How we took on the patriarchy

Misbehaviour film launch
Pictured at the film launch last March are the women who wrote the ‘Misbehaviour’ book (including Jo Robinson, second from the right) and two of the actors who portrayed them in the film of the same name

Jo Robinson was one of the women who famously protested Miss World 1970, an event celebrated in a new film and book

Fifty years ago last month, an action that caught global attention and launched the Women’s Liberation Movement took place at the 1970 Miss World Beauty Contest, held at the Royal Albert Hall.

Carole Vincent and myself, both Waltham Forest residents, were there in the action that ground the contest to a halt on millions of TV screens. It became an iconic moment of resistance in women’s history, as patriarchal comedian Bob Hope was driven from the stage in a cloud of flour.

Women from all over the country smuggled themselves into the Royal Albert Hall to bring to a halt what they considered to be a showcase of sexism that objectified women. Carole, who was 16 years old at the time, was probably the youngest woman there. She had gone with an older group of peace activists and now reflects on the great success of getting their cause and voices heard, spurring her into life-long activism.

I escaped a bouncer by spraying him with blue ink, but was arrested later for discharging a smoke bomb and ended up on trial, spending a night in Holloway Prison. Now a major film, Misbehaviour, has been released – telling the stories of both the protesters and the beauty contestants. We have also launched a book of the same name.

We first wrote our story in 1971. More recently, the writer and director of the film visited five of us who had re-united, and we realised how much we all wanted to tell our own stories. Sharing memories, we realised there must be many other versions of what happened that night.

We had no idea how many women had protested, because it had been organised through word of mouth, without the magic of mobile phones or social media. We put out a call to find other protesters, and found nearly 20 other women who had changed history that night and wanted to contribute their stories.

The Women’s Liberation Movement began that day, changing life for every woman in the UK – heralding the Equal Pay Act, Equal Rights Act, all the way to free childcare and winning the right to contraception – many things that had not been possible for women up to that point. Progress has since been made in many more legal areas, such as recognition of rape within marriage, and violence and abuse against women. But there is still a long way to go.

The ‘Misbehaviour’ book can be bought in bookshops and ordered online:
Visit misbehavingthebook.com