Call Me Stormy

Finding righteous currents in turbulent times

Ukraine’s Topless Feminists

Femen (Фемен), the women’s protest movement from the Ukraine, appears to be turning up everywhere these days — boldly flashing their boobs across much of Europe to advance their political beliefs. What are their beliefs? Why have they adopted the tactics they use? Where will it all lead?

Femen, founded in 2008, originally came into existence to battle against the sex trade in the Ukraine and to stop the exportation of Ukraine women to serve as prostitutes in Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe. Not only is sex tourism flourishing across the Ukraine, but it’s estimated that as many as one-fourth of Europe’s prostitutes were recruited from the former Soviet republic.

Members of the activist group Femen protest what they see as the manipulation of the democratic system in Kiev, Ukraine, on Feb. 7, 2010.

It might seem strange for a protest group opposed to the sex trade to turn around and use sex as its chief weapon. Why has Femen gone this route? The answer is simple. The media attention brought by this shock tactic magnifies the group’s impact far beyond its numbers. Only about 300 activists belong to Femen, but the group has its sights set on becoming the largest feminist organization in Europe, and eventually the Americas.

“The European feminists differ from us,” says Alexandra Shevchenko, one of Femen’s founders. “They don’t use their bodies and sexuality to get to the goals that are important to women. We use them and hope that in 20 years, people will talk about feminists as beautiful naked women, not as butch, bald and tattooed women.”

Much like Pussy Riot, Femen’s warriors have faced charges of hooliganism at home and come under fire for desecrating symbols associated with the state and church. But they have branched out internationally as well, recently staging a topless protest in London against Olympic participation by Islamic nations that have embraced Sharia Laws that discriminate against women.

To better grasp what all the commotion is about, here’s a 30-minute Finnish TV documentary on Femen, with English subtitles (hit the CC button to see the English captioning). The two Shevchenkos identified in the film are both Femen founders, but they are not sisters, hailing originally from different towns. (NSFW)

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