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Feb 26 2014

Femen comes to the US

Some of you may have heard about the group Femen, that consists of young women who stage demonstrations while going topless with messages painted on their bodies and doing other things aimed at drawing a lot of media attention for the causes they support. They have announced that they are bringing their campaign to the US by setting up an office here to train and coordinate activities. [Warning: Link has a photo of a topless Femen member.]

The group originally formed in the Ukraine in 2008 to protest sex tourism and prostitution but has since broadened its agenda and actions. In an interview, a spokesperson Inna Shevchenko discussed their plans for the US.

I can’t name enemies, as it’s strategic information that we don’t share. But I can assure you sure that once American women are trained and ready to act as Femen, every place of gender injustice, every representative of patriarchal culture, will be a target of Femen USA.

We will not leave religious institutions in peace, with their lobbying for anti-women policies. And Republican politicians will not walk the streets without worry [if they] lobby for anti-women laws. Femen is a special troop of reaction and punishment.

Everyone has to know what our mission is, what Femen’s goal is. We exist as a radical nonviolent women’s group of street activists acting with the goal of pointing to problems, to force society to recognize and react to them. To recognize a problem is the first step in solving it. Femen is taking off the masks of those who wear them. We show gender injustice, we catch missioners of patriarchy.

Femen’s tactic is a dramaturgy of gender reality. Femen’s idea is transforming the sexist point of view of naked a woman’s body; we show it not as weak and smiley, but aggressive and powerful.

Shevchenko’s views on religion are interesting.

Well, my personal emotions regarding religion are expressed in a very radical way sometimes. And I do not regret it and will repeat it again and again. I can’t tolerate such an intolerant thing as religion. I don’t want to respect my enemies, I want to fight them. You call this a “totalitarian instinct.” I wouldn’t. I named evil as evil. I said something bad is bad.

We can’t clean up the world from religion completely and I wouldn’t suggest banning it. But I call to give religion the small place [in society] that it deserves: as fantasy, literature, etc. But not as the only truth and law. As it’s still that way for billions around the world.

Religion is not a personal issue anymore, it has become political. It doesn’t exist only to provide moral support anymore, but to replace constitutions and supplant human rights with [religious] tradition.

Religion is oppression and we are going to fight it with whatever “instincts” necessary.

America has a strong streak of religious Puritanism. How those people react to the in-your-face tactics of Femen will be interesting to observe.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    doublereed

    From what I’ve seen I like the audaciousness and body-based way they protest. It’s neat. It’s even pretty artistic in kind of a performance art sort of way.

    But I’ve also seen some of their racist anti-Islam stuff, too. That’s not cool at all.

  2. 2
    richardelguru

    So did they learn the weirding way from the Bene Gesserit??

  3. 3
    brucegee1962

    @1 doublereed

    Well, obviously you want to start things off with a hot-button issue around here. But what the heck, I’ll bite.

    Since Islam is a religion, not a race, what racist stuff are you talking about?

  4. 4
    OverlappingMagisteria

    Mano, you’ve hit my little pet peeve: in English it’s “Ukraine”, not “the Ukraine.” Just like you wouldn’t say “the France” or “the Brazil”.

    It seems that “the Ukraine” is a holdover from when it used to be “the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic”, but nowadays it’s just “Ukraine”

    Wikipedia’s got a little bit on this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Name_of_Ukraine#.22Ukraine.22_versus_.22the_Ukraine.22

  5. 5
    daved

    So did they learn the weirding way from the Bene Gesserit??

    I’m pretty sure the Bene Gesserit were not known for going topless. Or for staging protests, for that matter.

  6. 6
    doublereed

    @3 brucegee

    This kind of thing.

    And enough with the pedantic BS of ‘Islam is a religion not a race.’ I’m talking about stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims, and it very much is a race issue.

  7. 7
    wtfwhateverd00d

    Well, I’m all for seeing tits. The more the merrier.

    But what happened to those articles from September, claiming Femen was mainly a hoax, created by a man who hand picked only the most attractive women to spread his message (and thereby demonstrating their own hypocrisy concerning their support of feminism?) Or that he called the women bitches, and weak and spineless. Or that he started Femen to get laid?

    http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/news/the-man-who-made-femen-new-film-outs-victor-svyatski-as-the-mastermind-behind-the-protest-group-and-its-breastbaring-stunts-8797042.html

    Ukraine is not a Brothel, directed by 28-year-old Australian film-maker Kitty Green, has “outed” Victor Svyatski as the mastermind behind the group. Mr Syvatski is known as a “consultant” to the movement. According to the Femen website, he was badly beaten up by the secret services in Ukraine earlier this summer because of his activities on behalf of the group.

    However, Ms Green reveals that Svyatski is not simply a supporter of Femen but its founder and éminence grise. “It’s his movement and he hand-picked the girls. He hand-picked the prettiest girls because the prettiest girls sell more papers. The prettiest girls get on the front page… that became their image, that became the way they sold the brand,” she says.

    Until now, the full extent of Mr Svyatski’s influence over Femen has not been realised. The film claims it was he who sent Femen activists on one of their most terrifying missions to Belarus where (according to testimony in the film) they were arrested by secret service agents, stripped, humiliated and abandoned in a forest close to the Ukranian border.

    Ms Green accompanied them on this trip. She told The Independent that her footage was stolen by the KGB and that she was abducted, “kept in confinement for about eight hours,” and then deported to Lithuania.

    In the documentary, Ms Green pays tribute to Mr Svyatski’s organisational abilities and charisma but questions his influence over the group.

    “He can be really horrible but he is fiercely intelligent,” she said of Mr Svyatski, who is interviewed on camera in her film. Ms Green spent a year living in a tiny apartment in Kiev with four of the Femen members and filming their stunts. “I would shoot their protests and they would take them and put them on their website,” she said.

    Only gradually did she become aware that Mr Svyatski was pulling the strings behind the scenes. “Once I was in the inner circle, you can’t not know him. He is Femen.”

    Initially, Mr Svyatski refused to allow Ms Green to film him but she was determined that he should feature. “It was a big moral thing for me because I realised how this organisation was run. He was quite horrible with the girls. He would scream at them and call them bitches.”

    When the Femen founder finally spoke to Ms Green, he sought to justify his role within the organisation and acknowledged the paradox of being a “patriarch” running a feminist protest group. “These girls are weak,” he says in the film.

    “They don’t have the strength of character. They don’t even have the desire to be strong. Instead, they show submissiveness, spinelessness, lack of punctuality, and many other factors which prevent them from becoming political activists. These are qualities which it was essential to teach them.”

    Mr Svyatski insists to Ms Green that his influence on the group is positive. However, when he is asked directly whether he started Femen “to get girls”, he replies: “Perhaps yes, somewhere in my deep subconscious.”

    One of the Femen campaigners talks of the relationship between the women and the movement’s founder as being akin to “Stockholm syndrome”, in which hostages feel sympathy for their captors.

    “We are psychologically dependent on him and even if we know and understand that we could do this by ourselves without his help, it’s psychological dependence,” she says.

    (I honestly don’t know what to make of The Independent. Wiki says it is generally regarded as leaning left, but it is owned by the Russian Oligarch Alexander Lebedev).

    But if you folks want to see the gorgeous tits of supposed rad fems wandering about the public square demanding equality for women, well no way I would think that’s a bad idea!

  8. 8
    David Marjanović

    America has a strong streak of religious Puritanism. How those people react to the in-your-face tactics of Femen will be interesting to observe.

    …Isn’t it 100 % predictable how they’ll react?

  9. 9
    Mano Singham

    Thanks for this information. I have corrected it in the post.

  10. 10
    Leo Buzalsky

    @6 doublereed
    You may say you’re “talking about stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims” but you stereotype Arabs yourself when you imply that they are all Muslim.

  11. 11
    doublereed

    What? No I never implied that all Arabs are Muslim. I am talking about the stereotype. The stereotype is Muslim and Arab. I never said anything about Arabs or Muslims.

  12. 12
    MNb

    “[Warning: Link has a photo of a topless Femen member.]”
    Thanks for confirming my Dutch prejudices against Americans (though recently a Dutch coach got nicely debunked at the Colbert show).
    No warning from me:

    http://www.frontaalnaakt.nl/archives/blote-pipi-tegen-de-sharia.html

    Note the date – 13 months ago.

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