FEMINIST CONTRADICTIONS ARE UNCOVERED
IN A TOPLESS UKRAINIAN PROTEST GROUP
Ukraine is a country that has a pretty low profile in the U.S., reflecting the fact that there are only about 960,000 Americans of Ukrainian descent (as of the 2006 census), which represents a mere 0.33 percent of the American population. However, those of us for whom Ukraine is part of our genetic and cultural makeup see beyond the modest numbers.
We know Ukraine as the fabled breadbasket of Eastern Europe; the heartland of the Kievan-Rus, from whom sprang a family of Slavic peoples, including the Russians and Belarus; home of Taras Bulba, the semi-fictional warrior hero (immortalized in a really lousy movie starring, if you can imagine it, Yul Brynner and Tony Curtis). Indeed, much of the great Slavic cultural bounty can be traced to Ukraine, particularly to its capital, Kiev, an ancient center of literature and learning in the Cyrillic linguistic tradition.
But all of this proud heritage has been topped (so to speak) by Ukraine’s latest gift to world civilization. That would be Femen, the Kiev-based feminist protest group known for bare-breasted demonstrations on the streets of Europe’s cities.
Sworn to oppose “sexual and political repression,” Femen stages what the UK’s Independent calls “carefully choreographed media stunts,” acting on the slogan…
“Our mission is protest, our weapons are bare breasts.”
Feminist theatrics recently ran into real feminine assertiveness when British model Hollie-May Saker punched a Femen member in the nose during a Nina Ricci fashion show in Paris. Several activists had invaded the program and jumped onto the catwalk, their naked upper torsos painted with the message, “Model, don’t go to brothel” — no doubt a commentary on exploitation of women in haute couture.
Miss Saker explained her reaction to this untoward intrusion of feminist solidarity…
“I was the 19th girl out of the catwalk and I could hear screaming behind me.
“As she grabbed my arm she lifted my skirt exposing me — I pulled my arm back with such force that I landed a punch square on her nose.”
So there. Don’t ever assume those anorexic waifs can’t handle themselves.
Femen’s feminist pedigree was questioned recently after a documentary film, titled Ukraine Is Not a Brothel, revealed that this trailblazing organization in the emerging field of female political toplessness is, in fact, controlled by a man. Victor Svyatski, who is listed on the group’s website as a consultant, confessed to Australian film-maker Kitty Green that he started and runs the whole operation.
Something of a publicity genius, Svyatski seeks out beautiful young women to conduct the semi-nude demonstrations. According to Kitty Green…
“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.”
The Independent reports that…
“When the Femen founder finally spoke to Ms. Green, he sought to justify his role within the organization 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.’”
I had a friend in college who admitted he participated in anti-war rallies to meet chicks. Svyatski also confesses ulterior motives…
“…when he is asked directly whether he started Femen ‘to get girls’, he replies: ‘Perhaps yes, somewhere in my deep subconscious.’”
Well, building a political movement is a hard job, but somebody’s gotta do it.
Not everyone in Femen acknowledges Svyatski’s leadership. Inna Shevchenko, who left Kiev to start up a Paris branch, insisted in The Guardian that, actually, Svyatski took over an established entity…
“Femen was founded by group of young female students in a culture in which men talk and women listen. In which men decide and women accept their decisions. In which men dominate and women accept that domination. And this explains why Svyatski could become Femen’s leader.”
Be that as it may, the various cadres follow the same formula — that is to say, using the female body (or at least its upper portion) as a billboard — which strikes me as rather unfeminist. Doesn’t that dehumanize women, reducing them to mere objects of propaganda?
Of course, consistency is not necessarily a strength among radical ideologues.
One wonders, though, if the tactic really works. I can well imagine that Femen demonstrations would be enormously popular. No doubt there are many young men who follow the group closely, eager for a lead on the next venue so they can show up early with folding chairs, opera glasses, and box lunches.
But does marching about with one’s … shall we say, characteristics … on display really contribute to having women taken seriously? It puts one in mind of those gay rights parades with six-foot guys dressed up as nuns or hookers carrying banners that demand respect for committed, long-term relationships between same-sex partners who, after all, are just seeking the same, sedate, conventional lifestyle as everybody else.
In other words, there would seem to be a certain disconnect.
But this is the modern world, where no virtue is held in higher regard than the virtue of self-expression. If a Ukrainian-American blogger can broadcast his opinions across the digital world, I suppose Ukrainian feminists are free to use the … well, media … that’s available to them.
It would be interesting to see — 40 or 50 years from now — when they’re all sitting around in their babushkas reminiscing about the old days, how the Femen girls feel about their past adventures. I suspect there’ll be a lot of editing in the stories they tell their granddaughters.
Meanwhile, I would advise them to stay away from fashion shows. Those skinny catwalk babes are tougher than they look.
Here’s a link to The Independent’s report on that punch heard ’round the fashion world…
Here’s one to the story on the documentary film outing Victor Svyatski as the topless-protest mastermind…