High Femme: Demystifying Lady Smokers

Calling all Homoganjas! Let’s talk about anything and everything marijuana related, from legalization to pop culture to how to make your own bong using a box of Diva cups and a broken lamp. Whether you’re a newbie who doesn’t know a blunt from a joint, or you’re planning your gay dream wedding to Mary Jane, this column is for you. Puff, Puff, Pass.

Header by Rory Midhani

High Femme_Rory Midhani_640px

feature image from karmejello.com

Last week, Emily Dufton wrote an article for The Atlantic entitled “Marijuana and the Modern Lady.” In the article, Dufton talks about the rise of the female stoner and her portrayal (or lack thereof) in the media. She also discusses women’s growing roles in the fight for medical usage and legalization. With more Americans supporting legalization, recreational smoking continues to take on a more visible role in our society, which Dufton refers to as coming out of the “cannabis closet.” Dufton’s article is one of many discussions of women and marijuana currently happening in the blogosphere, and it’s obviously a discussion worth having.

I really enjoyed this article, but I can’t help but feel like it is the latest entry in the pantheon of journalistic inquiries that I like to call, “Women Do Wha?!?!”. It seems like every decade, society takes off its glasses, wipes away the fog, and realizes that WOMEN ARE DOING SHIT THAT MEN DO. Wow, what a shocker! It’s almost like we are part of the same species or something. Whether it’s entering the workforce, postponing marriage, or “having it all”, media seems perpetually gobsmacked that women are human beings with the same desires/anxieties/dreams of everyone else.

I remember seeing this most clearly in the late 90’s and the early 2000’s, when Sex and the City became a major part of the cultural zeitgeist. It was followed by a spate of articles and magazine covers devoted to the idea of the independent, sexually liberated woman. Thousands upon thousands of words were written about the show and its impact: do women really talk about sex so frankly? Are women the new men? Are men the new women? Are cats the new dogs? Are shoes the new hats? And before you think that I’m making fun of these writers, please know that I was/am one of them; I wrote my senior thesis on the cultural impact of SATC. Hooray for Communication majors!

But much like masturbation and other “personal relaxation” methods, it’s pretty obvious that most women are smoking it, but not talking about it. There is a cloud of shame permeating these issues for women, where there is absolutely none for men. Salon did a fascinating article about female shame around marijuana:

“I generally think women are not willing to take the risk of bringing up that subject because they’ll be judged by that other person,” says Sabrina Fendrick of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) Women’s Alliance. “It’s also a social fear of being judged by other women and other men as well. There’s a connotation with marijuana, that lazy stoner attitude, and women already have to work twice as hard to be considered half as good.”

So women feel shame and embarrassment when they partake in behavior that men have been doing for years. Not just doing, but celebrated for. Judd Apatow movies, featuring pasty blobs of men in a cloud of marijuana smoke, have been dominating comedy for the past decade. These characters are not merely played for comic relief; they are the heroes of the stories. They are the romantic leads (gross) almost exclusively paired with gorgeous young actresses. But with the exception of Charlyne Yi’s character in Knocked Up, there is no female stoner equivalent. There is just the eye-rolling, humorless shrew whose job is to A) make the boy a better man and B) usher him into adulthood. What a treat for us.

Maybe the problem is that we are defining smokers solely as the cliché pothead character that’s been a staple since Cheech and Chong. There are plenty of men and women who are highly productive, fully functioning recreational pot smokers. Like all stereotypes, the stoner stereotype is both limiting and one dimensional. But this raises the larger question of visibility and social acceptance. If the media and popular culture do not acknowledge a lifestyle, does it cease to exist? Of course not. Homosexuality existed long before we saw LGBT characters in film and television. But with the integration of queer characters in media came a change in the social acceptance of LGBT people in real life.

We need to have more female smokers in pop culture; just as we need to have more diverse female characters across the board. With media representation comes public discussion: when we see something new and different, we have to talk about it. And it is this open level of discourse that helps demystify and remove all of the stigma surrounding that different thing, be it sexuality, gender identity, or marijuana use. The more we talk about our fears, the less power and control they have over us. In the meantime, if Judd Apatow wants to make a Pineapple Express sequel starring James Franco and a sassy, smoking Jewess, he knows where to find me.

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Chelsea Steiner was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, where she works as a screenwriter/blogger/sex educator. She's the writer/director of Thank You Come Again, a queer sex positive web series based on her experiences working the Pleasure Chest, which you can follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. She’s obsessed with dachshunds, Buffy, 90's dance parties, and roller derby. She loves the word "Jewess" and wishes more people used it to describe her. Follow her ramblings on Twitter and her cute puppy pics on Instagram.

Chelsea has written 46 articles for us.


  1. This post speaks to me.

    I need a Kristen Stewart-helmed stoner adventure comedy like, YESTERDAY. Rhianna and Jennifer Lawrence can come too. Lee Pace can be their Bosley. I’ve thought about this a lot.

  2. Coralreefer420 is a perfect example of a really productive human, and activist, who is always, and I mean always baked. She does a real service to the female and obviously cannabis community.

    • I love Coral to the point where I’d call her my marijuana mentor! I found her videos* when I first started smoking pot and I learned so much through her channel.

      * I wasn’t looking for weed education. I just have a thing for hot girls that can clear a bong.

  3. When I meet new ppl they are almost always shocked that I smoke pot daily. Sometimes I’m seen as an anomaly because I go to school, I hold a job, I pay my bills, I take care of all my adult responsibilities and I happen to get high every night. Ppl have this idea that if you’re a stoner that you can’t be successful which is a total lie! Being a stoner IS NOT the same as being a heroin addict!

  4. I’m definitely in a “pot closet”. As someone in a social services career, I think I get viewed a certain way, and I’m not too eager to change that. Luckily, I work for one of the few organizations around that serve underprivileged kids that don’t drug test.

  5. Working in the LA entertainment industry, it’s not terribly uncommon to find people who smoke recreationally. No one really judges you for it. But I’m still hesitant to talk about it (unless it’s brought up by someone I already know/trust) because it feels to me like women are looked at strangely for enjoying marijuana. It’s not so much a feeling of disapproval as it is…condescending surprise? It’s hard to put into words unless you’ve experienced it. It’s as though they can’t believe a woman would indulge in such a vice!

    Also, I have that “Marijuana Girl” book cover as a poster in my room. :-)

  6. i also feel like when women say they smoke, there’s often an assumption that it’s a habit she picked up from her boyfriend

    • I smoked regularly with two of my (male) housemates my senior year of college. Newcomers to our smoke seshes would assume that the bowl we used belonged to one of them. Nope. It was mine. :-P

  7. I never ever thought of anything when a woman said she was a cannabis fan. In fact most of time I’ve has sessions with women, be it with my sister(i wasn’t an influence in her choice), her friends, or women I’ve known throughout out college. In fact I once had a session with half the women’s basketball team at State school in SoCal. I had the cannabis but someone on the team had the papers and pro rolling skills.

    Maybe age, location, and environment makes a different? Cause I know knew a few women who smoked in college and no one was ever surprised.

  8. Totally unrelated to the actual content of the piece, but every time I scrolled past one of those book covers I read “Marijuana Girl” in the style of Marina and the Diamonds’ “Primadonna.”

    And if somebody wanted to make a spoof video, with a little marijuana leaf beauty mark instead of a heart, I would support that.

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