What an A-mazing week, to say the least. The welcoming atmosphere, the process of my deepest social fears coming to light in the days leading up to Fest, and me feeling weak, run-down and worried.
It was a pilgrimage, and like any experience of magic, if you stir the cauldron, even just a bit, and you dust off your altar and leave your cat in good care, then you might just find a broom to fly on at Fest and have a good time.
That’s what happened to me. Going into Fest, my traveling companion tells me stories of recent suicide attempts when she notices I am crying emotionally about my failure to be truly loving towards myself and women in a few personal circumstances I don’t want to go into here. So we were both in our full-on emotional pain of living in the p on this planet. That’s how I went to Michigan this year, casting a spell by the full moon that cleansed my spirit before going in.
Once inside, I immediately went to the over 50’s camping area because that is where my camping companion of last year took me so I knew I would feel comfortable there and not socially afraid or anxious. Turns out I did feel afraid, depressed and socially anxious there on the first and second nights and I talked with my older neighbors who had been coming to the Land for over 30 years and they were very kind and welcoming with me. I got an interview for my radio program on MichFest, with the founding editor of We’Moon, Musawa, a lovely woman with silver hair. There she was, just chillin’ with her friends from all over the globe who had been going for 30 years together.
I got up the social courage to go visit the RadFem Rhapsody space after I went to the very first Radical Feminist workshop listed in the program, so that must have been on Tuesday morning, and it was like a repeat of last year’s Fest, where we all just met under this giant oak tree in the ferns and then we all went to lunch afterwards, so happy to see each other. Whew. I was indeed Home.
But I continued to have social anxiety and fears, not of being attacked by men, but of me making a stupid faux pas and womyn looking down on me or ignoring me. Or of being judged harshly and not truly known. These were my fears. I had a zombie dream about it on the full moon, right before getting in the car to go. In it, Ani DiFranco introduces my music from a brightly lit stage, in video form, and right when she clicks “play”, everything goes awry and it sounds horrible and I am so embarrassed. And then the zombies come and they are violent and brutal with me. I don’t even know how I escape them, but I do, and I am out in this big hotel where our gathering was being held and I stumble into some good conversations with womyn, but then they turn into zombies and more zombies come so yeah. I had a social anxiety dream before MichFest 2015.
On the Land, with 6,000 or so other womyn, a lot can happen and a lot of anti-zombie magic takes flight through the woods via womyn’s rituals, drum beats, songs and dance. I could feel my patriarchal shell shedding like one of the cicadas on the Land and I could feel the Land was there to be with us and help us to heal. I have attached a picture of me on the Land, with other womyn on the last day. The camera was Samantha Snow’s, a wonderful womon companion on long walks and just being so open and happy in the woods together, safe. I can visibly see how my shoulders are relaxed and face is more softened than usual due to the woo, or the glow of the womyn on the Land.
We are like one giant organism together, or an ant hill, all working together with our common tools and sense, healing when we don’t even realize we are, just because we are in that womyn’s glow, the tears we cry polishing our faces shining outside in the sun and in the shade of tall trees.
So by Wednesday evening, I was feelin’ fine, faith in wombanity renewed, trusting the village, knowing I could go anywhere and be emotionally and physically safe, cared for and in most cases, welcomed. I say in most cases, because there are areas of MichFest and workshops where I have not felt safe through the years. For example, when Mimi Gonzalez, in 2013, got up on acoustic stage as an MC for the evening and she told a tale of going with a man to a strip club and him buying her a lap dance by one of the exotic ladies there. I kid you not. That shit was said to a crowd of lesbians, probably at least 800 people, and nobody around me protested or even showed discomfort, but on the other side of the bowl, where a couple of my RadFem friends were standing, they began disrupting and saying things like “Making women into sex objects is not cool. Talking about women giving lap dances after a man has paid for it is not okay” and stuff like that. And instead of womyn around them joining in, Mimi yells from stage, “Oh yeah, those radical feminists, they have no sense of humor” and just continues on with her story and Fest Security comes over to my two friends and encourages them to calm down and feel the love vibe sisters and not be so loud and well, I guess they left or got kicked out, but the point is, the women back then in 2013, before there was a larger presence of young RadFems, just placidly took that shit from Mimi from what I could see.
So, contrary to what you might think about MichFest, it is a safe(r) place than MensLand but sometimes internalized misogyny can play out in ways that make you feel alienated and you are left hurting and wanting, even at MichFest.
But MichFest is Large and Her Arms Hold Us All. My favorite re-entry quote from Kifu Faruq is this: “Sisters, I’m thinking of you, missing the place where patriarchy doesn’t exist, and the only misogyny is internalized….and there are workshops for that.”
Thankfully, by Wednesday night, I had found my niche at the RadFem Rhapsody tent and hanging out with Charlotte, long-time lesbian feminist friend of mine from Ann Arbor.
Thursday morning, I was on the panel for a discussion about choosing lesbianism and over 50 womyn showed up. The facilitators had to cut off lively discussion because we were so eager to talk about it but didn’t have enough time at the workshop site. So discussion continued over lunch and it was so great to be surrounded by women who love women.
That night, I had a date. When she asked me how my day was and I told her I had been a panelist at the Choosing Lesbianism workshop, suddenly, all went cold between us. I later learned that she was into capitalism, believed our species would be colonizing another planet at some point and thinks that taking direct action against strip clubs is “vandalism” so…we didn’t really have enough in common, but I feel like if I hadn’t told her I was new to lesbianism and that I had not OH-ficially “had sex” with a woman (well — there was that one time when it was my boyfriend’s fantasy but…I don’t really count that) we might have hooked up. This may be the most offensive paragraph to some reading this in the whole essay and to you I say, I need to be able to tell my strange story to the world just as much as the next gal — and does it matter so much how we get here? If I change my language to say that I am “coming out”, would that make a difference? Yes. There is homophobia and hetero-normative culture. And yes, there is misogyny and it impacted my ability to be who I really am from a very young age, as most feminist women report.
MichFest 2015 embraced me and held me as a womon who owns and loves herSelf and her friends who are also womyn, like me. I love you, my sisters! Let’s tear it up out there in Mensland! Let’s build Matriarchy right in the middle of it all and never submit to male rule!
“You’re not my sister, Mister! Back Off!” While playing ‘Michigan’ aka ‘Gender Hurts’ Saturday evening at RadFem Rhapsody.
Elizabeth Carola, Thistle Pettersen, Chante Holsey and Samantha Snow on the last day. I was so at home. Thank you, Amazons.