ttsbh @ michfest2015

It’s hard to know where to start because I don’t really know where it started for me. Was it the moment I ordered my ticket, or when it arrived?

Was it getting into the car to leave Canada and go home?

Was it being waved at by hundreds of women in the line as we drove to find our place to enter michfest?

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Was it entering the gates?

The line was several hours long and I hiked some of it because I couldn’t be in that fucking car any longer. My backpack and tent weighed about 40 pounds. It was hot and busy and confusing when I past the fest gates. I had to ask for help a few times in the first moments of being there. When a tall bare-breasted woman put my wristband on, she asked if this was my first festival and I replied in the affirmative, to which she shouted ‘festie firstie!’ and womyn cheered all around me.

I came to festival alone, getting a ride with two women from Ontario, strangers to me. I had met in person only a couple other women there, smashesthepatriarchy and Rachel Ivey among them. We’d met at Radfem Rise Up in Toronto in 2013, where our conference received death threats and stake-outs by trans ‘activists’ and co.

Being alone felt really alone.


After I chose my two workshifts—one doing garbage and one in the ‘womb’, michfest’s version of healthcare—I consulted the map and chose where I would camp. Having no context of where anything was or how far of a walk it would be, I actually made a really good decision and camped out in Amazon Acres, which is quiet camping. Across the road, I later learned the ‘reddit radfems’ including smashesthep were set up. And a little farther down, near the chem-free camping, were the tumblr radical feminists and lesbians.

I loved setting up my tent and unpacking my pack. I have a great camping system and feel good implementing it. It felt nice to have control after being a passenger in a stranger’s car for two days. I listened to the womyn around me set up and cry with joy and exclaim over friends. In my tent, I cried for a bit. It was both happy and sad. I was so glad to finally be there—to be with my womyn. I’d waited so long, worked so hard to make it happen. But I was also distinctly aware of my insecurities. I was totally alone. I had no idea where anything was or what the unspoken rules were or how to find people or if anyone would like me. I felt really raw and scared.

I wandered around for a bit and used the janes before returning to my tent to check my program. There were no concerts the first nights, but there were movies playing in a common area. I had bought one bottle of wine from the grocery store (wtf USA) in Hart, so I got into that, despite having intentions to save it for a special night. I discovered there were message boards where women could leave notes for others, so I checked that. I didn’t get a single message all week, because I’m the high school loser, so that felt really good too. The experience of being around all women wouldn’t really hit for a while, but it really was nice to walk around in the dark and not hunch up or feel like I needed to know who was walking behind me at all times.

Anyway, I sat on my blanket in front of a big projection screen under the stars and watched Diary of a Serial Monogamist and a couple shorts that were excellent. I wrote a terrible poem later about the woman sitting next to me smoking something really sweet smelling.

After the movies I went back to the tent and finished off my bottle of wine. I took bullet-point notes of the days events to make this write-up easier, and I ended that day’s notes with a heart so it couldn’t have been all that bad.

*

On the second day, the workshops started. This, besides the womyn, was my favourite part about fest. I absolutely loved the workshops. I find things like that so easy to do as an introvert: it’s more or less structured, there are start and end times, and most of the womyn don’t know one another. I’ll be writing out all the workshops I attended just so I remember and because there were so many! It’s hard to explain—there were intensive workshops, general ones, and unofficial ones like the full program Radfem Rhapsody offered by WoLF (Women’s Liberation Front, a radical feminist organization).

The first intensive I attended was The Yoga of Divine Creation with Richelle Donagan. Three hours of amazing, powerful body knowledge filled with intention. We mostly practiced in singles but toward the end we paired up and I was partnered with a beautiful crone whose face is imprinted on me. Her name was Suzanne. So we yoga-ed together and then we were asked to hold hands and tell one another ‘I see you.’ So she says this to me and I burst into tears. I had felt so invisible, that stupid patriarchally informed and enforced sense of isolation and solitude that was enhanced by new surroundings. She was so kind to me I almost melted. She said, ‘I see, you have strength, you feel things so strongly.’ And I do. And I did. And I saw her. ❤

I waited in line for lunch (chick pea and feta salad) for about an hour and a half—just as I sat down with it, mikroblogalas found me! It was so, so cool that womyn recognized me from tumblr. It happened four or five times. I felt like a rockstar. She introduced herself and I said, how I say her blog name internally is nothing like how she says it (I wouldn’t say how I said it then because I was embarrassed, but I really anglicize it: ‘micro blogus’ basically. No subtlety.) I had lunch with her and her wife whose name I’m not sure how to spell it (and I’m not using radical feminists’ first names here especially if they blog. I’ll omit a lot of names and if you are mentioned in any way and don’t want to be, tell me.) Then fucking discosangfoid pops up like we’d known each other for a decade and I’m internally screaming at meeting these awesome womyn while trying to choke back chickpea salad and they are so awesome.

So the third contingent of radical feminists, the facebook radfems, also shows up—I’m just dying. All my favourite worlds are colliding and I’m falling apart with happiness. Three of us tried to go to an archery workshop but bailed because it was so busy. Then I ran into smashesthep. My notes got a little damp thanks to a future 14 hour rain marathon so I’m not sure what we got up to but I think I’m seeing the word beer here, which makes sense for us. I left for a nap because yoga had destroyed me.

When I woke up, I went to the radfem rhapsody meet and greet which is along one of the ‘short-cut’ paths.

I’m wondering if I’m giving enough atmosphere of michfest here. I mean, we’re in the fucking woods. It’s 600+ acres with very familiar flora to what we have in Ontario. Every path and road is covered in women, rushing or dawdling, hauling loads in, running the range from naked to clothed, in every fucking iteration of woman you can envision. There were no perfect bodies, but every woman was exactly as she was. The girls ran around like little maniacs or danced and climbed trees and howled with laughter. Campsites were littered everywhere, deep into the woods and right up against the road, each with a taste of the women within–there were tinkle lights, flags, banners, boas, signage, everything. Lesbian was the default. Everyone was so friendly. I helped women carry packs or loaned my program and eventually even knew enough to give directions to other newbies. You could speak aloud ‘I don’t know what to do’ and ten women would stop and offer guidance. Anything you needed, they had—except firewood, you gather that shit yourself.

The radfem meet-up was really great. I came in a bit late and introduced myself and my plan of a women-only sustainable cooperative in Canada. Women were very receptive, as they always are. I met hellanahmean who is just this really calming and interesting and funny woman who wants to incorporate women and farming together, which fits perfectly for my plan—now to make Ontario appealing enough to her so I can persuade her to come here!

Actually, something important I learned was this: my vision of women’s land can’t be and isn’t the only one. All these womyn want this. And we can’t have only one—look at michfest. One huge gathering is unsustainable and frankly very targetable. But hundreds or thousands of womyn-only cells across the planet, we can do that. We need to, and we are. It became more and more evident that we are talking about saving women’s lives here.

I also met Giovanna who wrote a book I bought, along with the Radical Women’s Alliance’s zine XXtra. These women are so skilled it’s beyond. We all share this vision of womyn together, safe and sustained.

Btw hellanahmean I put a heart next to your name in my notes because you are such a cutie.

Smashesthep and I went to the movie night together and saw hellanahmean and another woman so we all sat together. We watched a fascinating but not exactly awesome animated short about menstruation. It was really catchy but unimpressive with the lack of mention of menstrual cups and non-het relationships. Then there was a short sci-fi future piece about a teenager who uses virtual reality to present as a man and connect with the popular girl in school. They end up together and the cg was cool. Very cute and I love future stories. The main feature was Out in the Dark, the doc about the five black lesbians charged with the stabbing (blatant self-defense) and then defamed in the media in very racist terms, followed by equally racist and sexist sentencing. It was really emotionally evocative especially on the heels of Sandra Bland’s death.

After the movies, smashesthep and I went to the communal fire in Bush Gardens, which is the noisy camping area. There was this really gorgeous blonde butch who I met in the line on her motorcycle, but she left after a while and some really noisy and kind of offensive women came so we went to the Triangle, which is where the message boards, movies, and a huge firepit are, along with some tents for workshops and other stuff. We listened to the drumming around the fire. There is something about hearing your heartbeat echoing outside your body, about hearing your voice circling through the mouths of other women. One of smashesthep’s reddit friends found us there, and on the way back to the tents, we both knew the chant she started: ‘earth my body, water my blood, air my breath and fire my spirit’, which she learned from Jewish camp and I learned from a witch, so that was one of many fascinating synchronicities.

*

So on day three I slept in a bit and made it for the last hour of Sarah Hoagland’s intensive on Radical Feminism. I think everyone reading this will be really excited to know that for the most part, michfest actually is radical. The vast majority of womyn support the intention and use a class analysis when discussing feminism. The rest of the women are there for the lesbian loving which is also important. Most are there for both!

I came across more racism in the form of denial of privilege than liberalism, which is what came up at the intensive. A woman wanted to talk about male violence as the sole oppression without acknowledging her role in white supremacy and basically denying that as a white woman she has any institutional power whatsoever over women of colour. It was embarrassing and this woman showed up elsewhere making such odd demands, like at the tumblr radfem meet up, she tried to prompt the discussion of actions when that wasn’t the intention of the workshop. It felt instigate-y. I’ll talk again about white supremacy when I discuss the Radical Feminism and Women of Colour workshop.

Day three was a day of very little eating because I went to so many workshops. My eating disorder flared because of the anxiety and I dropped a lot of weight and became a bit obsessive, one day eating nothing but pumpkin seeds. For many women, michfest is a place where these habits drop. Where sobriety is easily maintained and some women even go off medications because they feel so safe and free. For me, being in a different country on the grace of strangers and not knowing where I stood at all times exacerbated my eating issues. It was something I recognized and tried to make room for with kindness.

I hate that it may sound as though I had a bad time at michfest or it was really emotionally triggering for me, because it was exactly what I expected in attending alone. I don’t have the greatest coping skills, I know that, but that is something I’m working on, not something michfest initiated. I want this to be a really honest portrayal of my experience, but please know my usual feeling was one of euphoria and glee.

Next was the detransition workshop, hosted by redressalert, who is fucking funny and awesome and so so kind, twentythreetimes, and crashchaoscats, both of whom are hugely articulate and neither of whom I really got to know in person to my disappointment. But wow. This workshop was the killer. It was the best attended at fest. It was so powerful, so edifying, so enlightening. Many older lesbians really had no idea what was happening to their younger sisters, which was a common thread at michfest—the way patriarchy fights to keep generations at one another’s throats rather than in tight embrace. Older womyn made to feel irrelevant; younger womyn feeling abandoned. It’s sickening and this went a long way towards remedying that.

I had to leave that workshop early for the Lesbian Tent Revival workshop, which was good in that the presenter gave options for shutting down racism, but I really regretted missing the end of the detransition workshop. It was spoken about for the entirety of fest.

I then returned to my tent and laid out a tarot spread, getting one of the most intense readings I’ve had in a while. I took a photo of it, it was so brilliant. Afterwards, my anxiety cooled down and I really began to enjoy myself wholeheartedly.

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I popped over to the radfem rhapsody tent for the last ½ hour of the political lesbian workshop. It was really inspiring and I intend to write more on that topic soon. My thoughts are, the more the merrier, but do the fucking work before you take on something like lesbian. Like radical feminist, lesbian transcends identity politics and can’t be adorned the way queer is—there is no room for shifting sexuality in lesbianism.

I went to the opening ceremonies alone and totally died for Staceyann Chin’s thunderous poetry. Amazon womyn will rise again!

Then I spotted Rachel Ivey, hellanahmean and the facebook radical feminists (who do have tumblr I know, but I mostly know them from fb—ha, as I wrote this, one of them followed me on tumblr muahaha) and went to sit with them. We stayed for a few songs before heading back to some radfems’ tent. There was gin and whiskey (thanks, sisters<3 what a mooch I am) and we had a really great discussion that ranged from political to personal and back, a real spinning experience that I was thrilled to participate in. I won’t forget that night.

*

The fourth morning, I attended a workshop hosted by Tamarack on the global women’s movement. It was really poorly attended, not sure why. She told us about a website called worldpulse.org that discusses female experiences and actions by women worldwide. It was cool to see an older radical so invested in online discussion and activism. Something we young women take for granted. It’s natural for us to be able to talk with our sisters all over the planet, hear and share their stories, and ours with them. But twenty+ years ago, this was unheard of; radical sisters had little more than the lies of the patriarchy to rely on when seeking the truth of women in other countries.

I also went to the Disappearing Butch workshop, which was about losing younger lesbians to transition. It was really enlightening and important, and we had a lot of smaller discussion groups. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of intelligent, respectful, and informed debate. We didn’t all agree by half, but we made the effort to see where the other was coming from. And older lesbian there told me to speak up more, so that was really uplifting.

In that group, there was an activist named Xan who I really took to as well. She reminded me of my friend Peggy who has been occupying Bala Falls for a year now to stave off an unwelcome and dangerous hydroelectric dam. Pure, passionate agitator. I ran into her frequently and got hugs. She staged a protest of the Women in Service walk, defending michfest as a land of peace. Gotta love it. The military is anti-feminist and wreaks havoc on women and children on both ‘sides’. Women are not safe in the military, or from it, or because of it. We can have solidarity with military women without blind acquiescence to the war machine.

What happened next was really cool. I went to the DGR workshop on radical resistance and DGR, but the host wasn’t there—I later learned she didn’t make it to fest at all. Anyway, we had the discussion without her, and it was epic. By far my favourite experience in workshops. I knew the most about DGR so I had a lot to say, and I feel like I really made a dent in some thoughts. Especially when it comes to defining radical feminism as not just the most extreme of feminisms but as a movement that seeks to identify and destroy the root of female oppression which is male supremacy. Quite a few young women asked me more questions and one was really impressed with my composure. I am good at speaking, I’ll give myself that. I do it very mindfully and breathe very consciously, which gives the impression of confidence (and indeed begets confidence over time). I ran into many of the womyn from that workshop again and had a ton of really great, radicalizing conversations. It really had the feeling of how I imagine second wave consciousness-raising discussions must have went.

Afterward was the tumblr radfem meet up, hosted by the gracious shero antilla-dean, she who assembled the radfems. It was so fun to put faces to names and to be a real person with all the other real people (hearcs, ironfoxe, so many others  ❤ I can’t wait for the blog roll!). There was a second waver there who wasn’t on tumblr—I don’t think—but when it came to her turn to introduce herself, she began to cry. She told us she had no idea we existed at all, she thought the movement had petered out. So I realized it’s our responsibility to make sure older feminists know we’ve picked up the gauntlet and intend to finish this fight. We have to meet these feminists where they are at so we can be in this together. One thing that later came up was making sure our original writing gets to wordpress, which is where so many older radical feminists blog. AFK activism is huge too, though—we need to make sure radical feminists in our own communities know we exist.

So this was the night of the burritos, which were really good. I met a woman in line who was at the second michfest. She’s actually done an Outward Bound course herself, so we bonded over that. I ran into smashesthep and gaaaaaaahghjgakjgjghj and we watched the butch strut for a bit (butches <3) before heading to the night stage to hear Betty play. There, an older black lesbian found me and told me how much she liked my words at the DGR workshop, and we talked about the need for a total overthrow of the current irredeemable system. That was a huge highlight for me.

It’s so fucking imperative for white feminists to listen to women of colour and make space for them to speak and shut down those who interrupt them or derail conversations they need to have. White feminists have a major responsibility to be cognizant of how much time and energy we take up—I pretty much believe there is nothing a white feminist says that a women of colour can’t say better, if we support her platform to say it.

After the concert, I went to the redditors’ tents and drank with them before we headed down to the party area, the Twilight Zone, for the Glo Party. After thinking we lost someone to the janes (she went ahead without us lol), we made our way to the party and proceeded to get good and smashed, dancing and flirting—though not with the redditors, the self-proclaimed bihets. I loved the experience of dancing among all women. I knew no one would come up behind me and touch me without warning–women actually introduce themselves or speak to you before they start to dance with you. We didn’t dance in those tight circle formations women usually do at the club or dances–we were freely mingling and moving and even dancing alone without any anxiety. I want to live like that. The simplest experiences continued to bring tears to my eyes because I was becoming ever more aware of how normal and perfect it is on the land, and how tight and uncomfortable I feel ALL THE TIME in area 51.

This isn’t where I first met islandofthesirens and her awesome gf, but I saw them again there along with discosangfroid, who bogarted a glowing balloon, defending it with a voraciousness that was oddly appealing. The imagery of her determined face cast with the glow of an orange balloon stays with me. I walked back to my tent with about eleven glow sticks jammed into my sports bra.

*

So on the fifth day I slept in until about 12:30pm. I have no idea how I managed this, given how noisy and hot it can get in the late morning. Then I showered. Let’s break down the shower experience.

My towel is too small to cover my whole body. Do I walk to the showers clothed, undress, shower, towel off, and dress again? No. I hate getting dressed while damp.

Do I use the towel around my waist and go barebreasted there and back? I really wish I had. But my body issues never gave me a break on the land, even though it was as close as I’ve ever felt to freedom in my own skin.

Anyway, I decided on wearing the towel around my hips and a sports bra, which was itself more brave than I felt. At the showers, there was a line of naked women. The showers are hitched to a wooden frame so sisters shower three by three. There is a ‘shy shower’ with a ring of curtains.

I’m naked waiting in line and I see the bodies of two beautiful women ahead of me and I think, if they were clothed, I would assume their bodies were perfect. But they weren’t. Whatever I imagined perfect to be, no woman was. We were all so awkwardly and amazingly human, so wildly exactly as we were meant to be. I measure my wellness with how desperately I want my body to change. I always posit the question, if I could start over in fresh skin—no tattoos, self-harm scars, stretch marks or loose skin from weight loss—would I? Or am I supposed to live in this body as a representation of the things I’ve dealt with in my life? Do I really need to wear my skin like a badge or a storyboard? Or wouldn’t it be nice to look… plain?

The shy shower was the first one that emptied when it was my turn. I asked the women behind me if anyone else strongly needed it, so she could go ahead of me. No one did, so I ended up using it. Of course I left my glasses there (and of course they were waiting for me when I returned) and my feet never got clean but at least I smelled good again.

I went to a workshop on the Law of Attraction – that which is like unto itself is drawn – which was really lovely because it was mostly women talking about how being brave and being kind had opened their lives to love, which is my experience as well. I spoke about how my anxiety and depression had conspired to keep me locked in self-hatred and defeat, and how I struggled to regain control of my life after letting men siphon it, and how beautiful things became for me when I decided to lead with love.

After that, I ran into hot-flanks and worthy-of-armor and their friend on my way to a radfem rhapsody workshop, and they were going to Max Dashu’s workshop on the Witch Burnings. I had gotten my timing mixed up which happened frequently, so I went with them instead.

One of the hardest things about fest was deciding where to invest my energy. So many things were happening at once, and I could have stayed a month and not repeated an action twice. I lost out on a lot of much-desired information because I had to choose between sometimes up to four subjects. The depth and breadth of womyn’s knowledge is beyond fathom. We are so fucking brilliant.

I’m so glad I went to Max’s workshop. She has such a handle on the topic from a radical feminist perspective, not to mention the collection of art and imagery she’s collated. It was heartbreaking and it made me feel sick a lot, thinking of these women, no different from me, in such agony and fear, so betrayed, so keenly aware of the injustice. Defending herself, suffering in such pain, often her sisters and friends dying around her, until eventually she is murdered too. It’s so fucking wrong. It’s so evil—yet it was so perfectly normal. Any man had the power to have a woman killed, because she spurned his advances (fended him off from raping her), practiced medicine or midwifery, spoke with other women about their oppression, had a miscarriage, spoke out against an abusive man, loved another woman…

All these things that feminists do, these women died for. This is women’s herstory. There is a genetic legacy that impacts us today. There was a town where only two terrified women remained alive. If they had daughters, imagine their world. Imagine the physiological impact of being in utero to a woman living in constant fear and horror.

We are their daughters. Never forget them.

After the workshop, Max led a discussion with a smaller group of us. I asked the famous question: how many actually died? Well, the answer is complicated. We will never know. The 9 million number was an extremely exaggerated extrapolation made by a male historian that is often falsely attributed to feminists. But most numbers are underestimations. We just don’t know.

Because women today are still killed for being accused of witchcraft. This isn’t only herstory but our present story.

There I met darksnowfalling who is a really special woman who I didn’t get to spend much time with.

This is when the rain started. I don’t do well with being cold so I went back to my tent. I barely ate that day and stayed in my tent until the rain stopped almost 14 hours later, reading a book and drawing cards and generally being a sadcase.

*

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So Saturday is generally the big day at fest. I went to the crafts tents for the first time and bought some awesome stuff.

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Four awesome books–one by Giovanna whom I met and love, a zine by RAW which is excellent, the 2016 We’Moon calender, and Witches Heal, a lesbian’s herbal guide to self-sufficiency.

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Some groovy teas.

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A patina copper bowl. Copper is traditionally seen as a woman’s metal as it was herstorically worked by women for women’s needs. Magically, copper is a balancing and channeling agent. Visually, I just really fucking liked it and wanted it.

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This photo does zero justice to the most beautiful boulder opal I have the honour to call my own. Three veins converge to make the large inclusion. I’ll replace this with a better photo soon.

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And, of course, a fucking chalice.

After, smashesthep spotted me from the line for Saints, which is where you can buy coffee and some food. I got the world’s best chocolate doughnut and an iced tea. We went over to the day stage and watched Crys Matthews perform, which was awesome. After, I popped back to my tent to get ready for my garbage workshift.

I’d spent a lot of the week being really nervous about the workshifts, and I really wish I had done them earlier in the week, but even though I made it through the line to get into fest relatively early, many of the shifts were full and I really wanted to be in the Womb. I wanted to do garbage because I figured it was one other womyn wouldn’t like, and I don’t mind doing gross stuff and I’m physically strong.

The shift went fine. There was one woman I worked with who was really gorgeous with this genuine easy smile that made me all warm. I fell in love about seven times on the land, none reciprocated, damn it! The shift was only an hour and half because so much had been done in the morning. It was indeed disgusting, but as we’re driving around in the back of this truck full of evil, women shouted out their thanks at us, so I felt kind of like we were heroes.

After I cleaned up, I headed to the Radical Feminism and Women of Colour workshop, which was really hugely impactful. Some main points that were made:

Radical feminism is more than simply ‘putting women first’. As white women, it’s easy for us to say that. Women of colour, especially those who view race as the primary oppression they face, have more of a struggle. To demand they put a racist white woman over a man of their race, when they are so immersed in racial oppression, is not okay. Radical feminism is a movement to liberate women from male supremacy, which includes racism, which white women benefit from—even when we wish we didn’t. To deny this is to deny reality. We can ask for solidarity without demanding priority.

‘White feminism’ is a phrase to describe a feminism that doesn’t prioritize ALL women. For example, I frequently see white women describe gender as ‘women being seen as meek, virginal, fragile…’ Well, women of colour and especially black women do not experience this brand of femininity. Black girls are frequently sexualized and exoticised. Ignoring these distinctions is ‘white feminism’, that is, a too-broad statement that fails to incorporate compounding oppressions aka intersectionality and posits the white woman experience as the default.

The best part about this workshop was a young black woman who came to check out what radical feminism was all about as in her experience it was so demonized. She was articulate as fuck and asked great questions. I saw her later in the dinner line and asked what she thought. Guess what. It totally resonated with her and spoke to her and her experiences.

That happened A LOT. There were many radical feminist workshops on the land, and newcomers almost always left radicalized. Only once, during the DRG workshop with no facilitator, did a young woman leave I believe feeling unheard—after I said we didn’t have time in the face of the climate crisis to wait to change legislation or reform the current system, but we had to act radically and quickly.

The dinner that night was rice pasta with tomato in it, so I mostly ate green beans. I ran into a woman who was at Radfem Rise Up a couple years ago, and we caught up a bit and ate together.

I headed over to my shift at the womb. Like I said, Saturday is the main concert night at fest, so I knew we’d be busy.

The section of the womb I worked in was herbal medicine. Women would come in with various complaints: headache, hangover, earache, UTI, cramps, etc, and we would concoct her an herbal tea to help. It was so fucking interesting. One of the other volunteers was an herbalist, so she knew her shit. I learned so much. I did most of the grunt work but got to interact with a lot of women as well, including taping a garlic clove into a woman’s ear. I felt really competent after a while, and it inspired me to increase my kitchen-witch knowledge.

After my shift I was supposed to meet up with someone, but I was so exhausted I went to bed.

*

Now that I’d had a fucking doughnut, I was a fiend. I went and bought two more.

Then I went to a workshop on a lesbian land community in Arkansas. They were recruiting, but really I wanted to pick their brains on how to make it work. I learned a lot from them and really loved hearing them speak so passionately and assuredly about their homes. I’m contemplating going to stay there for a month if the opportunity arises in the next year. They gave me great advice on how to start my own land, which is of course my life’s work.

After that, a bunch of attendees from tumblr/fb met and talked—about everything: women’s land, trans politics, how to support trans men and detransitioned women, how to connect with older lesbians so we/they don’t feel so isolated, how to carry on the work after fest, how to apply all we’ve learned into our lives and activism. It was a really amazing discussion and I was struck again at how smart, kind, passionate, driven, and ANGRY women are—and how those qualities are creating an unstoppable force. There are no more waves to feminism—now, we are the sea. We are everything.

Afterward I went to the crafts bazaar again and got a book and also got another doughnut.

And a detransitioned woman and I went to the acoustic stage (me for the first time) to watch the One World Inspirational Choir, which was so beautiful and profound. Women’s voices in unison change the world. There is a reason singing and dancing is women’s work–because we’re transformative. I cried a lot and had to leave before the healing circle.

I returned to my tent for a while to decompress, then went to the day stage with smashesthep to listen to the comedians. Even as funny as they were, I also learned–to make time and space for kindness and solidarity with all women—to not look away as I pass them or stare at the ground, but to make eye contact, and smile, and speak, because we are in this shit together. We need to perfect radical sisterhood now, so that when the shit hits, it’s rote for us.

When it was time for the candlelight concert, I was really excited. I loved the acoustic stage, and I’d been told by my boss at work, a michfester, that instead of clapping women would hum and it sounded like a beehive. She was not wrong (even though I suspected her of fucking with me as she is wont to do). Although we had to stand—the entire area was packed—it was really amazing. I really cried at this particular song about the degradation of the environment and how the souls of women who came before are returning. When you cry at michfest, somewoman will always hold you.

When the concert ended, there was a devastating lull. No one wanted to leave. Then there was this fucking HOWL—a wolf howl. The entire audience took it up and we all howled our grieving. It would die out and then begin again from another area of the audience, this powerful ebb and flow of despair, power, and hope. I’m not sure if this is something that’s happened before, but I know how much it impacted me. It was animalistic and raw and so deeply honest.

After we left, a few of us went to the Triangle to the firepit. We sang and cried and talked. I offered a song that my crone activist friend created who didn’t come, and they sang it with me as I cried.

*

On Monday morning, it was time to go home. I woke up really early and packed up. I’m really impressed at my packing. I got it all in/on my backpack, and considering I’d bought books and acquired a tarp and other goodies, I nailed it. I hiked out to where the cars were parked and found my ride again. As we drove out, women smiled and waved goodbye, and I waved back. But once we left the gates, I broke down. I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to occupy michfest and live there forever. I wanted to cut myself and rub her dirt into my wounds and keep her with me. I felt urgent and exposed. But so honoured to have been there, so rewarded for that struggle, and so loved. That land won’t ever stop being home. But we are travellers now, and we have to figure out how to take home with us and cultivate new space for ourselves and our sisters and our loves.

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Aside

Of course trans women aren’t women. You can’t

Of course trans women aren’t women. You can’t ‘trans’ sex. You can’t change sex. You can be in between sexes or have indeterminate sex, we all know this, but this isn’t about intersex people but people who choose to claim a sex other than their own. But no, males who perform the gender roles normally assigned/attributed to/forced on women aren’t becoming women. Males medically and surgically altering their bodies to APPEAR more female does not and will never make them female. Femalehood consists of more than the appearance of being female. Males cannot be lesbians because a lesbian is a female attracted to females. Males performing their version of ‘woman’ are not lesbians, they are men who fetishize lesbians and lie to women (and themselves). Body dysmorphic disorder and dysphoria are mental conditions to be treated, not physical symptoms of an adaptable reality. I get it—I wouldn’t want to be a man, either. Gender is rough for both sexes, except it’s only one gender’s fault so not a lot of sympathy to be had there (patriarchy consists of males, remember—all of them). I understand that trans people face male violence and other societal discrimination and abuse. Performing femininity is ALWAYS dangerous, or did you never ask a woman about that? Being a woman, being perceived as a woman, or being a male who doesn’t quite pull off ‘woman’ is incredibly dangerous. Lesbian/radical feminists are very aware of this and are fighting tooth and vag to end gendered violence and the abhorrence of femininity and femaleness.

It’s funny because lesbian/radical feminists constantly get told we are essentialists. What’s more essential, the idea that femaleness is hugely complicated and consists of chromosomal, biological, physiological  cultural, and personal ramifications, or that being a woman is what you wear and how you feel in your individual head? Btw no one’s ever answered what a woman feels like without resorting to stereotyping.

I’m a woman, that is, an adult human female. I’ve made an informed and conscious choice to not be around men for a number of valid reasons, none of which should be necessary to mention as “I don’t want to be around men/penises/people who think they are men/masculinity etc” is sufficient. Just because I’m female I’m taught to be defensive, explain my reasoning, and be persuaded of my wrongness. I’m not wrong. Men are dangerous, men who believe they are female (more female than females even) are dangerous, and males have no place in feminism, which is for liberation FROM males.

Here’s what I don’t understand. I don’t perform the feminine gender in totality. My head hair is short, body hair unrestrained, I don’t wear make-up or other traditionally feminine accoutrements because I don’t want to. I used to, though. I still wear “women’s” clothes (you know, the shit without proper pockets and buttons that never do up high enough and sizes that never align with reality) because “men’s clothes” fit even worse and also I happen to like colours other than blue, black, and grey. Anything you wear or any way you physically alter your appearance is related to gender—which is what transgender folk are actually trans-ing. Why not eliminate the idea that there is a proper way to be a man or woman, and it mostly depends on how you look? Why maintain that gender, delineated into a strict hierarchy with femininity on the bottom and masculinity as the ultimate, is right and good? Why not just wear whatever the fuck you want, as I will continue to do and encourage other women to do, and be done with it? Trans your clothes and hair all you want, but recognize sex is immutable. 

There is nothing a male can do to become female. I’m sorry the capitalist patriarchal medical establishment deceived you into thinking otherwise, but there is no such thing as a sex CHANGE. Sex is more than vagina (and SO much more than neo-vag, and conflating an intricate organ system with a hole for cock is so misogynistic I could puke) and sex is more than  affectation and attire. Women are more than transwomen give us credit for, and now they’re pissed we’re calling them out for their bullshit, all because they are males who will never reach the depths of our reality. I keep hearing, let us in, let us in! Let us consume you, subsume you, let us among and into you, let us recreate you, let us do you better than you can, we are the same. But women know better, we’ve earned our spaces, our labels, and the sanctity of our sex to not be warped into meaninglessness. 

I keep hearing that lesbians are terrible allies because we don’t acquiesce to males demanding access. I think transwomen are the worst allies I’ve ever fucking heard of, to women and lesbians. It’s become sickeningly obvious that the only valuable lesbians to transwomen are the ones who submit to the gaslighting, silencing, and manipulation—by saying, it’s okay, I’m one of the good lesbians, I’ll fuck your dick! Doesn’t this remind anyone of men who accuse feminists of being unfuckable dyke monsters? Then you get the libfems/bihets saying, it’s okay, I’m one of the good feminists, I still fuck dick! I’m not blaming women for this. I’m only too familiar with how relentless and abusive this shit can be, as well as how tempting it can be to just accept it. Women, I beg you, don’t accept it. Be kind to human beings who need it and respectful to all who haven’t disrespected you, but don’t dissolve your boundaries on the word of someone you’ve no reason to trust. Don’t take a be-dicked person’s word that they know woman as well as you know woman. They never will, and they know this so instead, and pay attention, they are changing the definitions and requirements for woman, female, and lesbian to suit them and push us out. Steady your stance and brace yourselves. 

preliminary ruminations on my fantasy les-sep community

To start a separatist community you would first need one person. Then land. There’s lots of land where I currently live and it’s quite cheap but it’s very cold and we have heavy precipitation so the location would need to be properly vetted. We would need the opportunity for expansion but I don’t want to be overly secluded.

Once you can get the money for the land (a loan, the sale of a house, pooled savings, magic), you will realized you should have been researching for like a year first.

So you go back in time and in that year you either learned how to do many things, or you were even smarter and found people who not only already knew those things but also wanted to be in your sweet separatist community. Such experts would include women who were knowledgable in renewably energy resources and sustainability, plumbing and electricity, um probably a lawyer, then like someone who can direct the construction of a series of buildings. Or maybe you could hire some dick-wielders for that. I don’t want to be off the grid so much as I want to control my own energy and even give back to the grid. So we would have power and wifi like IMMEDIATELY that’s non-negotiable. 

So now you have one large building (we skipped a couple steps okay but I image a bunch of women with sleeves rolled up Rosie Riveting the shit out of some two-by-fours). In that building there would be small apartments and single rooms, each with their own bathroom and kitchen, or maybe women with children could have their own bathroom and the single rooms share one, dorm-style? Or both?

In another building or maybe attached I don’t know there’s a big kitchen and dining area where women can cook communally, there would be menus I assume and different women could ‘host’ different meals. Or you could cook your own food in your own kitchen. We make the kids do all the cleaning. Kidding.

Maybe.

Then we need a farm I guess we’ll have to hash it out with the vegans over whether we can have cows and chickens. As creator of this imaginary commune I declare we will have cows and chickens and we’ll be super-humane and there will be a vegan kitchen where no bloodmouths are allowed. Or at least no animal products. We definitely need a garden and a greenhouse for year-round crops. 

We should also have a school. I’ve given a lot of thought to homeschooling my own potential child because I think with modern technology being so interactive and with school being just unconducive to learning, and I think with a lot of research and a lot of learning, and experts in ECE and teachers and the like, we can figure out a smart as fuck, accurate, appropriate, and compassionate lesson plans for all ages. Could be split based on age group or subject where appropriate.

We would also need a midwife or doula or obgyn.

Short-term, some women would need to work. I speculate about 60% of the women in the community would need to work full-time to help cover start-up costs and unexpected finances. It would make the most sense to continue with those working or alternate but maintain 60% employment until the land is paid in full and any other outstanding debts are at the very least in good standing. 

I think it would make sense to encourage our community members to pursue education/experience in a field that will help the community as well as bring in money. Welding (which also makes great art), carpentry, plumbing, accounting, law, marketing, communications, mediation, etc. Depending on their own level of interest, of course.

Long-term, we need to make money. If we grow more than we consume, we can probably sell our produce. I would prefer to donate excess produce and make money in other ways. I was thinking an artisanal shop. People might think it’s neat to by art made by women, for women. We could sell candles made by the bees we keep, we could maybe have a kiln for pottery or glass, we could have art and books and things by the children as well. We could help each women set up her own etsy shop and/or we could create our own website where people can buy from all over the world, and some women could offer personalizations.

For the day to day, the women who work in the community will have different work from those who work outside it. Everyone has their talents, their preferences, and the things they don’t want to do, work/chore-wise. So every writes out those things. Then someone who is super good at matrixing will sort out who does what chore and when, and who doesn’t do what chores, etc. This is entered in against each woman’s work schedule, childcare needs, preferred rising and sleeping time, etc. There will be a ‘house schedule’ with everyone’s plans to more easily figure out vehicle needs, errands, etc. 

I keep thinking up new things to be considered but this is a fun start. My next concerns are the collective debt the women will undoubtedly bring, ‘man on the land’ rules, how to deal with conflicts/how to maintain equitable democracy. 

Other ideas/considerations? Someone else already mentioned that it needs to be within driving distance of a place that will hire women as some towns shut them out and drive them away for lack of work.