Well, isn’t this interesting: The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is drawing to a close after 40 years. I remember getting a flyer for this when I worked in Columbus, when the festival must have been in its near-infancy and spelling “women” with a y was considered real transgressive stuff.
Later on I wrote about it for a magazine here, and interviewed the founder and head honchess, Lisa Vogel. It was pretty clear there were already some deep divisions within the tribe, although at the time the transgender issue, which is apparently what brought the fest to its knees for good, hadn’t emerged in the mainstream. At the time, I was more agog that they banned male children from the main grounds, and by children I mean any boy over the age of 5. Vogel patiently explained that for the sort of women attracted to a four-day, all-female music and arts fest held in the middle of Nowhere, Michigan, it is a genuine, almost physical relief to not have to see or even think about the other gender. I get it; it takes all kinds, and while these women aren’t my kind, I respect their right of free association. It must have sucked to be one of those who had a boy child to look after, that’s all. They are confined to a separate boys campsite. Probably had plenty of fun there, but.
The real split came over the organizers’ rules restricting the festival to “womyn-born-womyn,” which is evidently a big split among feminists well to the left of me. The New Yorker had a thoughtful piece about it last summer, and Vogel is quoted:
Michfest, as it’s called, takes place every August, on six hundred and fifty acres of land in the woods east of Lake Michigan. Lisa Vogel founded it in 1976, when she was a nineteen-year-old Central Michigan University student, and she still runs it. The music, Vogel says, is only part of what makes Michfest important. Each year, several thousand women set up camp there and find themselves, for a week, living in a matriarchy. Meals are cooked in kitchen tents and eaten communally. There are workshops and classes. Some women don extravagant costumes; others wear nothing at all. There is free child care and a team to assist disabled women who ordinarily cannot go camping. Vogel describes the governing ethos as “How would a town look if we actually got to decide what was important?”
She told me, “There’s something that I experience on the land when I walk at night without a flashlight in the woods and recognize that for that moment I feel completely safe. And there’s nowhere else I can do that.” She continued, “If, tomorrow, we said everyone is welcome, I’m sure it would still be a really cool event, but that piece that allows women to let down their guard and feel that really deep sense of personal liberation would be different, and that’s what we’re about.”
I feel passionately about a great many things, but this isn’t one of them. You have to respect those who do, however, even if it may seem a bit, oh, much. I’m glad my ideology is still a little more flexible.
For now, anyway.
Another big rewrite today, another just-plain-write tomorrow. So how about some writing by someone else?
Did you know there are kosher kitchen gloves? Well, there are. Speaking of rigid.
You know Jay-Z has been living in the bubble too long when he launches his “better for artists” streaming service by parading a bunch of his millionaire friends up on that stage and having them get all windy about Art. Predictably, Tidal is tanking.
And so am I. Happy weekend, all. I plan to sleep.