Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sex War?

and then I was faced with some other lip service
putting me in my place
that vagina should not be liberator
but dictator

- Alix Olsen

Well, it's been pretty quiet here over at Grandma Was A Suffragette of late. Hopefully this will change - my schedule has been hectic, but once my dissertation is out of the way I'm taking a year out between my Masters and my PhD to earn some money and focus on my writing. I also want to get more involved with a lot of the activism going on in London right now, and for the first time I can do it without worrying about it affecting my schoolwork. So without further ado, here is my latest rant. Happy reading.

The Michigan Womyn's Music Festival has always had a strict policy of only admitting what they call 'women born women' - by their definition, this is people who were born with the genitalia we associate with womanhood. At the time of the festival, there is an accompanying, non-affiliated group called Camp Trans who protest its exclusionary policies. Yesterday, a press release was posted on their website claiming that "The Michigan Women's Music Festival began admitting openly
trans (transgender/transsexual) women last week, bringing success to a
longstanding struggle by trans activists both inside and outside the
festival." This has since been disputed, although not officially by anyone as far as I can tell.

In the article, a woman was quoted expressing her delight that this rule has been overturned. From the message boards on the official festival website though, she appears to be in the minority. I haven't felt this ashamed to be female since the last time the bar I was in got overrun by a bride-to-be and her hen party (bachelorette party to the non-Brits among you). But it isn't just the bigoted, misogynistic bile being spewed there that bothers me, it's the fact that there were women attending, spending hard-earned cash - more on that in a moment - on an event that they admitted was offensive and discriminatory. I have way more respect for bands like Bitch and Animal, who have consistantly refused to play the festival in protest.

Don't exclude someone because they once had a penis. Don't tell someone who has known their entire life exactly what gender they are that she was not "born female".
Our trans brothers and sisters put up with the same oppression we do, and more. We can learn from their strength. We should be welcoming them, not turning them away!

For all six days of the festival, a ticket can cost up to $400, however they do make a point of saying on the website that they "welcome womyn to apply for a rate reduction if they are economically unable to attend without assistance." Now, I'm not arguing that we as women don't put up with a great deal of shit in this boy's world. I just think that $400 is a lot to pay for an experience whose policy undercuts everything they're selling. I agree that sometimes you need a safe space, somewhere to heal and to talk about experiences you might not be comfortable discussing in a mixed-gender environment. But bitch, please. No-one is being violated here, and to imply that they are is to belittle the real abuse, the real oppression, the real fucking violation that goes on every day. The crap that transwomen have to deal with isn't, as a rule, because they're men. It's because they're women, and some people in this Y-chromosome-worshipping world can't understand that, given what they see is the "choice", someone would rather be female. As feminists, we demand the right to identify with our gender the way we see fit, we demand the right to wear the clothes we want to wear, act the way we choose to, sleep with whomsoever we desire. But the moment you use the term "women born women" in order to exclude someone who has the goddess-given right to be at your festival, you have stopped being a feminist. Congratulations, you just bought into the bullshit you spent several hundred bucks trying to escape from.

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