Sunday, June 9

Did feminists really burned bras?

You must know about feminists burning bras but might never heard of "Miss America Protest".

Bras were not burned as the media reported. The outrageous and sensationalist action that never happened overshadowed the issues that women were bringing to discussion,

This is what happened according to Jo Freeman:

In 1968 and 1969 women's liberation staged demonstrations at the annual Miss America Beauty pageant held in Atlantic City, NJ. The 1968 protest shocked the country, creating a lot of publicity, and some myths, about the new movement. The 1969 protest was smaller and was largely ignored.

The 1968 protest originated with New York Radical Women, one of the earliest women's liberation groups in the country. About 150 feminists from six cities joined them to show how all women were hurt by beauty competitions. They argued that the contest declared that the most important thing about a woman is how she looks by parading women around like cattle to show off their physical attributes. All women were made to believe they were inferior because they couldn't measure up to Miss America beauty standards. Women's liberation would "attack the male chauvinism, commercialization of beauty, racism and oppression of women symbolized by the Pageant."

The Atlanta City convention center opens onto a vast boardwalk between it and the beach. The large expanse of boards easily seen from the entrance makes it a great place for demonstrations. Women's liberation took advantage of this to stage several guerilla theater actions. A live sheep was crowned Miss America. Objects of female oppression -- high heeled shoes, girdles, bras, curlers, tweezers -- were tossed into a Freedom Trash Can. A proposal to burn the can's contents was scuttled when the police said that a fire would pose a risk to the wooden boardwalk. Women sang songs that parodied the contest and the idea of selling women's bodies: "Ain't she sweet; making profits off her meat." A tall, Miss America puppet was auctioned off.

Sixteen feminists bought tickets to the evening's entertainment. They smuggled in a banner reading WOMEN'S LIBERATION. Sitting in the front row of the balcony, they unfurled it as the outgoing Miss America made her farewell speech, while shouting "Freedom for Women," and "No More Miss America." The pageant continued as though nothing had happened. This action was quickly followed by the release of two stink bombs on the floor of the hall. All protestors were removed from the hall; five were arrested, but later released.

The outrageousness of challenging the Miss America icon brought the press out in droves, putting women's liberation on the front pages all over the country. From this, women learned that a new feminist movement was emerging and flocked to join.
The 1968 demonstration also saddled women's liberation with the myth of bra burning. Forevermore the press would repeat that women burned their bras. They never remembered where this was supposed to have occurred, let alone that it never happened.

Women's liberation invited even more women to "Don't Miss America" the next year. They planned more "actions, excitement, analysis, militance." But very little happened.

(keep reading Jo Freeman's article.)

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