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“I’d Rather Have a Bike than a Boyfriend”: Celebrating the Women’s Liberation Movement at Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery

On Friday 6th March, the Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery and Feminist Archive North held an exhibition to celebrate the achievements of the Women’s Liberation Movement. It has been 50 years since the Women Liberation Movement’s first national conference and during that time they have made vital contributions to several feminist causes. Amy and Alice, from the Her Campus Leeds team, went along to the one-day event and have written about some of the best bits from feminist posters, to books and even t-shirts.

 


leaflets and posters from women\'s liberation exhibit
Alice Grace Colton

 

Alice’s Recap:

Way back in the dark ages, or just 2 years ago during my A-levels, I wrote an extended project on how the portrayal of women in film has (or hasn’t) changed over the last 50 years. During my research for this project, I came across American Cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who is famous for accidentally creating the ‘Bechdel Test’, in her famous comics ‘Dykes to Watch Out For’. The Bechdel Test was born from a particular comic strip in which a character asks another what film she should see at the cinema, to which the other replies that she only sees films in which at least two women talk to each other about something other than a man.

 


Book by Alison Bechdel
Alice Grace Colton

This has become a well-known test amongst the feminist community, and I took the time to measure all of the films in my extended project against the test. I came to the conclusion that even when films did pass the test, they may actually still have a horrific portrayal of women! However I believe that is still a good place to start to think about how women are represented on screen.

 

At the end of the gallery, there was a selection of free feminist books for us to pick from. I was thrilled by this because, though we should all take the time to learn about the history of the women’s movement, books can be quite expensive. But get ready, you should all expect some feminist book reviews coming from us in the near future!

For now, here are our selections:

  • The Past is Before Us: Feminism in Action since the 1960’s. Sheila Rowbotham.
  • Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. Mary Daly.
  • Female Cycles. Paula Weideger.
  • The Political Economy of Health. Lesley Doyal with Imogen Pennell.

 


The Lalagirl Looking Through Books
Her Campus Media

 

Amy’s Recap:

For me, one of the most memorable features of the event were the ‘Thank a Feminist’ posters. The posters came in many forms and were based around recognising the impact feminists have had in attaining the rights that we today often take for granted. For example: thank a feminist if you are female and you have the right to your own salary, if your doctor, lawyer or legislator is a women, or most significantly, if you see yourself as a full, adult human being instead of a minor who needs to be controlled by a man- thank a feminist.

I loved it so much that I had to buy one myself for the bargain price of 50p!


Scrabble tiles spelling "feminist"
Photo by Jen Theodore on Unsplash

 

Something I truly loved about the event, was the opportunity to speak with some incredible women and to hear them share their inspiring life stories. It really stuck with me as I left feeling that it is so important to remember that how we currently live, as British women, hasn’t always been an option for the women of this country. From going back to work after having a child, or wearing trousers in a school where no female teacher has before, we take for granted the basic rights that the women before us worked so hard to achieve.

 


Feminist activist holding sign
Photo by lucia on Unsplash

 

Even though there is still work to be done, we must be grateful to these trailblazing women, and learn from the lessons that they are so willing to share with us. Most importantly, we should work together to make the world a better place for women everywhere.

 

 

Thank you to the team at Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery and to Feminist Archive North for this wonderful display.

 

Words by Amy Randles and Alice Colton.

 

Edited by Sarah Goswami.

International development student Lover of all things northern, feminist and leaf print
Philosophy student from the University of Leeds who watches way too much 'teen TV'. HC Leeds president 2020/21 <3  Read more on my blog: https://alicecolton.wixsite.com/website
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