Thursday, 11 June 2009

Police vans and prom dresses

(I wrote this originally for London Student, the University of London newspaper. For a bit of background on the contest have a look here.)

Loony liberal left, the great unwashed, ugly, jealous. Just a selection of charming comments from the Daily Mail website about the women, myself included, from Goldsmiths Feminist Society who blockaded the Miss University London contest on Tuesday 10th March. We arrived at 9pm with our bicycle locks and, after a bit of a door-pushing battle with the people inside, managed to secure the entrance and ourselves using chains and our limbs. Inevitably, the police and press arrived. The police made it clear from the start that we would have to be moved unless we moved ourselves. While we waited for the bolt-cutting team and police vans to arrive, we were interviewed by various members of the press who responded with incredulity when we told them that we were prepared and willing to be arrested for our cause. Women with the courage of their convictions? Whatever next?!

Eventually we were arrested for ‘Obstruction of a Highway’ and taken away in a van, to several whoops and cheers, but eventually released without charge. The D-Lock on the door took them another thirty minutes and two fire crews to remove.

We have all been asked over and over again why we object so strongly to what has been called ‘light-hearted fun’ and even ‘empowering and educational’. In our opinion, this pageant is part of post-feminist ‘raunch culture’ which masquerades as liberation but in actual fact is patriarchal society selling women’s sexuality back to them on its own terms.

It objectifies women and turns them into commodities, feeding into a culture where domestic violence is the biggest killer of women world-wide and women are blamed for their rape. Contestants have said that this pageant is about their personalities too. We would disagree and say that it is about portraying a very specific type of personality, one which fits into the narrow idea of beauty upheld by the contest. This is doubly sad because the contestants are all intelligent, educated women who most likely hold some interesting and challenging opinions. This competition has sold them short.

Our protest wasn’t just about a beauty pageant and it wasn’t meant as an attack on the women involved. We don’t believe that the fight for women’s liberation has been won so we believe that we’re far from post-feminist. As long as women are being raped and abused on the streets and in their own homes, there should be no place in our society for events where men sit and ogle women for entertainment. And I’m happy to be arrested for that cause.


  1. Dude, those women choose to be in those contests. It's their choice. We might not agree with it but whether you like it or not, it is not our place to tell them what to do.

  2. Feminism is supposed to be about having a choice right? well, they have clearly made theirs. let it be.

  3. Hmm. There's a number of things wrong with that.

    Firstly, the blog wasn't telling them what to do. It criticizes the contests and the organisers and puts them in a wider context.

    Secondly, feminism is not just about choice. We have to recognise that choice is rarely, if ever, free and feminists should be investigating why women make the choices they do.