Rebel Dykes recounts the moment in British History when feminism met punk. Following a very close-knit group of friends and lovers who lived together throughout the 70s and 80s. After meeting at the Greenham Common peace protest they endured the hardships and freedoms afforded by the liberating movement and the oppressive system in which they lived, loved and protested. As they feel themselves trapped by hideous legislation from the Thatcher government, they begin to fight back in more and more visible ways.
A great deal of ground is covered by the film including the fascinating relationship between politics and sexuality which included a group who considered lesbianism to be a political identity, keeping all the love in the sisterhood. In fact the tribalism in the movement is revealed to be the source of some tension that was counterproductive to their aims. The leather-clad rebels took part in the production of pornography and the staging of erotic performance art. This drew the ire of some feminist groups who felt that all public nudity constituted oppression. The frank views of the rebels on this matter are very refreshing.
Intersectionality is of course an important aspect of the story. The experiences of trans women and women of colour are also explored, giving a full impression of a vivid community. What gets revealed most of all is the intelligence and honesty behind the theatrics. For every shocking act, there is a
The film is realised with gorgeous animation, new hand-held VHS footage made to resemble contemporary footage and, where possible, original footage of the women on stage and on protest. This essential history is brought to new life. It’s fun and exciting when illustrating the lives and art, and frightening when detailing discriminatory abuse and violence. The interviews are frank and bespeak the depth of their experiences. Rebel Dykes is history and politics and art writ large. It’s funny, shocking and just in time.