Femininity can be a delicate hand on a quaint cup of tea. It can also be a leather boot that ends at the knee. It can be demure or forward, tucked behind batted eyelashes or muscled arms.

And contrary to what some of our predecessors thought, femininity isn’t restricted to 1950s housewives in pink aprons or reserved ladies of yore in tightly laced corsets.

Femininity is in the eye of the beholder — and trying to define it is like trying to glue raindrops together. But that hasn’t stopped us from trying.

We let adjectives fall into gender-labeled buckets, not often questioning why we feel the need to contain them in the first place.

But this Saturday at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland, the Femme Show will put femme identity on stage with “sass, seriousness and sophistication,” and lure out some of those questions we sometimes forget to ask.

The Femme Show, first launched in 2007, returns to Portland at the tail end of its yearlong tour with a show exploring gender, queerness and sexuality.

The show features an array of performers, burlesque, spoken word, puppets, music and monologue, each diving into the fluid concept of feminine identity.

“It means a lot of different things to a lot of different people,” said Maggie Cee, artistic director for the Femme Show. “To me, it’s the concept (that) we’ve chosen femininity choosing feminist expressions and celebrating that.”

With a background in dancing and choreography, Cee started the show three years ago in Boston after searching for a venue for her own work.

“I wanted to make a show that my queer friends would want to come to,” she said. “Make a place where my art would fit, and give others that opportunity.”

The Femme Show is presented revue-style, the performers typically taking the stage solo to present their individual perspectives. Cee said not all the performers identify as “femmes,” but that they’re all creating work focused on what it means to “choose femininity.”

Boston’s Johnny Blazes will perform a monologue titled “Trancension,” exploring notions of “passing” in the transgender and queer communities. Activist, writer and research librarian Alana Kumbier performs “The Femmebot’s Dilemma,” a queer femme crip burlesque.

Mylene St. Pierre, an activist, community health worker and sexologist who also writes erotica, presents a monologue exploring “fat kinky femme sexuality.” And the etiquette mavens of the Society for the Preservation and Promotion of Sapphic Social Mores will take the audience on an exploration of the pleasures of modern-day pop culture.

“We hope that people come away thinking about gender or femininity in a way they haven’t,” said Cee. “People will wind up identifying on a basic level — on a universal level.”

And maybe they’ll rethink what femininity really means. 

Staff Writer Shannon Bryan can be contacted at 791-6333 or at:

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