Some thoughts on MichFest

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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.








37 thoughts on “Some thoughts on MichFest

  1. One of the big problems with MichFest is it’s an awful lot of work and takes a great deal of coordination to put something like that together for just a week. Wouldn’t it be great if there were permanent women-only communities who occasionally held such events and only invited women? The Internet makes such organization possible in a way it wasn’t before. That would reduce men to whining and pitching fits about not being invited to private parties, sort of like in kindergarten.

    1. There are lots of cohabitation communities around the country. I think it would be completely viable to start up. Even if all we could do was look into permits or crowd sourcing.

  2. We cannot give up the word woman. Woman is adult female human. Not a gender identity, a word we need to embrace and not allow to be colonized by men. I also say female-only when girls are included as well.

  3. Reblogged this on Thou wouldst still be adored and commented:
    “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.”

  4. Thank you for this post. There’s so much to quote from it but the real crux of it is this :

    “Our lives do not revolve around men.”

    It really is the most revolutionary thing anyone can do.

  5. Reblogged this on naefearty and commented:
    Yes. We see each other. And I too will be damned if I will acknowledge men as women.
    And I too will be there in August, with a heart full of love for you, my sisters.

  6. Thank you for writing this. I rejected liberal feminism long ago but bought into popular discourse about trans issues, particularly trans women. When the penny dropped my world turned inside out because nearly all of the activists I admired and causes I supported (basically all expressions of anti-colonialism) were vocal about this topic, so naturally I figured I had to get on board. You’re subhuman if if you don’t, right? It didn’t bother me that people who were born with a male anatomy were saying they felt they were female and I thought it was just that simple, until I started to explore various arguments and witness the behaviour of some of these individuals and the people who defend them. If you want me to support you but I’m not allowed to assess the implications of your logic then yeah, it’s better that we don’t join ranks. The last thing I want to do is erase people’s struggles and deny people’s feelings but holy fuck is this a bloodbath! I can only hope that liberal feminism is exposed for the mindfuck that it is.

  7. As the lesbian mother of a gender fluid child, I am saddened that you feel this way. My child was born with a female body but only rarely identifies as a girl. However they would be “allowed” at the music festival, even though they would be out of place.
    Living with someone who is dealing with a mismatch between their body and their brain has been EXCEEDINGLY eye opening. We need to stop telling others what gender they are and just let people be themselves. I’m sad to see such judgement from a group of people who should understand what it feels like to be suppressed and marginalized.

    1. No one is telling anyone what gender they are. I would hazard that precious few of the women who attend MichFest are women who have ever been comfortable with their gender — the gender expectations placed upon girls and women are horrifically oppressive. However, there is a difference between gender/gender identity (constructs) and sex (biological reality). As female human beings, we have shared experiences and physical realities that we cannot identify our way OUT of vis-a-vis presentation or personal feelings. I fully support the idea that an individual may present/identify as they wish. However, I disagree with the zeitgeist, one that consistently labels dissent “hateful,” one that insists that “woman” is a purely subjective reality, and that female human beings are not entitled to space away from males.

  8. As a bisexual man who has lived primarily straight (I was 66 yesterday, I was homophile growing up in the repressive 1950s-60s. This insistence by some young people upon calling themselves “queer” is absolutely the best way to empower unreconstructed homophobes, including lesbian-phobes. Queer was a FIGHTING word, and continues to be for a lot more people than self-identify with the term), I share in the regret of the author of this article.

    Now, I never go to Pride parades or anything like that. I am not proud, and I have long ago worked through being ashamed that I am a bisexual male. It’s just a fact. And my only child, herself now out to me as bi, understands herself better because of her dad, and is glad she must never repress herself as her dad had to.

    So I am sorry on some level that this lesbian woman and others like her will no longer have this particular retreat. I hope they find others. I grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, which in my day was the big hillbilly town at the western end of the state. Today, Asheville is a countercultural crossroads. I repeatedly have heard it referred to as “the Lesbian capital of the South.” I can tell you that you don’t have to drive very far from the center of town to get to wide-open mountain space, where people may pay homage to the Goddess if they choose.

    I expect I am one of the only men who will post here. I am not one of those men-who-feel-like-ladies. You would not know I was a feminist to look at me. I am male through and through. But women are my COMRADES in the same way men are. We all bleed red.

    I don’t much understand the current trend toward expressing personal fluidity of gender. People, at least Americans, are still trying to deal with fluidity of sexual orientation! But I am not going to criticize something I do not understand enough to say something intelligent about. Good luck to the anonymous author of this article in finding that sweet spot that will replace MichFest physically and psychospiritually for you.

    1. William P. Homans: Liberal queer politics understands this “sexual fluidity” thing that you speak of very well. It was in fact your very own bisexual/”fluid” community that opened the doors to what we are facing right now: lesbian women being harassed and called transphobic for not considering males viable partners, young lesbian women being pressured to become trans because they do not fit some bizarre standard of fluidity, lesbian and gay people now supposedly having “monosexual privilege” over people like you who have lived out entire lives comfortably drenched in heterosexual privilege, etc.

      Glass houses.

      1. Sexual fluidity is propaganda to pressure lesbians into being “open” to the idea of being sexual with men. I know because I’ve gotten hate for not paying lip service to the idea that I’d let a man fuck me if he was “hot” or “nice” enough. Then there’s the Cotton Ceiling bullshit.

        I would say that “LG” organizations never made lesbians a priority even before the bisexual/”seuxally fluid” people showed up. Lesbians rarely worked with gay men before the AIDS epidemic. Lesbians who tried to form an alliance with gay men were put off by the misogyny. Then HIV/AIDS happened and gay men needed caretakers and their gay-hating families weren’t going to take care of the son that was dying of the gay disease. (An early suggested name for AIDS was Gay Related Immune Deficiency or GRID.) I could go into great detail about how organizations that used to be for dying lesbians and gay men are now just for people with AIDS and there are zero charities for old, ill, and dying lesbians.

        That said, at least you used to be able to go to these organizations and just be a lesbian. The creepy het men pretending to be women/lesbians hadn’t fully attached to these organizations so you didn’t have to deal with them and their stupid cheerleaders.

  9. Reblogged this on FeistyAmazon and commented:
    Once we lose Michfest we lose the heart and soul of DykeAmazon Nation, a shining Lighthouse of Amazon Matriarchal Power. Because men,
    bio males of any sort and those who identify with them cannot allow either Female or Lesbian autonomy whatsoever.

  10. It is sad that this festival is coming to an end. I won’t be able to go, but I hope you enjoy it. I agree with some of the other comments on here; there’s no reason why we can’t follow the spirit of Michfest and start our own lesbian-only and women-only events and keep out the men.

    I do think you have a lot more sympathy than I do for women currently supporting the men-who-feel-like-women. In my opinion, the trans cult wouldn’t have nearly as much traction if it weren’t for them selling out and doing their dirty work. I do agree that the situation is rather depressing though.

  11. The penetration of MichFest is a warning. This is not the first time lesbian and women positive centers or events have been cracked and destroyed by the “ladybrains” (Oh I LOVE THAT, I am stealing it). Like the author I AM ANGRY, I am 56 and haven’t been this ANGRY for years about women’s/feminist issues.

    I went back to college at 50 and did take a gender class for my own enjoyment. Let me tell you they are teaching this liberal feminism in these classes. I have a very young “teacher”, she was about 26. Girl, were there some heated discussions. The one funny incident that did catch her off guard and red faced was when she was talking about the anti nuclear demonstrations and camps by women at Greenham Common in England in the early ’80s.

    She was rattling on about it and sarcastically looked at me as to say “well what have you got to say about this then?”..well she actually had a photo of a band playing at one of the events and I was in the band. So I went up to the photo (projected on a white board) and said “Well, that’s me there with the guitar in 1981, so I guess I’ve said it all”. Tell you, that took the breath out of her mouth.

    I am not making fun of the young woman, but she was going on with a load of liberal feminist carp, and if I wasn’t there in the class to say “wait a minute”, all the nodding heads of the students just kept nodding…NO ONE questioned this. I was known as “the old angry dyke with the funny accent”. Until….they saw me with the guitar.

  12. It was hell for me as a lesbian feminist since 1976. I really had never heard these new feminists views. I thought where did the female from feminism go? As you have written in other blogs I am currently digesting, women and girls are being systematically brutalized all over the world. This new feminism doesn’t seem to get it. Women could only vote 100 years ago, you think we’re done? Hell no. Also in another class of 160 (American Studies) the teacher asked to put hands up if they were a feminist, 3 people (including me) said YES I AM. The girls’ excuses ran from “that’s women’s lib crap. we’re liberated”, to “that’s hairy legged lesbian stuff”. Boy I hear THAT from MEN in the 1970s.

    1. I logged onto Facebook today to find my eldest niece (who is in her late 20’s) going on, on my (public) personal page, about what a bunch of lying meanies we are all and how she thinks some of her male transgender friends express the epitome of womenhood better than we do because the ideal woman is accepting and shit. My family has always said she’s a lot like me. She is exceptionally bright and educated in California academia.

      I wanted to say “WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO YOU???”

  13. MIEP…wow that’s painful. The ideal woman is accepting – where did the June Cleaver and Donna Reed creep in? Anyway what is an ideal woman for FSake? What is the epitome of woman? Let’s hope there is a 4th wave of feminism which will occur after all the 3rd wavers have so seriously been F’d over by men that they start thinking “what the hell was I thinking”? Another age of enlightenment. TERF Totally Enlightened Radical Feminist.

    1. I dunno, but the take-home lesson is clearly that whatever the ideal form of “woman” is, men will always be able to do it better. Therefore the savvy move is to not give a damn about what people think the ideal form of “woman” is. Goes back to that line I read recently about how men can perform femininity better than women because men invented it.

  14. This is my second comment, im not really active in the comments section, but ive read every radical feminist blog i come across from back to front for the last two years. I would really love to organize a women’s only event here on the west coast. I have no idea how, but I know it’s possible; and I don’t have much money, but I have passion and time. I’m very serious about this, if anyone wants to try with me we should start talking. I literally know one other radical feminist, my aunt, and she lives about 18 hrs from me. I want to be around women who aren’t male identified, who are feminists. Hell, I’d settle for hanging out with psuedo-liberal feminists, at least there are some things they can see of the Background, even though they are still firmly rooted in the Foreground. I’d lose my shit if I met someone in real life who actually knew what I was talking about. So if anyone is with me, let’s start planning!!!!!!!!

  15. The 800 pound gorilla that’s missing from this discussion is this: How does the feminist lesbian community feel about biological women who gender-identify as men? Are they welcome to events like Michfest because they have XX chromosomes and vaginas? Should/shouldn’t they?

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