With another festival come and gone, Michfest founder and organizer Lisa Vogel laid out a list of ‘demands’ she’d like her critics to meet.
BY Parker Marie Molloy
August 19 2014
Yesterday, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival organizer Lisa Vogel issued a statement about the festival — which just wrapped up its 39th year — and the ongoing controversy around its “intention” that the festival cater solely to “Womyn Born Womyn.”
In the weeks before this year’s festival, a number of high-profile LGBT advocacy groups — including Equality Michigan, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and National Center for Lesbian Rights — called on the festival to put an end to the “Womyn Born Womyn” intention.
Vogel’s statement, emailed to supporters Monday with the subject line, “We Have a Few Demands of Our Own,” lays out five requests organizers would like to see the festival’s critics follow. Asking critics to “Get your facts straight,” Vogel delves into the semantics of the word “transphobic.”
“We do not fear their presence among us, a false claim repeatedly made,” Vogel writes. “What we resist — and what we will never stop fighting — is the continued erasure and disrespect for the specific experience of being born and living as female in a patriarchal, misogynist world.” Later, she adds, “It is not the inclusion of trans womyn at Festival that we resist; it is the erasure of the specificity of female experience in the discussion of about the space itself that stifles progress in this conversation.”
Her second bulletpoint is an ask that critics “acknowledge the validity of autonomous, female-defined space.” Here Vogel clarifies that straight and bisexual women are welcome at the festival, so long as they understand the the festival is centered around “a community defined by lesbian culture.” Later, she refers to the event’s focus as being “on the experience of those born female, who’ve lived their lives subjected to oppression based on the sole fact of their being female.” Although it doesn’t explicitly mention trans women, this statement rests on the premise that trans women have not always been female, and therefore cannot share an understanding and experience of womanhood with cisgender (nontrans) women.
Later in that section, Vogel laments efforts of organizations like the New York Abortion Access Fund to employ language inclusive of trans men and non-binary individuals assigned female at birth who may carry and bear children, arguing that this type of push is “pressure for erasure of a specifically female reality,” highlighting discomfort with “unofficial Michfest anthem,” “Pussy Manifesto.”
Vogel’s third request asks critics to “acknowledge that Michfest creates spaces that do not exist elsewhere.” In this section, Vogel highlights the welcoming, familial experiences offered by the festival to those for whom it is intended. Perhaps unintentionally, highlighting the uniqueness of the festival’s existence also highlights how it is also one of the only remaining women’s music festivals at which trans women are told they are not particularly welcome.