by thiszine

Check out the Top Hot Butches list for 2009.


#1: Rachel Maddow.


photo courtesy of Mother Jones

photo courtesy of Mother Jones

In “The Butch is Back,” Village Voice writer Winnie McCroy discuss the tropes of the new butch woman: someone who is comfortable being a woman redefining gender roles for both men and women. According to McCroy, gone are the days of the flannel wearing, work boot stomping man-hating butch dyke who polarized the lesbian movement in the ’60’s and ’70’s. Now butch women are more like Rachel Maddow–masculine but with make-up, intelligent and witty but female. As Josie Smith-Malave, of Top Chef fame says in the same Village Voice article, “Today’s butch is fashion-conscious: We get the mani/pedi, the waxing. We spend the day at the spa.”


McCroy further discusses how the new butch is part of larger culture shift as Gen Y comes of power and Gen X takes up the spotlight from the previous generations. Women are stepping into roles previously guaranteed to men and, as a result, lesbian women are coming more into their own. Jonanna Widner at Bitch Magazine talks about the Rachel-love floating around the internet – and even gives her own opinion of why even Middle America is so smitten with Maddow: she’s a lot like Sarah Palin.


Maddow has received criticism for selling-out, for being too much a t.v. news anchor. But isn’t that as much the culture in network and cable news as any of Maddow’s own doings? And she’s received a lot of attention for her ability to participate on an equal level with her male colleagues (should it come as such a surprise that women are smart and talented and attractive?)


Butch women, too, have been criticized for going too mainstream, for falling into Capitalism’s fashion-loving trends and hip aesthetic, for–Heaven forbid–caring about how they look. As Maddow and others, Ellen DeGeneres for example, become more universally loved by audiences that largely include straight women, homemakers, and straight men, they might be losing street cred with the older lesbian and butch crowd. They’re being normalized.


Is normalization such a bad thing though? If Maddow can make lesbians less scary to folks, maybe that will make it easier when the Jones’s daughter comes home with her girlfriend, or when the sister you’ve always wondered about comes out. And if Maddow’s androgynous/butch looks contribute to that acceptance, then maybe that’s just how we get to the next place of greater acceptance. Or maybe it’s too much to assume that letting someone like Maddow into your living room, in two-dimensional form via your television, is the same as letting the recently outed daughter or sister into your living room, not to mention explaining everything to the relatives later. Miriam Perez at Feministing warns that, despite Maddow’s big appeal, it might be too much to “pretend she’s some sort of lesbian savior.”


In any case, Maddow is a bit of a reluctant sex symbol.


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