Feminist Icons Admit to Prank

Status: Confession of a prank
Back in 1970 a picture was taken showing four young women waving placards with messages such as "Ban the Man" and "Down with Men and Marriage." The picture became a symbol of feminism. But thirty-five years later, the women have confessed that their anti-man protest was just a prank. Margot Ducat explains:

"One day my colleagues - Jo Vincent, Sue James and Shirley Francis - found a wedding dress stuffed in one of the cupboards. Quite why someone left it there we never did find out. Anyway, Shirley tried it on and it was a perfect fit, so we just decided to do something to liven up Surbiton [a London suburb]. It was a rather dull and staid town, so I suggested we telephone the local paper, the Kingston and Malden Borough News, and tell them we were protesting against men. Shirley wore the wedding dress, we made our banners and set off down Victoria Road. Passers-by just gawped in amazement. When it came to being interviewed, we told the press we were militant women's libbers who were fed up with how men seemed to get the best deal out of life. We just made the whole thing up. It was a prank to enliven a very dull day."

Although the article in the Telegraph says that this photograph is very famous and has been reprinted many times, I don't actually have any idea what photograph they're talking about. (And the online version of the article doesn't show the picture.) Anyone know what the image in question is? It's got to be online somewhere.

History Photos

Posted on Tue Jan 03, 2006


Don't feel bad, Alex, I have no recollection of this "famous" photo either. You know someone is going to say it, so it might as well be me: perhaps this story about the "famous" photo being a hoax is the hoax.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  03:23 AM
I have lived within ten miles of Surbiton all my life and have never seen the photo, or heard of it before. I'm not saying it doesn't exist; I'm just saying that it isn't nearly as famous as the Telegraph makes out. It may be relevant that the Daily Telegraph is run entirely by a relict population of maroon-faced retired military men who harrumph apoplectically into their glasses of port whenever women try to gain entry to The Club.
Posted by Mr Henderson  in  Teddington UK  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  03:33 AM
Hey, Cranky Media Guy, How about this one... Perhaps the real hoax here is you sugggesting the story about the "famous" photo being the hoax is the hoax. Just kidding... cool smirk But if we follow THIS one, the possibilities are endless...
Posted by Christopher in Joplin, Missouri  in  Joplin, Mo  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  04:42 AM
Maybe I'm just another lemming, but I vaguely remember seeing the image a couple of weeks ago in Ireland (Probably on BBC1) as part of a news story on the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act.
Posted by mmarvi  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  07:03 AM
Funny how Margot's "colleagues" all have surnames that are boy's first names.
Posted by andychrist  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  08:41 AM
Well, I tried a google search everyway I could think of. Surbiton, protest, feminism; women protest men, Surbiton; Protest, women, Surbiton...

And then tried some more vague searches with civil rights, sex descrimination. None of the returns even related to the above story.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  09:01 AM
Well, like Maegan's posting, I tried as many Google variations as I could, and came up empty. Nothing. Nada. If there was a photo in 1970, it would be sure to be all over the place by now. I'd write this off as a hoax-of-a-hoax...
Posted by Bill  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  09:05 AM
I've seen this photo in a women's studies class at my college. Too funny!!
Posted by thephrog  in  CA USA  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  09:15 AM
I'm inclined to agree that the existence of the photo itself might be a hoax. I don't remember it, and most other people don't either so it's not exactly iconic. You'd think it would turn up in a Google image search.
Posted by Charybdis  in  Hell  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  10:01 AM
Not only am I convinced that this is a hoax, on a hoax, on a hoax, but I have been convinced since at least 1970 that the whole Feminist Movement is a gigantic hoax created by Germaine Greer to sell badly written books to the weaker sex.
I could, however, never figure out who the weaker sex was.
Posted by Sir Trev  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  11:29 AM
Andychrist sez:
"Funny how Margot's "colleagues" all have surnames that are boy's first names."

"Sue" is a boy's name? Well, I guess it was in that Johnny Cash song (but then, the whole point of the song was that the boy had a girl's name).

I don't remember that "famous" photo either. Something tells me that if it exists, it can't be all that famous.

It reminds me of the belief common in the late 1960s/early 1970s that feminists would burn bras when they got together. Nobody was ever specific about exactly who did this and when and where, though. It might have happened sometime, but it was never a staple event of feminist meetings.
Posted by Big Gary in North America  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  12:03 PM
Wait a minute, you said "surnames," didn't you? Sorry, Andychrist. Never mind.
Posted by Big Gary in North America  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  12:04 PM
This is a fantastic idea! Being a spinster (I am NOT old!)I enjoy this concept. I have to say that I am not against all men, just a very large portion of them.
Posted by Carmen  in  the bottom half of a bottle of absinthe  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  12:56 PM
I also did a Google search and included site:.uk to get only the websites in the United Kingdom. I didn't find anything that looked like the picture described. I did find a one of a man standing behind a group of feminist protesters holding up a sign that said, "IRON MY SHIRT" and a term for a female dog.
The women didn't burn their bras they threw them down into a big, plastic, garbage can as they marched past. I didn't understood why they did that but since I was only a toddler at the time and a boy and that was probibly the first time I'd seen a bra...
Posted by MadRat  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  02:39 PM
I would not be so quick to dismiss this pic as non-existant just because it's not on Google. With that being said however, I too have no recollection of ever seeing this "very famous" picture..I tried searching a few copyrighted image libraries like The Getty Collection and the Photo library at The Museum of London with no luck. (although I did find tons of very cool pics at both)
Posted by Chuck  in  Rhode Island  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  02:42 PM
"The women didn't burn their bras they threw them down into a big, plastic, garbage can as they marched past."

Did you actually SEE women doing this, MadRat? If so, when and where? I'm curious because I've been hearing about this alleged incident most of my life, but never from anyone who could give specific, credible details.
Posted by Big Gary in North America  in  Dallas, Texas  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  04:50 PM
Maybe the whole article is a prank, and you just pranked!

Do some more research. I want a 500-word 10 page paper by the end of the middle of Septober on Mars.
Posted by Yaanu  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  05:07 PM
the trash can incident was at the 1968 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City.
Posted by STEVENR  on  Wed Jan 04, 2006  at  06:00 PM
The one thing that sticks out for me is the name Margot. There used to be a popular sit com on the BBC called The Good Life about a couple (the Goods) who became self sufficient and turned the land around their house into a farm.

The sit com was situated in Surbiton and the next door neighbour was called Margot. She was very staid and proper. Part of the whole joke of the sitcom was that Surbiton was a boring place.

Does this help or confuse the issue further!!
Posted by Gareth  in  Brighton  on  Thu Jan 05, 2006  at  05:42 AM
The point is this: the bra thing is easy to confirm. The "Down with Men and Marriage" thing has no confirmation.

Why is it that I can find dozens and dozens of reputable references to the 1968 feminist "uprising" in Atlantic City, whereas I cannot find a SINGLE article whatsoever about the subject at hand.

Until some kind of confirmation is brought forth, the incident is a hoax.
Posted by Bah  on  Thu Jan 05, 2006  at  05:52 AM
A 500 word, 10 page report would just be 50 words a page. The post just above mine has more than 50 words in it...to help illustrate that would not be a very forboding assignment.

Just saying.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Thu Jan 05, 2006  at  08:10 AM
Never heard of the "famous" photo either...
Posted by Owen  on  Thu Jan 05, 2006  at  10:14 AM
Christopher said:

"Hey, Cranky Media Guy, How about this one... Perhaps the real hoax here is you sugggesting the story about the "famous" photo being the hoax is the hoax."

[said under my breath while shaking my fist] Caught! Damn it!
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Thu Jan 05, 2006  at  04:57 PM
Nuts. The hoax-of-a-hoax theory was so much fun until I saw the picture reprinted last night in my local rag (The West Australian, and no, it's not on their website) and which I'm not at liberty to reproduce since it wasn't my copy.

It looks legit - 4 British teenaged women with too much puppy fat wearing too-short skirts, and one in a wedding dress bearing the "Ban The Man" placard on the left, all looking terribly serious (or bored) as they march towards the photographer.

The Daily Telegraph's website has a feature that reproduces their newspaper as it went to print for viewing on your desktop so if anyone is really keen (and registered) they might want to see if they can find it. The story ran on the 1st in the Main section, I believe.

Frankly, never having seen the picture before, despite having done classes on the history of feminism, I doubt it's as famous as they claim. Remember, it was just the four girls, not an organised demonstration with plenty of pre-publicity, so it might have been big news for Surbiton, but it probably didn't rate outside the area.

Media beat-up would be a better description of the whole affair.

But the picture definitely exists. Check your local tabloid's Also In The News sections.
Posted by Nightbringer  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Thu Jan 05, 2006  at  07:16 PM
Hi, I'm Margot, one of the four pranksters in the 1970 demonstration against men and marriage. We did indeed try to enliven an otherwise dull day in suburban Surbiton.

There certainly is a photo, in fact more than one, and they have been used by the press the in support of various articles on the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act.

I was amazed to see it some years ago in the Evening Standard, then when the Telegraph reporter contacted me she said it had been shown in the Daily Mail that day, Thursday 29th Dec 2005 and used on many other occassions.

I too have tried to find it on the web without success; I don't know why it isn't shown.

The Sunday Telegraph and my local paper, the Surrey Comet both showed an original photo and a photo of me today, together with the man in my life.

The Surrey Comet shows the recent photo on their web-site but not the original - if they knew it had generated so much interest they might show it; perhaps I'll suggest it!
Posted by Margot Ducat  in  New Malden, Surrey  on  Mon Jan 30, 2006  at  10:41 AM
Hi Margot, Thanks for leaving a message!

Now I'm really curious to see this photo. If you have (or could obtain) an electronic version of it, perhaps you could email it to me (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)). I could post a small version of it here (or a big version, if you think whoever owns the copyright wouldn't mind).
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sat Feb 04, 2006  at  12:25 AM
And here's the article in the Surrey Comet that Margot mentioned.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sat Feb 04, 2006  at  12:30 AM
Surbiton is a very dull, very middle-class, very proper place. It would fit right in with the English sense to do something so radical and shocking in Surbiton - if they'd done it down the King's Road no-one would have noticed. See - underneath our very proper, very correct exteriors, us English are really a band of merry, madcap japesters....
Posted by Nona  in  London  on  Mon Mar 05, 2007  at  05:44 AM
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