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I’m Gonna Stand Up and Let Myself Be Counted – Stand Up Now

Did we mention that the MWMF is in the middle of West BumFuck, Michigan?

Ok. We were physically back from Michigan late Sunday night, but I think it’s only now that we’re mentally back as well. So here’s where we try to explain just where we were and what we did this weekend. It’s not an easy thing to do, as the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival defies words, but we’ll give it a try anyway: (click the “more” link below for the rest of the post)

[Ferron lyrics=1]

Courtney: I must admit I went to Michigan needing to be convinced of the ‘magic’ that is felt when one is on ?the Land’. I had heard so many good things about Michigan, but I was still skeptical. I mean, I knew that I’d have a good time and that the music would be worth the price of admission itself, but I wasn’t sure I’d experience that added ‘magical’ element. Now that I have successfully peeled off the layers of sunscreen and bug spray, my clothes are clean, and the dirt under my fingernails is almost gone, I feel I can reflect a bit.

With three days of experiences, I can definitely conclude that music was the most important element. Given the many subgroups and stereotypes of the wimmin?s community, it was extremely important to gather as one big sorority each night and remember that whatever ?type? we each see ourselves as, there is a greater purpose in being together—to be a unified community. Helpfully, all of the night stage artists seemed to appeal to all groups in attendance.

The sign language interpreters rocked. They were especially entertaining during the musical performances and got a lot of practice signing some of the more questionable words in the English language as well as the sexually explicit ones—over and over again.

The starry starry night sky is something I?ll keep in my mind?s eye for a long time. It was fantastic. More stars than I?ve seen before, and a moon so bright on Saturday night I didn?t even have to turn on my flashlight on the path.

I am planning on filling in my festival suggestion sheet and will be attending next year — and I’ll be encouraging other friends of mine to join me. I would like the festival to be a little more about feminism than about sexuality, and for it to return to its roots a bit more, but I will be forever thankful that the atmosphere was not as militantly PC as my college experience was. Had four years of that; don’t need more.

I encourage everyone to listen to the work of Betty (that?s a trio), Holly Near, Cris Williamson, Elvira Kurt, Susan Werner, Ferron, Bitch & Animal, Alix Olson, and – of course – The Indigo Girls.

Miranda: Hmm. What to say about Michigan…well, I guess I’ll start with this: I liked it. I had a good time. I’ll go back. The music was excellent – if you play your cards right, you can see something like 9 amazing concerts each day. I saw some of my favorites there – people I’ve followed for years, like Susan Werner, Cheryl Wheeler, and BETTY – as well as people I haven’t heard for a long time and enjoyed re-discovering, like Ferron, Holly Near, and Sweet Honey in the Rock. I also discovered some great new musicians and artists who I’m sure I’ll be checking out more in the future – like Magdalen Hsu-Li, the Dolly Ranchers, the Isle of Klezbos, and Alix Olson. The music was amazing.

Of course, there are a lot of people who don’t go to Michigan for the music. I must say – I can see why. There’s a lot of people-watching to do. And once you’ve finished with the people-watching, well, there are any number of other interactive people-activities available to you. I’m sure I couldn’t even begin to guess how many. Or what kind of accessories you’d need to participate…

Some thoughts: 1) Hot. It was hot. And dry. The dirt was like sand, blowing all around us like a Sudanese Haboob (a fitting name – see no. 2 below). By the end of each day we managed to be covered in several layers of sunblock, bug repellant, dirt, and sweat. So alluring.

2) Naked. There was a lot of random nakedness. It seemed like almost every fourth woman was wandering about topless. A smaller, but no less visible, number of women went for the full monty and took it all off. I have never seen so many breasts in such a short amount of time. It was a lesson in anatomy – and, you may be surprised to find out, it doesn’t take long to get completely used to seeing random naked people. Plus, it’s probably good to be reminded of the amazing variety in people’s bodies – it’ll stop you from unhealthy, magazine-model-fueled obsession with your own physique. In any case, whether you’re a fan of the breast or not, you have to admire both the amount of self-esteem and the amount of sunblock it takes to unleash the girls and take them for a walk in the noonday sun…

3) Gender. Never has it seemed so fluid. Within a few short minutes of entering through the festival gates, we met a woman with a well-trimmed blonde goatee. Throughout the weekend we met women named Justin, Tyler, Victor…there were ‘boi’s everywhere, it seemed. Running around like so many Tony Hawke wannabes, dragging odd femme/Goth girls with them. I’m not sure whether this is a new thing or not – I don’t really remember this whole drag king/boi phenomenom from college. And I’m not sure whether these women are identifying as women who want to live like boys, or whether they’re women who actually feel like they’re men (and are on the path to sexual reassignment surgery). I don’t know enough about it. But I definitely saw a lot of it at Michigan.

4) Sex. Ok. Let’s be clear here. I’m guessing that about 98% of the women who attend Michigan are lesbians – or bi – or on the verge of self-identification as either lesbian or bisexual. Throw in random nudity, a hot summer sun, group showers, the Toys in Babeland booth at the CraftWomyn’s Area, and bang! you’ve got yourself some unabashed girl-on-girl party action. If you wanted to, you could go to Michigan and never see one concert. Instead, you could spend all your time hanging out in the Twilight Zone – spanking festie virgins, trying on new harnesses, and judging female ejaculation contests. My question is not why you’d want to do any of those things – but why you’d want to do them in the heat, humidity, and dirt of Michigan in August. Frankly, it’s hard enough to keep your personal bits and pieces clean and tidy in the climate-controlled, indoor-plumbing-supplied comfort of your own home. I can’t imagine being able to maintain any acceptable level of personal hygiene in the middle of the woods…of course, I suppose there are simply those to whom the pungent smell of Deep Woods Off is a powerful aphrodesiac not to be denied…

5) Community. The four-to-five thousand women who attended Michigan this year are definitely a subset of the lesbian community. There are a lot of lesbians who would never go to Michigan: lesbians who don’t like camping, lesbians who don’t like acoustic music, lesbians who would rather attend the Dinah Shore Golf Championship Weekend, lesbians who don’t know they’re lesbians, lesbians who don’t know where Michigan is, lesbians who don’t like other lesbians, etc…so Michigan gets a subset of the lesbian community – and a sort of lefty/fringy subset at that. But for a subset, it’s remarkably diverse. All age groups attend, women of varying physical abilities attend, women of all body types attend, and there’s some (but not a lot) of racial diversity. If you’re tired of the limited array of sports dykes at your gym, if you’re less-than-attracted to the patchouli-scented wimmin at the co-op, if you just don’t know where to find a nice boyish-girl these days, then Michigan is for you. There are a lot of lesbians there – I’m pretty sure you’ll find one you think is hot. And you’ll find one who seems like she might be a lot like you. And you’ll find one who reminds you of your 10th grade basketball coach (hell, it probably *is* your 10th grade basketball coach). And you’ll see a couple who are dead ringers for Pat Schroeder. And don’t forget the ones who look like your spinster Aunt Mabel. Remember, people, a sense of community always begins with the singular, discomfiting, claustrophobic feeling that you’re not alone.

I could go on and on. I saw a lot of things that I liked about Michigan – and I saw a number of things that I didn’t like so much. Still, it is kind of a ‘magical’ place – in much the same way that my women’s college undergrad experience was ‘magical’ – if by ‘magical’ you mean difficult, eye-opening, intense, hysterical, fun, sisterly, bitchy, supportive, annoying, radical, political, educational, and memorable. Which, I guess, is exactly what I do mean.*

* I still maintain that if you’ve gone to a women’s college then you’ve pretty much been prepped for Michigan – maybe overly-prepped. I’ll put my four-years at Bryn Mawr up against anyone’s week-long Michigan experience – and I’m pretty sure that the Mawr will come out on top. Sure there’s less random nudity – but if you want to know what it really means to live in a community of women, you can’t beat Bryn Mawr (or any of the other women’s colleges). Michigan’s a special place – but four years at the Mawr is an experience only for the brave-at-heart.

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