At this time, in this country, only radical women’s protest can shake the world of passive women.” (interview given to osocio.org on August 2nd 2011)
Anna Hutsol is best know as one of the founding members of FEMEN – an activist group from the Ukraine, Hutsol’s home country. During her studies in sociology and economy, Anna became aware of the problem of prostitution in her country, the worrying state of women’s rights as well as their social status. The small group of FEMEN activists started demonstrating in front of government building in Kiev and in St. Petersburg, Russia. As part of their campaigns the largely female activists choose not to wear tops and/or to wear clothes that were otherwise labelled ‘provocative’ by the media. Although demonstrating women demonstrating bare-breasted is by no means a new phenomenon, this act lead to police force being used to shut down most of their actions and several members of FEMEN have received death threats on various occasions. Over the years, FEMENs focus has broadened to a range of issues concerning women’s rights, liberation and politics. According to the FEMEN homepage their goal is to educate and point out problems in Ukraine relating to sex tourism, prostitution, the role of the orthodox church and the influence of the Russian government headed by Wladimir Putin.
After prior arrests by the Federal Security Service of the Ukraine and razzias as well as physical attacks by a unknown group, Hutsol and various other FEMEN members fled the Ukraine in 2013. Since Hutsol attained her visa from the French embassy in Kiev, her request for asylum in Switzerland was denied. Since then, news surrounding Anna Hutsol and any new FEMEN actions have largely died down. After the request for asylum was first denied, Hutsol gave an interview to the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger in which she stated she will reapply.
Activism in the name of women’s rights and feminism may look different in different societies and some actions – like taking off your shirt – might seem unimaginative to some while others still think it to be radical or highly offensive. This just goes to show how it is not possible to judge and asses the effectiveness of such actions without considering the political and societal climate of the organisation in question.
That said, Anna Hutsol and the other members of FEMEN are truly inspiring! Not because the take off their shirts in public spaces but because they put a lot on the line they make their voices heard by a governments that try their hardest to intimidate them and by a society that does not necessarily have their backs.
What do you think? Is the naked female body just a tool to be heard or is it giving patriarchy exactly what it wants?
Disclaimer: If you choose to comment in the section below, please be kind to others and respect that different people have different opinions
Written by Perrine Yarar, WAVE Intern
BBC online: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-12618784
Tages Anzeiger online: https://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/zuerich/Die-Frau-hinter-den-Bruesten/story/20330056
Tages Anzeiger online: https://www.tagesanzeiger.ch/schweiz/standard/FemenChefin-muss-die-Schweiz-wohl-verlassen/story/26682982
A selection of critical voices on nudity in protests:
Gupta, Rahila in Open Democracy (2017): The Politics of Nudity as Feminist Protest – from Ukraine to Tunisia [URL: http://bit.ly/2T9GG4T].
Menrad, Gitana Carmina in Café Babel (2019): Naked Protests. A Tool of Feminism [URL: http://bit.ly/32lcCYl].
Feminist Current: http://bit.ly/2VjpD2X