WLRN Tables at Ohio Lesbian Festival – By Thistle
Last month, WLRN members Julia Beck and I met up at the Ohio Lesbian Festival for a weekend of tabling, workshops, dancing and communing together with other feminists camped out in the OLF village.
Upon arrival, I noticed how urban the YMCA camp setting felt with planes flying overhead, a row of houses that peeked into the festival on one edge and semi-trucks and traffic on another. I also noticed how close together all of the areas were to each other like the showers, the community center, market place and night stage. I was glad for that because it would mean less walking than what I was used to at MichFest.
There was a little creek running through the village lined by woods and a magical foot bridge went across it from near the outdoor amphitheater. This path over the creek led to the Rise community center that was a lodge where films were shown, music played, workshops held and the neon glow dance party of Saturday night took place there too. What a cool town to live in for three days and nights!
There was rain in the forecast, so I was glad I had thought of everything related to that and felt prepared and able to camp comfortably.
WLRN had a booth in the marketplace at the very start of the u-shaped line-up of booths featuring woman-made crafts, musical instruments, soaps and other lovely products.
Our booth was open all three days and featured zines from the last 10 years of organizing I have done both in feminist and environmentalist circles and zines that Brenna and Melanie of BLEEDERS, a punk band, brought to our table. We also had posters, t-shirts and a stencil from Nobody’s Darling pictured below.
On the first day, I set-up the booth with the help of nearby vendors and festival workers who cheerfully helped me put up the tent and carry the table and chairs over to our designated area.
Everyone was all smiles and friendly when it came to setting-up but I noticed the presence of genderists I know and who know me and I remembered the nightmares I had prior to coming and the anxiety I felt due to the political nature of WLRN and the personal scrutiny and attacks I have been under for the past four years or so. The most recent attacks are the result of my feminist radio work and signs I carried at the women’s march in January of 2017.
Prior to my arrival at OLF and setting up the booth, I spoke to Julia on the phone about my anxiety around the attacks and she reassured me that we were in this together and that she had my back. That conversation helped to quell my fears, but nothing helped more than when she arrived shortly after I did, and sat at the booth with me the whole weekend, even getting up early to set it up when I slept-in and arrived late one morning.
Throughout the course of the weekend, there were always women gathered at our booth engaged in live music, discussion and art-making. All of my anxiety melted away and I was able to feel free, alive and myself.
It was a dream-come-true for me as too much of my time in Madison is spent defending myself from both genderists and from those who are afraid of them.
Despite everything, I still believe people are basically good and that if the muck of racist, capitalist patriarchy is scraped away, that goodness will shine through.
Like Meghan Murphy said in her opening remarks at the Women in Media conference this past June “It’s not about fear, it’s about courage.”
What was so great about the Ohio Lesbian Festival is that there were genderists there and we did get complaints about the “Women Are Female” stencil art, but we were all together, as a tight group of radfems, and those numbers meant everything in terms of a feeling of social safety, solidarity and a quelling of anxiety.
And it was FUN to be all together and brave. It is inspiring and fun to work together in a group of women to stand up for women — that solidarity is what motivates me to invite women to come out and be proud of being feminist.
When “the thought police” came to our booth one morning to tell us to tape up the “Stop the Lies” part of Nobody’s Darling’s stencil art, they came to the back of the booth and called “Thistle, can we have a word with you?” One of the gal pals hanging out at the tent asked them if they were the thought police and we all laughed. It was civil.
As soon as I found out they were there to tell us to censor one of our slogans, I called Julia over and introduced her as my colleague at WLRN so they would not just single me out, but would see us as the collective that we are.
She came right over, shook hands with them and the lump in my stomach dissolved. I trusted her and could tell she trusted me too. Everything was relaxed and flowing.
These festival organizers told us that they had gotten multiple complaints about the stencil art but that they were fine with it themselves. They told us to please tape up the “Stop the Lies” portion of the piece and then a few hours later, when they came by our table again, they asked us to put away our silkscreen with “Stop the Lies” on it. This is why you see in the photos the stencil without the “Stop the Lies” part below in the pictures.
This was the only incident at OLF and it was minor and all parties involved had a sense of humor and good nature about it except the anonymous complainers, I assume.
Like both Meghan Murphy and Julie Bindel emphasized at the WLRN sponsored Women in Media Conference in Chicago this past summer, we need to stand up for each other and bulk up our numbers because the targeting of individuals is not okay. It harms all of us to see witches burnt at the stake – that’s why they are public burnings.
The best thing about the Ohio Lesbian Festival for me was the genuine solidarity and love I felt coming from my sisters.
I especially want to thank my WLRN colleagues Julia Beck and Jenna DiQuarto for being so out and proud with me – for standing by me and sticking up for me when the bullies come around. I will and can always do the same for you, sisters, when and if they come-a-knockin’ at your front door like they have mine. I also would like to give a shout-out to Phoenixx for volunteering at the WLRN booth and to Brenna, Melanie, Lauren, Winnie and all of the women who spent time at the booth and volunteered with OUR feminist community powered radio station, WLRN.