12 June 2012

Why Do You Want To Go To The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival?

You know it's summer when....you start hearing about the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival.

Thinking about it--to the degree that I do think about it, which isn't much--reminds me of what Groucho Marx said:  "I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member."  What that means, of course, is that people (some, anyway) want to belong to clubs that wouldn't have them as members.

I can think of no other reason, at this point, why a trans person would want to go the Womyn's Festival, or would even bother protesting its policy of excluding us.

I mean, really, why should any of us want to spend time with hateful, bigoted people to listen to performers who are interesting only to the extent that they're part of the Festival organizers' agenda?  Or, to put it more plainly, why should we want to spend any of our precious time listening to (mostly) mediocre musicians play for stupid, nasty people?

Those organizers, as best as I can tell, are stuck in the 1970's--or, at any rate, a sitcom parody of that time.  Even in those days, most people--especially women working in almost any environment besides the then-nascent Women's Studies departments of colleges and universities--saw the so-called radical feminists as comic-book versions of fighters for equality.  

But their most toxic quality is their absolute rigidity about gender identity and expression.  The so-called Archie Bunker blue-collar conservatives of the 1970's--who used to be most of the make population of neighborhoods like the one in which I now live--found out they had gay grandchildren, and had children or nieces or nephews who "changed" gender.  So, some of them were able to change their views about what "men" and "women" are, and came to realize that's it's not all a matter of the genitalia people are born with (which, by the way, are not always as clearly "male" or "female" as people assume they are).  The Archie Bunkers of this world--some of them, anyway--have therefore allowed themselves to become more educated than Festival organizers and other so-called Second Wave Feminists.

That means all of those nominally conservative people who've allowed themselves to realize that people like me are indeed women (and folks like Chastity Bono are men) are actually less defined, in their thinking, by the patriarchal gender norms than Lisa Vogel and other Festival organizers and Second Wave Feminists claim to oppose!  

So, to be blunt, and perhaps a bit crass: What use, exactly, do we (transgender people) have for the Festival, its organizers and the mentality behind them?  Other than excluding us from the Festival, how do they affect our lives?  Few, if any, of them are in any position to hire or fire us, to rent, sell or deny us housing, or even to allow us to attend, or prevent us from attending, any college, university or institute.  They aren't in a position to give us, or help us get, the health insurance that the majority of us don't have.  They're not even the ones voting for or against non-discrimination laws in local, state or federal legislative bodies.  Heck, almost none of them can deny or allow us access to anything besides the Festival!  So, why should we even bother with them?  

Hey, we can even go to places where we can hear much better music than we'd hear if we were allowed in the Festival!  There are much better reasons to take a trip to Michigan:  There are places in that State (which was the first in the US to outlaw capital punishment) that would be far more welcoming to us, and everyone else--including the organizers of the Festival!


Sophie said...

I am suspicious about drawing parallels with the civil rights movement, but I think in this respect it might be warranted. Yes, they are a very small and unrepresentative part of the general feminist movement and there is always the risk of elevating them to higher status by focussing attention on them. But they are actively discriminatory. Whether one agrees with it or not, such a gathering's exclusionary policy would be illegal in the UK, for example, as the recent would be rad fem conference belatedly discovered. Opposing such discrimination surely is a moral stand of sorts, where it's not forbidden by law. If a festival was announced only open to members of the public of caucasian ancestry, I'm sure the NAACP wouldn't be expected to stand idly by, however kooky the organization.

Justine Valinotti said...

Sophie: I agree that we should pay attention to them. But I don't think we should spend much time on trying to change their minds because, for one thing, it's just not going to happen. More important, though, is something I mentioned in an earlier post: Their circle of influence is miniscule and isn't growing. It probably won't, either, as they don't influence elections or hiring practices. On the other hand, the Ku Klux Klan and other racist organizations have run candidates for --including some of whom have won--elections to public offices. In some counties, the judges, sherriffs and other officials have been members of the Klan, Aryan Nations and other such organizations. They needed to be, and still need to be, fought.