At their first demonstrations, in Ukraine in 2008, they had written their slogans on their backs, but photographers were only interested in their breasts. So, they changed the location of their slogans. Inna Shevchenko, importer of the Femen brand to France, has no regrets about how things evolved: “We know what the media need—sex, scandals and fighting—and that’s what we give them”, Shevchenko told Rue89 last December. “To be in the newspapers is to exist at all.” Really? […]
The permanent reduction of women to their bodies and their sexuality, the negation of their intellectual abilities, the social invisibility of women who cannot please the male gaze: these are keystones of the patriarchal system. It is rather stupefying that a purportedly feminist ‘movement’… cannot see this. “We live under male domination,” Inna Shevchenko told The Guardian, “and nudity is the only way to provoke them, to get their attention.” So, a feminism that bends to male domination: well, it had to be invented.
Shevchenko not only accepts this order of things, she approves of it: “Classic feminism is a sick old woman, it does not work anymore. It is stuck in the world of conferences and books.” She is right: death to sick old women, they are not even pleasing to look at! And books? They are full of words that cause headaches.
[…] Given the overwhelming weight of the Orthodox Church in public life in Ukraine, the Femen’s public and radical anti-clerical position is understandable. But when it comes to Islam, spokespeople for the group seem to cross a line. A founding member, Anna Hutsol, certainly flirted with racism when she deplored a Ukrainian society incapable of “eradicating its Arab mentality toward women.”
In March 2012, with the slogan “better naked than in a burqa”, Femen France organized an “anti-burqa operation” in front of the Eiffel Tower. Members of the group also shouted “nudity is liberty” and “France, get naked!” Thus they perpetuate a premise that is very deeply rooted in Western culture according to which salvation can only be attained through maximum exposure, denying the violence that this can sometimes imply.
Many feminists objected that instead of affirming the superiority of nudity, it might be better to defend women’s freedom to dress the way they want. But the Femen have no doubts that they are right. “We are not going to adapt our discourse to all ten countries where our group is now present: our message is universal”, said Shevchenko in an interview in 20 Minutes. This mixture of intellectual laziness and arrogance, this pretension to dictate the correct attitude to women from every disparate part of the world, has been met with a certain coldness. Researcher Sara Salem reproached Egyptian student Alia el Mahdi for her alliance with the Femen. “The fact that she posted naked pictures of herself on her blog could be perceived as a way of defying a patriarchal society, but the fact that she collaborates with a group that can be defined as colonialist is problematic”, Salem writes. But why question oneself when all you need to get maximum audience is show off your breasts?”