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Don't Fall in Love with the Guitarist. Be the Guitarist!

Berlin ladyfest 2007. Photo by Conny Schlee
Berlin ladyfest 2007.
Photo by Conny Schlee

Invented in Olympia, WA, in 2000, ladyfest was meant to be a festival but in a very short time grew to be a movement. All over the world, in Jakarta, Warsaw, Houston, Leipzig, Timisoara and Newcastle upon Tyne, ladiezzz are celebrating, holding workshops and making music around the vague issue of being queer—by their own definitions. While posters in the city of Budapest are asking, “Do you find solidarity among women a great thing?” ladiezzz in Vancouver say it less discreetly: “Fuck your gender!” they suggest on their leaflets, and that's exactly what ladyfest intends to do.

Ladyfest wants to establish temporary and continuous spaces for a radical feminist culture that can no longer fit into the grrrls identity that was taken over by a capitalist market a long time ago. We are not cute, we are queer—and if anybody determines categories for our identities, it's us.

That's how the lady entered the '90s stage. But still the motto of the riot grrrls' movement hasn't lost any of its validity: Don't fall in love with the guitarist, be the guitarist.

Toronto ladyfest 2007
Toronto ladyfest 2007

To work out a feminist, queer culture means to jump onto the stage, make loud, self-assured and self satisfied music, but also to acquire skills and knowledge that still have to be put into our words and our language: learn to program a computer, learn how to get on the air, learn about anti-fascist theories—all that can be liberating in the right context.

And ladyfest is trying to establish this right context in many places and many times in the world, not only in concert halls and workshop rooms, but also out on the street, around our bodies and inside our heads: Are you a man or a woman? The answer is no.

That ladyfest is open for all those interested does not mean that we do without exclusions. There is, on the contrary, a clear policy of exclusion against racism, hetero-sexism, anti-semitism, and nationalism.

The festivals create a space where the ladyfest society can be tested for real life. A space where we can learn to move away from transphobia and heteronormativity, and on occasion to take an ironic look at our own prejudices about identity.

Ladyfest is nothing you can define in a handful of poetic lines. Ladyfest is a work in progress, taking queer culture into our everyday lives.


Lisa Bolyos wrote this article as part of Liberate Your Space, the Winter 2008 issue of YES! Magazine. Lisa is a photographer, anti-racist and feminist activist. She lives, works, and is active mainly in Vienna and Berlin.

Interested? Participate in a ladyfest near you, or organize one in your town. Find tips and experiences at www.myspace.com/ladyfesteurope.
Photo of Lisa Bolyos
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