FenFest: Learning herstory from lesbian legends

The fact that AfterEllen.com exists is a testament to how far we’ve come in our fight for equality and social recognition. Gender outlaws, radical feminists, and lesbian separatists of the 1960s and 1970s are the first people to create communities where lesbians could feel safe. They made incredible art in many forms and paved the way for the television, movies, and music that we love today. We don’t learn this history — or herstory — in school, we have to teach it to each other.

But why should we?

Until recently, I wasn’t sure that learning about lesbian communities from the past was important; it was interesting to see what they were up to back then, but I didn’t understand how it related to my life. Then, I went to FenFest, where I learned this herstory and saw why it was important to my own life.

FenFest is an annual music festival run by Ferron and Bitch that takes place in Michigan the weekend after the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. This was the festival’s third year, and it has grown to a three-day event with eight different main-stage performers and approximately 100 attendees. It is a music festival, but it is so much more than that — FenFest gives every attendee the opportunity to actually engage with the artists and with each other.

Folk artist Ferron has been described as “the Canadian Bob Dylan.” Most Americans, and even younger lesbians, have never heard of Ferron, but she has toured internationally and lived as a very successful musician for decades. Ferron began the festival with her partner, Mary, and protégé, Bitch, to allow her to play music for an audience without feeling lost.

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