Sheffield Adventure Film Festival: An Update

To be honest, we never quite expected our post about this trailer to gather quite so much attention, but the debate and discussion that has been generated has been really interesting and we’d like to thank everyone who has messaged us about this or replied to the original post – If you’ve not read the comments, please do!

In response, SHAFF have written a follow up piece which can be found here.

After reading their article, we would just like to point out that LaDIYfest is a collective with several people heavily involved behind the scenes and that our post was a collaborative effort about an issue we wanted to draw attention to, not just on behalf of those in the collective but others who had shared their thoughts with us. As I think Hannah said in one of the comments, we don’t take pleasure in being ‘angry feminist bloggers’ and this is a somewhat unfair stereotype that doesn’t really help anyone.

The festival is happening this weekend at The Showroom, maybe see you there?

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To Bleed or Not to Bleed: A Brief Update

We would like to thank the Women’s Committee for their engagement and supportive responses to our blog post, this has been incredibly encouraging and we look forward to participating in further discussions with them. We would also like to clarify that the slogan ‘accepting your body, accepting your period – it’s beautiful! it’s womanhood!’ was used to describe the Red Tent in our invitation to get involved, but we have since been informed that it does not appear in any of the Red Tent publicity material. Kat Chapman, the Women’s Officer at the Union, has also responded to our post here.

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To Bleed or Not to Bleed: Some thoughts on The Red Tent

Our recent invitation to get involved in the University of Sheffield Student Union’s ‘Red Tent’ week led to some important discussion within the LaDIYfest collective regarding how we felt about the concept of the tent and the politics behind it. As many of us had work and study commitments, we didn’t think we could do justice to the ideas we had by planning a workshop so instead of a physical presence we’ve written a summary of some of our thoughts on the topic in the hope that people attending The Red Tent will read, think and discuss our input over the course of the week.

Before this we’d like to note that the rise in feminist action at the two Sheffield Universities over the last few years has been an amazing improvement. We’ve really enjoyed working with the Women’s Committee and look forward to participating in future collaborative projects. The following reflection on The Red Tent is intended to provide a route into further conversation and exploration regarding the discussion of bodies, biology and a physical notion of womanhood within feminist spaces. We hope this won’t sound like an attack by other feminists (us!) who – for the most part – want to provide solidarity and support to your projects, or a discouragement to the totally admirable feminists at the University from continuing their activism (we’re sure it won’t!).

For the unaware, the Women’s Committee describe The Red Tent as a week of activities and discussion groups providing ‘a safe space for women (& non-male identifying people) to celebrate their bodies, menstrual cycle, and discover/re-discover their power in society’. This is the University of Sheffield’s (UoS) offshoot of an international project with the same name and is (as far as we know) the second year this week-long celebration has been held in Sheffield.

Why Bother Talking About Periods At All?

Due to the shame that many people – mostly women – who have periods are made to feel about their bodies it is clear that the culture, experience and social regulation of menstruation has a relevance to feminist thinking. The medicalization of women’s bodies and behaviour, as well as the stigma of having a body that ‘leaks’ and the importance of finding ways to ‘control’ your body in a way that others find socially acceptable has had a massive impact on women’s freedom and status historically, and continues to intrude on their lives today. Capitalism, too, has a lot to answer for when it comes to the generic pain-killing drugs sold as menstrual cures, the marketing, advertising and culture of brand loyalty and precedence of expensive sanitary products.

However, the discussion of gendered bodies, biology and nature in feminist/women-oriented spaces is not without problems. The UoS’s Red Tent’s celebratory slogan of ‘accepting your body, accepting your period – it’s beautiful! it’s womanhood!’ ties menstruation to womanhood, erasing the existence of all the women-identifying people who cannot or choose not to have periods and the non-binary and men-identifying people who do have them. We think statements like this make the SU’s inclusion of ‘non-male identifying people’ feel tokenistic and not fully considered. The politics underlying this slogan also feed into strands of feminism (such as trans exclusive/eradicatory feminism or TERF*) which essentialise gender identities and experiences and exclude important (but marginalised) members of our movement such as trans women, intersex people and non-binary individuals. We were pleased to see that this year the SU’s Red Tent includes an event open to all genders on ‘Sex, Gender and Periods: Women who do not menstruate and menstruators who are not women’, which shows the SU/Women’s Committee is making a positive attempt to address the problematic assumption that periods and gender go hand in hand.

When Periods Aren’t Always a Cause for Celebration

The celebration of periods can be an effective way of redressing the shame women are usually encouraged to feel about their bodies, but what happens if this is done in a way which excludes non-women with periods or invalidates the gender identities of women who don’t have them? Periods are not always something that are/should be celebrated. For some intersex, non-binary people or trans men the presence of their periods can be a really unpleasant reminder that their bodies do not function or look the way they wished they did from birth.

What about the many women-identifying people who also don’t feel celebratory about their periods? There is often an assumption that ‘working with your body’ is necessarily a preferable option. For example, the implication that accepting/embracing your periods is important, and that ‘natural’ remedies are better than other kinds. But for some people periods can be debilitatingly painful and cause bouts of depression among other things. If your body is affected by discomfort or pain then, as with illness, wouldn’t it be a relief to be able to medicate to allay these unwanted experiences? Why should periods be any different for those who experience unpleasant symptoms?

For some people who identify as women and some who don’t, stopping their periods or having more control over their periods’ intensity or timing is hugely liberating. It mustn’t be shameful to say ‘I hate my periods’ or discuss the difficulties some people have with them. Sometimes in an attempt to redress the shaming of people who have periods, menstrual-advocates come dangerously close to shaming those who cannot/choose not to have them, often prioritising what is deemed to be ‘natural’ and therefore best. In the process, they may also (often without intending to) renounce the identities of people who use medication and surgery to match their bodies to their identities because this, too, isn’t ‘natural’ by these standards.

The (un)Revolutionary Potential of Periods

LaDIYfest do not use binary male/female symbols or any womb/ovary/body part iconography and we encourage other feminists who want to be part of a trans, intersex and non-binary inclusive movement to join us**. Biology tells us nothing about gender. Being a woman has nothing to do with owning a womb or having a period. What’s more, The Red Tent’s claim to find ‘power in society’ through the body is misleading and mystifies the importance and material economic realities for women. We believe that power in society is found primarily in class and in money, not in penises, gonads or wombs. The international Red Tent website uses the rhetoric of social change, transformation and revolution and yet their narrative which centres on the individual’s experience of her/their blood shed tells us nothing about collective unity and social mobilisation.

There is definitely space in feminism to talk about our personal needs (including mooncups and other menstrual stuff), but we also need to recognise the limitations of these discussions and not overstate their revolutionary potential. To fight gender oppression we also need to look to our wider shared goals – not just as individuals or as bodies – but as a collective of people who are oppressed because of our identities as women, non-binary people, queers, and as trans people.

Finding the Power to Fight Patriarchy!

In ‘re-discovering our power’ in society, unfortunately we’ve got a lot to change beyond the womb-shaming and period politics that the Red Tent addresses. To ensure we can make our fight as powerful as possible, we need to make it one which addresses issues of inclusion and defies gender essentialist notions of womanhood. Our question would be: is The Red Tent the place to do this?

The Red Tent is happening between 31st March – 4th April and there is a full schedule of events here.

*More info on TERF here.

**We’re far from perfect and we’ve made mistakes in the past which have (without our intention) left some people feeling excluded from our political action. Like everyone, we’re still learning.

A BRIEF UPDATE (02/04/14): We would like to thank the Women’s Committee for their engagement and supportive responses to our post, this has been incredibly encouraging and we look forward to participating in further discussions with them. We would also like to clarify that the slogan ‘accepting your body, accepting your period – it’s beautiful! it’s womanhood!’ was used to describe the Red Tent in our invitation to get involved, but we have since been informed that it does not appear in any of the Red Tent publicity material. Kat Chapman, the Women’s Officer at the Union, has also responded to our post here.

Useful Links

A discussion on intersex and menstruation
(http://fullfrontalactivism.blogspot.co.uk/2011/08/menstruation.html)

(Trans) Mangina Monologues
(http://www.transmanginamonologues.com)

A trans man’s experience of menstruation
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1irHcRBYXA)

A non-binary trans person’s experience of stopping their periods
(http://www.xojane.com/healthy/off-label-birth-control-use-trans-people)

A discussion about periods between cis and trans people
(http://dirtywhiteboi67.blogspot.co.uk/2010/07/menstruastion-period-shamedysphoria.html)

More info on absent periods/amenorrhoea
(http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/periods-absent/Pages/Introduction.aspx)

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Some Local Trolling: Sheffield Adventure Film Festival

SHAFF

Close-up image from the trailer of young, blond, white woman with nose piercing looking at the camera.

We’ve been to the Showroom Cinema a few times recently and have noticed the trailer for the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (SHAFF). It’s pretty hard to miss, at well over three minutes long.

What’s surprising about the trailer – although not entirely unexpected – is the tiny number of women who are featured.

What’s annoying – a frequent part of being a feminist is getting annoyed – is the way those few women are represented.

There’s a young, slim, blonde woman going for a run with her dog in the countryside, and there’s a road cyclist in a full-face helmet who (on a second viewing) we thought might possibly be a woman. Another young, conventionally attractive woman with a nose piercing appears in a soft focus close-up, with a look we could only manage to describe as vacantly seductive (or a bit stoned); a different woman walks, slowly, silhouetted in front of a sunset. Two women – again, attractive, young and blonde – stand together, looking happily at the camera.

The smiles are fine, we’re not against fun. However, what’s striking about these women compared to the men in the trailer is that none of them are pictured in active roles,  save, possibly, the lone road cyclist, whose gender seemed ambiguous. Instead of getting messy and sweaty from doing extreme sports, and looking powerful, exhilarated and inspiring, the women in the trailer have a role that’s largely decorative.

They’re a pretty foil to the beard-preening, macho air-punching and (at one point) naked dick-grabbing. They’re also, as far as we could tell, all young, white, conventionally attractive within the narrow boundaries of ‘acceptable’ femininity, and have no visible disabilities.

Obviously, our woman-counting measure isn’t perfect. It’s based on people conforming to a normative idea of what a woman looks like. We’ve not asked everyone in the video how they gender-identify, whether that be as a man, woman, genderqueer, or another identity outside the gender binary.

And one of the great things about outdoor clothing is that often it stops people from guessing at your gender. That is, when women aren’t being forced to buy pastel waterproofs and baby-blue hiking boots (get a grip, manufacturers).

Still, if there are actually lots of women in the trailer but they just happen to be hidden in ski kit or baggy skate clothes – which we doubt, but let’s go with it for a moment – this hardly helps change perceptions of the gender balance in extreme sports, when most of the performers in the clip whose gender is apparent are male.

To give SHAFF some credit, we noticed browsing their website that they are trying to promote films made by and featuring women in what they recognise is a male-dominated industry. Here’s their list of women-centred films at this year’s festival.

However, having a strand which promotes women’s films is self-defeating if the trailer, which will be most people’s encounter with the festival, barely features any women actually doing sports. Please try harder. Maybe even try being adventurous.

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National Ugly Mugs: Please Help!

Back in January we posted an article on our Facebook from The Manchester Evening News outlining how the National Ugly Mugs scheme had failed to win an important funding bid to continue their amazing work.. We were really saddened to read this because they were the organisation we supported last year and raised funds for at our November event. The work they do is incredibly important and so very vital and we wanted to help continue spread the word and raise awareness.

Here is a video about the work they do and the impact it is having:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22104291

We received the following update last week:

NUM is still facing a funding crisis. We are grateful to the 9 police forces who have made donations to the scheme which including Greater Manchester, Kent, Lancashire, Merseyside, North Wales, Northumbria, Surrey, West Mercia and West Yorkshire and we are also currently working with other police forces to secure contributions to the continuation of the scheme. A massive thank you to all the people who have made donations and have done amazing things to raise money but not forgetting the vital awareness raising that people are doing through media and face to face discussions, meetings and events that will in turn reduce the Stigma surrounding Sex Work. Despite this activity NUM faces the prospect of closure as soon as May/June 2014 but we are still hopeful that due to the success of the scheme and the continued engagement of forces using the scheme operationally to aid investigations that this financial support from police forces and other potential funders will come through.

We have been instrumental in at least 12 criminal convictions that we know about and we are proud to have been able to play a key part in this but we cannot thank our valued members enough for sharing their information with the NUM scheme to enable others to keep themselves safe. A massive thank you must undoubtedly go to those who have pursued the criminal justice system to take dangerous individuals off the streets making it a safer place for us all!

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the scheme no matter how big or how small can do so by:

Text “UGLY00 £3” to 70070 to donate #JustTextGiving by #Vodafone or via the JustGiving and Paypal buttons on our website. https://uknswp.org/um/

Many Thanks from The National Ugly Mugs Team

No one should be at risk of increased violence or discrimination because of their line of work, so please help if you can – spread the word, tell National Ugly Mugs the work they do is amazing, retweet their news, and of course if you can then donate a few pounds (as above) to a really important cause so it can continue to exist and support the sex workers who need them. We will continue to do the same!!

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LaDIY Through This – 20 Years of Hole!

We’re really excited about this one! Join us at Audacious Space on Saturday 26th April to celebrate twenty years since the release of Hole’s album Live Through This.

If you’ve ever been a teenage girl, school misfit or music fan worth your salt then Live Through This is an album you’ll likely be all-too familiar with - if not, get listening!

Hole were one of the most well-known bands associated with the early 1990s riot grrrl scene and Live Through This marked their breakthrough into the mainstream. Their music – and that of many other women-fronted bands of this time – is part of our proud ladiyfest lineage.

We’re planning to celebrate LTT’s coming of age with a special birthday party. We’ll announce more details nearer the time, but expect:

- covers of songs from the album and by Hole’s contemporaries
- DJs and dancing (send your requests!)
- birthday sweets and party food (including love hearts)
- FANCY DRESS. Bring your best babydoll dresses, tiaras, torn fishnets and smudged mascara
- a prize for the best Courtney Love

Suggested donation £4 to cover bands’ costs and fund this year’s festival, but as usual it’s pay what you can. BYOB

**NEW** BANDS!

Annette Berlin (Bristol/Berlin): crunchy wonky pop, new wave blues

Hysterical Injury (Bristol): Your new favourite sibling noise-pop duo

Kinky (Durham/Newcastle): 3 piece hard angry sissy queer political punk

Nervous Twitch (Leeds): Pop-Garage-Punk 4 piece

…Plus exciting covers by other people tba!

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International Women’s Week 2014

Oh my word, look at all the things happening around Sheff Uni at the start of March! Here is a FB link to the info below, can’t wait :D

Join us in celebration of International Women’s Day with a week-long series of events! For ticketed events & web page visit: http://www.shef.ac.uk/union/events/international-womens-week/

***MONDAY 3RD ***

Sheffield Debating: Women’s Public Speaking Training Session
16:00-18:00, venue tbc.
https://www.facebook.com/events/633840513318506/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

Women’s Committee Presents: ‘Manarchism and Brocialism: Sexism in Radical Politics’
17.00-19.00, Arts Tower Lecture Theatre 2
https://www.facebook.com/events/658941934162414/?ref=5

Off The Shelf presents Irma Kurtz – Cosmopolitan’s Agony Aunt talks about ‘My Life in Agony’
20:00 (doors open 19:30), The Auditorium
https://www.facebook.com/events/705208856197012/

***TUESDAY 4TH***

Women’s Committee & For Books’ Sake present: Literary Workshop 1: Women of Sheffield
11:00-13:00, Gallery Eye, Students’ Union
https://www.facebook.com/events/1446085112275295/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

“What is a feminist? and am I one?” workshop
13:00-14:00pm, Gallery Room 2
https://www.facebook.com/events/582063925214567/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

Women’s Committee & For Books’ Sake present: Literary Workshop 2: Women, Fairytales and Fiction
14:00-16:00, Gallery Eye, Students’ Union
https://www.facebook.com/events/584599018301483/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

Living Wage Campaign: Trade Unions Fair
14:00-16:00, Students’ Union Foyer
Drop-in to meet members of Trade Unions (GMB, UCU, Unite, Unison and the IWW will be present, as well as members of the Living Wage Campaign) and learn about the importance and value of joining a union.
Staff and students welcome and encouraged to come and chat.

The University of Sheffield Islamic Circle (USIC) presents: Ashiana Workshop: Fleeing domestic and sexual abuse
5pm, Hick’s building, Lecture theatre 4
https://www.facebook.com/events/663803257010651/?ref=23&source=1

Women’s Week presents Emma Woolf
The Auditorium
18:30 (doors open 18:00) Tickets £4.50/£2.50 concessions
https://www.facebook.com/events/208457922687023/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

***WEDNESDAY 5TH ***

GIAG International Women’s Rights Craftivism
11:00-13:00, Students’ Union Activities Zone
Tickets £3 from SU Box Office

UNITE Film Screening of North County
Drinks reception 18:00, film screening 19:00
Auditorium FREE but TICKET ONLY- available @ SU box office

‘North Country’ is a fictionalised account of the first major sexual harassment case in the United States – Jensen vs Eveleth Mines where a woman who endured a range of abuse while working as a miner filed and won the landmark 1984 lawsuit. This film has been chosen as 1984 in the UK saw the start of the Miners Strike!

***THURSDAY 6TH***

Women’s Committee Presents: Fat Activism Workshop and Plus-Size Clothes Swap
15:00-17:00, Gallery Room 3, Students’ Union
https://www.facebook.com/events/1459375790945386/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
There will be a safe space policy in operation which we ask everyone attending to adhere to. Please check the facebook event for more information.
All genders welcome

Women’s Committee Presents: Rhian E Jones. Free Public Lecture: Gender, Class & Popular Culture
18:00-19:00 Arts Tower, Lecture Theatre 9
https://www.facebook.com/events/1420388638204959/?ref=2&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

***FRIDAY 7TH***

“What type of feminist are you?” workshop
13:00-14:00pm, Gallery Room 2
https://www.facebook.com/events/682312821832407/?context=create&ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming

Women’s Committee Presents: Feminism & Gender Identities Workshop
17:00-19:00, Arts Tower Lecture Theatre 2
https://www.facebook.com/events/242742509232178/
Free entry, charitable donations will be collected.
There will be a safe space policy in operation which we ask everyone attending to adhere to. Please check the facebook event for more information.
All genders welcome

Juliet & Romeo
The same legendary story but with the gender roles reversed
19.30 Foundry, Sheffield Students’ Union
https://www.facebook.com/events/360249730782281/

Film Unit presents: Wadjda
19:30, Students’ Union Auditorium
Wadjda is a 10-year-old girl living in a suburb of Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. Although she lives in a conservative world, Wadjda is fun loving, entrepreneurial and always pushing the boundaries of what she can get away with. After a fight with her friend Abdullah, a neighborhood boy she shouldn’t be playing with, Wadjda sees a beautiful green bicycle for sale. She wants the bicycle desperately so that she can beat Abdullah in a race. But Wadjda’s mother won’t allow it, fearing repercussions from a society that sees bicycles as dangerous to a girl’s virtue. So Wadjda decides to try and raise the money herself…

***SATURDAY 8TH***

STAR presents Women Refugee Voices’
12:00-16:00, Fusion
Free entry
Run by Student Action For Refugees
An opportunity to hear the personal insights of life as a refugee from the perspective of women. This will be an intimate forum for women to share personal experiences and stories. Speakers from Ashiana and Assist will also be present to talk about the work they do with women refugees and asylum seekers in Sheffield.

Women’s Committee & Sheffield Anti-Sexual Harassment Campaign present: Gender and Consent Workshop
https://www.facebook.com/events/459296060864413/
15:00-17:00, Octagon Centre, Meeting Room 2.
Free entry, charitable donations will be collected.

Juliet & Romeo
The same legendary story but with the gender roles reversed
19.30 Foundry, Sheffield Students’ Union
https://www.facebook.com/events/360249730782281/

Pop Tarts: Independent Women
23:00-03:00, Foundry, Studio, Fusion
Tickets £4 advance
It’s International Women’s Day, so it’s to time celebrate the best retro female artists, girl groups & duo’s. Think Whitney Houston, Madonna, Beyonce, Girls Aloud, Tina Turner, The Supremes & more!

***SUNDAY 9TH***

Women’s Committee presents: Feminist Book Club
14:00-16:00, Octagon Centre, Council Free entry, charitable donations will be collected.
This month we will be discussing “Girl Meets Boy”, by Ali Smith. The story is a modern-day reinterpretation of the Ovid’s myth of Iphis, incorporating themes of homophobia, sexism, sexuality and love. There are copies available in the university libraries for those who do not wish to buy a copy. The book is around 200 pages long and a highly recommended read!
https://www.facebook.com/events/281736015312271/?ref=5
All genders welcome

Women’s Committee: Women-only social
16:00-18:00
Council Chambers, Octagon Centre
Free food, board games, tea and a raffle! This is a chance to socialise with the committee outside of meetings, so please bring along your housemates, coursemates and friends. You don’t need to have been part of the committee before, we would love to see some new faces.
https://www.facebook.com/events/268251283334073/?ref=5
This event is open to self-defining women only and will be held in an alcohol-free venue.

Film Unit presents: In a World
Speak up and let your voice be heard. An underachieving vocal coach is motivated by her father, the king of movie-trailer voice-overs, to pursue her aspirations of becoming a voice-over star. Amidst pride, sexism and family dysfunction, she sets out to change the voice of a generation.
15.30 and 19.30
Auditorium
Tickets £2.50

**************

Women’s Committee are raising money for their chosen charities throughout women’s week. All our events are free to attend but we will be collecting charitable donations for Sheffield Rape Crisis and The Fistula Foundation via donation buckets at the end of each event. Please give as generously as you are able to.

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