/miss world 1970 zani 1

Miss World, where perfection is awarded. Women are judged on their bodies as they parade down a catwalk in bikinis, and where one of the biggest feminism riots took place.
Miss world originally started off as a one off contest called the, ‘Festival Bikini Vontest’, but the British press gave it the name Miss World. Eric Morley first came up with the idea in 1951, and in the 60’s Morley famously summed up what Miss World was looking for; ‘Girls between 17 and 25, ideally five foot seven, eight or nine stone, waist 22-24’’, hips 35-36’’, no more no less, a lovely face, good teeth, plenty of hair, and perfectly shaped legs front and back- carefully checked for defects such as slightly knocked knees’.

Perhaps this is the point women began to actually worry about their weight and what sparked the diet and health industry to gain in popularity. With Morley’s requirements public is it any wonder women started to question the reason for this procession of female bodies to  be leered at on TV and classed as family viewing?
In 1970, over a hundred protesters surged on the London Albert Hall contest, armed with leaflets, stink bombs, flour bombs, whistles and taunts. The Feminists had finally made a name for the Miss World contest; they described it as a ‘meat market’ for men to ogle at, with a sexist image of what is considered beautiful or sexy. One that has continued to taught women even today.

However these perfect women where also subject to their own traumas, from as early as 1960 the organisers had to come to terms with the fact these contestants also had histories, but they still tried to hide it. It came out that children, drinking and various promiscuous photographs all haunted these women. Yet Miss World still continued without any hint of change until 1980, where the organisers where being criticised for not judging personality. The organisers determined to prove these women had a higher beauty, dedicated two minutes towards them stating rehearsed lines of world peace and children.

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Jo Robinson who famously sprayed a bouncer with blue ink during the protest, or even Mair Davies who began expressing the feminist struggle through her art, were both key figures in the 1970’s revolution. These fearless women joined by others shouted repeatedly during the competition, ‘we’re not beautiful, we’re not ugly, we’re angry’.

Bob Hope who presented the competition described the protesting Feminists as, ‘anyone who disrupts Miss World must be some kind of dope’.

The Feminist movement was finally getting somewhere when in 1971; the first national women’s liberation conference was held in Oxford's Ruskin College. After a year of discussions they came up with demands for women’s equality. These included; equal pay, equal education and job opportunities, free 24 hour nurseries, and free contraception and abortion on demand.

‘What I miss most about 1968 to 1978 is the sense of optimism. We believed we could and, in fact, did change society’. Penny Holland.

These women did in fact change society, a few years later laws such as the 1970 equal pay act, 1975 sex discrimination act and 1976 domestic violence act. The trouble is Feminism isn’t what it used to be, even today women are still beaten in their own homes, they are still paid less than their fellow male colleagues and any women who tries to stand up for females using any hint of Feminism is called a ‘lesbian’.

Women today are complacent when it comes to standing up for rights, our generation of youth has lost all sense of what some women went through and stood up for these basic human rights to be in place. The house wife is no longer a forced future, it’s now a choice and the right for women to work is now normal and everyday life.

Although the ‘meat market world’ has disappeared from British screens it has appeared in a more tasteless and undignified way; ‘Lads Mags’. These magazines flaunt the females form for exactly what these women tried to stand up for; the difference now is these women are happy to gain fame for the size of their breasts and not anything remotely near a talent. There’s no sense of dignity.

What does this say about our society today?  Should the riots of 1970 be taught in schools instead of endless American Revolution lessons? Or should it quietly be forgotten?

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“A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after.”
– Gloria Steinem

© Words -Abigail Stephenson/ZANI

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