of
identity within the lesbian community. Acknowledging
the project’s

LGBT,
queer and feminist framework,
this research also engages a

social constructivist
and postmodern

framework
.


Methods

Overview

This research
project involves the creation of a

web site

and
online gallery of
photographic self
-
portraits by self
-
identified femmes.
The project

will explore femme
identity, dress and self
-
representation through the visual analysis of these self
-
portraits,
submitted online by participants through a website I w
ill create entitled “Beyond
Lipstick”. The participants will submit responses to questions that will be analyzed and
exhibited

as well.
T
his study
requires

approval

by
Ryerson
University’s
research

ethics

board as t
h
ere are ethical implications in display
ing
subjects’ photographs and

interview
responses

online.

An ethics protocol has been prepared and will be submitted for
approval to the ethics board.


Visual

Analysis

P
hotography
is
a familiar medium for
many

and one that is easy to access and
dissemina
te. In this age of social networking, blogs and online communities, internet
users often pose for their photos to post and share with others.
The photographs can be
immediate and informal or posed and planned.
The photographs, and the identities they
illus
trate, are relevant and valid to the study of femme identity and visibility in popular
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, 2011

culture.

These photographs
will
be used for
visual
analysis.

The visual analysis will
examine the participant photos for commonalities in:

1.

Subject pose: Is this pose pas
sive or aggressive? Is the subject looking
directly at the camera? Is the subject fully in frame? Is the pose provocative in
any way? Are there similarities throughout the participant submissions?

2.

Subject appearance: Has the subject emphasized the feminini
ty of her dress
or body?

Are there similarities in the appearance of the various subjects, with
regards to body type, makeup/hair style, dress?

3.

Thematic Narrative: Do the photographs convey any narrative? Has the
participant referenced specific works of ar
t, whether contemporary or
historical? Does the photograph convey an informal or formal setting?

Content Analysis

The call for submissions will contain 3 survey questions for the responders to answer.
These questions are open
-
ended to allow participants fr
eedom to express themselves

and to gather rich data for this research study
.
The questions will be:

1.

What is your definition of femme?

2.

Do you represent your sexuality through your clothing? If yes, how? If no, why
not?

3.

How do you identify another femme?

The

participants’ written responses will allow me to explore how femme identity is
articulated beyond traditional signifiers of femininity and whether there is an
appropriation of those signifiers by the femme community. Responses will be analyzed
for evidenc
e of: similarities in the definition of femme identity, positive experiences of
femme identity within the LGBT community, recognized symbols of femme identity and
an awareness of heteronormative and homonormative conventions.


The

online exhibition will re
present a communal exploration of femme identity that
respects the individual’s experience as a source of knowledge.

The visual and
content

analysis I will use in conducting
this

research will permit
an analysis

of

gender identity

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Connie Laalo

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, 2011

and

sexuality through qua
litative methods. Visual analysis of photographs will allow
an
exploration of

the ambiguities of dress as a communicator of gender and sexual
difference, while

a content

analysis of open
-
ended interview responses will permit
an

investigat
ion on

the nuances

of femme identity and the juxtaposition of self
-
representation and visibility in both hetero
-

and homo
-

normative cultures.


Sample Size

To conduct an effective study a minimum of 20 submissions
are required however

the
call for participation will likely
receive more

than 50 responses
, allowing

for

a more
substantial analysis and the ability to

display

a broader range of femme
identity through
dress
. The photographs and accompanying responses will form the content of
the
creative component of the research
project an, as such, it

is essential that the call

for
participation

be sent out to a variety of media to maximize the number and scope of
participants.
A

diverse sample of femme

self
-
portraits will be collected

to analyse,

reflect
and
interpret the wide
-
r
anging lived experiences of femme identity.


Call for Submissions

The

data collection for
research begins by gathering photographs of self
-
identified
femme lesbians, solicited through the call for submissions
.

This call will be
distributed

through
a
netw
ork of websites and blog
s that have a mostly lesbian audience, public
locations, and a personal network of friends and peers through email and social
networking sites. There is also the possibility of the call for submissions to reach a
broader
audience th
rough social network sites. This is an advantage since this project
seeks to represent the greatest audience possible within the femme lesbian community.


The call
for submissions
will invite self
-
identified femmes to
participate in the project by
submit
t
ing

self
-
p
ortrait photographs online to the

Beyond Lipstick

website.

The call will
provide a brief description of the project’s objectives, the website address and list the
three interview questions.
A brief statement detailing the specifications of the
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, 2011

ph
otographs to be submitted (size, resolution and number) will a
lso
be
included in the
call will be a brief statement detailing the specifications of the photographs to be
submitted including size and resolution and number of photographs. This call will dire
ct
interested parties to the project website where they will find additional information as
well as the submission portal.

The call for submissions will be distributed through the following
:


Web sites and blogs:

1.

Femme Galaxy:
http://www.femmegalaxy.com/

2.

Autostraddle:
http://www.autostraddle.com/

3.

Effin Dykes:
http://effingdykes.blogspot.com/

4.

Alphafemme:
http://alphafem
me.net/

5.

Fit for a Femme:
http://fitforafemme.com/blog/

6.

Ms. Awesome:
http://www.msawesome.com/blog/

7.

AfterEllen:
http://
www.afterellen.com/

8.

Femme on a Mission:
http://femmeonamission.com/

9.

The Lesbian Question:
http://www.thelesbianquestion.com/

10.

Fuck Yeah Femmes:
http://fuckyeahfemmes.tumblr.com/

11.

The Femme Show:
http://www.thefemmeshow.com/blog/

12.

Queer Fat Femme:
http://queerfatfemme.com/

13.

Genderfork:
http://genderfork.com/

14.

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/

(personal social networking)


Public locations:

Th
e call for submissions
will also be disseminated thro
ugh flye
rs and handouts in LGBT
places
in Toronto

such as the 519 community centre and lesbian/queer club nights at
the Henhouse, Naco Gallery, Cherry Bomb at Andy Poolhall,
T
he Gladstone Hotel and
The
Beaver
.


Personal network of friends and acquaintances
:


The call for submissions will also be disseminated through a personal network of friends
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October 17
, 2011

and acquaintances through Facebook and email. The call will be posted to relevant
Facebook groups and on my personal Facebook profile. Facebook is a relatively low
pressure environment where users are often invited to participate in events or visit other
websites. Friends and acquaintances will be encouraged to re
-
post the call for
submissions to anyone that might contribute to the project. The call will only be post
ed
once and will not target specific individuals, reducing a person’s obligation to participate.
In addition, the call will be disseminated by listserv email to students, staff and faculty in
the MA and undergraduate fashion program at Ryerson University.
The re
-
posting of the
call by other individuals will reduce any undue pressure or influence on possible
participants from my personal network of friends and acquaintances.


Informed Consent Process

Consent will be obtained from participants before they are

able to submit their
photographs and interview responses through the online submission
portal
. The
submission of photograph files and interview responses will only be processed once the
participant has indicated their consent by scrolling through the cons
ent form and clicking
“I Agree” in the required field. The submission of photographs and interview responses
indicates the participant’s consent to the online exhibition of their image and
responses
.
The participant
will
consent for their image(s) and writ
ten responses to be viewed
publicly online in the
Beyond Lipstick
web site, and displayed at the MA Fashion
Exhibition in June 2012 held at the Design Exchange in Toronto.
The
consent form

will
specify that
the photographs and written responses

will
only b
e

used
by

the researcher
with respect to this project
, including any work that develops out of the project such as;
papers presented at conferences, published journals and books, public exhibitions, and
promotional material for the website.
Consent will al
so be obtained for the partial
alteration of the submitted photograph(s), limited to cropping and overlaying text from
written responses.
The consent form will inform the participants of any risks, benefits,
and confidentiality issues. P
articipants
will ha
ve the
right to end participation at any time

without penalty
.


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, 2011

The home page of the website will include
a brief

abstract of
the

project
,
a description of
the

research goals
, and contact information should participants have any questions
regarding

the us
e of their photographs and interview responses
.

Limitations

The limitations of this study include
:

the
number

of responses
received
, the quality
of
submitted
photographs, the quality of responses
, and the truthfulness of the participant
.
These
limitations
may

affect
the research project
, however they will
likely

challenge
creativity
, and direct the research project towards unexpected

connections
and

perspective.


Anticipated Outcomes


The photographs and responses
received
from participants will be analyz
ed for
similarities or corresponding differences
and then
interpreted to create the conceptual
and thematic narrative(s) of
the

online gallery. Without a clear idea of the number or
scope of responses that will be submitted, it is difficult to predict what

the exact nature
of
the research findings. This project hopes to

discover a sense of femme identity that is
thoughtfully and inte
ntionally articulated as a
distinct queer identity, one that is indeed
subversive and that transgresses both hetero
-

and homo
-

normative conventions.

This study acknowledges the importance of online communities in the articulation of
femme identity. The internet serves as a safe space for many queer people. It removes
the barriers of
location

for those who do not live in cities
with a LGBT community
;

age
for queer youth who cannot access the LGBT community that often centers around
adults
-
only spaces
;

and visibility for those who are not out
;

and
,

most relevant to this
this project,

those whose self
-
representations through dress
are marginalized
,
specifically femmes
.
As such, the online gallery may become a dialectic space that
encourages discussion, debate and other correspondence between visitors and
exhibited participants through the use of comments. While outside of the scope
of this
16


Connie Laalo

October 17
, 2011

project, it should be noted that the website will continue to grow: participant responses
will continue to be solicited and the website will be promoted by, and linked to, a large
network of the online queer community.

Timeline/Schedule


September
26, 2011



Prepare Call for Submissions, including all consent forms and
Ryerson Ethics Board approval.

September
-
October 2011



Design Beyond Lipstick website main page and
submission portal.

November 2011



Disseminate Solicitation for Participation.
Continue learning about
website design and production.

December 2011



Collect submissions and begin visual analysis.
Prepare a working
outline and write Introduction, Literature Review and Methodology sections of MRP.
Begin gallery design.

January
-
Apri
l 2012



Continue writing MRP. Complete collection of submissions.
Complete and launch website. Reflect upon website and complete MRP.

April 9, 201
2



Submit final MRP paper to supervisor.

April 23
-
27, 2012



MRP presentation

May 11, 2012



Final date to s
ubmit MRP revisions.

June 7, 2012



MA exhibition.


Creative Description


The creative component of this research project involves the design and construction of
a web site entitled "B
eyond lipstick"
The domain name,
www.beyondlipstick.ca
, will be
purchased and registered with a web hosting service.
The
primary content of the
web
17


Connie Laalo

October 17
, 2011

site will be an online gallery of
femme
self
-
portraits
alongside text responses to
interview questions
.

The images will not be altered

but may be cropped or partially
overlaid with text.

The specific design of the site has yet to be determined and is
dependent on the number, quality and types of submissions obtained. The site will also
include a description of the project and my contact
information.


The web site will

explore

femme identity
and

challenge the
role dress plays in the
representation of sexual identity
. While the design of the site will be my own, much of
the content will be driven and articulated by self
-
identified femmes w
ho have chosen to
be seen and heard in ways that contradict norms of femininity. The self
-
portrait and its
submission are not passive acts, but acts that dynamically contribute the growing
femme community. By choosing to self
-
represent as a strong collecti
ve of queer femme
women, the participants will be actively challenging both hetero
-

and homo
-
normative
cultures. In doing this, femmes challenge their own invisibility

and

start to establish

a
cohesive community that changes the face of sexual difference a
nd how it is visually
perceived in society.


Through the process of collecting submissions, analyzing and interpreting the data and
creating the online exhibition for
the

project website, intersections of femme identity and
visibility

will be examined. Th
is project

seek
s

what, if any, are the visual signifiers of
femme identity
;
expose
s

and engage
s

the tensions between femme identity and issues
of hetero
-

and homo
-

normativity, dress and identity and s
elf
-
representation;
and finally,
positions
femme identi
ty as a subversive and transgressive expression of femininity.


Future developments

The Beyond Lipstick website has the opportunity to develop and evolve into other
projects. By promoting the website throughout the
active
online network of lesbian
websites

and blogs
, discussion about what a lesbian “looks like”

will be enabled
. In
order to expose the subversive nature

of

femme identity and dress to a wider audience
range,
the web site will be promoted

through other popular alternative, feminist websites
18


Connie Laalo

October 17
, 2011

suc
h as Bust, Shameless and Jezebel. As the website is disseminated into the online
community, I anticipate feedback and hope that the response generated will create a
reciprocal dialogue that moves the project forward towards new creative opportunities.
This

research project

is
does not have a finite end,

but
rather is posed as
a continuing
exploration of femme

identity,

dress and self
-
representation.

19


Connie Laalo

October 17
, 2011


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