The last-ever Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival begins today, after which the annual event will fold under increasing intersectional-feminist backlash against its “womyn born womyn” attendee policy.
I’m one of the critical mass of intersectional feminist women who didn’t mind at all that it’s going, frankly. And I wouldn’t have thought about it twice, except that I woke up this morning to multiple posts in my various newsfeeds lamenting the loss of this “safe space.”
I had to respond, because I find these posts triggering. And here’s why.
I am one of the “women” these posts claim that the festival included, and on whose behalf these laments claim to speak. I have breasts, hips, a vagina, a uterus. I was socialized not only “female” but excessively “feminine,” in a society where those demands are profoundly and complexly fucked up. I’ve been the victim of a medical model that so aggressively assumes maleness is the “default” that my severe period pain, debilitating levels of bleeding, and chronic migraines are more often than not handwaved away – including eight months at one of the nation’s “leading” headache clinics, where I was told my migraines “couldn’t be” hormonal right up until the moment I was told “your migraines are hormonal and we don’t treat those.” I’ve been sexually harassed, abused, and raped by men; men have at times made the world a profoundly unsafe place for me to live, and when I’ve tried to resist that, my tormentors have been backed up by other men.
But MichFest is not a safe space for me.
It’s not a safe space in exactly the same way no other space that claims to be “safe” for people of the kind described above has ever been for me. Because, regardless of my breasts and uterus and monthly bleeding cycle and childhood raised in a Goddess-centered religion and status as a sexual abuse survivor, I have always been an outsider in these spaces. The other “womyn” in these spaces have always made it abundantly clear that, despite these “credentials” they’re so happy to invoke in my name, I am not one of them. There’s something “wrong” with me, something “other,” something that does not belong in “womyn’s” space.
Women knew I was neuroqueer long before I did, and they were having none of it. And no so-called “womyn’s experience” I have had in my life, ever, is enough to change the freezeout I get in exclusively “womyn’s” spaces. My genitalia might get me through the gates at MichFest, but it will never, ever, get me included there.
So when you lament the loss of a “safe space” for “womyn born womyn”? Don’t. Lament the loss of a safe space for yourself, if you found it at MichFest. But don’t lament the loss of a “safe space” for me. Because it never was.