Welcome back to Hi Femme!, dapperQ’s sibling visibility project celebrating the incredible contributions that stylish femmes make to queer fashion. This edition, we’re featuring, Cloe Shasha the Speaker Development Director at TED, where she does curation for stage events and podcasts, works with speakers on their talks, hosts interviews, and oversees a team that manages communications with speakers. She’s also training to be a volunteer doula, with the goal of supporting queer, minority, and immigrant parents through labor and delivery. She spends her free time dancing, writing, reading, hosting queer dinner parties, and spending time in the outdoors. She grew up in New York City and Paris and she lives in Brooklyn.
Hi Femme!: Can you talk a bit about how you define queer femme style, what makes it transgressive, and why femme visibility is important?
Cloe: Queer femme style is unapologetic and intentionally feminine. It does not exist for the male gaze — it exists in spite of it. The fact that we’ve lived in a patriarchy throughout history and still do today is what makes it transgressive: we are celebrating a style that might look like it’s all in service of cis men, when it’s simply not about them. As queer femmes, we choose to share our strength and power by embodying styles that have been associated with oppression.
Being femme has nothing to do with biology or sexuality. Qualities of femininity and masculinity can be embodied by anyone, regardless of the sex they were assigned at birth, and regardless of who they want to sleep with. Even with the cultural milestones that we’ve passed in the last couple of decades, the patriarchy continues to oppress people with its archaic, limiting binaries (man or woman, conventionally attractive or ugly, young or undesirable, alpha or sissy, etc.). Toxic masculinity is reinforced through these types of categorizations, as is the marginalization of all queer people who do not fit into any boxes. The misogynistic scripts of society make queer femme visibility — in its intersectional resplendence — all the more important.
As a cis queer femme woman who is primarily read as a straight white woman (I’m an Iraqi Arab Jew), I blend into heteronormative spaces, which grants me privilege that many other queer people do not hold. And with the privilege of passing comes the responsibility of accepting that I must continually come out in the hopes that my visibility will challenge people whose homophobic or transphobic views are rooted in their low familiarity with queer individuals. (Many of the straight-passing queer femmes in my community also regularly out themselves for similar reasons.)
Hi Femme!: How would you describe your personal style?
Cloe: Crop tops are the foundation of my outfits, regardless of the season. In the summer, I wear brightly colored ones with skirts or high-waisted jeans. In the winter, I rotate through a collection of cropped sweatshirts in more muted colors. When I’m branching out from my midriff uniform, I’m usually in a dress, a leotard with a skirt, or a loose blouse tucked into jeans with a leather jacket. Heeled boots and fluorescent sneakers are my footwear of choice. I rarely leave the house without earrings, two necklaces, and at least five rings. I’m drawn to all things iridescent, and take any opportunity to wear gold eyeliner, glitter on my nail polish, and bright red lipstick.
Hi Femme!: Who are your fashion icon(s)?
Cloe: I’ve drawn inspiration throughout my life from clothing catalogues of the 1990s, people I see on the New York City subway, and drawings of 1950s pin-up girls. Fashion icons include Marisa Tomei in “My Cousin Vinny” (the movie), Rihanna, Sia’s dancers, and Tessa Thompson.
Hi Femme! What item in your style arsenal can you not live without?
Cloe: My iridescent fanny pack!
Where to find Cloe on the Interwebs:
More about Cloe:
By Cloe, about gender pronouns: “How To Tell Your Parents That Gender Pronouns Matter” (Huffington Post)