Femen: Ukraine’s Topless Warriors

Interesting piece on today’s Atlantic front page about these bold feminist activists based in Ukraine:

Founded in Kiev in 2008 to protest the country’s burgeoning sex industry (“Ukraine is not a brothel!” was the slogan of their first — and still clothed — demonstration, which aimed to dissuade foreigners from visiting prostitutes in the capital), Femen has since evolved into a vanguard of militant activists who have dubbed themselves the storozhevyye suki demokratii (the “watch-bitches of democracy”) and “modern-day Amazons,” some of whom demonstrate topless to, says their website “defend with their chests sexual and civic equality throughout the world.”

The article ends with this remark: ‘Just what de Beauvoir would have thought of topless demonstrations is anyone’s guess.’ Perhaps our erudite readership would care to weigh in? This seems unduly dismissive about the possibility of anticipating and reconstructing the views of a very important philosopher.

5 thoughts on “Femen: Ukraine’s Topless Warriors

  1. There’s a very interesting essay by Beauvoir, entitled “Bridgitte Bardot and the Lolita Syndrome”. Beauvoir seems to have thought that Bardot was a paradigmatic example of a liberated post-war “French woman”. Bardot’s lively sexual behaviour led Beauvoir to conclude that “males are an object for her, as much as she is an object for them. This is precisely what hurts males.” What’s striking is the way in which these activists rely on gendered scripts and traditional understandings of women’s bodies to achieve goals that men would not usually associate with them.

  2. My thanks to Prof. Bauer for helping me finally put my finger on why I find these Atlantic articles so aggravating – that’s a really interesting and informative piece by n+1. These articles draw a lot of readers, and they address interesting and important issues, but they do leave a bad taste in the mouth (even when they are not rounded off with some plainly fatuous quip like this one was). It still leaves me uncertain about the appropriate response though. Until now it seemed like the right thing to do was to post links to such articles here in the hope our readership can help expose and critique that tendency to assume that ‘traditional gender relations are by and large bound to endure, and genuinely progressive social change is a lost cause.’ as the Editors of n+1 put it. If nothing else, it helps draw attention to our blog and our cause, given the enormous amount of traffic the articles typically generate. On the other hand, perhaps it does more harm than good to publicize and engage with such cynicism, and with those who have given up (or are even actively attempting to subvert) the sort of progress we’re aiming for. I’d love to know what our readers think.

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