Women grieve the loss of Michfest online, look forward to new gatherings

Image: Facebook/Michigan Womyn's Music Festival
Image: Facebook/Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival

It’s been one year since the final Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. Forty years strong, Michfest was a pillar of lesbian culture, a bastion of women-only space, but more than that — it was the place women returned to year after year, greeted with, “Welcome home.”

This year, without land on which to gather, women congregated on social media. On Wednesday night, women posted messages, images, and videos in solidarity with the Michfest Virtual Opening on Facebook, hashtagged #MichfestVO.

This display of nostalgia and sisterhood is bittersweet, as women refuse to let the Michfest community dissipate, but it is also a stark reminder of what was lost. Despite the connections we make online, they are incomparable to what is achieved through gathering with sisters, in the flesh.

Some women’s gatherings persist in the U.S., though they are are smaller in scale: Twin Oaks Women’s Gathering will take place in August in Louisa, Virginia; the historic Women In the Woods will also be held in August, in Oregon; and Ohio Lesbian Festival happens in Pataskala, Ohio in September.

Unique in its explicitly political and feminist themes, emphasizing strategic movement-building, WoLF Fest will be held in September in Crescent City, California. It will be WoLF Fest’s first annual festival, created in response to the closing of Michfest.

For many young women, attending Michfest was like stepping into a time machine and being transported back to a period in the feminist movement they were born too late to experience firsthand — when women boldly called themselves lesbian, not “queer,” and understood that women’s spaces were political necessities. Unfortunately, despite an enduring community (and rumblings about re-buying the land), it seems that Michfest is confined to history for the time being.

Despite my sense of sadness and loss, I am heartened by the possibilities of WoLF Fest, which tells me that, while physical spaces may disappear or be taken from us, women will continue to resurrect them, as part of our ongoing struggle towards liberation through sisterhood.

Susan Cox

Susan Cox is a feminist writer and academic living in the United States. She teaches in Philosophy.