This year was my third year (in a row) of attending the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. You can find my virgin year blog here. My first year, I spent the whole time wandering around in wide-eyed awe, barely able to wrap my mind around the fact that I was in this incredible place with all of these WOMYN…. womyn who were building things and talking about ideas and taking care of each other and cooking food and supporting the dreams of other womyn.
Last year was even better. I had spent the entire magical year after my first fest building on the love and acceptance I found there. I became more involved in women’s causes and I became a big proponent of self-love. I had started meditating and abolishing negative self-talk and taking care of myself. At my second fest, I spent the entire time smiling and hugging. I did my workshifts in the kitchen because there is something so earth-motheresque about being part of nourishing hundreds, or thousands, or women with soul-feeding, healthy food. Made with love…. every time. My second fest was just beautiful from start to finish.
I went into my third year bit of trepidation. The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has been under attack in the media and an awful lot of online bullying has been aimed toward the womyn who perform and attend. Facebook was blowing up with heated arguments that culminated in some pretty violent and angry threats against the womyn who support fest. I had to keep reminding myself that the internet is not fest. People get behind their computers and say anything that comes to mind, regardless of civility or manners. There was never a question in my mind that I was going to fest – I will not let negative, angry people ruin something I love. Some people don’t want to understand why Michfest is so important and no matter how we try to explain, they will refuse to listen.
There’s a feeling I get when I first walk on the land… it’s almost a heaviness and as I set up my camp and greet old and new friends and head down to the meet and greet, I realize the heaviness is gravity. It’s the lowering of my shoulders, and the settling in of my hips to a slower, more relaxed walk. It’s the way my arms swing more naturally and my chin tilts up. It’s the weight of myself sinking into the land and allowing me to walk openly, without fear, without wondering if someone is going to make a comment at me when I walk down the street. It’s the safety, it’s the way I don’t have to keep my eyes constantly moving to see if there might be a threat approaching.
My plan for this year was to create my fest. I love what fest has given me, but this year, I wanted to give something back. I stated out loud that this was going to be the best fest of all time.
Thanks to a new friend, People Called Women Bookstore, the bookseller in the crafts tent at fest agreed to sell my books. It was the first time having my books sold at fest and I was elated. I must have told everyone I met because they ended up selling out of my books! (It might have had something to do with the fact that I offered to write wildly inappropriate sexual things in the covers.)
I submitted a workshop proposal to do my self-love seminar at fest. This is such an important mission in my life – helping to empower women to love themselves. 62 womyn showed up at the workshop and we had an amazing hour together. The energy exchange was incredible. We talked about ways to open yourself to self-love and ways to learn to recognize and abolish negative self-talk. We touched on bringing joy into your life even when life kind of sucks. After the workshop, many womyn approached me to talk about their own personal stories of self-doubt and perceived failures and lots of tears were shed. I got a barrage of friend requests on Facebook after that, and have even had several message exchanges from womyn who are continuing their self-love work and want to be able to touch base with questions or to share small victories or setbacks.
As my friend Mable said, “I OWNED this fest.” It was a spectacular fest in every way that it is possible to categorize. Love, sex, career, friendship, healing, health, fun, relaxation, work, new adventures…. Every aspect of this fest was beautiful to me. I made a new lifetime friend and I got closer to a woman who is becoming very important in my life. I opened myself up to any woman who wanted to talk or needed a hug. I tried to project nothing but love and acceptance to every woman in every way. It didn’t always work. I’m human. I sometimes disagreed with things that were said. I didn’t like every single woman I met. But I honored all of them. I loved all of them. I respected and valued all of the womyn who come to fest to see for themselves what it is like to escape the patriarchy once a year in one of the only safe spaces left to womyn in the world. I gave love. I gave all of the love I had as unconditionally as I could to every womyn I could.
And that was it. Again, no matter what the bullies say, no matter what anyone else thinks, no matter what organizations blacklist fest performers, at the end of the week, they can’t take away that important truth. Fest is about love. Fest is about womyn learning to love themselves and therefore, each other. Fest is about womyn remembering that women are worthy of that self-love.
Some womyn come to fest for the fun. Some for the music. Some for the friends. Some for sex. Some for sitting around a fire talking about ideas. Some come to work and some come to play. Some come to spend a week in quiet contemplation and some come to party and yell and do ALL OF THE THINGS. We all come to fest for different reasons, but ultimately, we all come to realize that whatever reasons brought us to fest,, we are all coming away with the same lesson – that is, whatever you have been told about your place in this society is wrong. You are good enough. You are amazing. You are worth your own self-love.
Womyn are often raised without that understanding. We are raised to keep our voices down. We’re told that behavior is inappropriate for a girl. We’re told we aren’t pretty enough or thin enough or happy enough. We’re told to smile so that we don’t make people uncomfortable. We’re taught that we aren’t as valuable in the workplace as men. We’re taught that we need to learn all of the ways to change ourselves in order to avoid being raped or assaulted or beat up, as if it’s our fault that male violence isn’t controlled by the perpetrators. Womyn are in danger every day in every way and the Michigan Womyn’s music festival wraps a protective arm around us when we walk onto the land. Fest embraces us with love and lets us cast off the danger, the doubt, and the fear. Fest gives us that week of freedom from the oppression so that we can build our strength to go back into the world and try to use it to offer ourselves a shield from the aggression and violence. Fest SAVES womyn. It saved me. I need fest. And more than that, I need for girls who are growing up right now to come to fest and realize that there is a place where they are valued and honored and lifted and free.