1980s: Media vs Feminism

Selected by Emma, Magpie, Josh and Siddra

The 1980s were a progressive time for the women’s rights movement, but sexism was still commonplace.

Examples were often seen in media, especially in newspapers, articles and magazines. In 1985 a group of women protested against art they deemed ‘pornographic’ and ‘objectifying’, which was being shown at the Tomi Ungerer exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall. We found correspondence between employees at the Royal Festival Hall discussing the protest.

Another example of sexism was found in magazine adverts, including one saying ‘it is a woman’s prerogative to change her mind – why not her make-up’. We found many outdated adverts encouraging women to lose weight and look pretty. The Greater London Council’s women’s committee had written up articles on both issues. In the 1980s there was division between the way some women were portrayed in the media and the way women wanted to be portrayed.

Since the opening of the foyers to the public, there have been steps towards a more gender-diverse programme. In delving into the archive collection from the 1980s, we have had a chance to see the progress that has been made towards dismantling sexism in culture throughout the years.