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Report Back from the 2014 Radical Mycology Convergence

Female & Fungi Discusses Gender and Sexual Oppression within the Historical and Current Field of Mycology

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Supposedly Witches Butter (Tramella mesenterica) gets its name from an old folklore of witches placing curses on their victims. According to scholars like Frank M. Dugan in his book, Conspectus of World Ethnomycology, women, labeled as witches or otherwise, were often “specifically linked to mushrooms, at least in eastern European folklore.” Perhaps the oppression and mass killings of women during the eastern European witch hunts left a large information gap within the realm of fungal knowledge leading to the rise, at least in part, of mycophobia.  Photo credit: Santa Cruz Fungus Fair.

Thank you to everyone who came out to the 2014 Radical Mycology Convergence! And thank you to all of those wonderful folks who participated in the ‘Female & Fungi: Womyn and Trans Mycological Community’ discussion.

It was really humbling to see such a diverse group of folks joining together to discuss something as critically important as gender and sexual oppression. Please note that though our focus was on gender and sexuality, we also discussed other types of oppression including racial and class oppression, as various types of oppression interlock with one another.

During the workshop we discussed the roles women, queer, trans, and other folks have played in mycological history with an important note that our current understanding of how folks who identified differently than the gender and sexual norms of their time truly impacted mycological history is limited because their gender and sexual orientations may not have been public or were purposefully disappeared from the banks of dominant historical knowledge.

After outlining a brief history of womyn in mycology, the discussion got really heavy with folks expressing their personal stories and experiences in our present world. We feel that the intensity shared really highlights the need to continue to discuss gender and sexuality issues within the mycological (and much larger scientific and educational) community.

We asked participants of the discussion how we could help to create a more inclusive and supportive myco community, starting with the RMC. Here are some of the suggestions that were made:

  • Read the Anti-Oppression (AO) Policies out loud at the opening circle of the RMC
  • Have another AO workshop (there was one at the 2012 RMC, but not the 2014 RMC)
  • Don’t have any other workshops during the time of the AO workshop to encourage more people to participate
  • One participant stated that they came to the convergence specifically because they saw a workshop that had ‘trans’ in the title. This comment encouraged others to agree that in order to promote diversity, the RMC should include more inclusive and direct language on the website and in the names of workshops
  • Ask folks to be aware of body size during workshops and to kindly move back if you are really tall and blocking folks who are short. This is part of being aware of power dynamics between differently gendered people.
    This reminds us of Kathleen Hanna’s (of Bikini Kill) “Girls to the Front”, in which during their shows Kathleen would ask all men to step back and let the ladies come to the front where they could see and be a part of the show better.

Our feelings largely reflect those that were shared by participants of the Female & Fungi workshop. In the future, we hope to break this workshop into several different workshops. This would include one workshop specifically on the history of womyn in mycology that is separate from the open discussion on the current gender and sexuality based issues in the field of mycology and how the Womyn and Trans Mycological Community can grow and be a part of any change that is needed. We also hope to include more activities and tools that are focused on the individual and community healing process.

In the end, the F&F workshop and the RMC as a whole left us with a plethora of primordial-staged ideas formulating in our brains. In an effort to help document a more inclusive telling of history, we will continue to re-examine the current, fragmented, body of historical knowledge, highlight the important involvement of women and other oppressed folks in the early mycological (and broader medical and scientific) community, and address the gaps of information with critical questions, through articles and creative expressions on the Female & Fungi website and in our upcoming essay, “Womyn Foray: An historical account of the influences of gender and sexual oppression on mycological culture and knowledge,” to be published in the Radical Mycology book,

As Maylei Blackwell expresses about recorded history in her book, ¡Chicana Power!:

“It is precisely within the gaps, interstices, silences, and crevices of the uneven narratives of domination that possibilities lie for fracturing dominant narratives and creating spaces for new historical subjects to emerge.”

Thank you again to all of those who came to the RMC, to those who participated in the F&F discussion, and to all of those that strive to create a more inclusive and supportive myco community.

If you would like to contribute articles, interviews, stories, photography, poetry, songs, artwork, or creations of any sort that represent for you the intersections between Femininity and Fungaltonomy (fungal + autonomy?), email us at: womynsmycology@gmail.com .

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