Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MichFest)

by Guest Blogger

Guest Post by Amynomene

My first exposure to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival was, unfortunately, in relation to the infamous womon-born-womon intention controversy. It was probably 10 years ago, and Bitch magazine had an article that laid out the issue. At the time, I was something of a baby feminist: I had a vague sense of unfairness toward those of my sex but no knowledge of feminist history, waves, theories, or famous feminists other than Gloria Steinem. I had even less of an idea about queer theory or the postmodernism that was eating the academic establishment from the inside out.

Without any other knowledge about the situation, or even about Fest itself, I intuitively understood there is something specific that happens to females who grow up in this society and live as women because they are female. If these women wanted to gather for a week to hash that out–great. On the other hand, I related to the trans experience in that I never felt comfortable in my own body, either. Society was always telling me to be one way, and I wanted to be another. But I didn’t, and still don’t, understand why people of one distinct experience would be fighting tooth and nail to claim that it was exactly the same as another group’s. Subsuming one’s experience under the umbrella of another’s seemed offensive to my American-style respect for everyone’s unique roots. And, after all, they’re just talking about one week in the woods, right?

Oh, I had so much to learn. Over the next five years, I came out of the closet, to many yawns and shrugs. In 2009, I found myself unemployed and idly surfing when I came across a radical feminist blog. I read the entire archive over the next two weeks. That blog led me to others. Before I knew it, my eyes were opened to the truth of the world around me. I couldn’t not see it anymore even if I tried.

By 2010, I felt called to that bastion of radical feminist ethics, MWMF. I was determined to ignore the controversy (like many other Festie-goers) and experience whatever it was that beckoned me. Over the course of just two days, I underwent what I can only describe as a spiritual awakening. “Music festival” is a pathetic, half-assed term for what that space truly is. For the first time in my life, I was exposed to an enormous group of women who didn’t conform to society’s restrictive prescriptions. I sat there almost slack-jawed watching women of every stripe and persuasion be free and beautiful. I left there claiming the identity of “woman”–something I’m not sure would have ever happened if I hadn’t gone.

I returned home in a state of happy shock only to learn about the vandalism from rogue elements of Camp Trans. In fact, I had been inconvenienced by the damage done to the showers in my camping area. But I’m a city girl, and I don’t scare easily.

I joined others online who were equally outraged at the sabotage. I began reading more about the actual history of the controversy, as told by both sides. Aside from the negative feelings about “their” actions, I knew I had to experience Fest once again. 2011 was a bit of a different story.

Both sides ramped up. Women who support the intention of Festival to be for those born female, raised as girls, and living as women managed to come together in the two months prior to Fest via social media in a way that had never happened before. They began voicing their opinions and wore red to signify their support of the policy. Workshops were held. Performers on both sides of the issue spoke out from the stage. The “Trans Women Belong Here” group raised money to sponsor tickets for trans women. They also sold t-shirts and passed out writings about their perspective.

I’m not going to get into specifics about what I heard or what I personally experienced because I don’t believe it’s helpful to the conversation. I ask that you, the reader, trust me when I say that the actions of a few were truly outrageous–and I mean that in the sense of inspiring outrage. Pro-intention women came home with dead emotional batteries. Many felt extremely angry and deeply disrespected. That led to heated online arguments. It is my impression that women on both sides of the issue, and those in between, got burned out.

The good news is that our pro-intention pilot lights are flaming up again, which is why I’m even attempting to write this.

The HUB’s contributors and other bloggers have written eloquent, sharp, and sometimes funny takedowns of the trans borg’s favorite myths. We’ve all witnessed the claw-back of women’s space in our own communities. Virtually no space outside our own homes is allowed to be solely for born-females anymore. Our domestic violence shelters, health clinics, poetry nights and universities have succumbed to their delusions, not because they’re correct but because they throw tantrums and bully their way in.

Obviously, I am not a long-time “Festie.” I am not a lifelong radical feminist or even a “gold star” lesbian. What I am is someone who sees through bullshit and can suss out the impetus behind every action. And those who say that female-born women are not allowed to gather separately are feeding us a massive line of misogyny-motivated bullshit. Those who say that we are “policing” the definition of woman operate from a deeply rooted self-centeredness that is alien to me and my sisters.

I love Fest for what it is and for the experiences I have there and nowhere else on Earth. But I fight for Fest because I see it as a beachhead, forging the way until this a wave of radical feminism crashes ashore and takes down the fragile support beams of queer theory’s fairytale sandcastle. Contrary to popular Internet opinion, Festival is not lost. Twenty years of protests have left her battered but not down for the count. Our spirit has transcended all of that, and we are finally putting our actions where our hearts have been all along. I see, from my perspective as a relative newbie to Fest, that the revered values of kindness and openness and community-mindedness have been the very things that prevented women from taking direct action. 2012 will find us un-gagged and willing to say what our female socialization has been shaming us into not saying. We will be made brave by the network of allyship we have developed amongst ourselves. We are secure in our belief that Festival should remain a space for the female-born.

I know of radical women who belong at Fest who don’t go because it’s too far to travel, too much time to take off of work, or they absolutely hate camping. I know of radical women who have stopped going because they feel male-borns have already infiltrated, and their time and energy are better spent elsewhere. I know of women who, incredibly, have never heard of Fest and belong there.

Now, more than ever before, we need your support. One of the last large-scale radical feminist spaces needs your support. She needs some resuscitation in the form of helping hands, present and on the land with her. I realize many of us are strapped for cash, even downright poor (myself included), but this is a call to you: Come this year and connect in real time with sisters who hold the same values you do. If not this year, start planning for 2013. It’s certainly early enough to start socking away cash for that! If you need help with the ticket or gear, ask for it. If you really can’t swing it, I ask that you donate whatever money your budget allows so that another female-born can represent you in this struggle for the right of women to define their own boundaries.

Y/Our voice deserves to be heard.

Amynomene is a moderately ambidextrous jill-of-all-trades who loves radical feminist take downs of patriarchy’s sacred cows and pet theories, motorcycle rides, and food.

19 Comments to “Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (MichFest)”

  1. It’s a female stronghold. The collective purpose of males is to destroy any and all female strongholds, right down to the last atom. I have watched it happen over the last forty years.

    No one but we females can ever create and defend those strongholds. The handmaidens of maleness will work strenuously to prevent and destroy that. Our tasks is to learn how to repel those forces.

    It’s not about ideology. It’s about Desire.

  2. Beautiful! Thank you 🙂

    (Can’t make it this year – staying behind to hold down the fort while Chonky and The Kid have a rootin’ tootin’ time with the Sisters. I’ll see everybody in ’13 tho!)

  3. Lovely post! Thank You

    Will be driving from Madison Wisconsin on Thursday, part-ay through Sunday. Returning on Monday mentally refreshed with a side of hangover probs. 😉

    Our Scottish blogger friend Maggie will be joining us there and I can hardly wait to meet her!

    I posted on the Festie Forum that I have room for two female-bodied womyn along with their massive amounts of gear iffin they need to be hitchin’ a ride.


  4. “not because they’re correct but because they throw tantrums and bully their way in.”

    Well said.

  5. I’d go if I could ever afford it… it just costs money I don’t have…

  6. “If you really can’t swing it, I ask that you donate whatever money your budget allows so that another female-born can represent you in this struggle for the right of women to define their own boundaries.”

    This is SO IMPORTANT. The Festival is much, much more than a party–although a great party it can be–but we all have to think about how we can be a part of this vital space, even if we can’t go ourselves.

    I have been helped by the Festival’s fund for low-income womyn in the past; now that I am a little bit better off–even though well below the poverty line–in the years that I am unable to attend, I always give as much money as I can to a sister who would otherwise not be able to attend. I no longer contribute to the NGLTF, or to the NCLR (!) and never have been a supporter of HRC. I have stopped giving money to any other cause unless I have made sure that I put up at least $400.00-$500.00 each year for someone to go to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, even if I can’t.

    It may seem expensive, but all things considered, it is a real bargain.

    If we ignore it, it’ll just go away.

    It’s never been more important to make your voice heard. Keep the one space for XX females alive and growing. We STILL Want The Music!

  7. Donating to mitchfest is a really great idea, will do and thanks for suggesting it. Anyway. Imagine a group of people who go on a retreat once a year in order to worship the flying spaghetti monster. But some christian fundamentalists don’t like the idea of anybody having a special place and time set aside for them to commune with a less popular god, so they storm the camp, demanding that fundamentalist christians be allowed to attend the same retreat in order to preach the mainstream religion which is available absolutely everywhere all year long.

    Er, why can’t the fundamentalists recognize that they are out of line?

    Answer: Dr. Bob Altmeyer was wrong. Right Wing Authoritarians do indeed exist among liberals. Good news is that you deal with them in the exact same way as you deal with conservative right wingers. They respond to emotional pleas, friendship “love bombing” and, for the most brainwashed, snarky ass ridicule — NOT logic. Reserve your logical analysis for people with brains.

    http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/ Seriously, I have stopped wasting my time on delusional funfems. Instead, I talk to the people who actually make policy where-ever that may be, and fortunately for us, those folks tend to have working brains which eventually responds to reason.

    One more thing. Mitchfest is a privately owned org, dedicated exclusively to one purpose. They have the legal right to request that the pro-trannie supporters — even if female — zip their fucking lips and leave their stupid propaganda at the gate or be thrown out with no refund PLUS AN ADDITIONAL FINE for violating the rules.

  8. Private groups do have the power to set rules for membership. It’s a private group, so temporary membership is obtained at the gate for a price (or those given a waiver in lou of payment). It becomes a legally binding contract, when the rules are stated clearly. Just print it on the back of the ticket or on a big sign by the entrance. And part of that contract obligates all members to leave all forms of trans support at the gate. Done, damnit.

    This is the exact same process utilized by bars who wanted to get around the no-smoking ban when it was first implemented. Now a private club and members agree that smoking is okay for the evening. If you don’t like smoking, then hey it’s a private club and don’t become a member. Yes, it’s entirely legal.

    It is also entirely legal to include in the “contract” how disputes are to be handled. Landlords and other private entities do this all the time. So include that loser pays all court costs, because they definitely will lose. Again, nobody is forcing them to buy a ticket so they’re screwed either way.

  9. This sounds so wonderful. Idk about the camping part (undoor girl) but otherwise I would looove to go someday, somehow.

  10. Amazon ManCrusher and I will be there this year. Can’t wait! Very exciting!

  11. And part of that contract obligates all members to leave all forms of trans support at the gate. Done, damnit.
    I sooo agree with this mAndrea, I dont see why the trans-supporters should be allowed in to have the ability to spoil it for everybody else.

  12. Hi Rain,

    We went through the same thing with sadomasochists and BDSM supporters in the early 80’s. Except that Fest caved to the sadomasochists. That resulted in a whole bunch of women who would no longer go there because of that noxious presence. This is why I don’t hold out a lot of hope for Fest.

  13. Camp_Crazy_Twanz will not spoil anything for me.

    I’ll just run to the nearest dykes-on-bikes and yell for assistance. hehe

    Seriously, why are they not spending all of this energy into creating their own Fest? I assure them, we Female-bodied womyn won’t come-a-crashin’ their scene. I would support them 1000 percent by LEAVING THEM ALONE.

    Want to share a funny though. The Kid was perusing through the workshops offered at Festie, where she stumbled upon the ‘womyn of color breast casting’. It was an interesting conversation we had. 😉

  14. Thanks, all. I’m honored to have my post among your illustrious ranks.

    Kitty – That’s amazing. Not an insignificant amount of money!!

    Yisheng – There are several resources you can check out. There’s an annual fund that provides tickets for low income womyn (that Kitty mentioned). Many womyn of limited resources have to do some creative fundraising, especially for travel expenses and gear. I recommend that you check out the MichFest boards. You will get some ideas and have a place to ask questions. Hope to see you there someday!

    mAndrea – You’re right, and it’s very frustrating. There is *much* speculation about why Fest organizers do things they way they do. Bottom line, though: nobody knows the intricacies of the situation better than they do. So, for now, I believe it’s best to follow the guideline we do have, and that is to create the Fest you want to have. TWBH has been attempting to do just that. 2011 was the start of our reclamation. 2012 is our year.

    For those of you planning to attend this year: I’m planning to host a radfem meetup workshop, so keep an eye out for it. No real names necessary 🙂 Looking forward to meeting you there.

  15. I will be attending for the first time this year and I am really excited about it!

  16. Love it, love it love, GREAT BLOG, wonderful post, and you really captured the heart and Spirit of Fest, the Crown Jewel of what’s left of Lesbian Nation and our Sacred WBW space….yep I will be wearing my red this summer in solidarity and hope to get there….and march in the Butch Parade, and participate in every possible way I can! Love the womyn of Fest, and their fierce DykeAmazon and Amazon spirits in defending the last Amazon City we have………
    -In DykeAmazon Sisterhood,

  17. Very well said FeistyAmazon, “…fierce DykeAmazon and Amazon spirits in defending the last Amazon City we have…” It’s going to be an amazing time…

  18. Hi I have been thinking of going to this but my girlfriend isn’t keen. She thinks it will be a very hippy experience which neither of us is really into. Can anyone tell me what it really is like?

  19. Hi.
    I’m the Michfest Quiltworker. I have attended for 15 years and will continue to do so until I die. THAT is how committed I am to be a part of an amazing community which has, for been created by and for womyn born womyn. Not by men born men who want to be womyn, but by WBW. I will ad lib a conversation I had with a Fest womon, which another womon had said to her…
    “this is my home. I built it, I clean it. I cook the food, serve the food and clean up after. I care for the children and other sisters. Now, there is an unwelcome visitor at my door who enters MY home, eats MY food, ignores MY children and sends ME to my room!
    Michfest is MY home! I invite all of my WBW Sisterz to join me.
    I even have a fundraising program and will show you how to easily pay for your Fest ticket.
    My Sisters, you had best wear your red clothes and stand watch at your door. Otherwise, Womyn’s space will be a thing of the past.

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