Obviously that's a lot to talk about and I just haven't done it. So let me instead direct you to this wonderful article by Malinda Lo of AfterEllen.
Any time a lesbian who does not fit feminine norms makes a splash in the pop culture landscape (and it doesn’t happen too often), it is followed by a mass of handwringing as the media attempts to make sense of why she looks the way she looks.
...A Rhodes scholar, Maddow has also benefited from Americans’ renewed interest in intellectualism after eight years of Bush idiocy. It’s cool, these days (finally!) to be smart. But I don’t think it’s only her intelligence that people are attracted to, and Maddow’s sex appeal - which is ultimately what Merkin was trying to understand - is a transgressive one.
...A butch lesbian, at least in the ideal, is not the best of both worlds, male and female — she is a new world. She is the discovery, every day, of how a woman can be a woman without the trappings of femininity. The set of a woman’s shoulders, the way she crosses her legs, the angle of her hips when she walks - all of these are signals of butchness. And we know it when we see it. That kind of recognition takes place in the gut.
So good. On all points.