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The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival: A Feminist Festival

June 17, 2009

In my last post, I began exploring what a Feminist Festival might look like, positing that the majority of festivals worldwide today have a patriarchal focus, from riots to Superbowls, wars to drinking at a bar. I utilized philosopher Alexander Hooke’s definition of the festival;rainbowballoons300x200

Anthropologists and sociologists theorize that the very nature of spectacles, as a category of festival, demand momentary rupture in self identity. . . That is, holidays and vitals occasions. . . are essential for permitting and encouraging us to shed or disguise our ordinary selves”, and that “the festival experience transgresses mundane rationality.

-from “Spectacles of Morality, Spectacles of Truth” International Studies in Philosophy, (Spring, 1998)

The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival seems to fit the profile of the festival, with an important distinction. The festival has a large number of lesbian-identifying attendees, many of whom are forced to “shed or disguise” themselves on a daily basis. For these womyn, the festival allows them to show what they consider their authentic identity. 

This part of the definition may be true, but “a momentary rupture in self-identity”? Certainly the knowledge of widespread homophobia and discrimination against lesbians even within the queer community informs many of the festival attendees self-identity. If attendance at this festival creates a safe space in which this discrimination is not present, it could in fact be said that self-identity is ruptured while at the festival.

I feel it is important to mention the festival “womyn-born-womyn” attendance policy. This is a policy that only womyn who were born as biological women are allowed to attend, excluding transgendered womyn. A look at the Female Identity and gender politics forum quickly reveals a heated debate on the issue. This excluding of transgendered people makes me personally very uncomfortable, but I recognize that I speak from a standpoint of extreme power as a white male in Amerika, and so do not wish to make the point of my post to chastise the festival. There is a place at which my standpoint leaves me simply unable to speak as I am not a womyn, not transgendered, nor a lesbian. I welcome all of your comments.


What are some other festivals to explore?

  1. Carrie permalink
    June 17, 2009 9:41 pm

    Well, there’s always Camp Trans:

    Personally, I refuse to support MichFest because of the festival’s blatantly transphobic policies and actions. Camp Trans, on the other hand, is open to everyone, regardless of gender identity or sexuality, and functions as a safe, welcoming space for the discussion of transgender/queer/feminist issues. Camp Trans is also inclusive of people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, unlike MichFest, which costs several hundred dollars to attend.

  2. Amy permalink
    June 18, 2009 2:02 pm

    I went to MWMF once and that was more than enough. That is not a feminist event as I understand the goals of feminism: to provide everyone with access to opportunities without regard to race/gender/sex/class/affectional orientation/any other category; AND to reduce and eventually eliminate the power of categories to define individuals.

    MWMF is all about categories: women-born women only, men are bad, lesbian is the norm at this place, cooperation comes in this form, enforcement of social rules is bad–unless it’s done the way WE do it. There was a lot of celebration of women’s marginalization but little thoughtful exploration of how failure to self-assert in daily life aids that marginalization. There was overwhelming stigmatization of men. This is not progress. It’s cultish separatism. That is not feminism. It’s reactionism.

  3. December 30, 2009 2:31 am

    Check out Grrrlz Rock!

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