PRINT April 1995



Lily Burana and Linnea Due, Dagger: On Butch Women (Pittsburgh: Cleis Press, 1994), 232 pages, 50 illustrations.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO TONGUE machismo without tasting patriarchy? Are butch dykes subverting the status quo or are they just wild women looking for a good time? In Dagger: On Butch Women, writers and artists like Pat Califia, Jill Posener, and Diane DiMassa investigate what happens when you fuck with gender and live to tell about it. While there’s plenty of talk in these pages about “packing” and “passing,” the kind of border crossings that Dagger illuminates are not, as Carol A. Queen observes in her essay “Why I Love Butch Women,” “about maleness on a female.” The smartest parts of the anthology are the interviews with veteran butch women, female-to-male transsexuals, bulldyke rock stars, and sex workers. Articulating experiences between categories (like the butch dyke who identifies as a gay leather top man), these dialogues suggest the possibility of real transgression, not just role-playing. They also attest to a historical legacy of sexuality that clearly rises out of working-class traditions. Although the few colored folk in here seem more tokens than representatives of true diversity, the voices that are heard lend timbre to the din around "the kind of womanness that isn’t taught in school.

Lawrence Chua is the managing editor of Bomb magazine and a frequent Artforum contributor.