On Sept. 20th the Ukrainian based feminist organization, Femen, will be throwing a birthday party to celebrate their one year anniversary as an international movement. According to the Femen website and Facebook page the party will be held in Paris, the city where Femen set up its first international training center.
It has been quite a year for Femen, an organization that is touted as being the face of a new style of transnational feminism. The group has gained global attention by bearing their breasts during protests, relying heavily on the internet to spread videos, photographs, and news of their actions. According to the Femen website, this act is meant to garner attention while giving women power over their bodies by using female nudity as a political act instead of a sexual one. As Femen states, they "use breasts as bombs."
Founded by Anna Hutsol in the Ukraine in 2008, Femen member Inna Shevchenko opened an office and training facility in France in Sept. 2012. This decision was made after Shevchenko and other members of the group cut down a large wooden cross overlooking Kiev, the Ukrainian capital city. As reported by the Huffington Post and the Kyiv Post, the cross was cut down to protest the sentencing of members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot. Shevchenko, fearing arrest, fled to France in search of political asylum.
After opening the new office, the group has continued to organize public acts of protest that are quick to grab media attention. Their main targets are patriarchal religious entities, dictatorships, and regimes. As reported by the Huffington Post, in February topless activists entered the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and began ringing the famous Notre Dame bells to celebrate the resignation of Pope Benedict while protesting homophobia. As Vice.com reports, in June Femen activists hung a banner in Paris's Place des Pyramides to protest a Nazi rally scheduled for the area. The group also engaged in a series of protests in support of a young Tunisian woman, Amina Sboui, who posted bare-breasted photographs of herself on Facebook in support of Femen. As the Huffington Post, France 24, and Al Arabiya reports, Sboui was later arrested for spray painting the word Femen on a Tunisian mosque. The subsequent transnational protests by Femen actually led to Sboui breaking away from the group on the grounds that it is Islamaphobic. Sboui also questioned the financial resources of Femen, citing this as another reason for leaving the organization.
Femen's controversial methods of protest often leave a lot of people feeling angry, and the group receives daily death threats. As reported by France 24 and the Femen website, in July the Femen office in Paris was destroyed by a fire while people were sleeping inside. While the police found no reason to suspect arson, Femen claims otherwise. Despite the danger that comes with it, controversy is exactly what Femen aims to accomplish as it brings more attention to the organization and their goals. Femen has earned global recognition with their brand of activism, and in the last year the organization has gained factions in several countries. While it is uncertain what Femen is planning for the international stage, the next year will likely bring more controversy. Perhaps Femen should take a minute and ask themselves what stands out more, the act or the meaning behind it?