University of London

University of London Institute in Paris hosts May 68 to Time’s Up: Fifty years of Women in Revolt

The University of London Institute in Paris (ULIP) recently welcomed 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 Sciences Po and INALCO. The event, which took place on 17 May, 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 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, keeping watch at night as a child while her father, a life-long Labour supporter, slipped out to take down Tory election posters in their staunchly Conservative 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 the working with the University women’s group to campaign for universal free contraception, and with friends created a poster showing a pregnant man, suggesting 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 racial 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 it was questioned whether, if women working in fast food restaurants for example, would draw the same level of attention if they were to make the same stand.

Professor Clayton discussed her current activism centred on her film ‘Calais Children: A Case to Answer’ which has been submitted as evidence in a High Court Judicial Review of the Home Office’s neglect of refugee children with rights to be in the UK. Originally, the film was created for a TV audience but after being told the piece was too polemical, Professor Clayton made the choice to maintain the film’s original 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 then enjoyed informal networking over a drink and canapé 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.”

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Guest speakers

Professor Sue Clayton of Goldsmiths, University of London, has been producing and directing films for over 30 years. She has made a number of award-winning documentaries for UK Channel 4 and Central Television including the Commodities series, Turning Japanese, How To Survive Lifestyle and Theme Park Britons, as well as fiction, including among others Heart Songs, The Last Crop and The Disappearance of Finbar starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers. All her films have won international awards including UK BAFTA, Madrid Film Festival, Tokyo Film Festival, Midnight Sun Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Philadelphia World Film Festival, Seattle Film Festival, Palm Springs Film Festival and many others. Her films have been screened globally on television networks. She has spent the last 24 months working full-time on the Calais issue as a journalist, film-maker and academic. While making Calais Children: A Case To Answer, she has featured regularly on ITV and Channel 4 national news, on BBC television, and been quoted numerous times in the Guardian and Independent on this story.

Dr Melissa Thackway of INALCO and Sciences Po is also an independent film-maker, academic and translator who has been living and working in France since the early 1990s. Author of the ground-breaking Africa Shoots Back: Alternative Representations in Sub-Saharan Francophone African Film" (2003), she has made a number of short documentary films, including Permis de Construire (2008), Permis de Demolir (2005) and Myrha-ville (2003).