Monday, September 06, 2010

why the Feminist cry should still be heard

One reason the BBC works so well is because of it's archive.  By rehashing and reuniting material from the past it goes beyond repeats to creating fascinating and interesting programmes that deliver a space for historical reflection and reaction within the world we live today.  The Reunion is one such programme and this week proved to be more than just historical - instead it seemed current, cutting and inspiring.   

This week united key players in the 1970 Miss World pageant.  Held in the Royal Albert Hall, London, the event courted both racial and gender controversy and saw (as the video demonstrates) Bob Hope interrupted by protestors as he tried to mock and challenge the protestors who saw this event more as a show trial of male chauvinism than a showcase of 'fine women'.

What made the Radio 4 programme come alive was two different aspects.  The first was the mix of players around the table.  Uniting organisers, television hosts, protestors and Miss World entrants it really felt like all sides of the story was represented.  However, rather than a back slapping session, where all admit times have moved on the very real arguments began to come to the forefront as those involved in organising the event clashed with those presenting it. As verbal chaos begins to descend even the presenter sounds shocked and asks some pointed questions that really highlighted how, even thirty years on, some people view women as nothing more than objects.

The second reason the programme came alive was the mix of personal testimony and archive clips.  In the best vain of social and oral history we heard how the protestors were gearing up, what they were experiencing and thinking while also having these reflections counterbalanced by Miss World and Michael Aspel who was the TV presenter trying to present the whole show. The most defining moment within this was hearing the procession of protest, why and how it unfurled.   There is something deeply moving, almost moving me to tears, to hear these woman talk about the need for equal rights, recognition and acceptance.  Their fight was right and what emotions i feel every time I hear the audio of the first rattle going off I am not sure. All I know is it's the same one I feel when watching Milk or Bread and Roses.  It's that cry for Liberation and fulfilment. It's the knowledge that a group has found the power within, are facing authority and exercise it.  Through the rattles, flour bombs, banner drops and water pistols the women will be changed forever and through this will be changing the very world around them.

Listening to the episode what shocked me most was the unrepentant views of Peter Jolley who had helped organise the pageant.  To hear his views aired, and his general unapologetic stance was a positive reminder to everyone that the call for gender justice has yet to be heard throughout the land.   Men and woman should not be paraded as eye candy for others delight, instead we should be spending our time taking every step possible to ensure everyone is treated with respect, dignity and through this brought closer to fulfilling their real potential - rather than being judged on appearance first.  Mr Jolley's figleaf excuse that the 'Miss World' title was about more than looks, due to winners being required to carry out charity work was briskly, effectively and surprisingly parried by Michael Aspel.

So please, spare half and hour of your time today and really listen to the show.