Feminist Disagreements: The Post-Colonial Confrontation Between Femen and Muslim Women

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 11:10 AM
Room: 413
Oral Presentation
Jean-François BRAULT , Political Science, Paris 8 University, Saint Denis, France
Founded in 2008, Femen is a feminist Ukranian protest group based in Kiev and in Paris, whose main political enemy is patriarchy. In their struggle for gender equality, Femen activists see religious institutions as a substantial tool of oppression against women ; hence the current anticlerical position of the group. In Femen’s approach, nudity is the best means to break free from male dominance, and they deeply believe that being topless can be empowering. Femen’s mobilizations are always carried out in a spectacular way, in which they scream and shout provocative slogans that are also written on their naked bodies.

In my paper, I will mainly focus on Femen slogans that are addressed to muslim – especially veiled – women, encouraging liberation from both religion and male domination: “muslim women, let’s get naked”, “nudity is freedom”, “bare breast against islamism”, “topless jihad”. Muslim women have answered Femen’s injunction to liberate through nudity by creating a series of networks, accompanied by virtual and physical mobilizations, in which muslim women from all over the world post photos online featuring reactive slogans such as “Islam is my choice”, “nudity is not freedom”, “Femen stole our voice”, “there is more than one way to be free”.

Indeed, one can clearly see how Femen’s mobilization has entailed a countermobilization led by muslim women, and under what circumstances the latter are questioning a hegemonic western idea of what a free body looks like. Far from being an isolated event, the current struggle between Femen and muslim women to define what “feminism” is and, by extension, what a free woman is, is not new. Rather, it alludes to a more deeply rooted antagonism that dates back to the colonial period.