The University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP) recently invited University of London alumni and current students to May 68 to Time’s Up: Fifty Years of Women in Revolt, a panel discussion with panellists Professor Sue Clayton of Goldsmiths, University of London and Dr Melissa Thackway of INALCO and Sciences Po. The event formed part of the University of London's Leading Women initiative; marking 150 years since the University became the first to allow women in Britain access to higher education.
Following welcome remarks from Stella Beaumont, member of the University of London Board of Trustees and part of the Paris Advisory Group for ULIP, the discussion began with a video illustrating key and powerful images from the women’s movement. Video footage included the French student revolts of May 68, International Women’s Day marches and images of women wearing black at 2018’s Golden Globes ceremony in support of the Time’s Up movement.
The panel recollected their own experiences of social activism as women in the world, with particular insight into how their upbringing and time at university influenced their need to revolt. Dr Thackway fondly recalled her first definitive moment of revolt, tearing down the ‘Tory propaganda’ in her area, and said she believes that university provides opportunities to expand and express activism.
Professor Clayton recounted her time studying at Cambridge at one of only three colleges to accept women; and how peers frequently overlooked her as a student. Professor Clayton recalled campaigning for contraception, and with friends created a poster showing a pregnant man, demonstrating the notion that men would take the subject more seriously if they were to get pregnant. Saatchi & Saatchi notably created an advert with the same concept in 1970.
When asked what currently motivates them, Dr Thackway candidly said: “It would be easier to say what I’m not currently revolting against” and highlighted that there is still considerable progress to be made in France in regards to human issues, not just for women. Dr Thackway was, however, thankful to campaigns such as #MeToo that help bring issues to light in the public space and open them up for discussion. Similarly the recent demonstration at Cannes Film Festival, where female members of the film industry stood for equal pay rights, was described as very positive but also as a ‘sexy representation’. It was suggested that if, for example, women working in McDonalds were to make the same stand, it would unfortunately not draw the same level of attention.
Professor Clayton discussed her current activism centred on her film ‘Calais Children: A Case to Answer’, which has been used as evidence in High Court cases to help refugee children gain access to the UK. Originally, the film was created for a TV audience but after being told the piece was too one-sided, Professor Clayton made the choice to maintain the films messaging for use in court instead of ‘softening’ it for television.
The evening concluded with questions from the audience and closing remarks from Dr Tim Gore OBE, Chief Executive Officer of ULIP. Alumni and current ULIP students Guests then enjoyed informal networking over a drinks and canapés reception.
Host Stella Beaumont said: “I felt particularly privileged to host this discussion on 50 years of women in revolt. It was a great opportunity to help celebrate 150 years since women were first able to access higher education in the UK in 1868 but also acknowledge that we are far from a position of equality and that much more remains to be done. I would like to thank and congratulate the panel for creating such a stimulating evening of frank discussion.”