The Femmelesia!: Questions and Answers
- Why is this group separatist in this day and age?
- Who are queer femmes, and how do you define who gets to be a queer femme?
One of the best explanations of what queer femmes are comes from Rhea Ashley Hoskin, a pioneer in the study of femme theory:
Femme is femininity reworked, (re)claimed as one’s own and made in one’s own image—a type of “disruptive” rogue femininity. By rejecting the masculine right of access to femininity, the femme subject collapses systems of meaning and signifiers of heterosexual hegemony. In this way, femmes give “feminine signifiers new meaning." Femme is the abnormal occupation of feminine normality, meaning femininity embodied by those to whom recognition as feminine is culturally denied or who do not comply with norms of “proper womanhood.” In other words, femmes are those whose feminine expressions are culturally “unauthorized,” and who refuse to and/or do not approximate the ideal norm of what patriarchal femininity constitutes. (Hoskin, "Femme theory: Refocusing the intersection". Atlantis 38.1 (2017).)
Femmes are therefore necessarily queer, and exist outside the mainstream gender norms that define "womanhood." By this definition, only queers can be femmes.
- Isn't a "non-binary femme" an oxymoron? How can one be "feminine" and non-binary at the same time?
There are many femmes who do not identify as women or females, despite their outward looks. They are hidden from casual observers and from the mainstream society because they are invisible and are often visually indistinguishable from heterosexual women. While most non-binary folks are androgynous or "masculine-of-center," or may adopt a more visibly gender-fluid/genderqueer appearances, often non-binary femmes see themselves as someone whose femininity is not constrained by the binary, heteronormative, and misogynistic social construct of gender.
- What is The Clear Recital?
- The Clear Recital is a small set of sacred texts that was introduced to the world by a certain lesbian separatist commune in England. It was believed to be revealed to one Sister Angelica, who was one of the founders of this sect. While the group and most of its teachings were lost by the 1990s, the book has served a wide variety of Goddess-centered communities ever since. None of these groups maintain a uniform and universal consensus on its interpretations, however. Many of these groups were also small in membership and ephemeral.
- Where can I purchase a copy of The Clear Recital?
- The newest edition (which is also the most comprehensive) was published in 2017 and is only available as a PDF file. An older edition, published in 2009, is still in print and may be purchased online.
- Are you a Dianic Wiccan?
- No. While I have a great admiration and respect for Dianic Wicca, I am not a Wiccan in any sense of the word.
- What about the seasonal observances and festivals?
- While I am not affiliated with so-called "Deanism," I observe holy days using the same luni-solar, 28-day/13-month calendar they use. Most of the calendar is not original to "Deanic" communities but is borrowed heavily from Celtic and British pagan calendars. You can find these observances in the Juno Covella, as well.
- Is this something I can become a member of?
- Not at this time. However, there is a listserv for you to participate. When the Femmelesia is better organized, membership will be open only to queer femmes (non-binary femmes are welcome) after a period of formation and discernment, followed by a dedication ritual.
- What is "New Thought"?
- New Thought is a catch-all term for an interfaith religious philosophy that emphasizes our oneness with the Divine. While it emerged in the context of the 19th century American Protestant Christianity, it now consists of several denominations and many more independent organizations, some of them operate within the cultural and religious contexts of Christianity, while others don't. All New Thought organizations profess to honor all paths to the Divine. Many founders and important teachers of the New Thought movement were historically women, and many of them were also feminists and activists of their days.
- Is this related to "Law of Attraction" or "prosperity consciousness"?
- The New Thought teachings became popularized in recent years thanks to movies such as The Secret and What the Bleep Do We Know?!. Unfortunately, they are distortions of historical New Thought teachings based on misunderstanding and misuse of them. While this fad gave some New Thought churches a temporary boost in membership and revenues, many others closed their doors. (More on this topic) Unlike the popular versions of these teachings, the New Thought philosophy has always held that every human being is divine and worthy of dignity. In recent years, an increasing number of New Thought denominations and congregations began focusing on social justice actions and works to support human rights, in order to make "the world work for everybody."
- What is the thread that connects the New Thought to Goddess feminist spirituality?
- Aside from the long history of women's leadership and women-generated theology, our sacred text The Clear Recital contains teachings that mirror those of historical New Thought authors. While it is debatable whether Sister Angelina or any early adherents of the Oxford Goddess Revival movement were directly influenced by New Thought writings (they were in the United Kingdom and New Thought largely is an American religious movement), and that they claimed a supernatural origin of the text, The Clear Recital certainly functions as a bridge that connects the New Thought teachings to an all-female or an all-queer-women context. It is never my intention to "reconstruct" the exact form of religious observances and doctrines as they were held by Sister Angelina (they are irreversibly lost, with only a limited amount of historical artifacts).