Femen in Tunisia: Came. Stripped. Conquered. Conquered What?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: 501
Oral Presentation
Elina OINAS , Political and Economic Studies, University of Helsinki, University of Helsinki, Finland
The paper examines different responses to the activist group Femen’s practices and messages by young activists in different political alliances, including feminist groups, in Tunisia in 2013. The Tunisian Femen context is especially interesting as it captures so many contemporary tensions regarding social change, youth and political engagements, transnational movements, cultural conservatism, generational clashes, politicized embodiment and shame, public sexualization, and changing fundamentalisms. While Femen has challenged global feminist movements and provoked unusually explicit anger, ridicule and dismissal among women’s movements and conservative religious authorities alike it could potentially evoke other types of responses from activist youth, especially in the aftermath of the initial revolution and later frustration in Tunisia, where a generational conflict on issues of rights and freedoms and bodily integrity is often explicitly politicized. The paper analyses the ways the Tunisian responses frame the meaning, or meaninglessness, of Amina’s action, explicit agenda and the followed media turmoil. The first interviews were conducted during the first on-line appearances of the Amina Tyler’s internet action in March 2013, and continued in several phases as the event received international media attention and analytical narratives became consolidated. The Western responses provoked counter-resposes and thus the Femen event can be seen to have become one analytical window to self-understandings of gender politics among youth in the aftermath of the Revolution in contemporary Tunisia.