What People Believe: Femansby Jenna Louch
at University of Worcester 18th September 2012 11:23:26
They are famous for protesting topless and have been labelled as ‘anti-social’ by some of the Ukrainian population. As part of our What People Believe series , we look at the notorious Femens.
Founded in 2008 by 27-year-old economist Anna Hutsol, the Femens are a Ukrainian feminist protest group, famous for their controversial topless protests.
When the organisation began it was largely made up of female university students aged between 18 and 20. Now in Kiev there are 20 ‘topless’ activists and about 300 ‘fully clothed’ active participants in the Femen movement.
There are very few male members of the Femen organisation.
Headquarters of the organisation are based in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Most of Femen’s demonstrations take place in Kiev itself; however there have been demonstrations in other cities all over the world, including the UK.
Femen regard themselves as the “founders of a new wave of feminism of the third millennium”.
What do they believe?
As a feminist organisation, Femen believe in defending sexual and social equality for women in the world.
Hutsol said she set up Femen as she realised there was a lack of female activists in the Ukraine, which she believed to be a male-orientated society where women were expected to take a passive role.
Initially, the organisation believed strongly in tackling the issue of prostitution and the growing sex tourism industry they believed to exist at large in the Ukraine. They strongly opposed talks from politicians concerning legalising prostitution for a football championship, where a large number of ‘sex tourists’ were expected to attend.
Femen oppose many other issues concerning women, from internet censorship to women’s rights in the Middle East.
One of Femen’s key members, Anna Shevchenko, has said: “We really do believe that we can start a revolution here in this country (Ukraine) and spread it to other countries. We want to create a revolution of women.”
What do they do?
The members of Femen take part in protests against issues which they oppose surrounding women, and women’s rights.
“Our God is women, our mission is protest, our weapons are our bare breasts!” – Femen
The group are famous for exposing their breasts during protests. They deem this provocative method as necessary and justify this as they say it is the only way to be heard in this country (Ukraine). Simple methods (such as banners) would go unnoticed.
As a result of their toplessness, Facebook initially blocked the Femen page as it was suspected as pornographic.
Femen protests have also been known to cause criminal damage, such as the case of the August 2012 protest against the sentencing of Russian group Pussy Riot. During this protest a five metre high Christian cross was cut down with a chainsaw in Kiev.
Femen are no strangers to encounters with the law. Multiple arrests have been made to activists during protests, mostly for ‘hooliganism’, with fines being given out. One activist was even sentenced to 15 days in prison as a result of her actions during a 2012 protest aimed at the Orthodox Christian leader.
The group uses a basement bar called Café Cupid as their headquarters in Kiev.
Claims have been made by the group that the Ukrainian Secret Service have made threats against the organisation to intimidate them, and that the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus arrested some activists, “threatening them with knives and cutting their hair”.
Femen receive financial funding from the male German techno-house DJ, DJ Hell.
Some Femen activists have claimed that their involvement in the movement has caused their families to become alienated from them.