W. Joseph Campbell

Posts Tagged ‘Miss America’

On bra-burning, Erica Jong is wrong

In Bra-burning, Debunking, Media myths, Photographs on March 28, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Bra-burning in Toronto, 1979 (Bettmann/Corbis)

The writer Erica Jong asserts in a rambling commentary posted yesterday at the Daily Beast that bra-burning “never actually occurred.”

The mischaracterization of bra-burning was an element of Jong’s defense of feminism and the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.

Jong wrote in the commentary:

“The fact that the so-called mainstream press reduced our valid struggles to sex, drugs, rock and roll, and bra burning (which, btw, never actually occurred) was their attempt to further disempower us. And they surely prevailed.”

It’s not an infrequent claim, that feminist bra-burning was a media trope, a media myth. That it “never actually occurred.”

But there were at least a couple of documented occasions when feminist protesters set fire to bras.

One occasion came 33 years ago this month, when members of Women Against Violence Against Women demonstrated outside Toronto City Hall. As the demonstration neared its end, a protester named Pat Murphy dropped a white bra into the hungry flames of a burn barrel (see photo, above).

The demonstration in Toronto on March 8, 1979, coincided with International Women’s Day and was aimed at denouncing a report on rape prepared by the Ontario Provincial Police.

The police report said “promiscuity” was a factor in many rapes.

The Women Against Violence Against Women group assailed the report as outrageous and “dazzling in its illogic.” Protesters carried signs saying: “Take a Rapist to Lunch — Charcoal Broiled” and “Hookers Who Wink Go to the Clink! Men Who Rape Escape.”

The Globe and Mail newspaper reported that the protesters lighted “a fire in a garbage can, to the obvious annoyance of about a dozen watchful constables, [and] shouted: ‘Burn the rapists, burn the city, burn the OPP,’” acronym for Ontario Provincial Police.

The newspaper’s account did not specifically mention bra-burning which, one participant has told me, “wasn’t a focal point” of the protest.

But bra-burning did happen there.

Another participant has recalled that “weighing in on the stereotype of ‘feminist bra-burners’ was actually an effective way [for protesters] to say: Women will control our own bodies, thank you!

“The bra burning,” she said, “was a way to entice the media as well as [offer] a critique of the police report.”

A little more than 10 years before the demonstration in Toronto, some 100 women gathered on the boardwalk at Atlantic City, New Jersey, to protest the 1968 Miss America pageant. The demonstration was organized by a small group called New York Radical Women and was an early manifestation of the women’s liberation movement.

In Getting It Wrong, my mythbusting book that came out in 2010, I offer evidence that bras were set afire, briefly, during the demonstration at Atlantic City.

The evidence is from two witness accounts, one of which was published in the local newspaper, the Press of Atlantic City, on September 8, 1968, the day after the protest.

Boucher (1949 photo)

That account appeared beneath the byline of a veteran reporter named John L. Boucher and carried the headline:

“Bra-burners blitz boardwalk.”

Boucher’s article referred to the burn barrel that demonstrators dubbed the “Freedom Trash Can” and stated:

“As the bras, girdles, falsies, curlers, and copies of popular women’s magazines burned in the ‘Freedom Trash Can,’ the demonstration reached the pinnacle of ridicule when the participants paraded a small lamb wearing a gold banner worded ‘Miss America.’”

That published account was buttressed by recollections of the writer Jon Katz, who in 1968 was a young reporter for the Atlantic City newspaper. Katz was on the Atlantic City boardwalk the day of the protest, gathering material for a sidebar article about reactions to the demonstration.

Katz’s sidebar didn’t mention the fire in the “Freedom Trash Can.”

But in correspondence with me, Katz stated:

“I quite clearly remember the ‘Freedom Trash Can,’ and also remember some protestors putting their bras into it along with other articles of clothing, and some Pageant brochures, and setting the can on fire.

“I am quite certain of this.”

WJC

Many thanks to Instapundit
Glenn Reynolds for linking to this post.

Recent and related:

No bra-burning at Atlantic City?

In Bra-burning, Debunking, Media myths on June 10, 2011 at 8:19 am

Bra-burning” was a late 20th century phenomenon that’s given rise to considerable and enduring misunderstanding.

Atlantic City, 1968

The notion that feminists in the late 1960s and 1970s frequently and demonstratively set fire to bras is erroneous — as is the view that bra-burning never happened, that it was all a nasty media myth.

In a brief item posted online today, the Irish Independent veers toward the latter interpretation. It cites the women’s liberation protest in September 1968 at Atlantic City, a demonstration against the Miss America Pageant that gave dimension to the epithet “bra-burning.”

The Independent says that “hundreds of women protested the Miss America Pageant by tossing tweezers, high heels and bras — symbols of objectification — into a bin.” It adds, parenthetically:

“Bra burning at this event, however, is a myth.”

Not exactly.

In Getting It Wrong, my media mythbusting book that came out last year, I offer evidence that bras were set afire, if briefly, during the demonstration at the Atlantic City — where about 100 women (certainly not “hundreds of women”) protested the pageant as a demeaning spectacle.

The evidence is in separate witness accounts by journalists, including an article report published in the Press of Atlantic City on September 8, 1968, the day after the protest.

The article appeared on page 4 of the Press, beneath the byline of John L. Boucher, a gruff, locally prominent journalist known to take pains not to embroider or exaggerate his reporting.

Boucher’s article carried the headline:

“Bra-burners blitz boardwalk.”

The article mentioned a burn barrel that demonstrators had dubbed the “Freedom Trash Can,” stating:

“As the bras, girdles, falsies, curlers, and copies of popular women’s magazines burned in the ‘Freedom Trash Can,’ the demonstration reached the pinnacle of ridicule when the participants paraded a small lamb wearing a gold banner worded ‘Miss America.’”

Boucher’s report was buttressed by the separate recollections of Jon Katz, a writer who in 1968 was a young reporter for the Atlantic City Press. Katz was assigned to women’s liberation protest to gather material for a sidebar article about the reactions of passersby.

In correspondence with me as I researched Getting It Wrong, Katz wrote:

“I quite clearly remember the ‘Freedom Trash Can,’ and also remember some protestors putting their bras into it along with other articles of clothing, and some Pageant brochures, and setting the can on fire.

“I am quite certain of this.”

As I point out in Getting It Wrong, these accounts at very least “offer fresh dimension to the bra-burning legend.

“They represent two witness accounts that bras and other items were burned, or at least smoldered, in the Freedom Trash Can.”

This evidence, I write, cannot be taken lightly, dismissed or ignored.

At the same time, I add, the accounts of Boucher and Katz “lend no support to the far more vivid and popular imagery that many bras went up in flames in flamboyant protest that September day.”

Even so, I note that “bra-burning” is an epithet not at all misapplied to the protest at Atlantic City. The evidence is that bras and other items were set afire, briefly, at that long ago demonstration.

WJC

Recent and related:

Bra-burning ‘never happened’?

In Anniversaries, Bra-burning, Debunking, Media myths, Photographs on March 8, 2011 at 8:40 am

Toronto, 32 years ago today (Bettmann/Corbis)

“Bra-burning has long been associated with the feminist movement, but it never happened.”

So asserted an article published the other day in the Sacramento Bee.

It’s a not-infrequent claim, that feminist bra-burning was a media invention, a media myth.

But there were at least a couple of occasions when feminist protesters set fire to bras.

One of the occasions came 32 years ago today, when members of Women Against Violence Against Women demonstrated outside city hall in Toronto. Near the close of the demonstration, a protester named Pat Murphy dropped a white bra into the hungry flames of a burn barrel (see photo).

The demonstration in Toronto on March 8, 1979, coincided with International Women’s Day and was aimed at denouncing a report on rape prepared by the Ontario Provincial Police.

The police report said that of 337 rapes investigated, 140 were “unprovoked.” The report also said “promiscuity” was a factor in many rapes.

The Women Against Violence Against Women group scorned the report as outrageous and “dazzling in its illogic.” Protesters carried signs saying: “Take a Rapist to Lunch — Charcoal Broiled” and “Hookers Who Wink Go to the Clink! Men Who Rape Escape.”

The Globe and Mail newspaper reported that the protesters lighted “a fire in a garbage can, to the obvious annoyance of about a dozen watchful constables, [and] shouted: ‘Burn the rapists, burn the city, burn the OPP,’” acronym for Ontario Provincial Police.

The newspaper’s account did not mention the bra-burning which, one participant recently told me, “wasn’t a focal point” of the protest.

But it did happen.

Another participant recently recalled that “weighing in on the stereotype of ‘feminist bra-burners’ was actually an effective way [for protesters] to say: Women will control our own bodies, thank you!

“The bra burning,” she said, “was a way to entice the media as well as [offer] a critique of the police report.”

A little more than 10 years before the demonstration in Toronto, about 100 women gathered on the boardwalk at Atlantic City, New Jersey, to protest the 1968 Miss America pageant. The demonstration was organized by a small group called New York Radical Women and has been recognized as an early manifestation of the women’s liberation movement.

In Getting It Wrong, my mythbusting book that came out last year, I offer evidence that denials to the contrary, bras were briefly set afire at Atlantic City.

The evidence is from two witness accounts — one of which was published in the Press of Atlantic City on September 8, 1968, the day after the protest.

Boucher (1949 photo)

That account appeared beneath the byline of a veteran reporter named John L. Boucher and carried the headline:

“Bra-burners blitz boardwalk.”

Boucher’s article referred to the burn barrel that demonstrators had dubbed the “Freedom Trash Can” and stated:

“As the bras, girdles, falsies, curlers, and copies of popular women’s magazines burned in the ‘Freedom Trash Can,’ the demonstration reached the pinnacle of ridicule when the participants paraded a small lamb wearing a gold banner worded ‘Miss America.’”

That account was buttressed by recollections of the writer Jon Katz, who in 1968 was a young reporter for the Atlantic City Press. Katz was on the Atlantic City boardwalk the day of the protest, gathering material for a sidebar article about reactions to the demonstration.

Katz’s sidebar didn’t mention the fire in the “Freedom Trash Can.”

But in correspondence with me, Katz stated:

“I quite clearly remember the ‘Freedom Trash Can,’ and also remember some protestors putting their bras into it along with other articles of clothing, and some Pageant brochures, and setting the can on fire.

“I am quite certain of this.”

WJC

Recent and related:

Enticing the media: More on bra-burning in Toronto, 1979

In Bra-burning, Debunking, Media myths, Photographs on March 4, 2011 at 7:00 am

Toronto, 1979 (Bettman/Corbis)

Another participant at the 1979 bra-burning protest in Toronto has offered recollections of the event, at which the group Women Against Violence Against Women protested a controversial police report about the causes of rape.

The participant, Amy Gottlieb, said in an email forwarded to me that the photograph (left) “definitely is not doctored.”

(I had had my suspicions given that it looked almost too good to be true — which can be a marker of an unethically edited photograph and a media-driven myth.)

Gottlieb referred to Pat Murphy, who is shown in the photograph dangling the bra above the hungry flames, and wrote:

“Pat was threatening to burn a bra because the movement was media savvy and felt that weighing in on the stereotype of ‘feminist bra-burners’ was actually an effective way to say: Women will control our own bodies, thank you!

“The bra burning was a way to entice the media as well as [offer] a critique of the police report.”

I spoke recently with Vicki Trerise, who is shown at the far right in the photograph; she, too, said the demonstrators were media-savvy and “knew that if they burned a bra, someone would take their picture.”

Interestingly, the leading Toronto newspapers at the time didn’t mention the bra-burning in reports about the demonstration, which took place near Toronto city hall on March 8, 1979.

The Globe and Mail, in a fairly detailed account published the following day, characterized the demonstration as “boisterous” and reported:

“The women carried signs saying: ‘Take a Rapist to Lunch — Charcoal Broiled’ and ‘Hookers Who Wink Go to the Clink! Men Who Rape Escape.’

“The women, after lighting a fire in a garbage can, to the obvious annoyance of about a dozen watchful constables, shouted: ‘Burn the rapists, burn the city, burn the OPP,” acronym for the Ontario Provincial Police, which had issued the disputed report about rape.

The Globe and Mail also reported: “The women charged that the OPP report was nothing less than state approval of rape and that no serious study of rape had even been done by the Government.

“The women then sang a surprisingly obscene song describing male domination of women and marched off, chanting anti-male slogans ….”

Before the demonstrators moved on, the Globe and Mail reported, a “few chuckles from male onlookers provoked a slight shoving match, including one reporter by a large lady in lavender brandishing a cat-o-nine tails.”

The issue of the Toronto Star of March 9, 1979, carried a brief report about the Women Against Violence Against Women demonstration, noting the protesters’ anger at the police report, which had identified hitchhiking, alcohol consumption, and drug use as causes of many rapes.

“The women lit sparklers and set a garbage can on fire as they booed the report’s findings,” reported the Star, which did not mention the bra-burning.

Lighted sparklers held aloft are clearly visible in the bra-burning photograph. Rights to the photograph are held by the Bettmann/Corbis archive, which says it does not know the identity of the photographer.

It is sometimes claimed said that no bras were ever burned at a feminist protest in the 1960s or 1970s. The photograph of the demonstration in Toronto proves otherwise.

Moreover, I offer evidence in my latest book, Getting It Wrong, that bras were burned, briefly, at the famous women’s liberation protest against the 1968 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

“This evidence,” I write in Getting It Wrong, “cannot be taken lightly, dismissed or ignored,” and suggests “that the myth of mass or demonstrative bra-burning needs to be modified.”

The bra-burning in Toronto in 1979 further calls for revision of the notion that feminist bra-burning was a media myth.

WJC

Recent and related:

%d bloggers like this: