Ruth Barrett Responds

My response to the request to boycott the Michigan Festival. 

April 11, 2013
Dear Community Sisters and Performers of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival,

I want to give Alyson Palmer a standing ovation for her brilliant and eloquently crafted letter in response to the trans-activist’s call to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival performers to boycott the Festival. Alyson speaks to my own sentiments and I could not have said it better. In sisterhood and solidarity, I am writing to add my voice in support of Lisa Vogel and the women who honor and respect the Festival’s women-born-women (WBW) intention.

My friend Kathy, who has attended the Michigan Festival for well over 30 years, said to me last night, “How is it that “women” with penises are given more rights and compassion than female-born women? Why is my right to self determination being challenged by others who at the same time ask me to accept their self determination?” I echo her questions.

For 51 weeks a year I have unlimited opportunities to engage with male-born men and trans-people. For one week out of the year I want to be with my female-born sisters, girls and women. I come to Festival to help create, contribute and experience an embodied female reality. I come to take in the joyous expressions on our young daughter’s faces who can run free on the land, and experience this freedom in a safe space. My need, and the need of other WBW, to spend time solely with WBW is not trans-phobic. We are not AGAINST trans-women. This accusation of trans-phobia is a distraction from what we are actually saying and asking for. I have great difficulty with those trans-women and their allies who refuse to honor the intention of Fest as a healing space for WBW and the boundaries we have set. I am heart sick and exhausted by their bullying tactics, their threats to my personal safety, my wife’s safety, the safety of our home and our livelihood. Over the past years we have ignored death threats as we choose to stand for sacred space for WBW and girls. Trans-women and their allies can’t seem to accept being told “no” by women. Why can you not respect our need to gather with our own kind to heal, to rest, to nurture and restore ourselves? What possible threat are we to you? 

Two of my very close friends, one who is a survivor of multiple sexual assaults, were traumatized when they individually encountered fully naked adult males in the shower at Fest. When my friends asked in stunned voices, “What are you doing here?” They were told by the trans-women, that they were “women” and had a right to shower there, penis and all. 

I quote a recent letter I received from Alyson Palmer, director of “Chixlix” written to the Michfest Performers of 2013 concerning the online petition to boycott Michfest:

“ Anyone who truly understands the suffering of sexual harassment and abuse; the constant small violations and dark steady threat of even larger ones; the savage horror of rape or any of the sick tortures that the penis-proud wield so easily against women and girls of every age, would rise up and DEMAND that WBW have earned the right to a place in which to cling to one another and heal. To parade the dangling tool of the oppressor in the face of a woman who has been debased is unconscionable. The insensitivity of trying to force the victimized to get over it already so someone else can party woot woot is an insulting layer of fresh misogyny. It is selfish, it reeks of entitlement and it is cruel.”

I and other womyn like me stand for the original intention of the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. We need and deserve a week set apart for female-born women and girls to celebrate our mysteries, our creativity, ourselves, without fear. 

The boycott demand of MWMF performers is patriarchal in its bullying tactics, and only demonstrates further a power-over mind set by trans-activists who would destroy the Michigan Festival rather than respectfully help to protect and preserve the now rare female spaces left to us WBW. We need the respite of Michfest for our healing, to create and celebrate the swirling cauldron of music, arts, dance, theatre, ritual, and comedy, that enriches us and empowers us to return to the patriarchial, penis-ruled world where female WBW continue to be defiled en masse, worldwide. The self-centered actions of those who seek to bully their way into the Festival, threaten the performers, and plan to create a drama-filled Festival, clearly demonstrate their utter disrespect for the needs of female-born women. Their actions also clearly demonstrate their unexamined, undiagnosed and unchallenged misogyny. I speak directly to all trans activists, Female-born sisters are not your enemy, and never have been. The feminist vision, intention, and work of creating Michfest solely for female born WBW simply does not include you because the festival was not created to address and is not intended to serve your needs. 

As a Priestess and elder of Women’s Mysteries for over 35 years, I understand and value the importance of female-only space. This kind of sacred space has literally saved women’s lives, and continues to do so. The Michigan Festival has provided this sacred space for female born WBW for decades, because our life experiences matter. This is why so many of us have been planning our lives around Michfest for decades, travel great distances, spend hard earned money, and make sacrifices too numerous to mention, in order to participate. 

I choose to give my goddess-given energy to female-born women and girls. I will continue to defend the right of females to gather, the right to define ourselves as female-born girls and women, and will not be bullied into submission by anyone. I seek no war with anyone. I stand in my truth and for whom I love. I love women and our children. May we, and the Festival survive to tell our stories of Festival to our great grandchildren.

Should the Festival intention change, or the Festival be destroyed (as is clearly an acceptable intention/option of some trans-inclusion supporters), I and many Festival performers and elders, will not return. To trans activists I say, the Festival that you have forcibly inserted yourself into will no longer exist, there will be no Michigan Festival left as we have known it. Trans-women and their supporters may stand on what was once our sacred space, now become a battleground, and insert their flag into the ground. The taste of victory will turn bitter as wars on women and girls always are. Will their victory be that there be no place left for us to celebrate ourselves as female beings in all of our diversity, power, and beauty? The thought of this sickens me in my gut and heart. I feel sadness, anger and frustration.

To trans-women who choose to violate the intention of the Festival, and the women who support their inclusion I say, “Stop. Stop. Stop!” May you learn respect for the needs of women and girls to have our time together. Stop making women who support the Festival your perpetrators and oppressors. We are not your oppressors. You are not our victims. If you really love and respect women, let yourself feel the needs we have. May you come to understand our need to have our time together once a year, on women’s sacred land. May those who have made the Festival their battleground, wake up. May they learn to respect the needs of women and girls that the festival has provided for 38 years. 

It has been a sacred honor to contribute my own gifts to the miraculous vision of the Michigan Festival for the past 29 years. I stand for the festival’s intention with my body, my heart and spirit. It is my hope and prayer that I may contribute for many years to come. 

Blessed be!
Ruth Barrett
Director of the MWMF Candlelight Concert, 
MWMF performer, and workshop presenter.


  1. “Amen and Ase’!” said the Mothers of the Church of Nzinga, Boudica and Sappho!

  2. YES..YES..Amazing. She said it so eloquently. I thank Ruth for this. I was honored to have her perform my croning ceremony last August and was one of the most empowering experiences of my life. To be done on WBW’s land and having experienced the 3 phases of my life as a wbw with only wbw present. No where else would I have wanted this done. Blessed be

  3. Anonymous · ·

    Beautifully said.

  4. Very articulate and well said

  5. […] This is an excellent and thoughtful reply to those who are calling for a boycott by performers and attendees, of this year’s Michigan Women’s Music Festival (Michfest). The annual festival has always been set up with the intention that it is a space for WBW (women-born-women) to gather and celebrate and enjoy themselves for just one week. Here is the link: Ruth Barratt’s response. […]

  6. Blessed Be! Very well said. Not only is the Festival under attack, but so is Dianic Wicca, which Ruth is a High Priestess of, and many of us Dykes and women ascribe to and attend Dianic(WBW Wiccan circles) ABOUT women only mysteries and Lesbian and Female positive…..EVERYWHERE we are going now, WBW space and identity for OUR OWN needs, is under attack. We are being silenced: politically, sexually, spiritually, and intellectually. WE NEED OUR SPACE. She could not have said it better.
    -In Sisterhood,

  7. Blessed Be

  8. autumn11 · ·

    Heartfelt thanks to you, Ruth Barrett, for your wise words. You stand as a shining example of a compassionate warrior and wise woman. I bow to your wisdom and pray the world will listen to you and that women’s spaces remain sacred and safe.

  9. thistlespace · ·

    So excited to read this and to become aware of other womyn in the world who feel the way I do and have the courage to at least say it to each other! Thank you Cathy, for continuing to make this “safe” space for us online. I know others are reading who would make hateful, disrespectful comments, but the fact that they are hidden from view, helps me to begin talking with the other WBW reading here, and to find some solace and healing. Hope I get to make it to Fest!

  10. Jeanne Anne Decosta · ·

    As an initiated Witch and daughter of a Wiccan High Priestess, I will not attend any events that discriminate against LGBT people in any way, nor will I honor anyone in the Craft who discriminates, nor will I buy any of their books OR MUSIC. Transphobes and bigots can circle together all they want, and have their bigotry and hatefulness infuse their Majik and backfire right back onto them. So Mote It BE !!

    1. So, are you a Lesbian? My guess is that you are a male-bodied person who thinks he’s a woman. Because nothing warrants this response.

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