Within the rising discourse surrounding gender fluidity and diversity, representations of female masculinity remain overlooked or altogether ignored. Inspired by San Francisco-based photographer Meg Allen’s series called Butch, and her own queer coming-of-age experience, Esther Godoy made it her mission to challenge the norm with the publication Butch Is A Dirty Word.
A web developer by profession, Godoy teamed up with photographer Georgia Smedley to create more positive representations of masculine-presenting women in the form of an annual anthology. Born and raised in Australia, it was upon travelling to the United States for the first time that Godoy discovered communities in which the butch aesthetic was met with desire rather than repulsion. For her, this confirmed the importance of visibility.
“Historically people view masculinity as something that should be only sacred for men,” she explained to I-D Magazine. People struggle to accept that masculinity and maleness aren't exclusive. A lot of people see masculinity in a woman and they're repulsed by it because they're not used to seeing a woman be strong or handsome or masculine in anyway. It's never been celebrated.”
Butch Is Not A Dirty Word is Goday’s celebration of this masculinity, a celebration to which everyone is invited. The publication, available for free download online, comprises various portraits of twelve different queer women from various parts of the United States, Australia and New Zealand, all of whom identify as butch or masculine-of-centre. Personal essays and interviews that explore these unique experiences with nuance and empathy accompany their images.
“So much of the oppression of women is that women are expected to behave and look a certain way," Goday says. "It's all about breaking down gender roles and that takes time. Visibility is the key to that, it's about seeing people who are happy existing in this way. Personally it wasn't until I saw other people and had a working example that I was able to accept it (female masculinity) within myself and be proud rather than ashamed. Visibility is paramount to change and we're not going to get it from the mainstream media so you have to take the responsibility on yourself.”