About Femen… My opinion!

femen iranian topless protest in stockholmWith the article on Red Lips High Heels about the Egyptian activist and her affiliation with the FEMEN group came a lot of prolonged thoughts and debates. What is FEMEN?

FEMEN is a feminist group, in Kiev, known for its topless protests. Theya��ve taken part in protests against religious institutions, international marriage agencies, sexism, sex tourists and many other topics. It was founded in 2008 by Anna Hutsol; its members are mostly female with the exception of few male ones. There are 20 core organizers in FEMEN, as well as hundreds of activists and thousands of supporters. FEMEN activists have been regularly detained and fined by the police in reason of hooliganism and disrespect to state symbols.

In a nutshell, FEMEN is a feminist group. It opposes the prohibition of abortion, the existence of religious institutions as it seems them to oppress women, and, it opposes the legalization of prostitution in Ukraine. It fights for womena��s rights, has political intentions, social goals, and FEMEN activists believe this is doable my protesting topless, and in specific cases completely nude.

The debate about FEMENa��s approach on feminist subjects is long and exhausting. Some people see that they are helping objectify women by protesting topless, hence drawing attention to the body and taking it away from the real cause. These people argue that sexual freedom and the freedom of doing as one pleases with her body dona��t need to be flaunted. It is believed that by showing their bodies these women are reducing the importance of the topics of protest and drawing the eye of the passers to the body alone. In addition, these activists are only adding salt to the wound, by depicting women as sexual objects and giving the police a reason to detain them, which keeps the cause of the protests in the shadows and only sheds light on the fact that nude protests, hooliganism and destruction of state symbols are offences to be fined for.

On a different matter, I dona��t understand why FEMEN stands against the legalization of prostitution. If I were to ask for womena��s rights, I would like to protect all women. Women working in the sex industry are the most bullied, abused, discriminated against and treated poorly. And the reason is one and the same: these women are working illegally, they have no means to go and file a complaint against anybody or even an unknown for theft, so this gives predators an easy chance to abuse these women and get away with it. With the legalization of the industry will come basic rights, basic rights that all women are fighting to reach. It is the oppressed that tends to oppress as well, and this is one example of the case.

At the end, FEMEN seems to be an extremist feminist group that wants to break social barriers by erasing cultural differences. The story of the hijab is a fine example of that. The issue with extremists is that they always come in pair, and when each party is stuck to their opinion so fiercely, being extreme is what stops the world from moving forward. You cana��t have a reasonable debate with an extremist, so imagine two extremists facing each other at a round table. What can really be achieved?

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  1. Hello Hermes! You’re right when you say that extremists can’t dialogue. But it all depends on how ‘extremism’ is defined. Also, Femen doesn’t consider itself ‘extremist’, nor the Islamist movements…

  2. Love the debate on this blog! And now on this subject! Highly sensitive! But the possibility of debating in itself is ‘something’ precious in the Middle East where freedom of expression doesn’t practically exist except for few online ‘places’. Thank you!

  3. I wasn’t aware that there are any religious group that consider themselves extremists. When it comes to extremism, as far as I know, it is a group’s stands and actions that determine whether they are or are not extremists, and not their own self identification.
    Hopefully the ability to debate starts with online “places” and it spreads to more “real” ones. Debates are more productive when they are not done on a virtual platform.
    Thank you for reading 🙂

  4. Hello Hermes,
    Thank you for reacting to my article. The debate about Femen is sure long and tiring, but it is also very interesting. I have been thinking about the subject and reading about it for a few months now and here is my reaction to some of the points you made:
    1-About prostitution: I agree with you. Ideally all women and men should be allowed to use their body as they like it. However, in the context of Eastern European countries, prostitution is a network controlled by mafias and the girls they employ are helpless and poor sex-slaves. Today, most prostitutes are abused and enslaved by both their employers and clients: this is why Femen activists associate it with the oppression of women. But yes, theoretically, male and female sex workers deserve to work in good circumstances.
    2-Taking the focus off “the real issue” and helping objectify women: How could they, when the real issue at stake is women’s ownership of their own bodies? The way I see it: the patriarchal system wants us to get naked only when it is suitable for it (ie, when it is highly sexualized). With Femen, women get naked when THEY decide too, and in order to protect their rights : the machinery is thus subverted. By their attitude and their acts, there bodies are morphed into warriors’ bodies, they are no longer mere sex objects. In fact they are the contrary of “objects”: if you consider an object to be a passive thing that the “subject’ can use and project his fantasies, thoughts, desires upon.
    3-About erasing cultural difference: I’ve already talked about it but I don’t think they are. Women’s rights are universal and all women across the globe should be held to the same standards of freedom and dignity. I blame the traditional French leftist feminists for just that: being ridiculously centered on their own problems and note taking into account the dire situation of women in Arab countries and the Middle East. To me, the fight for gender equality is a global one.
    4-About extremism: It is not always a bad thing! Sometimes compromises just cannot be made. Would you say: “He’s an extremist human rights activist?” Or: “an extremist anti-racist”? I don’t think you can be extremist in defending gender equality.
    But I’m not a blind supporter of Femen and I disagree with them on more than one level:
    1-Establishing a matriarchy: I mean… come on. That’s a big no-no. Absolute gender equality is the only way to go. Femen says that women have been oppressed for so long that the only way to re-establish equality is by the supremacy of women upon men. Of course I don’t agree. You never fight oppression with oppression!
    2-They don’t allow men among their activists: I can’t see why. Men are our best partners in achieving gender equality. In fact, they too suffer from machismo when they are expected to have certain behavior that are deemed “manly” and made fun of if they are considered too “feminine”. Men too can fight sexism!
    3-They are big pop stars now: In France, they are the talk of the town: every talk-show wants to invite them, every magazine wants them on their cover. Sure, some media coverage is nice when you have an important cause to defend but I am concerned that they will lose the courage that made them so heroic when they were fighting dictatorship back in Eastern Europe, and taking real risks at that!
    I love having this debate, I’m so glad this subject is discussed! Thank you Hermes!

  5. Thank you for your input 🙂 I can honestly say you made my day.
    I only want to comment on one thing that you mentioned: extremism. I agree with you that it is not always a bad thing, but I have to say that it depends on the situation. When you are up against political extremists and even religious ones, being extremist will make them be defensive and honestly when they are still in the power position whether politically or socially/culturally you will not get gain what is rightfully yours. It will simply turn into a battle of power, to prove who’s “the man” and it can be avoided if it is played right.
    As much as I love the “in your face” approach in a lot of things, I think that when it comes to sensitive issues it is better to infiltrate the system and make changes from within.
    On a side note, your comment was very refreshing. I always like getting in touch with a different opinion, thinking it through, letting it sink in and opening my eyes into the possibility of a change.
    Thank you for your inspiring comment and a heartfelt debate!

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