Protest is dangerous, but feminists have a long history of using humour, pranks and stunts to promote their message

There is an adage that feminists and women aren’t funny. However, the history of activism reveals humour as a successful strategy for change.

Here are four great contemporary feminist pranks that demonstrate the power of humour for advocacy.

1. A chain reaction

On March 31 1965, feminist activists Rosalie Bogner and Merle Thornton walked into Brisbane’s Regatta hotel, chaining themselves to the foot rail of the front bar.

They were protesting the exclusion of women from Queensland public bars.

The police were called, smashed the padlock, and told them to leave. They refused.

After some bemused and sympathetic men gave them glasses of beer, the officer gave up, telling the women to have “a good time” and “don’t drink too much”.

They inspired women nationally to do the same. Laws had changed across Australia by the early 1970s.

According to historian Kay Saunders, it was the “beginning of second-wave feminism” in Australia.

2. Guerrilla Girls

In 1985, the New York activist group Guerrilla Girls began their quest to counter the art world’s sexism, racism and inequality. They used gorilla masks to remain anonymous and emphasise that the message was paramount, not the activist.

Guerrilla Girls famously erected posters and placed stickers protesting the lack of women in art galleries, asking “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met Museum?”

3. Switcheroo

In 1993 the Barbie Liberation Organization undertook a Christmas prank, swapping the voice boxes of 50 Barbie and G.I. Joe dolls.

G.I. Joe now said “I love to shop with you” or “Let’s plan our dream wedding”. Barbie hollered “Dead men tell no lies” or “Attack!”.

4. Sausage fest!

At the 2016 Australian Film Institute’s premier event, the AACTA Awards, protesters from Women in Film and Television NSW blocked the red carpet dressed as sausages and chanting “end the sausage party”.

Only 20% of Australian-funded feature films have a female director. AACTA does not fund films and it is therefore the broader industry that urgently needs to lift female participation.

Recognition across society has come from a long line of feminist pranksters. But slow progress means there is still a long way to go to achieve equality and equity.

Source: Protest is dangerous, but feminists have a long history of using humour, pranks and stunts to promote their message

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