Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Communication Studies

First Advisor

Bernadette Marie Calafell


Queer femininity, Gender expression


My dissertation research examines the tensions in queer feminine expressions within the queer community, as femininity is a contentious site of both restriction and liberation. While femininity is often seen as disempowered, artificial, and a replication of heteropatriarchal culture, I argue that queer-femmes are using feminine aesthetics and tradition to challenge dominant norms and to “queer” femininity. Ultimately, I have found three key ways that femmes resolve the contradictions in femininity and provide a positive mode of gender expression: by breaking down feminine competition and forming friendships and coalitions across intersectional differences; by femmes choosing what feminine aesthetics to take on and to use them with conscious intention; and by femmes challenging queer communities to embrace femininity as a site of power. I analyze queerfemme performances in two unique performance sites, online blogs and in-depth interviews with 15 diverse femme co-participants. One of my interview participants notes that she feels most empowered wearing bright red heels, hearing their click against pavement, on her way to a swingers club. That sound reminds her that she is on her way to a queer sexual space that does not reinforce heteronormativity and patriarchy; the click illustrates the tension of performing an overtly feminine aesthetic, while also challenging this normative construction by identifying as a queer-femme on her way to a queer space.

This project contributes the voices of under-represented gender and sexual minorities to the existing literature in gender and women’s studies. It is imperative for women and gender studies scholars to learn how feminine performances contribute to our understandings of sexuality more broadly. When everyone can express her gender more freely, we are all more liberated and empowered.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. This work may only be accessed by members of the University of Denver community. The work is provided by permission of the author for individual research purposes only and may not be further copied or distributed. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Kathryn Hobson


Received from author

File Format




File Size

242 pgs


LGBTQ studies, Communication