50 years ago, a single protest changed the entire course of the budding feminist movement. At the centre of it were two women whose names were about to become eternal – Jo Robinson and Sarah Wilson. Robinson’s mother wanted her to become a beauty queen while Wilson’s mother expected her to become a secretary and the wife of a respectable man.
However, these were the women who broke the gates of patriarchy and became the frontrunners of the iconic Women’s Liberation Movement. Now, their efforts are being commemorated in the form of a new film. The film “Misbehaviour”, starring Keira Knightly, was released last week. They are also the protagonists of a BBC Two documentary to be broadcast on Monday called Miss World 1970: Beauty Queens and Bedlam.
After all, why are these women so iconic? Let’s find out.
WHAT IS SO SPECIAL ABOUT THESE WOMEN?
Now in their mid-70s, Robinson and Wilson are famous for leading a protest of women that crashed the Royal Albert Hall organizing the Miss World Beauty Pageant. They were there and they were enraged over the gross objectification of women that the event had given birth to. This brave step would seal their position in history and inspire generations of feminists.
That night in 1970 saw a group of women place themselves around the Royal Albert Hall. They were led by Robinson and Wilson. This hall was where the Miss World Beauty Pageant was about to begin. Patriarchy was omnipresent in the room with comedian and guest compere Bob Hope on the stage cracking misogynist jokes. One of his jibes became the trigger for the WLM activists to rise up in protest.
He said – “It’s quite a cattle market, I’ve been back there checking calves”. Wilson, 75, gave the agreed signal and swung a football rattle to tell the women to stand up. Even though they were slow to respond, soon 30 to 100 women rose up and through Flour bombs at the comedian.
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The protests began sloganeering and their leaflets and posters were revealing – ” We’re not beautiful, we’re not ugly, we’re angry”. They further read – “We have been in the Miss World contest all our lives, judging ourselves as the judges judge us, living to please men, dividing other women up into safe friends and attractive rivals; graded, degraded, humiliated. We’ve seen through it.”
Wilson and Robinson were the people who gave these women the courage to display this powerful message. This protest was to become the rallying point for the entire feminist movement. The two women had strongly placed their names in the list of icons of the feminist movement.