Sunday, September 16, 2012

Baring Their Breasts

In 2009 I traveled to Kiev as part of a trip for a high-tech company seeking to recover money from delinquent clients in the Ukraine and Russia. I stayed at a nice hotel under the bluff and wandered the city for a day before my first meeting. The men of the city were drunken louts with black eyes from fighting and falling down drunk. The young women were willowy blonde valkeries obviously dismayed by the decline of their male counterparts. I felt as sorry for them as I felt for women in the rest of the world trapped by their surroundings, but not their aspirations. Kiev has become a sex tourist destination and the women emigrate throughout Europe to escape grim futures only to discover that they have been trapped by traffickers. The government does nothing to protect these women and in 2012 they even suggested the legalization of prostitution to accommodate the influx of Euro Cup football fans. FEMEN, a small group of female university students, protested this proposal by going topless and their leader, Anna Hutsol stated that, "This is the only way to be heard in this country. If we staged simple protests with banners, then our claims would not have been noticed." Like Pussy Riot in Russia authorities have charged the bare-breasted protestors with 'hooliganism' and the police have threatened to cut the hair of arrested FEMEN members. FEMEN is small, but the founder has explained her motive to the media, "It was not difficult, as everyone knows how many problems are here in Ukraine and as Ukrainian girls we feel that every day in our minds and bodies. So all we needed was to be brave enough to tell the world about it. That’s why we decided to show that women are protesting, and to use our bodies as weapon in the fight." As for the purpose of the naked breasts, the economist said, "Even going back to ancient times – such as the Amazonians – where the sacred attitude towards the woman's breast, fed, and still feeds, every human being. But for us, it also has a different meaning: for us a naked woman is a free woman. A naked woman is uncontrolled by the patriarchate, and her unexpected appearance especially makes the patriarchy - the ruling man - nervous. It is different from the controlled appearance of a naked woman, let's say, on TV, a movie, or advertisment, etc., which is accepted and liked. We understood that in the beginning, it would be interesting for society and the media alike, and draw their attention. However, later, when we were in constant conflicts with the authorities and militia, which are the most fierce representatives of the patriarchy, we concluded that this method was chosen very well, and we continued to use it. It turned out there is nothing more terrifying in such a patriarchal country than a protesting naked woman on your territory during some very important events." FEMEN brings their fight to Paris September 18. Rue Leon 35, Lavoir Moderne Parisien 18 arronisement

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