Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Recreating prom

An unabashed celebration of femme

Clockwise from bottom right: Angie Renwick, Luna Allison and Kristin Bell-Murray of Ottawa Femme Family pose with Sarah Manns (top right) at Raw Sugar Café. Credit: Laura Zahody

Ottawa’s first femme-centred prom will bring a hint of glitter and rouge to Pride weekend.

Femme Family Ottawa, a drop-in discussion group for femme-identified people, is hosting the Femme Formal at Raw Sugar Café in Chinatown.

Part of the mission of the event is femme visibility, or getting people to see that femmes are here and queer, says organizer Luna Allison.

“It’s a common complaint that people assume we’re straight,” she says.

The evening is meant to be an unabashed celebration of femme. There’s a problematic notion, which exists even in the queer community, about what queer looks like and is, Allison says.

“In a community of queer women, it seems that masculine signifiers are more valued,” adds Kristin Bell-Murray, a Femme Family Ottawa member.

People think that being feminine is conforming to gender norms, says Angie Renwick, another Femme Family Ottawa member.  

“That puts people off,” Renwick says. “Just like butch dykes putting some people off because they think they’re catering to stereotypes.”

Allison emphasizes that femmes are not conforming to gender norms.

“The idea of a woman who’s queer occupying a gender that’s similar to heterosexual norms in society, but making it her own, is a radical act,” she says.

Although the event is femme-centred, it’s open to everyone.

The night is a fundraiser for the Dyke March, which Allison says she’s thrilled to support.

“With we, as femmes, at the centre of a funding effort I think it makes the point that we’re an important part of this community and that we’re there for our community,” she says.

A few years ago, there was talk about hosting a slow-dance party for femmes, but it didn’t happen, Allison says.

The idea for this summer’s prom came to her a few months ago, when she was gingerly unpacking her formal dresses — from pink and pouffy, to sleek and black — after a move.

She posted on Facebook that she needed somewhere to wear them.

“Then 50 people responded about how there should be a party and how that would be great, and the idea was born,” she says.

“I’m not sure if we have a big enough community to have a monthly event or even a quarterly, but it could become a yearly thing,” she says.

The soundtrack to the party will be femme-oriented music: some old Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, Bitch and Animal, she says, but she notes that people who embody the fighting, feminist spirit of femme will be featured, too. There’s a best-dressed competition in the works and likely some other surprises, as well.

Although she has a formal dress of every colour, Allison says she doesn’t know yet what she’s going to wear.

“I might give the dresses equal opportunity by wearing each one, doing several changes throughout the evening.”