Feminism is a really touchy subject that has been discussed so heavily in the media currently. Women fighting for reproductive rights and equal pay have been the U.S narrative. But, there are more radical, and I would say dangerous groups that exist and one is the radfem group FEMEN.
Femen was founded in the Ukraine in 2008, by a man named Viktor Sviatsky. One of the first issues here is the fact that this feminism movement was created by a man, but that’s the least of their problems. FEMEN’s way of dealing with issues is to make extreme public statements, claiming that they’re empowering and helping women, when there are so many things that they’re going about in the wrong way. Femen protestors are characterized by their fervor for the movement, public nudity and indecent exposure, hatred for religion and dictatorship, the sex industry as well as intense anti-Islamic sentiment. This group began in Europe, but has spread to other countries around the world, totaling close to ten. Initially there were protests against Putin and other government officials, but then they went the next step and started becoming the “voice” for other “oppressed” women.
FEMEN is a group that is the embodiment of white feminism- the idea that Western ideals like freedom of speech and freedom of expression and nudity and sexual freedom are rights that all women want and strive for. But, this is a seriously skewed form of feminism. Nudity for the sake of nudity has no meaning when there’s no greater message behind it, like desexualizing the female body for example. A big part of their protesting is against religion, particularly Catholicism and Islam, which is where they’ve come under great controversy.
In 2013, a video was shot of FEMEN protesters in Paris burning an Islamic flag in front of a mosque, with words over their chests that said “fuck your religion”,”sharia is not a constitution” and “no to islam, yes to secularism”. They paint these words over their naked bodies, in the spirit of freeing these “oppressed” Muslim women from the confines of Islam. But, again FEMEM fails on all grounds to critically look at the non-Western world and realize what religion is and isn’t.
Islam is not terrorism, and Catholicism and religion are not inherently oppressive, but radical feminist groups like this look to the media and other interest groups to find their information, without consulting any actual non-Western women. The people they claim they’re fighting for are the one’s that they’re hurting most. Looking at social media, and most of FEMEN”s youtube videos, the comments are overwhelmingly negative. FEMEN does not represent feminism because those women who are religious made the choice to believe in whatever god that they have faith in. Religion in itself is not inherently oppressive, and Qur’an is not the sharia law imposing terrorist manual that the West, and FEMEN, would like us to believe. Women who wear hijabs can be empowered and feel okay in that choice because that is their choice to wear that; it’s not inherently oppressive. This is not to say that many Muslim countries do not have issues of gender inequality, but there has been great progress over the years and many Muslim women in the U.S. have spoken out against what FEMEN is about because they are protesting over the most radical form of Islam. By burning an Islamic flag, they are stating very clearly that they are not for these women, and that they are self interested.
FEMEN came under fire again in the Vatican in 2014 where they stood in the Vatican center, stripped nude, and shoved crosses into their anuses. They took a sacred religious symbol in one of the most sacred spaces, shoving it up their assholes to show how much they detest Christianity and religion in general, all in the name of feminism? This is not protest for the greater good- this is a front group for a bunch of self righteous women who feel they their opinion of the world is so important that they must literally use sex and vulgarity to get their twisted message across.
Many people say, yet again, that this is freedom of expression, and that these women are trying to free other women from the oppression of religion, but that all comes from a place of privilege. These are, more often than no,t young, able bodied, white women who are playing the white savior role. Their protesting is not genuine because they don’t fully understand the causes they claim to be behind. They desecrate images of public officials, piss and shit on public property and run topless with offensive words across their chests screaming “fuck you” to anyone who stands in their way. Many of the members have been arrested , including the leader Anna Hutsol. Former member Amina Tyler left after her release from jail after their flag burning demonstration in Paris, because she realized how disrespectful to women and men that this group was.
Here’s where we have to think critically as a society, which deals with oppression and freedom on a daily basis. How can we help women without deciding what is best for them? Isn’t true feminism choice? Freedom of religion, freedom to wear the hijab or not, to pray to any god or multiple gods, to believe in science, to marry and be a housewife, or to stay single and self sufficient. Groups like this who promote violence and nudity for pure shock should not be supported by the public, they should be condemned and treated as a hate group. It’s shame that they’ve attached feminism, something empowering and inspiring, to their pathetic, selfish campaign.