By: E. Brodsky
“Welcome home” is the phrase I heard over and over again as I arrived to the 36th Annual Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. After shouts of excitement upon announcing that I was a “festie virgin,” I made my way through the orientation tent, and my friend Sarah and I signed up for our work shifts that are required of each attendee. We loaded all of our gear onto a tractor and set off for our campground, Triangle.
After rinsing off all traces of city life (and pie consumed on the drive), thus began the frantic search through the festival program and meticulous planning for the next four days of workshops, concerts, activities, crafts, and general bonding with other women. Beginning at 12pm everyday until midnight, there were performances by comedians, poets, and singer/songwriters. Our first night we lounged in our crazy creeks listening to spoken word performers including my personal favorite Alix Olson. Next came opening ceremony with a calling of the spirits to the land and dancing and singing that proclaimed, “We are all amazon women!” (Did I mention this festival was kind of far out?)
Waking up Thursday morning I caught the I-need-to-do-everything-I-possibly-can bug and scheduled back-to-back workshops: beginning drumming, becoming a trans ally, and two sex workshops. To say women at this festival love them some drumming circles is an understatement. Drumming can be heard at the festival at any hour (including until 3am around a campfire). These women are drumming their hippie hearts out.
After two hours of learning some basic drum techniques, I set out for my trans ally workshop. Some background information would be helpful here: Michigan Womyn’s Musical Festival has a policy that only “womyn born womyn” are allowed on land, thus excluding trans women. There is a trans camp located just off the premises. This issue has generated much tension between those that sported shirts and buttons stating, “Trans womyn belong here” and women that had “WBW” (Womyn born womyn) emblazoned across their chests. Clearly this issue is a larger one within the queer community, and one that deserves more space to discuss, but the bottom line is this festival was created as a safe space for women (however we define that).
By the time I stumbled into the sex workshop, my mind was almost exploding from processing all of the commentary and drum beats from the morning. The workshop consisted of an in-depth discussion of the elusive G-spot and specifically addressed pleasing our female partners. As a straight Jewish woman of considerable privilege of course I felt uncomfortable and alone at times during the festival, but I embraced and analyzed these feelings only beginning to imagine how my fellow festival-goers experience their everyday world.
To decompress I decided to check out the crafts market featuring art, jewelery, clothing, music, organic bath goodies, and lots of tie dye clothing. Thursday night I made it to night stage for an incredible performance by God-des and She, a queer hip-hop duo. If anyone is a fan of The L Word, God-des and She were featured singing about how to properly “please a woman.”
By 7am on Friday, Sarah and I were scheduled for security work shift. It was fabulous people watching and a great opportunity to say hi to my favorite performers, including Catie Curtis who serenaded us that night. Saturday we worked kitchen shift while discussing feminism and lesbian culture alongside 40- and 50-year old women with over 20 summers of experiences at Mich Fest. Sunday it was the traditional drum circle and then packing to head back to reality.
As we drove home that day I reflected on all of the critical dialogue, community-building activities, discussion of women’s empowerment, talented performances, and the way I was forever transformed after seeing the incredible spirit and power of women working together in such a unique community. Nothing about the festival was anti-man but instead was a celebration of women in a safe space that embraced “herstory” and the contributions of women to our world.