Here’s a snippit of my latest post on The Femme’s Guide, though you’ll have to go there to finish it.
Much by accident I just came across this quote:
Marilyn was revered as a tigress, but she was loved (and pitied) as a kitten. In that sense her sexuality did not present a challenge; vulnerability made her manageable–it guaranteed her femininity.
The threat of other lustful man-killers is diminished by intimations of their androgyny. Mae West looked all girl but her style was decidedly butch. “It’s [men’s] game,” she says with trademark smarminess of her multiple, casual seductions in She Done Him Wrong. “I happen to be smart enough to play it their way.” Marlene Dietrich in tux and top hat is also both hyperfeminine and faux homme, a man in drag in drag. –My Enemy, My Love By Judith Levine p. 92
It goes on to talk about the book’s real point in bringing this up: the antipode to the Seducer or femme fatale, The Slave. But, that’s not really what intrigued me about it. I especially love this line: Mae West looked all girl but her style was decidedly butch. It is an angle I hadn’t really contemplated before, but basically Mae West as femme. It’s pretty damn obvious now that I’m thinking about it, but it just wasn’t a connection I’d made before. Though she wasn’t queer in the sense of sleeping with women, but she did have an affinity toward gay men and wrote The Drag.
The two ways used to describe Mae West and Marlene Dietrich are both incredibly queer, while Marilyn Monroe is more of an archetype for traditional femininity. Mae West was femme in look, butch in action, or simply a description of a type of queer femininity, or simply femmeininity. Marlene Dietrich was a man in drag in drag, a queer masculinity on a female body so that it is not the same as masculine because it is also overtly feminine.