‘Sextremist’ Training: Climbing into the Ring with Femen

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Fabian Reinbold, April 24, 2013 (and 18 Photo in the Gallery).

Women’s rights activists with Femen have arrived in Germany, and they have patriarchy in their crosshairs. They’re holding training sessions for young women, teaching them how to evade security at protests — all while bearing their breasts in the name of feminism … //

… Keeping the Cameras Interested:  

  • On the Saturday training day, Femen’s public relations machine is there every step of the way. A camera team from northern German public broadcaster NDR stays all day. Early in the day in the TV studios, the seven young women — most of them university students — paint their fighting slogans onto each other.
  • Witt has “Fuck Dictator” painted on her breasts, like at the recent anti-Putin protest. Hellen, 23, chooses “Woman Spring is Coming,” while Anne’s upper body says “Destroy Sex Industry.” Khanova, who at 33 is the oldest of the group, gives orders: Spread your legs further apart, put your fist vertical in the air, keep the flower garlands parallel to the camera lens. A photographer records everything — the group’s Facebook page is updated with new photos daily.
  • Then the women are off to Hamburg’s main square, where they undress and scream for the TV cameras: “Feeeeemeeennn!” Pedestrians start to whip out their own cameras, some of them smirking. “Oh, the Ukrainians. They’re fighting for women over there,” says one man.
  • False, dear sir. The Femen fight is underway in Germany, as well. “The patriarchy in Germany has to be overthrown, too,” says Khanova. “We’re part of a worldwide movement, and want to address global problems in Germany,” adds Witt.

Criticism from Muslims and Feminists: … //

… Are Fat, Older Women Prohibited?

  • During the big debates over sexism, racism and anti-Semitism in Germany this year, Femen was there. For a handful of women who want to be provocative, that’s no small achievement. But does all of it serve to promote equal rights?
  • One accusation is that the activists are playing into sexual objectification and the dominant ideals of beauty. In practice, Femen members are almost exclusively young, thin women. This has become a topic of discussion within the group, as well. Many fear they are scaring away other women. Khanova counters that everyone is welcome to participate, but that older women often find their activism too outrageous.
  • All you have to be able to do is scream. After the boxing training session, Femen rehearses its form of protest. A blue gymnastics mat serves as an arena for the fight against patriarchy. Witt dashes off, and the moment she has two legs firmly planted on the mat, she raises her arm and roars, “Fuck Putin!” through the gym, so loud you’d think she were screaming all the way to Moscow itself. Four others play the role of the security guards. They grab Witt, she squirms and struggles and keeps screaming just as loud. Seven, eight, nine “Fuck Putins” — by Femen standards, that’s a pretty good protest.
  • Khanova praises her, and repeats that they have to spread the message as long as possible. She admits she doesn’t know how long that’s going to work with the Femen method. “Society is desensitized, we have to be more and more provocative,” she says. But she doesn’t want to worry about it. “It’ll keep going as long as it does.”

(full text).

Links:

The Problem of Ignorance: The Decline of Critical Thinking, on counterpunch, by LAWRENCE DAVIDSON, April 5-7, 2013;

5 Deadliest states of the USA, on BBC Earth, August 30, 2011.

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