Owing to the extreme generosity of a dear friend, my wife and I will be able to attend MichFest this year. My wife has attended before, but for me, it will be the first, and – as it turns out – last time to visit the land.
All I know about MichFest is what I’ve heard from others who’ve attended before. Most are rendered unable to articulate the experience adequately. “It’s just . . .” women often say. “It’s hard to describe . . . you have to be there.”
Because there are no words, there is no language, I suppose, for what it feels like as a female human being to exist for six days among other female human beings, to celebrate our existence, to talk to one another without protecting the delicate male ego, to exist outside of the male gaze, to walk in the dark without fear of harassment or rape. There is no word to define “a world of women without men.”
I do not want to lapse into conjecture over WHY Lisa Vogel decided this year would be the festival’s last. I’m sure there were myriad reasons, and perhaps it’s mean-spirited of me (so what), but I hope that one of those reasons was that she’d sooner ennd it than allow men-who-feel-like-ladies to colonize it.
Against my better judgement, I have read online many of the comments where men-who-identify-as-women, gay men, straight men, and straight women celebrate the end of the festival, positioning this era’s closure as some great victory. If you have the stomach for it, you need look no further than the celebratory Tweets and articles by “trans activists” to see the bloated male ego in all of its glory – the violent undertones, the sneering, the lesbophobia, the willful mischaracterizations of an event that wasn’t ever (heaven forbid!) about them. So the end of MichFest is, I suppose, a victory – a victory for men and for straight folk who have never really been able to abide lesbians.
Yes, I know, Michfest isn’t expressly lesbian, but historically it has been a sacred space for lesbians. Our spaces and marches and academic institutions are gone or going – largely subsumed by gay men and/or heterosexuals, diluted by the presence of “queer” – which means straight people and men. It is enough, the culture believes, that they allow lesbians to exist, but it is too much to afford us space away – away from the heterosexual queers, away from men, away from fragile ladybrains.
That the festival lasted for forty years in a cultural climate that so loathes lesbian existence is nothing short of a miracle.
Lesbian. The very word, as of late, has been parsed, scrutinized, re (and mis) appropriated, coopted, debased. Women, like myself, who have held fast to the true meaning of the word – females who are female-centered, who have romantic and sexual attachments to women — have been called bigots, and of course we have.
Lesbians pose, perhaps, the greatest threat to male-domination. We don’t need men. We don’t sexually avail ourselves to men. Our lives do not revolve around men. We exist on the outside of a schism that exists for the sole purpose of breaking our spirits in order to subjugate and exploit us. If you don’t believe me, look then, at how liberal “feminism” makes priority of the male gaze with MUCH IMPORTANT movements like “free the nipple.” Look then at how sexualized images of women are deemed “empowering.” Look at how liberal feminism extolls the virtues of sex work – an industry that literally destroys and dehumanizes women and girls. Look at how liberal feminism vilifies lesbians, laughs at their concerns.
As I told my wife this morning, “Liberal feminism will reap what it’s sowing, in due time.” And it will. And it will be a travesty for women because liberal feminism is, like virtually every single industry and ideology, for the benefit of men.
So we needed MichFest. Not only to escape males for a minute, but to escape the woman and lesbian-hating culture we are so sickeningly, and hopelessly, steeped in.
And this made men sad, particularly men who feel like women. And right there is a big point of difference – the women I know, the women I love, they don’t fucking FEEL LIKE women, they just are. They don’t “identify as” women any more than a fucking dandelion identifies as a dandelion or a fucking maple tree identifies as maple – it just IS. But we can’t accept that. This will not do in a culture that is obsessed with what makes each special individual FEEL BEST – except, of course, for what makes lesbians feel best, because fuck lesbians.
My experience as a person BORN FEMALE, not assigned, not “identified as” has fuck all to do with the experience of some person born male and raised male who has become so thoroughly convinced that whatever fucking “feelings” they have are indicative of female brain that they have embraced and come to live some delusion that the dominant culture validates at every turn because the dominant culture LOVES TO PLACATE MEN.
My experiences as a female attracted to other females has fuck all to do with the experience of some heterosexual man who has decided his grey matter is pink and sparkly or whatever a woman’s brain is supposed to look like in trans-land.
And sisters, don’t for a fucking moment believe that all this “can’t we all just get along” or “let’s have a dialogue over a cuppa tea” bullshit was ever about being better to one another as people – it’s been about gas lighting, it’s been about threats, it’s been about men in dresses stamping their feet because they feel entitled to everything, because the culture is telling them they ARE entitled to everything, because they will “commit suicide if you don’t let me in,” because YOU, my beautiful lesbian sister, you don’t count and you don’t matter – not to men, not to the culture at large, not to so-called LGBT organizations and media outlets, and certainly not to the queer/trans lot who are hell bent on making every reality subjective so that it caters to their fanciful needs, their exquisite hang ups, their infinitely complex mental illnesses, their enthralling fetishes, whatever the fuck it is.
But MichFest was about women. Women. And I’ll be damned if I will ever accept that term, that reality, as subjective. I will be damned if I will ever allow the meaningless pseudo-intellectual babble that is “queer theory” to make fiction of my life or the lives of my sisters. And if I seem angry, that’s because I am angry, and I am entitled to every inch of my anger, as is every woman, every dyke who is fed the fuck up of sucking the proverbial dick of liberal feminism with its insufferable, tedious focus on men’s feelings, with its grotesque lack of ability to ever see or care about the bigger picture where it concerns women and girls.
And while I feel anger, I also feel such sorrow that the festival is ending. I feel sorrow because it was one-of-a-kind, because it was there, because it was important, because it meant the world to so many of my sisters, because it helped and healed so many of my sisters who have been beat-down and broken. I feel sorrow because so many women relied on that space, so many women needed that space, and because their hearts are breaking.
I also feel moved — moved to see so many women banding together, offering one another comfort in our shared sorrow, offering rides and money to help other women get to the festival one last time. I’ve watched, in the last twenty-four hours, women coming together in our shared grief, loving one another in the midst of our disappointment, holding each other up, offering support and reassurance. And I’ve watched women vow to rise up from what tastes so potently like defeat, which we no doubt will.
See, the thing about women, about dykes is that we’re not new to this. As Faye Dunaway so aptly puts it in Mommie Dearest, “don’t fuck with me, fellas! This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.”
The thing about Fest, so I’ve heard, is that not only did it center women, but it loved women – as they were. And it encouraged women to love themselves, as they were. This is spectacularly rare.
I’m reminded of that semi-ubiquitous quote by the incomparable Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
So, too, I think is loving ourselves as women, is loving other women.
There is a kind of revolutionary feeling to loving other women. I’m not just talking about sexually or romantically; I’m talking about a form of extremism that is inextricably linked with empathy – as Lisa Vogel said in her letter yesterday, “my eyes meeting yours.” To care about women, to listen to women, feel moved by a woman’s hurt, and her joy, to see another woman and experience that intense recognition because she is your sister, because she knows all those inexpressible things you know by virtue of being born female and groomed into patriarchy – that’s radical. I’ve seen it – the way women, complete strangers, have reached out to each other over the last twenty-four hours to offer comfort, to ask, “How can I help you?”
Women caring, really caring about other women: that’s a real threat to the dominant paradigm. That’s fucking revolutionary.
And that’s not about men. It’s not about men who represent gays in the media who openly mock our pain on Twitter. It’s not about men who identify as women and deem all that does not center their experience, their ego, “hate speech.” It’s not about navel gazing and inventing words for all of our quirks.
And I feel sorry for all the young women who have been bamboozled by the tropes of male-championed liberal feminism that has caused them to believe a gathering of women in the woods is malicious. I feel sorry for all the women who will never know an experience like MichFest, who will have bought the lie that it existed to harm a small group of people, who have dismissed the second wave feminists who helped them have so many of the liberties they now enjoy, who have been conditioned against engaging the critical thinking skills necessary to understand that all the ranting and raving over the evils of Lisa Vogel, the evils of lesbians in the woods, is a fucking witch hunt, is rhetorical napalm used to torch our spaces – not because they are diabolical, but because they rattle – however slightly – the pillars of patriarchy, because they press against the ever elusive dream of women’s real, actual liberation.
So to all my sisters who are mourning this loss, rest assured we are legion and we will go on.
I’ll see you all in August.