Friday, August 13, 2010

Into the Woods - part 1 in which i discover michfest

Since 1997, I've been going to Michfest. In fact, when I say I'm going to Michigan, I almost never mean just the state, I mean that I'm going to the largest and oldest womyn only music festival in the country.

Let's talk about the womyn only thing. Because I know some of you are wondering why I'd go to a single gendered space. And because Michigan has frequently been accused of transphobia. In some cases rightly accused.

Here's my perspective.

As a young feminist I found womyn only space through Dianic Wiccan communities. I learned about lesbian separatism from reading Mary Daly. I learned about other separatisms from reading theories of the Black Panthers and early Malcom X. Separatism made sense to me. It still does.

The concept of separatism is that oppression is built into the very fabric of our culture. And that by continuing to participate in the culture in any form, you feed the oppression, even by fighting it. So some women (or wimmin or womyn or...) chose to step outside and create a separate world. In some cases womyn created separate communities in which they lived 365 days a year. Some created womyn's religions in which femininity in all of it's diversity(s) is celebrated but men and boys were not welcome. Some created space that was womyn only for a period of time. Michigan is one of the later spaces.

Michfest was founded in 1976. By the 1980s the festival had moved to a 600+ acre of land in rural Michigan and it's been on The Land ever since. Every year in July womyn arrive on the land and create an environment for a week long festival. They lay pipe for the showers. They lay upside down carpet for wheel chair accessible paths. They put up signs for designated camping areas. They put up the stage and lights and audio for Night Stage. They ready the fire pit to cook for thousands of women.

I first heard about MichFest in the early 90s when I was living in Minnesota. I'd already learned that being in womyn only space was something that I needed. It was a place where I felt safe. Where I could heal from the damage that I experienced as a woman walking around in the patriarchy. Because the patriarchy fucking hurts. Especially as a young woman.

Women only space wasn't a paradise. It had problems just like the rest of the world. We carried our petty politics, our prejudices, our inappropriate behaviors, our humanity right on in. But there was an intentionality and safety that fed me. That I needed.

So one year my best friend and I got on our motorcycles and accompanied by two members of our coven (yes i said coven - our Dianic Wiccan coven where no, we did not eat small children) who drove a car we called the rolling tank bag we all drove north through Minnesota, up through Canada and down through Michigan to Hart and The Land. My life has literally never been the same.

I drove into a world which wasn't perfect. But it was beautiful.

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