Women Unite!

Growing up, I experienced a lot of internalized misogyny and slut-shaming from the women around me.  Women in our society are conditioned to be in constant competition with each other, particularly in regard to sexuality.  Prior to moving to Twin Oaks and going to the Women’s Gathering, I had never experienced safety in my female friendships, but the Women’s Gathering is a space in which we women can heal our relationships with one another.  When we create community with each other, share responsibilities, and interact on an inter-generational level, we are a tribe.   When women join together, share ourselves in vulnerably, and seek harmony and balance with nature, the power that is manifested is enough to break the patriarchal chains that separate us.

In co-creating this space, we are pro-actively offering an alternative to the dissociated, disconnected patriarchal culture.  We create true community. – Angelica Jaffe

Freedom in my Skin

It has been many years now since my first Women’s Gathering at Twin oaks, and I will never forget my first time and how incredibly life-changing it was for me.

I arrived late Friday night in the pitch black. It was a hot, muggy night. I was in a state of excitement and nervousness. I had sweat pouring down my face as my heavy body carried my tent and all of my equipment. I didn’t know anyone. but I was very excited to be in women-only space. Walking on the path in the dark, I could hear drums and see a fire in the distance. As I walked up to the fire pit and saw naked women drumming, I thought, “These are my people.”  I watched women dance, and I thought, “I want to dance like that someday.  I want to experience the freedom that these women are experiencing.”

Over the next couple days, I felt more freedom in my own skin that I had ever felt in my entire life. I had always been so self-conscious of my body, but at the Gathering, I was met with acceptance and warmth, and I never felt judged. For the first time, I wore a tank top in public.  And I worked, played, and of course danced with women I have come to cherish.

I come back every year, and this is my third year being an organizer. I have learned so much from my beautiful teachers and friends. If you have never experienced how empowering it is to be in women’s space, I urge you to give it a try . – Erin Tucker

A Journey to Self

Last year was the first Women’s Gathering I attended and one of the first times I have ever chosen to embark on an adventure alone. Although I knew there would be some familiar faces at this event, the idea of camping alone was foreign and frightening to me. I even left the event site shortly after I arrived to call my mother and express the fears I was facing!  Luckily, she was there to reassure and support me in this moment of doubt. So, I took a deep breath and returned to the Gathering with the confidence that I was doing the right thing, and I am ever so grateful I did.

Over the weekend, I felt my walls of social anxiety and self-doubt slowly break down as I witnessed the beauty of women coming together to share songs, stories and support.

Experiencing the scared women-only space was a monumental experience in my life leaving two great impressions on me: a better understanding of self and the knowledge that my femininity exists outside of a sexual realm. – Ash

The Gift of Women’s Community

At my first Women’s Gathering, I wasn’t sure what to think.  Strangers everywhere inhabited the campground I had just helped transform for the weekend.  I had been living at Twin Oaks for three months, and there was a celebratory energy that I couldn’t understand.  What was the big deal?  It was just the Gathering site, right in my backyard.  It was unnerving, to have these strangers in my home, acting as if they knew something that I didn’t.

It was at the Saturday evening sweat lodge that I learned the secret.  I went in a little uncertain about stripping off my clothes but reassured by the darkness.  And with a dozen other women, I expressed my grief and hope for the world.  I came out of the sweat lodge naked and dripping, reveling in my breath and my thirst and the evening air on my skin.  I felt expansive, bigger than my body, able to touch the sky.  I couldn’t cover up my body then.  So I wrapped a thin scarf around my hips and, for the first time ever, strolled through the night with my breasts open to the world.

That was my moment of “getting it,” of understanding the freedom offered by a community of women.  What was this strange new world that women had been creating for each other the previous 28 years?  Feminist women speak of feeling the weight of oppression lift from their shoulders and minds.  Spiritual women speak of the healing in their spirits or of the sacredness of the land here.  And the understanding of what women’s community gifts us can be intense, punctuated by tears gleaming on a woman’s cheeks or a fire burning in her eyes.  You see she is changed.

I still don’t always know the women I pass on the path or greet in the workshops, but I know they are here for the same reason I am.  We both seek that community of women, that altered state of stepping outside of patriarchy for a moment, of expanding our souls until they touch the sky.  This is our birthright.  We come to claim it, for ourselves and our sisters.  We’ve glimpsed a future where women thrive.  Would you like to see it?

— Brittany

Valerie’s Day at the Gathering

I wake up to the sound of birdsong, and peek out my tent flap to find
golden rays of sunlight filtering through the green leaves of this
forest I’m camped in. I start the day with morning yoga followed by a
delicious breakfast of home-made yogurt and granola, around a table
of women from several different states, each with an interesting
story to share.Then comes the first decision of the day–choosing which of the wide
variety of workshops to attend. My options include learning about
herbal practices for menstrual health, drumming in an
African-American tradition, journal writing as a path to personal
growth, and more. The woman sitting beside me at breakfast is headed
to the Oasis tent, where she’ll learn to crochet, and I decide to
join her.

After lunch I check out the mudpit by the river. The silky feeling of
being immersed, along with the red-brown mud smeared over every inch
of exposed skin, breaks down any barriers of self-consciousness
between the women in the pit, and soon we are laughing uproariously
before heading over the river to clean ourselves up and become
revitalized by the pleasantly chilly current.

After supper, I join a handful of women who are observing the end of
the Jewish Sabbath at sundown. When we return to the main site, the
Sharing Stage is in full swing, with women revealing their talents,
from dance to music to spoken word, along with a play the kids have
thrown together. The evening ends with a full-scale, bustin’ loose
rock-n-roll outdoor dance party, accompanied by some drummers around
the campfire.

Back at my tent, this time serenaded by the evening song of cicadas,
I revel in the feeling of having found such a group of women, so
wholly and joyfully engaged in celebrating ourselves and our
creativity, and I wonder what new experiences tomorrow’s activities
will bring.

Why come to the gathering?

Last year I had an epiphany about the women’s gathering. I was sitting up at the conference site with the volunteers who had come to help with site prep the week prior to the gathering. One woman shared how frightened she had been camping by herself in the woods. That is, she was frightened until one of our members came up with her baby and no flash light. This was the moment that the volunteer realized how safe the space was. Another volunteer chimed in and spoke about how she doesn’t leave her apartment after dark because she lives in a big, dangerous city.

I was struck by the realization that, for some of our attendees, the days of our gathering are the only two days that they experience a sense of safety. We live in a world where people of color, gender queer folks and women experience disproportionate acts of violence. The women’s gathering allows us to reconnect with ourselves, with each other and the land so that we may go back into the world with a renewed sense of empowerment and a renewed commitment to create the world we want to be living in.

We hope you join us this summer in our continued efforts to nurture our mutual empowerment as women!

– Sapphyre