Sunday, April 27, 2014

Femen versus Feminism

By now, you have probably heard of Femen (or Фемен), the exhibitionist feminist protest group that was founded in Ukraine in 2008, and that features nice-looking women with political slogans painted across their bare nubile bosoms.

I know that you have heard of them, not only because their nubile titties have caught the attention of our news media (which otherwise ignores international events), but also because searches for Femen have surpassed searches for Feminism on Google (admit it: you just wanted to see some boobies, didn't you? What else does the internet exist for?).  Heck, even CNN can't resist a story about titties, even if it involves Eastern Europe.

For American television, of course, the titties have to be pixillated out.  Which is why God invented Google.
Here is Femen's World Outlook:
We live in the world of male economic, cultural and ideological occupation. In this world, a woman is a slave, she is stripped of the right to any property but above all she is stripped of ownership of her own body. All functions of the female body are harshly controlled and regulated by patriarchy. Separated from the woman, her body is an object to monstrous patriarchal exploitation, animated by production of heirs, surplus profits, sexual pleasures and pornographic shows. Complete control over the woman’s body is the key instrument of her suppression; the woman’s sexual demarche is the key to her liberation. Manifestation of the right to her body by the woman is the first and the most important step to her liberation. Female nudity, free of patriarchal system, is a grave-digger of the system, militant manifesto and sacral symbol of women’s liberation
FEMEN’s naked attacks is a naked nerve of the historic woman-system conflict, its most visual and appropriate illustration. Activist’s naked body is the undisguised hatred toward the patriarchal order and new aesthetics of women’s revolution.
Femen's stated "ideology" consists of "Sextremism", Atheism and Feminism.  Femen's "goal" is "complete victory over patriarchy."  And, here are Femen's objectives:
-by strength of courage and personal example, to initiate global women’s mob law over patriarchy as the historically first, and last, existing form of slavery.
- to provoke patriarchy into open conflict by forcing it to disclose its aggressive antihuman nature to fully discredit it in the eyes of history.
- to ideologically undermine the fundamental institutes of patriarchy - dictatorship, sex-industry, and church – by putting these institutes through subversive trolling to force them to strategic surrender.
- to promote new revolutionary female sexuality as opposed to the patriarchal erotic and pornography.
- to instill in modern women culture of active opposition to the evil and of struggle for justice.
- to create the most influential and combat-effective women’s union in the world.
 Well, that all sounds like jolly good fun. 

Initially, Femen's main targets for protest seem to have been prostitution, sex tourism, and the international marriage business in Ukraine.  Femen protested against the Euro 2012 Football Championship (co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland)

because the ladies felt that the event would attract sports fans who would also be interested in using prostitutes while in the country ostensibly to watch the football (that's soccer, for my compatriots).

In March of 2011, Femen launched Operation Action for the Papuan Bride in front of Kiev's Palace of Marriages.
Activists of the Ukrainian movement Femen stripped outside the Registrar's Office in Kiev to protest a contest held in New Zealand.  The prize was a trip to Ukraine to obtain a wife.
In spite of the freezing temperatures, nine naked Ukrainian women stood with banners reading "Ukraine is not a brothel" and "Bride for Papuans" in their hands.
The women's movement protested against the competition "Win a Wife" on the radio station Rock FM in New Zealand.
"Ukrainian women are not good," said the movement's leader, Anna Gutsol.
The winner, who is a winemaker named Greg, was invited to the Ukraine for 12 days.
Under the terms of the contest, before leaving New Zealand, the winner was required to pick the woman that he really liked from the list on a dating site Endless Love. The  Ukrainian tour will begin March 23 in Donetsk.  Then the winner will travel to Kiev.
The competition has caused controversy in New Zealand itself, but representatives of the radio station said that they only did it for fun.
"The decision to marry or not is up to them", said the director of radio Rock Brad King.
"The women's movement Femen warns that the 'lucky' winner of the New Zealand competition in Ukraine to expect an unfortunate 'end!'" are the words Femen activist Aleksandr Shevchenko.

Given that Ukrainian Feminists look like this, one is apt to wonder: what do ordinary Ukrainian women look like?  Especially considering that our Feminists generally look like this:

To some extent, the Femen protests amount to free advertising for Ukraine's sex tourism and international matchmaking industries.  It might be worthwhile going to Ukraine just to take in a Femen protest, and to exercise our patriarchal gazes.

In Vice President Joe Biden's discerning opinion, Ukrainian women are the most beautiful women in the world.  From the Daily News

Vice President Biden says the women in the Ukraine are definitely babe-ushkas.
After a two-day diplomatic visit to the former Soviet state, the too-talkative veep told President Viktor Yushchenko he was blown away by the gorgeous women. "They're the most beautiful women in the world. That's my observation," Biden said. The famously loose-lipped veep was overheard making the comment to his host during an unscheduled visit to an Irish-themed pub in the capital of Kiev.

"It's certain you have so many beautiful women," the teetotaling Biden added as he sipped a Coke. Ukrainian women haven't gotten that kind of shoutout since The Beatles praised them as knockouts in "Back in the U.S.S.R."
The kudos came as no surprise to anyone in Brighton Beach, where Ukrainian women say they are known for their style and poise. "He came, he saw and he told the truth," said Vlada Khmarska, 20, who lives in Odessa, Ukraine, and is visiting the U.S. for the summer. "Everyone who visits Ukraine says so - Ukrainian girls are beautiful."
"I think he nailed it," added Sasha Sobolyewa, 18, a Midwood High School senior. "The women there are beautiful - tall and lean."
Biden later met with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, the willowy blond with Princess Leia-style braids who wowed world leaders when she burst onto the scene in 2001.
Ukrainian women are often stereotyped as statuesque blonds like Tymoshenko, but Oksana Romanova said their beauty is more than just physical. They are also known for their warm hospitality, she said. "It's the smile, it's charisma," said Romanova, 20, also visiting for the summer...
 I very much respect Mr. Biden's opinions on most matters.  He says that Ukraine has the world's most beautiful women, and I haven't yet found any contrary evidence.
From Jordan G. Teicher at Slate:
 ...While working in the Ukraine last June, photographer Julie David De Lossy started hearing about Nikolaev, a city known for having the highest concentration of beautiful women in the entire country.
When she arrived in town with her boyfriend, photographer Colin Delfosse, she understood the rumors. There were beautiful women everywhere.
"It is really impressive when you walk in the main street of this town and you have the feeling a super posh party is about to start, but it’s only 10 a.m.," David De Lossy said via email.
But there was also something she didn't expect: wedding agencies—she estimated more than 200 based in one town.
For their series, “My Ukrainian Wedding,” the Brussels-based pair sought to challenge stereotypes about the women who enlist with the agencies by creating diptychs of two women—one from an agency, one not—and letting viewers differentiate between the two....
...David De Lossy said the town has plenty to offer. There are several universities, and a number of the young women in Nikolaev are educated there. “The girls get a good education, but have almost no prospect of finding a husband. So they look abroad,” David De Lossy said.
David De Lossy said that women enrolled in the agencies are generally looking to be matched with men in Western countries....
 Wow.  I don't know how one city can support 200 marriage agencies, unless the number of women seeking to marry abroad is phenomenal.  And, this was a woman expressing amazement at the astounding concentration of beautiful women in town.

The Kiev Post featured an article: Fed Up with their Men, Ukraine Women Look West.
Olga Belova wants to give marriage another try. But the 38-year-old divorcee intends to be more selective the second time around. She is looking for someone polite and respectful; someone with a job; perhaps someone who will be her soul mate. And she is hoping for someone foreign. She is pinning those hopes on the Rendezvous marriage agency, one of more than a dozen such businesses in Kyiv that aim to help Ukrainian women find foreign husbands - for a price. Belova is not alone in her desire to seek a husband in pastures greener than Ukraine. More and more Ukrainian women are being lured by promises of wealthy, stable men in faraway countries. At the same time, these agencies tempt Western men with promises of beautiful Ukrainian women who have not been spoiled by feminism; women who will cook for them and care for them. "Ukrainian women are tired of being repressed; tired of alcoholics ... tired of unemployed boyfriends and husbands,'' reads the Website for the Ukraine Girls International agency. Future foreign husbands do not have to be "either millionaires or Mr. G.Q. for the women to be interested"....
And, there are busloads of Americans and others, wife-hunting across the Ukrainian landscape.

Femen's take on Ukraine's international marriage industry is rather fascinating.

..."There are many websites that advertise Ukrainian women, because Ukraine girls are beautiful. But, unfortunately, many are undereducated and want to become a wife of a rich man, their knight on a white horse," she says. "But in actuality, it is only like exporting human flesh, and it is illegal. We are trying to explain to these girls that it is not a real way to a good life. "
Shevchenko, 24, has to juggle her feminism with the traditional expectations of her mother and grandmother...."They wanted to see me as a wife and a mother. And each single day when my mom calls me she says, 'When I will have my grandchildren, did you find a man?' And I do not know what to answer her."
But Shevchenko believes she can have it all. A few weeks ago, she helped to open Femen's new office in Paris. She says she met several interesting Frenchmen, men she calls "male feminists."
 According to Miss Shevchenko, ordinary Ukrainian women mustn't seek foreign husbands, because "that is not a real way to a good life."  But, it is okay for her to meet "interesting Frenchmen", because she is a Feminist and these are "male Feminists."  Standard Feminist hypocrisy at work.

Some Western Feminists have been quite critical of Femen.  For example, Louise Pennington writes:
 Femen: Reinforcing the Patriarchal Fuckability Test
...In using women's bodies as a canvas of protest, Femen are using some fairly basic signifiers of woman as object. Their message is obscured by the medium of their protest because the medium conforms to the normalised construction of the Patriarchal Fuckability Test....getting naked or stripping aren't acts of Feminist defiance or resistance. They are simply appeasement since men don't care if you write incendiary messages of revolt all over your naked body, as long as they get to see that body. Femen's activism using the objectification of women's bodies to make a political point isn't new. It isn't clever. It's just the Patriarchy trying out a new hat....
...Femen's use of the female body is a tactic deliberately chosen in order to get recognition in the western media and they seem more interested in the attention than any specific feminist goals.....
...Equally problematic are Femen's anti-burkha protests....Femen aren't really doing anything really radical here. Instead, they are just doing exactly what western neo-liberal men do: attack a visible target with little to no power. Running about in front of the Eiffel Tower stripping off burkhas to reveal young, thin white women in their underwear isn't very interesting. Setting up a "bootcamp" in Paris to teach French feminists how to tackle the Patriarchy using tactics developed in the Ukraine is also not very clever. A reversal of the normal imperialism it may be, but it nonetheless shows a rather incredible lack of self-awareness....
...Femen's insistence on baring their breasts, regardless of what they are actually protesting, just reinforces Patriarchal norms. They have become objects for men to wank over rather than feminist protestors. Whatever message they had is obscured. Instead, their breasts are what are deemed important.
We won't destroy the Patriarchy by reinforcing its constructions of "acceptable" women....Protest needs to be vibrant, engaging and culturally specific but we will not smash the Patriarchy by reinforcing its belief that the only women who matter are those who conform to the Patriarchal Fuckability Test.
As many a wise feminist has said: if the penis is keen, it probably demeans. And, that's the problem with Femen. Men aren't listening to the message. They are wanking to the image.
 I suppose if it represents any consolation, these Canadian Femen protesters

have a bit of cellulite, and many men may consider them to be less fuckable than their Ukrainian counterparts.  Miss Pennington's chief complaint seems to be that the Ukrainian ladies are just too "fuckable."  Which is the same problem that Feminist have with the Victoria's Secret pageants (see my prior post on this topic), which they denounced as "pornographic", as "contributing to the pornographication of culture", as containing "sexualized female bodies", and as replete with "sexual objectification" and "sexual subjectification."  Plus, the models were much too skinny and sexy, as are the ladies of Femen (at least in Europe).  And, sure, Femen is reinforcing patriarchal norms and giving us cause to wank.  Why not?

Now, accusing Femen of "doing exactly what Western Neo-Liberal men do": a Feminist stating that other women are "acting like men" is probably the lowest blow in the Feminist arsenal.  Oh, dems fightin' words, all right!  Plus, the ladies of Femen have an "incredible lack of self-awareness" and "reinforce patriarchal norms."  On top of that, they aren't real Feminist protesters, but are merely objects for men to wank over.  And, she states that "thin white women in their underwear" aren't "very interesting."  How is Miss Pennington proposing to top that?

Oh, when one Feminist goes after other Feminists, the cat fight can be quite entertaining.

From Chitra Nagarajan, Femen's obsession with nudity feeds a racist colonial feminism
...Using your naked body can be a legitimate form of a protest of last resort...However, the way it has been used by Femen feeds into and reinforces a racist and orientalist discourse about the women and men of north Africa and the Middle East. With statements such as "as a society, we haven't been able to eradicate our Arab mentality towards women", Femen positions women of the region as veiled and oppressed by their men as opposed to the enlightened and liberated women of the west who live in a developed and superior society where they have the "freedom" to remove their clothes....
...Femen's actions also come at a time of intensifying international backlash against women's rights that is increasingly being framed, perpetuated and accepted by male elites as rooted in "the west" and imposed on other countries in a form of cultural imperialism. Unfortunately, statements from white French women saying things like "better naked than the burqa" feed this narrative and are more likely to damage rather than support the struggles of the women they call their sisters....
...There is a long and problematic history of colonial feminism and the "good intentions" of outsiders using racialised notions to "save women over there". This actively causes harm....
...As I have argued elsewhere, a more holistic and nuanced approach would consider how patriarchy combines with racism, neo-colonialism and global capitalism to create a fundamentally unjust world....
...Femen has continued to be unapologetic about its tactics and language and refused to address its blatant racism...International feminist solidarity is crucial but this is not the way to do it. A true ally does not use racism to attempt to defeat patriarchy.
So, Femen is an unapologetic, unenlightened, blatantly racist, neo-colonial and orientalist organization.  As such, Femen is no ally in the struggle to defeat patriarchy.  At least Miss Nagarajan doesn't go so far as to accuse them of being overly fuckable.

According to Claire Suddath, "Femen is a genuinely radical organization, and almost anyone can find something to object to in its work."  Not I: I think they're fine.

One small detail, that was revealed in the new documentary film Ukraine is Not a Brothel, and that might just rile up the Feminists:

it turns out that Femen was founded by a man: Victor Svyatski (ouch?).

From Geoffrey MacNab at the Guardian:
...“Our mission is protest, our weapons are bare breasts,” runs their slogan. Now, a new documentary screening at the Venice Film Festival has revealed that Femen was founded and is controlled by a man.
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....

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.....
 ...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...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.
 So, yeah, Western Feminists do have a point: the Femen chicks are highly fuckable, and Femen is a part of the Patriarchy.  Who could have suspected?  Actually, the Canadian branch looks like it could use some of Mr. Svyatski's discernment and expertise.

 Well, let's conclude with a performance by the Ukrainian pop trio Via Gra,

 and some Paul McCartney, live in Kiev.

And, of course, some Max Boublil

and Rodney Carrington



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