The summer of 1977 began as one of the worst of my life. On May 1, my lover of five years, "Astrid", dumped me without warning in a particularly brutal manner. That winter and spring, we had each joined a separate women's consciousness-raising group. For the first time in my life, I hesitantly began sharing my innermost thoughts and fears with someone besides a lover. I started the process of unlearning my socialization as a girl, and redefining my self, with the support of other girls-in-recovery.
I assumed Astrid was doing the same in her CR group. But I was wrong. She felt extremely threatened by the personal growth offered by this kind of feminism. She want to be "normal", to have male approval, to be middle-class and nice and closeted.
Unbeknownst to me, one of the women in my CR group had her sights on Astrid. In the guise of "concerned sisterhood", she began taking various things I'd said to Astrid, telling her in confidence as a form of bonding between them. Eventually, the weekend Astrid left me, this other woman persuaded her into bed.
Both CR groups imploded when this betrayal emerged, and I had almost nowhere to take my devastating grief. I was daily suicidal, and only a couple of close friends plus my mother kept me going. Astrid immediately moved in with her new lover, taking all our belongings and the daughter I'd been helping to raise for five years. I was 21 years old and had no recourse to whatever Astrid aimed my way.
I turned to feminism in full force, and found answers, empathy, the kindness of strangers. I wrote anguished letters to Ginny Berson of Olivia Records and Alix Dobkin, and got back personal letters full of encouragement. Alix wrote me several times. I read everything I could, I listened to wimmin's music daily, I traveled to more urban gatherings where I could find dyke feminists, and I began exploring the idea of joining a women's land collective. Eventually, I narrowed my choices down to either a group in Durango, Colorado or the Red Bird Collective in Burlington, Vermont, both of whom extended invitations to check them out personally.
One of the few items Astrid left in our gutted apartment was a poster on the wall of our bedroom showing an amazon riding a horse, a poster for a wimmin's music festival. In August my best friend Jean told me she'd gotten a dream job in Cincinnati, and offered for me to move with her. I didn't know what to do: I didn't want to be a burden she took with her. Instinctively, I felt I needed to broaden my community, somehow, somewhere. In the end, we compromised on me traveling with her as far as Michigan to attend the second year of the already famous Michigan Womyn's Music Festival, saying I would decide after it was over in the path I would take.
We caravaned to Michigan in separate small cars, each with a helping-with-the-gas female passenger we'd picked up from Lesbian Connection or some such network. Mine was a 17-year-old singer/songwriter named Dawna Price. Somewhere in Missouri we picked up an Israeli hitchhiker named Mikki Gvilli who was not a lesbian but still amazingly powerful.
The minute I set foot on the land, I knew This Was Different. A space energetically distinct from anywhere I had ever been -- me, who had already traveled around the world. The variety of wimmin was staggering. Turns out, the way a woman could look covered the entire range of human expression.
Every single structure and process on this large tract of land had been assembled by someone who had survived girlhood. All the work was done By Us For Us. There was nothing we could not do. Cooperation was instant and brilliantly effective. Kindness and generosity flowed without limit, and we knew every interaction was with another who had been presented with the lies of what female can be in our culture yet had found her own way through it.
And I tell you: If I had had to deal with male socialization there on that land, I would not have found the freedom to become who I am now. It simply would not have been possible. When you grow up behind bars, progressing to light leg irons is not going to free you from the experience of confinement.
Michigan is the product of thousands of grown-up girls deciding to do all the work necessary to create a week-long town where the values left to us by the patriarchy are redefined and blossom into powerful, complete functionality. Who on earth, besides us, is going to do this job?
I have been to other music festivals where the womyn-born definition is not part of selecting who attends. They've been fun, enriching, with good entertainment: But they do not give me a year's worth of survival energy. They do not offer a solid glimpse behind the heavy smothering curtain of male-defined world view.
Males and their terrified appeasers stand outside Michigan and demand admittance, assuming their presence can only improve what we are doing every full moon in August. That assumption is, in itself, woman-hating. If you want to experience a mixed-sex music festival, there are dozens of options available, go infiltrate those. But no, it has to be Michigan, because it clearly thrives without male-socialized input and therefore must be STOPPED. Make no mistake, change its definition, its intent, and it will cease to be. And make no mistake, those who are obsessed with crashing its gates will be thrilled to see it cease to be.
If you don't need it, fine. Leave us alone. Stop the judgment, BOYcotting, death and rape threats, and ignorant proclamations about that which you have never experienced. Admit there may be mysteries you do not comprehend, and refocus elsewhere. End the relentless targeting of girls and girlhood. And stop allowing those who do target us to play at being victims.
Copyright August 2014 Maggie Jochild