Laura Nayibi Arias, Culture Editor
Femen is a feminist grassroots organization which originated in Ukraine and is composed of educated activist women who use their bodies, through topless protests, as a form of extremism, or “sextremism,” against Ukraine’s patriarchal society. In an interview by the State Times with the founders of the group, Anna Hutsol, Alexandra Shevchenko and Oksana Shachko, they expressed that Femen tackles general issues of sexism, but more specifically, the manifestation of sexual exploitation, dictatorship and oppressive religious views.
The activists also indicated that though the group receives genuine support from people who are educated on their goals and the objective of their form of protest, there is much controversy in Ukraine because, they as state, “Feminism does not exist in our country, so people are not used to see political active women. And we have polar opinions about Femen here. One part of society love us and consider us as heroes, other part blames us in political and real prostitution without any reasons and facts just because we don’t want to be men’s slaves [sic].”
Femen believes that women living in patriarchal societies are oppressed in many ways, but mostly sexually. This is one of the main reasons for nudity as a form of protest. Through it, the women are suggesting that they can be naked at their own leisure and that they are not doing it for male attention, but because they love their bodies and are going to use it to attract attention, not to themselves, but to the issue at hand.
As a result to their empowering endeavors, the group has received esteemed support from women closer to home who are involved in the Slutwalk protest marches. Slutwalks are protests that began on April 3, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada after a Toronto police officer suggested that women should avoid dressing “slutty” if they do not want to be sexually assaulted. The protests now occur annually in New York City and in many other states. They have also taken place on New York State college campuses like SUNY Oswego and Ithaca College. Similarly to Femen, but not as radical, Slutwalks are intended to praise women who are taking back their sexualities and redefining the word “slut,” or suggesting that the term should not exist.
These groups are new waves in the feminist movement that are fighting for the sexual freedom of women who, in a male dominated society, have been taught that they should not reveal their bodies “too much” or dress a certain way, otherwise they will lack value. But should anyone’s body, or what they do with it, be judged as worthy or not? The double standard is still in effect as long as women realize the structure which many societies live by, and the gender roles they impose upon both females and males.