The Duke of Burgundy: A Review!

This is a review of The Duke of Burgundy, between Cara, LaDIY organiser, and Sarah from Edge Of The Universe Printing Press. Contains some spoilers!

SARAH: Having seen it last night, here are my full thoughts on The Duke of Burgundy. I feel like it’s one of those films that I’m enjoying far more in hindsight, when I’m able to pick it over properly, than I actually did at the time. Still, overall I am definitely in the ‘fan’ camp. I really, really, really loved the aesthetic obsessions of the film, to the extent that the goodwill born of that pretty much saw me through the rest of its duration. But that soundtrack! That title sequence! That colour scheme! So, so great. Just the sound design and the staging was brilliant, I thought. I have a real fondness for a bunch of the stuff this film was influenced by (hauntology; 70s Euro-horror / Euro-sleaze; the accompanying soundtracks to both those things), so I was pretty much pre-destined to like it. I also liked the completely deadpan, “yeah, so?” weirdness of it. So, Cynthia and Evelyn live in a world of coiffured, bicycling women obsessed with both insects and BDSM. What of it?

Around the hour mark it began to lose me a bit (/ a lot) – the repetitions of the action (‘You’re late. You can start in the study’ etc.) was obviously there to say something about the two leads’ relationship, but that didn’t make it any less patience-testing to actually have to sit and watch it. I also felt like a lot of the film only had a real impact if you “got” the joke – you had to be part of the in-the-know in-crowd to understand what Strickland was referencing and riffing on. So, I had an “aha!” moment when the film “breaks down” (during Cynthia’s increasingly delirious dream sequence, when she finds the skeleton in the coffin, and Evelyn’s wandering around outside, and the screen is filled with moths and moth’s wings), because I “got” that this was a very explicit reference to landmark experimental film ‘Mothlight’ by Stan Brakhage (with a dash of when the film “breaks” in Bergman’s ‘Persona’). This “I got the joke!” pleasure was instantly followed by annoyance, as I find the in-built alienation of these kind of clever-clever filmic references pretty off-putting.

Patient-testingly slow as it could be at time, I also really enjoyed watching the relationship develop between the two lead women. I thought it was really well played (I really liked that they treated the potential ridiculousness of some of the situations so seriously and tenderly), and found the way that their very different needs became slowly more apparent, even though they clearly did have real love for each other, fairly heart-breaking.

Have you had time to digest it now? Whaddya think?

CARA: HEY! Thanks so much for writing all of that, you should add it to the LaDIY post I put, or let us feature it as a review on the blog!!!

I really liked all the colours and aesthetics too! It reminded me of some films that I saw ages back at Bungalows that someone put a small series of, weird Czech surrealist/new wave stuff like Daisies (that’s the only title I can remember).

I enjoyed the dynamics of the relationship, really silly little things like clicking of fingers when snoring, doing things with each other for the other person even tho its not what you want to do all the time, little nuances that are so true in loving and yet tired relationships and often overlooked in lesbian/queer cinema, it was very untypical of that genre – It felt like a very real relationship, albeit an unusual one. I smirked at their world too, a lecture theatre full of women all beautifully polished – did you notice there were actually manequins in those audiences too, was there some meaning/link to those that I might have missed? I defintely didn’t get the injoke you did about Mothlight, I’ll mention it to Jo though and see if she caught on!!

As a fairly standard cinema viewer, I did feel a bit lost at times, I wasn’t sure what all of the repetition was meant to be alluding to. A lot of what you said makes real sense though

SARAH: Hey! Glad you enjoyed my rambling – I do have a tendency to get carried away with analysis when it’s a film that’s interesting…

Speaking of interesting, this article on the director’s influences is pretty good (with Strickland being as intimidating knowledgeable as you’d expect):

Oh, and of course if you’d like to you can feature my “review” (such as it is!) on the blog! Though I thought what you’re saying is really interesting too: I loved how minutely observed the dynamics of the main relationship was, but I hadn’t really thought about how little you see that kind of thing in queer cinema. You’re right! So often these films seem to be coming out narratives, or involve at least some kind of conflict directly born of characters’ sexualities; queer relationships are so rarely depicted as just normal, even mundane (and all the repetition of their BDSM set-pieces meant the couple in ‘Duke’s’ relationship did seem to be plodding a bit) that it made this film feel really refreshing.

So, I thought maybe if you want to put some ‘Duke’ thoughts on the blog, it could be as a kind of discussion between us, rather than just me pontificating?!

Anyway. Totally missed the mannequins sat in the audience at the butterfly lectures thing. I’ve recently decided on a new film watching tactic where I sit right in the front row of the cinema, which makes films so intense that I think I actually end up missing a lot of stuff…


Did you go see this film as well, let us know what you thought!

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GUEST POST: Excluding Transgender People Doesn’t Make Anything Safer For Anybody

Content note: this piece contains descriptions of transmisogyny, homophobic bullying and sexual assault.

Recently I read an article in the New Statesman in which the writer recounted her experience of rape, and the subsequent lack of empathy and care she experienced from the men around her. My heart sank as I read this all too familiar story. I felt a surge of empathy with the woman, as well as anger on her behalf.

And then my heart sank even further, and the anger I had felt in solidarity with this woman turned towards her, as she made the argument that, having felt safer and more able to recover from her ordeal in “female only” spaces (implication: spaces that do not admit transgender women on the basis of their gender assigned at birth), there was a reasonable debate to be had about the exclusion of transgender women from such spaces. While I respect the right of anyone who has been assaulted to a space in which they feel secure, I find myself once again faced with this implication that the exclusion of transgender women from a space somehow makes it safer for cisgender women.

Let me be clear: the majority of sexual assaults are carried out by cisgender men, but there are sexually abusive people of all genders. That includes cisgender women.

I’d like to tell you a story from my past. It is not a story of rape; it wasn’t even something I always thought of as sexual assault. I believed, you see, that only men could be sexually abusive. I also believed it could only be sexual assault if the assaulter was attracted to the victim.

At 14, I was an awkward misfit who was bullied constantly. My tormentors were almost always female. I didn’t know, then, that words used to humiliate me (“Lezzer!” “Queer!” “Dyke!”) would one day be labels I’d wear proudly. I just knew that I didn’t fit in, that I was reviled by most of my classmates. The most dangerous time for kids like me was P.E. The changing rooms were always unsupervised: (Why not? We were all girls together: there could be no danger of hassle from boys.) As such, it was common knowledge that one of us unpopular girls would be kicked, punched and mocked by the bullies while trying to change into her gym kit. We never knew who was next. On this occasion, it was me. I got into the gym already bruised, aching and with the knowledge that worse was to come. The changing room torture was always the warm-up act.

As our teacher had us warm up, several girls leaned over to kick or slap me as I stretched, letting me know I was no safer here than in the changing room. I don’t know what that teacher saw, whether she assumed it was nothing more than a mild tiff, just something minor between girls. I don’t know if she heard the stage whispers (“Lezzer!” “Dyke!” “Queer!”) as they echoed around the hall. Perhaps fear of reprisals under Section 28 stopped her. Perhaps her own sexual orientation was on her mind and she feared that taking a stand might lead to trouble. I do know that she watched as a group of five girls dragged me onto the mats in the corner and began simulating sex with me. I was straddled and groped, my face was licked. The ringleader groaned in mock pleasure to whoops and laughter from her gang. I do know it was loud.

I don’t know how I managed to push her off me. I think panic mixed with incredulity and fury that no help was coming gave me an adrenaline boost. I don’t remember what happened next but I am informed I scaled the climbing bars with a speed nobody had ever seen from my timid, uncoordinated self. I remember becoming aware that I was now around 15 feet off the ground and that the whole class was staring at me. And that I was screaming.

Later, in her office, the head of year told me she was really sorry the “teasing” had been allowed to go too far, but these “spats” between girls really had to stop. I remember the phrase “It’s six of one and half a dozen of the other” being used. I didn’t know how to say I had been assaulted, and the assault was of a homophobic and sexual nature. I didn’t know. The girls in question never faced any reprisals for what they did to me, but they left me alone after that.

I’ve told this story before, as a funny anecdote. The day I defeated the bullies by acting “crazy” so they never bothered me again. The day I scared my poor teacher to death because what she thought was a suicide threat was me, the adrenaline rush gone, trying to work out how the hell I was supposed to get down. I minimised and repressed the reason I got up there in the first place for years.

Because “cisgender women don’t sexually assault other women.”

Because “cisgender women don’t stand by and watch another woman be assaulted”

What happened to me could not really have happened because it happened in a space everyone in authority presumed to be safe.

Had I been given the opportunity to recover in a “safe space”, who should have been excluded to preserve that safety? Cisgender men? They hadn’t done anything to me. Cisgender women? That would have kept me out. Should my attackers and their enablers been allowed access to me on the grounds that their sex organs were like my sex organs? Should transgensder men (and non-binary gender people assigned female at birth) have been excluded on the grounds that their sex organs were like those of my attackers?  If I had consciously known any transgender people then, I suspect we’d have had plenty in common. They’d certainly have been more likely to empathise with the constant threat of abuse I lived under than anyone around me at the time: transgender people, especially trans women, live with constant risk of assault. Perhaps we would have been able to support each other by finding our common ground.

It’s not the presence of people assigned male at birth that makes a space unsafe, it’s imbalance and abuse of power, and tolerance, or lack of recognition, of that abuse. Transgender people do not wield that kind of power over cisgender people. In fact, the reverse is true. This is not a “six of one, half a dozen of the other” argument. The power imbalance here is immense, and it’s weighted in favour of the group doing the excluding. The exclusion of transgender people by cisgender people from refuges, hostels and other “safe spaces”, from our communities, our support networks and our families is an abuse of our privilege and power. It perpetuates the abuse those places should help protect us all from.

Sarah Thomasin is a poet and sex educator from Sheffield.

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LaDIYfest Open Meeting // Thur 5th March @ Coffee Rev

Following on from our last meeting in January, we welcome any potential LaDIYfest collaborators to come help us plan some upcoming events and action. New faces wholly welcome! FB event for this meeting here!

Things we will be plotting and discussing:
-Our Festival of Debate workshop on April 25th:
We would like to discuss what outcomes we hope to get out of the workshop, as well as planning creative ways we can express and publicise our resulting manifesto
-The potential to host a mini-arts festival night on Sat, June 6th where local artists and makers will be invited to respond to the resulting manifesto of feminist values
-Our upcoming Hysterical Injury gig at TAAE on March 28t (FB event!)

All of these events are in the early planning stages so we would welcome volunteers to come on board and help out with a variety of tasks!
We are also open to suggestions for other LaDIYfest events and activities, so please feel free to bring your own ideas along that we can work on!

Meeting at 5.30pm-7ish, at Coffee Revolution at University of Sheffield Students’ Union. We will have something recognisable on the table so you will know who to approach – will confirm what this shall be closer to the date! x

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Julie Bindel – Not In Our City

While LaDIYfest Sheffield generally encourages and welcomes more feminist activity in our city, we write in opposition to the event being held at the Quaker Meeting House in Sheffield with Julie Bindel speaking this weekend about the ‘No Platforming’ of radical feminism. It is not an event we want in our city, in a similar vein to Julie’s attempts to arrange book tour events in Sheffield which were cancelled twice before due to protest, once by a local organisation as a result of our intervention, and once by the Sheffield Students Union for contravening their inclusion policies .

The talk this weekend purports to address the theme of ‘No Platforming’ which has prevented her from speaking in the past. This is due to the increasing unacceptability of some of her views. The fact is, Julie Bindel has not been and can never truly be no-platformed as long as she has the ability to go on speaking tours across the country and write about her transphobic, biphobic and whorephobic opinions in the national press (see links below). To suggest that she is marginalised and silenced for these opinions is not the case.

LaDIYfest Sheffield is a small collective of people of different genders, many of us are exhausted enough from facing the daily battle of existing as women, as sex workers or trans people or bisexuals to ‘silence’ a powerful media personality such as Julie Bindel. But yet, we should fight against people who either don’t believe in those existences or don’t believe such individuals should exist. Transphobia and whorephobia and biphobia go beyond opinions and move into the territory of hate speech which is dangerous and used to justify continued violence against us as those individuals, whether this is overt and physical or takes the subtler forms of institutional and social discrimination.

We were accused by Julie Bindel’s supporters of being childish, but protecting your space is not childish, we have grown up and realised that we don’t need to accept abuse done unto us. We were accused of dividing the feminist movement and letting down the side but we don’t believe in a movement that allows the marginalisation and murder of our siblings in struggle. Where people like Julie Bindel (and now all those who signed the recent letter) are concerned, no safer spaces policy can be strong enough to make their participation in our spaces safe and inclusive for all who need protection, support and solidarity.

Julie Bindel preaches a feminism that is not inclusive, it is harmful and hostile and by consenting to a platform in our city, or not raising awareness about our concerns, we would be complicit in that abuse. Sadly, no other speakers who hold opposing beliefs have been invited to speak alongside Julie Bindel at this event to hold an equal platform and enable a whole encompassing viewpoint to be appreciated by an interested audience – There is a total lack of contrast to allow a continually evolving educational space, which is why we won’t be attending to enter into a debate.

Simply, by not supporting this event, we are making a statement that we do not believe Julie Bindel’s voice needs any further amplification, what she says should not warrant any publicity or audience in our city. Her right to speak is NOT more important than protecting the marginalised communities she speaks against.

NB – We have not called for any protest or specific boycott, but we hope this post will be widely shared. Anyone who wishes to organise any action would have our support.


Julie Bindel – A Brief History of why people object:
- Claiming that bisexual women do not have the autonomy to exercise their own sexual preferences or politics 
- Hugely dismissive about the validity of sex work as ‘real work’
- Critical of transgender people, feeling entitled to speak against their access to medical treatment, despite an apology for some of her earlier notorious comments, which led to her being excluded, 11 years ago, she continues to be a threat and danger to these communities, communities who need our support and solidarity as increasing numbers of trans identified individuals are reported as being killed each year for the very fact that they are trans. 
- Critical of Muslims’ right to wear the veil 

For more info about the wider significance:

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LaDIY presents: Hysterical Injury / Esper Scout / Witching Waves / John T Angle and the Spirit Levels

It’s LaDIY party time at Audacious HQ, usual rules apply – byob, suggested donation £4 on the door and be nice to the space and it’s surrounding places/people. No one will be turned away for lack of funds, but if yr a douche you will be.

Live for yr entertainment:


Turn up from 8pm on Saturday 28th March ♥ (FB Event)

Awesome poser by Ogla Rienda!


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LaDIYfest Presents: Cal Folger Day + Alice Nicholls + AMereKat // Thurs Feb 12th @ The Redhouse

LaDIYfest is ONLY ECSTATIC to invite you to join us for our first gig of 2015! Next Thursday 12th Feb, brush off that snow and come in from the cold to the lovely confines of the Redhouse on Solly Street for some pleasant folky and jazzy croonings.


“A guitarist and chanteuse with jazz leanings, whose vocal control and onstage presence commands attention.” The New Yorker

Born in Washington, D.C, Cal Folger Day is an American songwriter and performer now based between NYC and Dublin. Her “musical breadth of vision and vocal range” ( make for a compelling and often breathtaking live show. LaDIYfest are particularly excited that Sheffield is the first stop on Cal’s UK tour to promote her new Adornament E.P.


Hailing from the flatlands of Lincolnshire and currently based in Leeds, Alice Nicholls is something of a musical chameleon. Writing songs since the age of 12, she vowed from an early age to play every instrument she could get her hands on. This shows in her many albums, where you can find keyboards, guitar, ukulele, violin, viola, clarinet, squeezeboxes, bottles, spoons, and even a typewriter. She has promised Ladiyfest that for this gig she will limit herself to only three instruments: guitar, ukulele and madolin… but only one at a time. Pfft.

Alice’s bandcamp:

Ladiyfest are delighted to have one of our own opening up proceedings on the night, in the form of AMereKat – a “benevolent, ukulele-wielding creature of unpredictable habit and peculiar song.” Expect Amanda Palmer-esque odes to the futility of resisisting delicious cheese, among (many) other things.

No National Anthem:

£4 suggested donation on the door, nobody will be turned away for lack of funds!
Doors open 8pm, first act 8.45.

At the Red House, Solly Street. The venue has a small step on the main door in but there is a ramp and side door available that has access for a wheelchair or anyone with mobility impairment. There is a disabled access toilet available and a seated area to the side of the stage and further seats through a closed door leading to the outside area at the back of the pub.




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Sheffield ‘Plus Size’ Clothes Swap!

If you’ve been having a bit of a clear out in January like me, then pop along to this event in a few weeks time that the Yorkshire Rad Fat Collective are hosting – it’s £1 to enter and you don’t have to bring anything to swap, but obviously it’s ace if you do. The event is open to all genders and all ages, and for clothes ’16/L’ upwards.



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