Dear Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival: Fuck Off

by Violet Blue on September 20, 2011

In September 12th’s Sex News roundup, I included an item from a LiveJournal post about the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and the WordPress blog GenderTrender that recently outed a number of transgender women in the interest of enforcing the festival’s anti-trans attendee policy – photos, legal names and known names, and much more. The excerpt I ran from the blog post was an exact quote, and I linked to The MWMF Blogger Transwoman Hitlist, and WordPress’ Refusal to Do Anything About It (labelle77.livejournal.com).

The LiveJournal post was calling out the GenderTrender blog, notably for its post “Who Are The Males Who Sneak Into Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival?” GenderTrender’s (slanderous) post intentionally outs trans women with intent to intimidate (and I’d argue intent to harm), and the post openly states the blog will continue to grow this list while calling for reader contributions (such as identifying information).

In case you’re not familiar with the festival (AKA Michfest, AKA “Michigan”), it is a feminist music festival with a dedicated policy of only admitting women that were born with decidedly female bodies. As we can see, a byproduct of institutionalizing this thinking has fostered a culture of increasingly violent, yet festival-culturevalidated trans hatred – as demonstrated on this WordPress hosted blog.

On September 15, I received the following email sent to my name [at] tinynibbles.com:

Subject: re michigan womyn’s music festival

Stated in your Sept 12th blog: “On its WordPress hosted blog, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has outed several trans women with both pseudonyms AND legal names, their photos, where they can be found at the festival, and in some cases their profession and employment.”

I am the producer of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival and I can state for a fact that this blog is not related to the Festival in any way. We do not have a WordPress blog. Our only on-line presence can be found at michfest.com and facebook.com/michfest.

This discussion is complex and heated, and misinformation fuels the divisive energy that characterizes much of the on-line controversy. Please post a retraction on your blog, making it clear that Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is not the source or, or in any way affilated with the WordPress-hosted blog in question.

Thank you,

Lisa Vogel
WWTMC


Okay, first things first: my pet peeve. This page on TinyNibbles, this installation of WordPress, is a blog. The individual articles (like this one) constitute a blog post. End of lesson.

Next, my blog is a WordPress install on my own domain in large part because I know I can’t be hosted on WordPress because my blog contains adult content and that would violate WordPress’ Terms of Service. What the LiveJournal post was trying to illustrate (in pretty broad strokes) is that GenderTrender is in clear violation of WordPress’ Terms – especially with the hate list/hit list recently published in which GenderTrender vowed to continue adding information and people to. From WordPress Terms:

By making Content available, you represent and warrant that: (…) the Content is not pornographic, does not contain threats or incite violence towards individuals or entities, and does not violate the privacy or publicity rights of any third party;

WordPress needs to enforce those Terms. I mean, WTF, WordPress? I like Matt and stuff, I’ve crashed WordCamp SF, and I’ve spoken on panels at Automattic. I use services like WP Engine, and I consider myself a member of the WordPress community. That WordPress is hosting a bona-fide hate blog makes me sick to my stomach – and GenderTrender is indeed as fetid as a white hood. Swap out race or sexual orientation at any point on that blog; it’s dangerous and vile. GenderTrender does not reflect WordPress values, and WP has a responsibility here that must be upheld lest they set a precedent they will surely be held accountable for. It’s embarrassing for me to see this on a WP hosted blog, and makes me want to be less associated with WordPress. I have trans family. Enough is enough.

Now, back to the title of this post: Michigan and Ms. Vogel. Emailing me without the common courtesy of a salutation – showing me that you are addressing me and not cut/pasting your demands – is rude. Telling me outright to post a retraction is also rude; asking for a correction or update would have been the minimum politeness for this situation. Ms. Vogel also did not seem to understand that it was not my own writing, and that it came from the original post.

I would have overlooked the unnecessary rudeness, lack of online etiquette and sloppy inaccuracy and run an update or correction for Ms. Vogel and her festival – if it weren’t for one thing.

Lisa Vogel has not denied that the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival outed trans women. She has not stated categorically that she – or the festival as a whole – oppose such measures.

In the absence of her doing so, FUCK HER.

The only “retraction” I’d post at this point is, “A representative claiming to be from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival claims that the WordPress blog claiming to protect the policies of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival does not represent the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, but the former is too weak-ass to vigorously condemn the hate-based actions of the latter gang of self-appointed vigilante gender thugs. Also, freedom is slavery.”

Look: I respect Ms. Vogel and her festival’s right to define gender as they see fit and keep Michigan limited to those within their “approved” gender. So does Westboro Baptist in their own gatherings. I get it. But I do not respect Michigan’s refusal to curb-kick their lapdogs who nonconsensually out trans women in the name of protecting, preserving and upholding their festival policies. To me, the problem here is not in defining gender a certain way and enforcing that definition (which plenty of people, trans and non-trans, do all the time) but in actualizing hate in order to do it. By saying what she’s saying, Ms. Vogel is trying to have it both ways. If “unaffiliated” groups are committing a hate crime against trans women, Vogel and her festival need to fucking well say it.

For any kind of retraction or correction, Ms. Vogel and the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival need to clearly state that whatever the issues involved in Michigan being a certain kind of space, it is NEVER okay to do what is being done on GenderTrender. If they won’t say that, I say fuck them, and they should go looking for a retraction of their own sphincters.

This isn’t the kind of thing where you can play politics and pacify everyone by sort of playing the middle and pretending to fight misinformation about whose blog it is. People that are outed sometimes get killed. Especially trans people, and women, and more often, the both.

Why am I making a big point about this? Because it’s about damn time they do the right thing. If Michigan representatives want to pull a “Some people involved with…” “Not official Michigan policy,” “Not that we don’t approve, but that we don’t not approve…” then I think Michigan needs to get called out louder than ever for being the dangerous, irresponsible bigots they’ve become.

Now after combing over GenderTrender, I have to go autoclave my body.

Photo: fashion’s first transgender supermodel Lea T. in a recent feature for The New York Times.

{ 13 comments }

1 Heidi. October 2, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Thank you for writing this, It made me feel a little better about the world ;) !

2 redwoods September 29, 2011 at 3:45 pm

“I think this is a case not of “the lady doth protest too much” but of the lady not fucking protesting ’cause she fucking did it. ”

QFuckingT, ma’am, QFuckingT.

3 Glynnis September 23, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Word, Violet. The intractable hostility the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival has toward transfolks is not acceptable, and at the very least they deserve to be called out on a regular day. But for this? They can’t even bring themselves to admit that outing people on the internet is fucked up and unsafe. I think this is a case not of “the lady doth protest too much” but of the lady not fucking protesting ’cause she fucking did it.

4 Sunshine September 23, 2011 at 6:20 pm

If Ms. Vogel does not care that she and her group are endorsing hate crimes by their actions, their lawyer should tell them that they may be legally liable if a transwoman is killed because they outed her. A wrongful death suit or two is a powerful lesson in minding one’s words.

5 violet blue September 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Thanks for the great comments, everyone!

And thank you Harold and Chili – the reason I used “Michigan” in the post was not to refer to the entire state or use sloppy shorthand. Many attendees simply call the festival “Michigan” for short, and that is how I’ve heard it referred to as for over ten years now. Maybe it’s a Bay Area thing, but when Good Vibrations used to send a team to the festival to do workshops (when I worked there), everyone just called it “Michigan” and this is what I got used to calling it, and hearing it called. Perhaps I should put the colloquialism in as another ‘AKA’…

6 Chili September 23, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Big thumbs-up for this post,
although Harold does have a point. For the sake of preciseness you may want to edit so only those get hit who deserve it.

7 Harold September 21, 2011 at 9:25 pm

No complaints on the intent of your post, but towards the end you screw up on the wording. In the last several paragraphs, you shorten “Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival” to “Michigan” when you should really have used “Michfest”. Ms. Vogel and her associates do not control the entire state, and many (most?) of us Michigan residents have no interest in outing or bashing anybody.

8 Zach Gold September 21, 2011 at 8:52 am

Thanks for this “blog,” Violet :)

I’m from New York and often hear refusal of support from feminist groups cited as a major roadblock in the passage of GENDA.

9 Lisa Padol September 21, 2011 at 6:17 am

Thank you for separating the hate crime from everything else, as that really is the crux of the matter. And, thank you also for being very clear about what kind of response you would consider acceptable.

10 Loveofmystery September 20, 2011 at 8:55 pm

I admire you for speaking your mind.

11 Allison Moon September 20, 2011 at 8:49 pm

One point of correction

it is a feminist music festival with a dedicated policy of only admitting women that were born with decidedly female bodies

That isn’t entirely accurate, because MichFest has allowed female-bodied male-identified people in, and some trans-men are even on the advisory committee.

This adds another layer of shitty hypocrisy to the kerfuffle.

12 pensive September 20, 2011 at 8:48 pm

rock on, girlfriend. seriously.

13 Amy J. September 20, 2011 at 8:19 pm

This is an awesome, right-on post (and blog, for that matter). Thank you for the brave, smart work you do.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: