Mothership is the New Festival for Queer Feminists

Women’s retreats and festivals have been a staple of lesbian culture for decades, but for various reasons, a lot of them have not been able to sustain themselves.

Last year, Los Angeles-based Laura J. Wise created a pop-up festival, HER LA, dedicated to feminist-themed art, music and fashion.


“Last year’s festival in L.A. was successful and so fun,” said Wise, an out therapist who also works with LGBT clients in her practice. “After that I realized women in SoCal were craving feminist spaces. I felt that an overnight event, creating a temporary community, was the best way to solidify new connections with other like-minded women. Why not take what we are doing and make it bigger, better and more all encompassing?”


This year, she decided to expand, bringing women to the desert of Desert Hot Springs, California for Mothership, a feminist festival happening this weekend, November 4-6.



“I created Mothership was because I couldn’t find any events like it,” Wise said. “I was looking for an event that didn’t exist—a female-driven festival with music and workshops; a safe space for women, that was also inclusive.”


Wise grew up in Ohio and said she “always wanted to attend the Michigan Womyn’s Festival,” but didn’t have the chance.


“When it ended, I decided to improve upon that concept,” Wise said. “The first change was that our festival would be 100% trans and non-binary inclusive. Modern feminism is more intersectional and our event reflects that. In order to move towards equality, we need to acknowledge disparities amongst women and work together. “


This weekend, 250 women will gather in the Coachella Valley, participating in classes workshops on songwriting, dealing with harassment, releasing anger and grief, breathwork, self-defense and “cultivating liberty.” There’s also Playful Kink (“It’s a great intro into the world of kink!” Wise said) and “How to Drive a Vulva” from Alison Moon.

“Alison told me that she has had 40-year-old gold star lesbians walk away from this workshop with new knowledge on female pleasure–so I am super excited to see what she has in store,” Wise said.


While Mothership is open to all women, queer women will especially enjoy events like Lezathlon where they can show off their athletic prowess and win prizes. There will also be some celesbians in attendance: The Real L Word star Lauren Bedford Russell is leading chakra-aligning yoga and Transparent’s Mel Shimkovitz will be on a panel on Women’s Sexuality and Media. (Full disclosure: I’ll be hosting that panel, which also includes Alexandra Roxo, Micol Hebron, Kat Blaque and Alexandra Tweten.)


Like other festivals lesbian and bi women have come to love over the years, Mothership will also offer up some fantastic music from women artists.


“The musical styles are across the board, but they all have one thing in common – a strong message,” Wise said, noting artists like Madame Gandhi, Kera Armendariz (Kera and the Lesbians), Wasi, Megatronic, Lex, Clay and iRAWniQ, all of whom Wise calls “powerhouse performers.”



On Saturday, a pop-up art show, “Women on the Fence,” will show off the work of more than 30 feminist artists.


“We have a whole range of women coming to Mothership, from seasoned burners, to women who have never camped before and I love that,” Wise said. Although its on a campsite, Wise joked that it’s really more of a “glamping” experience.


“We will have food trucks, a bar, electricity and drinkable water on every campsite. This event is designed to be really accessible,” she said. “If you have a tent, blanket and pillow, we have the rest. We even have a ‘creativity tent’ with tons of stuff to adorn yourself with, paint, glitter, costumes etc. and it’s all free. I am so looking forward to seeing women let loose and get creative together. Just get your butts to the desert and we have the rest handled!”


Tickets are still available for Mothership, which kicks off this Friday, November 4th.

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