Myths about women’s music and culture: they shoot men at women’s festivals, right?

Um … no. There are a few other myths to bust, so let’s get started.

First, a definition: Women’s music is an exciting network of feminist women performers, venues, media, technicians and more that started in the seventies.

Maxine Feldman was a man


Photo by Toni Armstrong Jr

No. Regardless of what her Wikipedia page says sometimes, folk singer Feldman, the one who wrote “Amazon,” called herself an out Jewish butch lesbian. Her widow told me that in Maxine’s last few years she did say that she didn’t care if people used “she” or “he” for her. I might call that gender fluid but not male. Want to know more about Maxine? Check out this blog post.




Women’s music festivals don’t allow trans women

No current festivals have this policy. I only know of one festival that had anything to say about trans women and that was Michigan. The event ended in 2015. Some festivals have a written policy, like the Ohio Lesbian Festival — they have a statement on their website about welcoming trans women.

Women’s music festivals are just a bunch of old white folksingers


Gaye Adegablola and The Wild Rutz

No no no. Don’t tell Sharon Katz (South African guitarist/songwriter/singer), Gaye Adegablola and The Wild Rutz (acappella blues quartet), Poppy Champlin (comic), The Blu Janes (hip hop) or Pamela Means (jazz/singer-songwriter). All of them are booked at the National Women’s Festival in 2018. They aren’t all white and they definitely aren’t folksingers. And yeah, some are older but so what? If I see one more mainstream music festival with only 20-something singer-songwriters and bands, I will blow chunks. And while I’m ranting, I like me some folksingers at a festival. Hell, I AM a folksinger. Women’s festivals are not folk festivals but you will find a few guitar-toting peace-and-love kinda women.

Women’s music is dead

It has declined in popularity, so this is partly true. However, we still have some righteous festivals and a few performers.

I can’t buy women’s music anymore

Sure you can. Most performers at the festivals have recordings. Ladyslipper is still selling all kinds of women’s music. Goldenrod sells music at festivals.

You have to camp to go to a women’s music festival

welcome home by Jeanette Munshaw

No you don’t although most offer it. Most have hotels nearby. The Virginia festival has a few cabins. The National Festival is INDOORS. No pine needles in your hair. Score.



Music at women’s festivals isn’t great

Who the hell told you that? Do your research. Attend a festival before you make that judgement and for (insert deity of choice)’s sake, don’t say those words out loud unless you want to be gently pummeled with a Meg Christian album.

Isn’t (insert performer’s name) dead?

notdeadyettitlephotosnamesUnfortunately, we’ve lost some women who were involved in women’s music but many are still around and still touring. (Yes, you can be over sixty and still perform. Imagine! As someone who recently turned sixty, I take special umbrage at this one.) I’ve been performing with Deidre McCalla and Dianne Davidson in a show we call “We Aren’t Dead Yet”, in case there’s any confusion. These blog posts have updates about some of the other ones still around.


Women’s music was started and sustained by lesbians

Mostly. However, some of our foremothers are straight and bi so let’s not forget those sisters. Kristin Lems was the founder of the National Women’s Music Festival. Performers and fans at festivals are not always lesbians but then, I haven’t slept with them and really, that’s the only way to know for sure. (For the joke-impaired, and for my mother, that was supposed to be funny.)

Women’s music festivals are expensive

pile of moneyThey cost less than an Olivia Cruise. No disrespect meant, if you want a cruise, go. And they have women’s music too. Score. A four day pass for the 2017 Ohio Lesbian Festival was only $155; discounts were offered for buying early, and for seniors, military members and students. Kid’s tickets were only $40 or $50. Contrast that with mainstream festival Coachella — $429 for three days. Car camping is an additional $113. Remortgage the house, Martha, we’re going to Coachella.

Men can’t attend women’s music festivals

Wrong. They can attend the National Women’s Music Festival although few do. And in case you’re wondering, no one’s ever even tried to shoot a man who snuck into a festival although a few have been escorted out of one.

The first women’s music festival was Lilith Fair

That festival was so nineties. Go back further than that. The first women’s music festival was a small one in California in 1973. The first big festival was the National Women’s Music Festival, started in 1974. The Michigan festival began the next year. Don’t even get me started about the festival that’s scheduled for Sweden in 2018. I’m glad they’re doing it but the media needs to stop shouting that it was the first.

Any other myths you’d like me to clear up? Post below and I’ll do my best to answer. Feel free to post other comments about women’s music but know that angry diatribes will be deleted. It’s my blog site. Neener neener.


About jamiebobamie

Musician - teacher - writer - gets bored easily. I write an almost-weekly blog that includes true stories gathered from 20-plus years of touring, how-to articles for musicians and profiles of performers. Also, I love dark chocolate, I can play "Brown Eyed Girl" behind my head, and I twirl the baton badly.
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8 Responses to Myths about women’s music and culture: they shoot men at women’s festivals, right?

  1. Calla Felicity says:

    Loved your article. I am needing a list of recorded women who specifically did or do “protest music”. Is there such a list or some recordings or songs you can recommend (Holly Near and Sweet Honey in the Rock arecalready in this list).

  2. galiaarts says:

    Love this!!!! Sorry I am probably going to miss seeing you altogether this spring. Katahdin is calling….

    I am obsessed.

    Love GG

  3. Cathy Coon says:

    Thanks for this, Jamie. I co-produce a small fest we started after MWMF ended. Would you mind if I shared this to our page? Savanna Moon Celebration on FB.

  4. Tina says:

    So, where was the first Women’s Music Fest in CA? What part of the state?

  5. jamiebobamie says:

    I don’t know the name. Kate Millet might have produced it.

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