'Not Ugly, Not Beautiful': When Fierce Feminists Flour-bombed the Miss World Event in 1970
File image of the event.
To think of the feminism movement as a modern day development would be a great mistake.Women seeking equal rights were present throughout centuries and most notably in the nineteenth and twentieth century, when the suffragette movement was at its peak.
Now, a new report speaks to a feminist who was part of a group that flour bombed a beauty pageant in the UK in 1970. On November 20, 1970, the flour bombers had infiltrated the Miss World finale where 58 female contestants waited backstage to be broadcast live on the BBC.
The show was being viewed by over 100 million people worldwide to see who will take home the crown. However, just as host Bob Hope was in the middle of his gig at a packed-out Royal Albert Hall, he was met with simultaneous attacks of flour sacks. The show turned into a mess and the broadcaster pulled transmission as the event descended into chaos.
The protesters were a group of feminists who planned the demonstration alongside fellow members of Britain’s Women’s Liberation Movement (WLM). The group was furious by the contest’s objectification of women and wanted to make a loud and clear statement against misogyny. The British group had been inspired by a similar protest the year before by the American WLM, who had thrown bras in a dustbin and crowned a sheep ‘Miss Universe’.
The Independent spoke to a member of that group who bombed the event with flour, Jenny Fortune – who was 20 at the time. Jenny admits that the group had never actually considered that they might get in trouble with the law for their direct action. She was taken into a police van and spent the night in a cell alone after the event. The group of 60 women had bought tickets for the Miss World event and slipped in through the front door with the other guests, dressed in clothes they had borrowed from friends or found in charity shops.
Speaking to Independent, Jenny said that it was a very glamorous event where people were dressed up in mink stoles and tiaras and evening dress. She thought it was ridiculous that they managed to get in wearing this ensemble of clothes. Jenny was wearing a tatty old Afghan coat and had squeezed into a borrowed purple velvet dress that was a size 8 when she was a size 14. She told the British news portal that the group took their seats and waited for the signal which was to be made by Sarah Wilson using a football rattle.
Now fifty years later, Jenny and five of her fellow protesters have decided to tell their version of events. In a collection of essays called, Misbehaving: Stories of the Protest Against the Miss World Contest and the Beauty Industry, women who were there tell their stories.