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WINDYCITYMEDIAGROUP

Letters to the Editor: Michfest I
2013-07-09


Attendees at last year's Michfest. Photo by Charlsie Dewey


Letter to the Editor:

Enough. Enough with the lies and the threats. Enough with the bullshit. With the poison that is older than old. Yeah, it's misogyny. Good old-fashioned woman-hating. Woman-haters wearing dresses. That's old, too. They were called priests. And they burned us. Witches, Jews, loose women, the healers and the lesbians demonized, tortured and killed. Hyperbole to bring that up now, in the context of the Michfest "controversy"—maybe. But, and it's one hell of a but, when they say "burn it down" know there is no "it". There is only us. We make festival happen. We are the targets, of demonization, of disrespect, of rape threats. That we are the targets is neither accidental nor coincidental. Of course, there is the promise that if we stop gathering together, if we stop creating community based on love of women, if we simply stop being so dang dyke-y, then we will be safe. They won't attack us anymore. Because we are driving them to it, you know. Witches that we are. Enacting lesbianism, womyn-loving womyn, sometimes with them, sometimes without them. And the latter is never ever allowed. Not conceptually, not concretely. The threats are concrete—rape, death, destruction. What about the conceptual destruction? It's there. Even more downright genocidal in fact. Read on even if you don't give a shit about theory. They do. Read on.

Being perceived as, fashioned as, a girl, precedes an infant's and child's capacity for conscious choice, for self-definition. The various institutional, cultural, familial pressures exerted on the baby, infant, child labeled "girl" are significant. Denial of this significance is denial of our lived experience. Denying the lived experience of women and girls—gee, that's novel. To declare all righteously or puffed up with academic credentials that we silly little muff heads don't know what we are talking about when we talk about our lives is all too familiar to anyone who has been conscious on the planet for a while.

For those of you who haven't the luck of years or those who skipped consciousness, denial of the lived experience of women and girls is a strategy/tactic of patriarchal oppression. Our self definition as survivors of girlhood, as expanders of womanhood, who recognize our painful relationality to patriarchy (so, yes, as womyn-born women), is not accepted by them. They want our self-definition to cease to have meaning. Not in the liberatory sense that we are free of gender stereotypes or biological determinism, but in the very non-liberatory sense that their self-identification trumps our self-identification. The refusal to acknowledge our difference is an attempt to erase us. It is wanting us, and the values we've developed and brought into our lives, including the values we work on at Festival—a space Lisa Vogel has provided and nurtured—to not exist. They are not proposing a win-win solution.

They are proposing that they win through concrete (physical and financial) destruction. Or that we destroy ourselves. That we agree that we are silly little things that don't understand our own lives (don't worry, Daddy will show us), and that we have behaved badly (don't worry, Daddy will forgive us). All that matters is that Daddy decides. That is the crux. Because it's not about who is right and who is wrong. It is about power, and Daddy wants it.

We have been expanding what it means to be lesbians/women through the festival and other spaces, not just through theorizing but through enacting, through praxis. And that threatens them, not because they are victims of our uncaring brutal meanness, but because Naming is theirs. Particularly the deciding of what is and is not a proper woman. (Notice I said "what" not "who" for they are the only subjects.) After all, they admire us. They just don't respect us.

Of course, that is not what is claimed. That would be too naked for today's academics and non-activist politicos. So they take the path of today's conquistador and colonizer, reaffirming today's empire. They demonstrate how they value something by wanting it for themselves or those in their favor. In order to claim it for themselves, first they must diminish the creators and sustainers: I really like the place! Isn't it a shame how the occupants just don't take care of it. They are just so, so primitive. Unenlightened. Irrational. They don't recognize our legitimate authority/ideology. They are heathens. Convert or burn.

The actions of someone who claims they must be invited to a gathering in order to support it are not the actions of an ally. They are the enactment of privilege.

How about valuing without coveting, without penetration?

Radical feminism knows that allies are based on coalition, not inclusion.

Radical lesbianism challenges us to acknowledge and embrace our differences. Scary stuff.

Peace,

Anne Leighton

Chicago

Michfest II

Letter to the Editor:

It seems as if we are again thrust into the heart of an absurdity. The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival (MichFest) has achieved an importance that has been perplexing to me ever since it became a target some years ago, and raises questions I have not seen answered.

The festival requires months of preparation for a few thousand womyn to mostly camp in the woods together. The attraction of this festival for us has been that it is the one space, for one week, that is penis free (though womyn are now allowed to bring very young boys to the festival). The desire to be penis-free for one week of 52 has subjected the festival to accusations of trans women bigotry and a petition is now being circulated encouraging performers and festi-goers to boycott the festival.

The offended group is self-defined womyn with penises. The petition, circulated by Red Durkin, demands that the festival be subject to a boycott, and the Indigo Girls are planning to make statements from the stage in support of the boycott on opening night. (They are obviously not going to boycott until after they get money from the festival for being performers which they will donate to the (which?) trans womyn.)

So to the absurdity. What exactly counts as victory for these trans womyn? Clearly, victory is either they are welcomed or the festival must die. If there is no festival then the trans womyn and their supporters have won exactly what?? What political goal for transsexuals is gained by ending the festival? It should be clear to them and their supporters that Lisa Vogel has no interest in producing a festival including self-defined womyn with penises. So what will they do … where will they go … what will give their life meaning, then?? These folks do not support, much less attend, the festivals in which they are welcome. Many of us are not going to attend this festival if they are welcomed here. If this festival ends how is that a victory for trans women?

This is simple nihilism. This festival does not define who is a womon. That is not done at a festival that occurs in the woods one week of the year. The refusal to welcome folks with a penis is not oppression. It is simply a party to which they are not invited. There are no important concerns of trans womyn that admission to this festival will resolve; not violence, employment discrimination, discriminatory health practices, etc. In fact, this attack on this festival is a distraction.

A distraction from important issues of oppression. I am a member of a community that has an unemployment rate of at least 14 percent as the national number is given as 7 percent. Many of us non-white folks live in communities suffering from school closings, housing discrimination, etc., in other words racism.

I attend a festival that has for 38 years struggled to see that this is not tolerated for this one week. Attendance is not a civil-rights issue. There is no center of power that trans womyn are being denied access to. Refusing to welcome them is not oppression. Self-defined womyn with penises have lost nothing by not being at Michfest, but they are attempting to take something from those of us who do attend. It is clear that this is not sisterhood.

There is a long history of various groups living with oppression choosing to be together and white women choosing to struggle with racism together without non-white folks. That has been respected by virtually all of us for many years until now. The accepted presence of a penis on the land opens the door for men who have tried over the years to come in. This does not seem to bother these trans womyn and their supporters. It seems as if there are no explanations concerning our reasons for wanting to be penis free that matter to these folks. Either they can come or they will attempt to destroy the festival. This resonates with me as similar to the fate of Black Wall Street in Oklahoma among other events in my history.

Let me end by saying that this has always been about the destruction of the festival and it is a very familiar move. Give us your stuff or we will attempt to take it and if that fails—then it must be destroyed.

Jackie Anderson

Evanston

Earlier letters on this topic here: Article Link Here .


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