FEMEN is an aggressive activist group fighting for women's rights. It was created in 2008, but it adopted its current form of activism around 2010. I heard about the group three or four years ago. The first thing I saw, of course, were the pictures and not the discourse. As an activist group, which performs, it’s a visual movement. The media covered this topic, and pictures of FEMEN’s protests have always been well spread in the newspapers.
I remember that I saw FEMEN’s disturbing pictures in the newspapers or in the news. If I had to describe them in one phrase, I would say “sexy,” in a disturbing way, mostly because these pictures depict women as half naked. In my memory, the picture I saw presented also young, pretty, thin and blond girls showing their breasts. In short, they were representing this kind of stereotypical feminine beauty. Even the picture, showing them struggling with policemen, have a sexual connotation. What I remember is that feminist activism was mentioned in the text associated with their pictures, but the explanations were vague. They certainly had some words written on their bodies, but the words were difficult to read. To be honest, my attention was attracted by their nudity, which prevents me from paying attention to the message.
Without remembering precisely the description of the pictures or the articles, I remember that my reaction to their performances was pretty negative. As a feminist, I should have been interested by a feminist movement. But in fact, I did not even take the time to look for more information about them. These pictures were not able to push me further to attend to their message. However I was convinced by the defense of women’s rights. Instead of being interested and trying to learn more, I rolled my eyes. I even was a little upset. What were these women doing? The group criticized sexism by reproducing exactly what they criticized. A little voice however told me too look at it a little bit deeper, but it is only recently that I took the time to look at what they are saying.
Despite the fact that I was already favorable to the cause, it was really difficult for me only to listen to what they wanted to say. If I have this reaction, what will be the reaction of a non-feminist person? Regarding what I’ve heard, I’m not sure.
It seems that FEMEN wants to re-claim the sexualized image of women. But is that possible, by using the codes of sexy imagery and putting some feminist discourse on it? Is that really what they do or is it the way the media cover the subject, emphasizing only the sexy part of the pictures and eliminating the protest content? Indeed, the media wants to attract consumers; they willingly use these images because nudity is attractive.
The words written on their breasts are important regarding their message. However, it was impossible for me to understand these words associated with naked bodies because breasts are most of the time hyper sexualized, which means that we are accustomed seeing breasts in a sexualized manner. This fact makes it very difficult to see it in another way. Their breasts were like a fence, preventing me from being interested in the subject. Now than I took the time to have a closer look at what they say, I find them brave, strong, interesting, smart and even inspiring.