>"Why do butch women try to look like men?"

>This ‘Haynes Manual‘ was on a car boot sale at some point. I had to take a photo, after a doubletake upon realising what it was! For those who don’t know what Haynes Manuals are, they’re car manuals, any make or model, great things. this is obviously a fantastic spoof!

So, “Why do butch women try to look like men?”

That was the question asked, by a stunning woman (older I might add) who is rediscovering life in love with a younger woman after hitherto living as a straight woman. I love her to bits, so I merely watched the thread grow for a couple of days and tried to resist… but failed of course. This is the answer I typed out there, I share it here. It managed to irk, amuse and interest me. Perhaps it will do the same for you.


~chuckles softly~ fascinating thread you’ve set off here SJ. I knew if I dared to answer it I’d get carried away… and I did well and truly ~glances down and grimaces~ so sorry for the length – but hey ho, I hope it helps anyway.

Can’t say I’m terribly surprised re the thread after your own response to me last time you saw me, but I do confess to a little surprise at your lack of (or perhaps lack of generosity/compassion in) understanding on this.

I know you to be a fiercely intelligent woman, and pretty much would swear you were anti-bigotry of any kind. I know you grasp the theory behind transexuals for example, the whole ‘being born in the wrong body’ bit. So your comment to pix re her shirt making her look like a lesbian and that you didn’t like that, made my jaw drop frankly. I was a little confused, since you two are in a lesbian relationship, and mildly offended I suppose in that you appeared to be segregating lesbians in your own mind as ‘normal’ looking (i.e. not lesbian looking, just being) and ‘that way’ looking. It reminded me of those newspapers personal adverts – wanted ‘straight looking gay’.

Further to that then came your post here about women ‘trying to look like men’, which as an assumption actually enormously and erroneously undermines several decades of important women and lesbian experience. Butch dykes have been around forever in some form or other, and happily so, and mostly *not* because they wanted to look like men – they just didn’t buy into that whole line of women had to look like the magazine adverts or as society ‘told’ them to dress.

Of course that’s ignoring the ones who actually ‘do’ enjoy living within society gender defined ‘norms’ even within lesbian relationships – and nothing wrong with that either I might add – some like to feel like a husband and wyfe, and fit those roles for each other. And of course thus far I’m ignoring the trans experience, which is also a completely different matter.

Back to your question then.


I know you personally and happen to think you’re positively worship-worthy ~grin~ in other words I respect you totally, as an intelligent, formidable and splendid example of traditional yet strong and utterly sexy ‘womanhood’. You choose and prefer to wear sparklies, fluffy, pink, makeup/jewellery, sexy smart suits etc, and you always look fabulous – it’s a look that suits you very well indeed. Pix on the other hand? I can see her in anything from high femme sexy to positively dykey sexy! ~chuckles~ …however she pretty much feels, would suit her at the time if she chose.

Indeed there have been times in my life (and not so very long ago either) when I have worn such things, crushed velvet sheath dresses, red nails and lips, heels etc. I know the ‘power’ of such styles of dress as a woman. I’ve revelled in exuding it, enjoying the whole process. I still do – just nowadays I prefer to enjoy it on others ~chuckles~ It no longer suits me, and I think most who know me well would agree. I’d look like a rocky horror picture show reject ;-)

There have been other times in my life when I cared more about being a parent and my hair/nails/clothes went totally casual, but I didn’t care much because at that time, it truly didn’t matter. My role as a mother totally took priority at that time. Being fun or just available, even if I looked daft or scruffy, mattered much more to me or the kids.

In the past decade I’ve changed, inch by inch, yet again. I went from being a well known high femme (the power dressing I knew and was familiar with) with just the occasional relaxed comfy moment… over to a far more comfortable for me, classic lesbian/leatherdyke look (though ironically I am bisexual, or rather I’m gay in whichever gender role I’m at… oh whatever stop digressing DK!) – anyway i.e. all jeans/vests/shirts and of course leathers. NOT however the check shirt and doc martins look as that’s not exactly my style!

Historically and personally, back as far as 2001 Sundays became an important family day for me/us, when I began to enjoy being the family ‘Daddy’, taking folk out to a car boot, buying ice creams, having fun with my loves in a very paternal role.

But as for that particular style of dress, it always put me mentally into a place where I was comfortable and felt sharp and sexy, easily. I went from agonizing over nail polish and twenty different tops to blissfully slipping into a smartly pressed shirt and knowing I looked just as sharp and just as sexy. …at least, certainly to the type of women that I myself was into/in love with/loved. It was easier, more natural, more comfortable. I feel more comfortable, sexy, strong, confident and powerful than I ever did as a femme!

I was never into slobs, tracksuit bottoms or plaid shirts… but sharp suits, leathers, shirts and of course my boots… those things felt to me like a beautiful old fashioned yet incredibly comfortable car. I slid in, they fitted, looked and felt good and so they stuck. Became my ‘style’, if you will.


I’ve known many butch women who are more than happy to dress that way because it’s a style that suits them personally (skirts don’t suit all personality types, neither does lipstick) or for some because it works as an identifyer, and for yet others as a kind of political statement (pro-feminist or pro-gay etc) and some simply because they truly feel *daft* dressing girly.

I have no need to identify outwardly as a dyke, I have plenty within my own family and no need to advertise any more. I don’t feel the need to do the political statement thing any more either; I’m 41, a grandparent and been through all the political fights and activism I can just about stomach (except BDSM as a valid choice of sexuality, that fight I still fight publicly and gladly). I certainly am not lazy in dress, I like my creases just so thank you and can spend ages painfully choosing a shirt ~grin~ …but the masculine style feels the most comfortable, sexy, powerful style for me.


FtM – there is another issue here too, which I wasn’t going to add because it may well be considered irrelevant as you were asking about styles of dress for ‘women’… but as I suspect I’m one of the ‘women’ you mean, then it is appropriate to me on a certain level.

There are many trans FtM guys who began by defining as lesbian or dyke (it certainly makes sense at the time). They dress the way that feels most comfortable to their skin… and actually wind up feeling (or in many cases always have done) that actually being male feels more natural, more right for them personally. It needn’t be anything to do with power, or sex, or even genitals (the difference between transexual and transgender is a whole other debate which I’ll spare you for now… lol) …but just like transexual or transgender MtFs, some are born knowing, but some figure it out much later on in life. It’s far more common than most people realise. Our gender is as much a genetic part of our make up as being gay, but we have far more of a massive societel gender prison structure to break out from, to deal with that one.

But I digress away from the question as it was asked again.


To simplify my answers then:

1. mostly, it’s as simple as personal style and comfort. Frocks and lippy suit some women, but make others feel in drag or foolish/uncomfortable. Sheer style preference.

2. also worth noting is that whilst some women who prefer women do indeed like their women womanly, there are plenty of others who definitely prefer them masculine or butch. People’s taste in their choice of partner vary enormously. Some like beefy, intellectual, vixens, angels etc etc.

3. it can also sometimes be about any of the following things: Power or power exchange. Self identification (individual and community). Making political statements.

4. sometimes it can be about gender itself. Choice, preference, whatever. You can choose your family (not bio, but preferred), friends, your style of dress, and even your gender ‘presentation’.

5. And finally I don’t buy into the whole societal binary gender code thing either. The idea of forcing oneself to fit within that by preferring masculine women if you’re female, or feminine men if you’re male to make ‘gay’ more palatable to society etc, bleurgh I could go on but won’t bore you. I think as human beings of whichever gender we’re a bit more intelligent than that on the whole. Some simply *prefer* sexy women as vixens, some prefer butches – it’s just down to personal taste.

In other words It’s not about dressing in order “to look like a man” as you seem to suggest. Unless of course the person happens to be FtM in which case yes that is the aim generally speaking (although even within that the types/varieties vary, from total effeminate faggy types to more blokey types). It’s about dressing to please oneself first, one’s partners/peers/groups/identity choices etc second, and finally simple personal choice – do I prefer flares or drainpipes, or pencil skirts vs ballgowns. Am I comfy in a frock or jeans.

This whole point is not really that far different from some are poly and some mono – or some are gay / straight / bi – or top / bottom / switch. It’s simple, and the same old familiar rules apply across the board as always:

  • different strokes for different folks.
  • YMMV (your mileage may vary).
  • one mans meat is another mans poison.
  • YKINMK (your kink is not my kink).

I hope that helps explain a little better perhaps?

Oh and btw, if you’re interested in where my personal position on this stands (which I’ve actually tried hard to keep out of it, believe it or not lol, as it doesn’t affect my point here) please do read my piece on gender over at my blogspot.

Phew… that took more doing than I thought!!!

~snogs~ see you at the weekend SJ x


About DK Green (aka DKLeather)

- 51 year old parent, grandparent & unbelievably great grandparent! - Holistic psychotherapist & counsellor, supervisor, life coach, guide, hypnotherapist, shamanic practitioner, mentor, meditator, motorcycle and horse rider, celebrant and tarot reader. - Happily living a very diverse life filled with family, friends, loves, laughter and so much more. - Polyamorous. Passionate. Trans. Leather.
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