On Tuesday night, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival organizer, Lisa Vogel, announced on Facebook that this year would be the festival’s final year. Her statement does not explain the exact reason behind the festival’s closure, yet gives hope of possibly creating a new festival or allowing someone else to take the baton and create the “next expression of our Amazon culture.” The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is the longest running feminist festival, yet its end may be a great thing that will allow a new, more inclusive festival to be created.
The festival has been considered to be controversial due to their exclusion of trans women. Their policy stated that the women in attendance of the event should be “womyn-born-womyn.”Although Lisa Vogel claimed that the festival has not banned any trans women since two decades ago, many trans and non-gender binary people feel unsafe in the festival’s cis-lesbian-centered environment. Some people believe the festival is even exclusive in its name, as it uses “womyn” instead of “women,” as a way of being exclusive of anyone who doesn’t exactly fit the female gender binary.
Their policy caused a boycott in 2014, with cisgendered celebrities such as Lea DeLaria supporting it in order to bring awareness of the exclusivity of their trans sisters and people of other genders who identify as feminists. In PrideSource, Zoe Steinfield expressed her disappointment as a trans woman in MichFest’s policy and pointed out hypocritical it is to label the festival as feminist, yet not allow all women to feel included in it.
“To tell a marginalized woman that she’s not welcome in a women’s space because her body upsets you is not body-positive. To judge her an outsider based on a violent patriarchal system of sex assignment is not feminist. To echo conservative paranoia about her isn’t progressive. To attempt to speak in her stead – by wearing a t-shirt and attending a workshop – while paying to enjoy the institution that silences her, isn’t allyship.”
Feminism is supposed to be inclusive of all genders and sexual orientations. Everyone who identifies as a feminist should feel like they belong and are welcomed in such festival. By claiming that it is a feminist festival, yet focusing on lesbian feminists, Vogel’s festival’s non-exclusion is outdated. The ending of MichFest is due to lack of funding, which is directly related to their exclusion of trans women and their erroneous idea of what falls under the umbrella of “womanhood.” The closure of this collective could be the catalyst of the beginning of a more inclusive event that will be welcoming to all genders, yet still be a safe space supporting women.