“If you are interested [in registering], it’s not complicated. You just have to take off your t-shirt.”
– Eloise, Femen co-ordinator in France, Sep 19, 2012
The founding of the anti-prostitution outfit, Femen, had and still does have, a genuine basis of protest. Exploitative sex-tourism in the Ukraine is something women and men would understandably take a strong stand against, and local resistance has been scanty (no pun intended). Ditto numerous countries where sexual slavery has found itself growing on the coat tails of globalisation and corrupt governments. But as has been noted by commentators in, for want of a better term “industrialised” countries, rarely does the conversation move beyond the shock photo stunts the group wishes to disseminate. In other words, the conversation becomes less a matter of revolution than a sense of whether one’s sets of breasts are better than another’s. When the message of protest gets mired in tactics rather than aims, it’s bound to get lost in the hubbub.
The attempt by Femen to project a more European-broad protest – bare-breasted, of course – has been announced, with the ladies of the group taking their tops off in various European capitals. So far the group have lacked a “base” to launch their indignation. Paris has been greeted with the Femen flavour, and the website of Femen France features “Nudité, Lutte and Liberté” in the tricolour scheme, all against a backdrop of taut, curvy flesh. Products can be purchased as well – the Femen Handbag, the Femen Hoody, and an assortment of shirts such as “F’Kamikaze.” The latter is surely ironic – a topless women’s outfit that makes money selling tops. Themes of protest do move in mysterious ways.
Paris is now the base for the first ‘training centre’ which will school feminist recruits on the art of dodging security forces. In the words of one of the outfit’s more notorious figures, Inna Shevchenko, “We’re opening the first international training centre for feminists…who want to transform themselves into soldiers.” To celebrate the occasion, the protestors marched through a largely Muslim neighbourhood in the 18th arrondissement. “Muslim women, let’s get naked.”