I was commissioned to write this a few years ago for the Central European House of Photography in Bratislava (and thank you to all the photo...
Friday, 5 April 2013
Fascists for and against Femen
It was interesting to see This picture series in the Atlantic on the protests in support of Amina Tyler, the Tunisian women who posted a topless picture of herself on Facebook in protest against claims on how she can represent her body.
I looked at the picture series and even though there is a little introduction to the story, it kind of got lost amidst all the breasts. They took over what one saw and almost flooded out the original story. We know that breasts are being used as a promotional tool, but do they really work? They get attention obviously, but what else?
In response to the protests (and it seems as though the protests went through a full gamut of oppositional subtleties and attracted the support of fascists, racists and sectarians), the Facebook page Muslim Women Against Femen was created ( Here is a report from Al Jazeera).
The basic message on the Facebook page is, "We as Muslim women and those who stand with us, need to show FEMEN and their supporters, that their actions are counterproductive and we as Muslim women oppose it."
Which is quite mild really. Read through the comments on the Facebook page and you get some incredibly lucid and clearly argued points about Femen and the protests, just as if you read through the Femen protester pages, you get the same.
At the same time however, sectarians, racists and misogynists also attach themselves to this camp and this is also reflected in the comments. There is a polarising effect and the people who are working to solve the problems that Femen is protesting against are marinalised. In the end, the argument gets hijacked, and questions of how women dress or represent their bodies are determined even more by men, with a lack of balance, subtlety or respect. It's predictable but depressing.
Anyway, here's Bim Adewunmi's critique of Femen in the New Statesmen.
Watching the antics of Femen has reinforced this Walker view starkly for me. Founder Inna Shevchenko’s words: “Muslim men shroud their women in black sacks of submissiveness and fear, and dread as they do the devil the moment women break free...” and “topless protests are the battle flags of women's resistance, a symbol of a woman's acquisition of rights over her own body!” are filled with a rhetoric very much formed by her Western life. Like much of the feminisms that have been exported from the West, it does not seem to take into account the obstacles to carrying out this form of protest. It rides roughshod over grassroots organisations and the work they may have been quietly and steadfastly engaged in over years, and stipulates that this feminism, the one where you bare your breasts and sloganise your skin, is the feminism. It does not take into account community mores, and, in this case, incorporates more than a little Islamophobia. (Last year, Femen France organised a "better naked than in a burqa" event in front of the Eiffel Tower.)