Sunday, September 23, 2018 - 01:51

Source: Krytyka Magazine, Print Edition, Year XIV, Issue 11–12 (157–158)

The Radical FEMEN and The New Women’s Activism

November 2010

We shall march, chest forward, Into the kingdom of freedom.1

In Ukraine, FEMEN is regarded with skepticism. Local intellectuals  point out its problematic qualities, such as kitsch and inconsistency.

Western intellectuals are fascinated by FEMEN's vigor and radicalism, and the image of Ukrainian feminism is now associated with FEMEN.   

Ukrainian feminists are wary of any associations with FEMEN and prefer to distance themselves from the group: FEMEN, they say, capitalizes on the sexualization of female bodies. 

How can one understand FEMEN?

The Phenomenology of FEMEN

FEMEN is a radical women’s movement that originated in Kyiv about two years ago.2 National newspapers, magazines, television, and internet sites all beam with childlike exaltation savoring the appealing defiance of FEMEN’s street actions: activists protesting topless.

When after two years FEMEN’s protests did not stop – in fact, they became more frequent and more daring – when the movement did not join a political party, did not become a mouthpiece for a candidate at the next elections, and did not turn into a business project, then the claims that FEMEN was just a puppet organization somewhat dwindled.

Incessant attempts to uncover FEMEN’s financial benefactors dead-end with the evidence of financial asceticism. Three activists, for example, would often share one rented apartment, and it is not unusual for them to suffer from lack of money:

Sasha Shevchenko is pouring tea from a small pan. There isn’t a teapot in the small apartment she is sharing with two other girls. There aren’t enough cups, either. "I’ll pour you some tea into a jar, ok?" she alerts Ania Hutsol, her friend and comrade-in-arms. "Good thing the cookies are still around; my parents brought them. I’d been starving for a week before that. At least I lost some weight, which is good for filming." (N. Radulova. Ogoniok, No. 37 (5146) ...

Translated by: