Femen's Neocolonial Feminism: When Nudity Becomes a Uniform

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According to their website, "Femen is a hot boobs [sic], a cool head and clean hands."

By: Sara M. Salem

Published Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In November 2011, Egyptian blogger Alia al-Mahdi sent shockwaves through the online Middle Eastern community after she uploaded a naked picture of herself. Al-Mahdi claimed that she was challenging Egyptian patriarchal structures in general, and the negative views of women as simple sex objects in particular.

Interestingly, Egyptian self-identified liberals and secular activists were the first to disown Alia and her photo, denouncing it even before more conservative factions such as the Muslim Brotherhood did. They claimed that it was pointless, and did immense harm to the liberal/secular cause in Egypt, especially with parliamentary elections coming up. Much of the debate also centered on the issue of feminism and women’s rights. Many claimed that stripping naked was not a feminist tactic by any stretch of the imagination, and in fact simply reified the image of women as a sex object to be consumed for the pleasure of men. Others disagreed, pointing out that the photo had stirred up a debate about women in Egyptian society, in particular with regards to sexuality and nudity.

After receiving death threats, al-Mahdi and her partner Kareem Amer had to leave Egypt.

On 20 December 2012, new photos began circulating of al-Mahdi, this time posing naked with members of Femen, a Ukrainian-based feminist movement, under the title “Apocalypse of Muhammad.” In one of these photos, al-Mahdi is standing with an Egyptian flag, with the words “Sharia is not a constitution” written on her body in black paint next to two nude Femen activists. In another photo, al-Mahdi is holding a paper over her crotch with “Coran” written on it. The reaction was instantaneous, as the photos were shared widely on Twitter and Facebook.

In collaborating with Femen, al-Mahdi is essentially normalizing certain problematic discourses about Egyptian women. While the action of uploading a photo of herself naked can be seen as one avenue of challenging society’s patriarchal norms, the fact that she collaborated with a group that can be defined as a colonial feminist movement should be problematized.

Femen is a Ukraine-based movement that was started in 2008 to protest the growing sex industry in the country. The movement soon branched out and began protesting other gender issues, including the perceived oppression of women at the hands of religious institutions.

According to their website:

FEMEN - is the name of the new woman
FEMEN - is the new Amazons, capable to undermine the foundations of the patriarchal world by their intellect, sex, agility, make disorder, bring neurosis and panic to the men's world. FEMEN – is the ability to feel the problems of the world, beat it with the naked truth and bare nerve. FEMEN – is a hot boobs, a cool head and clean hands. Be FEMEN - means to mobilize every cell of your body on a relentless struggle against centuries of slavery of women!
FEMEN – is an ideology of SEXTREMISM.
FEMEN - is a new ideology of the women's sexual protest presented by extreme topless campaigns of direct action . FEMEN – is sextremism serving to protect women's rights, democracy watchdogs attacking patriarchy, in all its forms: the dictatorship, the church, the sex industry.
The magic of the body get your interested, the courage of the act make you want to riot.
Come out, Go topless and Win!

I first heard of Femen when they protested in Paris by wearing burqas and then stripping them off, to reveal their naked bodies underneath. This protest was aimed specifically at the Muslim community. Femen claimed that the veil and the burqa should be seen as intrinsically oppressive, and encouraged Muslim women to “free themselves” by stripping. This is apparent from both their protest actions as well as the slogans they use, including "Muslim Women! Let’s get Naked." Femen have also made problematic statements about Arabs,such as: “As a society we haven't been able to eradicate our Arab mentality towards women.” The slogan and statement point towards a specific view of Arab and Muslim women that forms part of Femen’s activism and ideology.

What struck me at the time was the underlying assumption that Femen was operating on, namely that female liberation can be directly linked to what women wear. This is not a new idea, and in fact has formed the basis of much of western feminism. One of the most prominent examples is the way the French state produced Algeria as a backwards country because Algerian women veiled. This type of logic automatically leads to the conclusion that in order to progress, women who veil must unveil, and therefore “free” themselves.

As a feminist, these colonial undertones were extremely worrying. It seemed to me that we were returning to the never-ending debate about veiling and feminism, in which many feminists continue to claim that in order to be a “real” feminist, one must reject the veil.

My concerns about Femen intensified after I watched an episode of “The Stream” on al-Jazeera English. Femen explained that women’s bodies are consistently used by men, and that their movement aimed at taking back women’s bodies and thus freeing them from patriarchy. This was to be done through the act of stripping.

Halfway through the episode, the Femen spokeswoman began to question the feminist credentials of some of the other guests, who were questioning Femen’s tactics. For Femen, it appears that their kind of feminism is the only kind of feminism. Women who choose to wear the veil cannot and will not be called feminists, since they do not adhere to the same logic that Femen adheres to.

This is not the first time that feminism has confronted the issue of diversity. First and second wave feminists in the US, for example, were notorious for excluding women who weren’t like them: white, middle-class, American. Their feminism was distinctly local, but was branded and spread as ‘universal’ and if women didn’t adopt it then they were anti-feminist. The arguments advanced by the Femen member on al-Jazeera was eerily reminiscent of those kinds of discourses, especially when she accused the other participants of not being feminists because they didn’t agree with Femen’s tactics.

By collaborating with Femen, al-Mahdi has essentially condoned their problematic stance towards feminisms that are different from their own. The reality is that many feminists in Egypt – where al-Mahdi is from – have rejected Femen and their brand of feminism. This does not mean that it is not seen as a legitimate form of feminism, but rather that it is not the only legitimate form of feminism. Moreover, the assumptions underlying some of Femen’s stances are very troubling from the perspective of post-colonial feminism, especially the assumption that women who veil are uniformly oppressed.

Feminism has the potential to be greatly emancipatory by adopting an anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic and anti-Islamophobic rhetoric, instead of often actively being racist, homophobic, transphobic and Islamophobic. By clearly delineating the boundaries of what is “good” and “bad” feminism, Femen is using colonial feminist rhetoric that defines Arab women as oppressed by culture and religion, while no mention is made of capitalism, racism, or global imperialism. It is actively promoting the idea that Muslim women are suffering from “false consciousness” because they cannot see (while Femen can see) that the veil and religion are intrinsically harmful to all women.

Yet again, the lives of Muslim women are to be judged by European feminists, who yet again have decided that Islam – and the veil – are key components of patriarchy. Where do women who disagree with this fit? Where is the space for a plurality of voices? And the most important question of all: can feminism survive unless it sheds its Eurocentric bias and starts accepting that the experiences of all women should be seen as legitimate?

Sara Salem is a PhD researcher at the Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands. Her interests include decolonial theory, third world feminism, critical political economy, and theories of post-development. She tweets at @saramsalem.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.

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dam look at all the butt hurt white people about colonialism. Whats with these people, they always have to come into everyones business and get all offended when we disagree or start pushing our shit.

You are focusing on defending an oppressive religion rather than defending every women's right to live and express her self as she feels rigth! All over in West Europe you will see even children vielded. So to your (obscure) religious mindset these children are protected against wild sexual beast?
Next to that i will inform you that most rapes/sexual assaults is documented performed of second generation of immigrant from the middle east... But off cause this may be the only logical behaviour while a woman aren't covered up..??
And FEMEN are focusing on defending freedom of expression their way. What are your contribution? Except from intellectualising from a safe ivory Tower placed in civilized Netherland...
Some here seems to know disturbing little about Europe & Caucasus ignoring the huge difference between former Soviet dictatorstates and the democratic west Europe! Go travelling & look around in this part of the free world

Nakedness is natural - a fact some (most) cultures find intolerable. Some might find the fact that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west intolerable, but what can you do?

"...calling it colonial is a blatant non-sense. Maybe it is Islamic colonization when people are punished for their own photos on their own blog."
This. And what is Islamic colonisation? No one from anywhere ever invited the Arab Muslims of Medina to come and shower them with the delights of Islam, certainly not Egypt, MENA and beyond.

There is no automatic equation between colonialism and badness. Being colonised brings many facets. If I was an Afghani woman who aspired to a public life in business or government, or who wanted to play instruments or dance in the streets I would welcome western influence where that allowed liberalism, free-thought, free expression, gender equality, equal opportunity etc - you know the stuff Islam has tended to broadly suppress.(yes I know the president of Bangladesh is a woman)

The article's main thrust is yet another tiresome crack at European colonialism being wholly bad...but this from 'K' whose simple message warrants repeating:

"Islam is the #1 force oppressing "Muslim" women. Everything else - racism, capitalism, etc - is a distant second. Capitalism, despite (or because of) its destructiveness, has the potential to be a liberating force for women (and for all people oppressed by religion everywhere in the world) because it poses a challenge to Islam, patriarchy and tribalism."

Vietnam, whose Northern half fought to get rid of the American 'system', has adopted an ('American') market system and has just opened its first McDonalds. You won't find American GIs there forcing the Vietnamese at gun point to buy Big Macs. Residents of Cairo aren't forced to patronise McDonalds either, but happily do so in droves. Maybe ask someone - perhaps a Copt - eating their Big Mac in a Cairo McDonalds whether they'd prefer the joys of Arab Muslim Imperialists or European Imperialists. Under which system do you reckon their lives would be better?

I wonder when Ukraine has been a colonialist country ? Maybe during a very short period at the time of Vladimir the Great, i.e. more one thousand year ago... Since then it has always been colonized, it seems. By Russians mainly, and by moslem Tatars for a part of its territory, with constant slave-trading to Istambul and Arab countries, this during centuries (the origin of the word "slave" comes from the widespread enslaving of the Slavic people).

The price of a white sex-slave was much higher than this of a black sex-slave in Moslem countries, with a whole range of tariffs soaring from full white to full black. This was not racism ? This was not colonialism ?

So when you, heirs of the Arab colonizers of North-Africa, Iran and India, and of the slave-traders of Cairo who justified their activities with the words of the highest Muslim writers of the time, that "negro people are among men, the closest to beasts", claim that Femen are racist and colonialist because they coin the word Arab for the Moslem rule and ferocious attacks which their newly-independant country has suffered of for centuries, I would suggest you to get some lessons of logic and of the same self-examination which Western countries have completed for more than a half-century.

This is rich... a white supremacist European trying to use a red herring to justify femens racist "feminism". You probably think some obscure quote from IBn khaldun exempts you from your privilege don't you? Nice try, but historical revisionism won't be your savior ;)

This is patronizing. Why are you assuming Alia does not consider colonialist practices? Haven't you thought that her opposition to Islam is just a manifestation of her atheism rather than a colonizing practice? A few months ago Femem protested against the Catholic Church in the same way they have been protesting against Mosques. The group is radical and most probably they would protest against other forms of organized religions. However, when the religion is mainly non-western they are rapidly categorized as colonialists. If they prostest against Judaism they probably would be called anti-semitic. You also asume that Femen is exlusively White-European. However, there are black and arab activists in the group. Do you know their opinions and whether they think this is a colonizing practice or not?

Historically, religion has been used as a tool for colonization in both the East and the West and it continuos to be so. Alia self proclamates as an atheist. From her actions it seem that her point of view is that all religion is oppressive. If religion is abolished wouldn't that be the end of colonization through religious faith?

Also, don't forget that this controversy started with actions performed by Arab Women living within Arab contexts. I agree with the idea that change cannot be forced upon another culture but that it has to come within. In this case provocation for change did start from within. The rest of Femen just followed and supported them. I just think that the idea that in order to be from a certain culture you have to follow a certain religion is bs.

Ok, let's all make up words to show our prejudice. Look, the colonial period has been over for some time, and what is colonial feminism? I tried to research it, but it seems to be a made up term from some professor. Femen (no matter what you or I think of their tactics) have the welfare of women at heart. What concern is it of yours or anyone else who this girl associates with? That is the entire problem! You are claiming ownership over a girl and trying to dictate the terms of her personal protest. You can oppress yourself as much as you like, but God bless this girl, her bravery (yes, bravery) stop being paranoid people and thinking everything is a conspiracy. If you don't agree with it, fine, it doesn't mean you have to lump everything you don't agree with as some Western conspiracy. Peace out!

This is the stupidest comment I have ever read. "the colonial period has been over for some time". In what world do you live where you don't understand the coloniality of our world? As in, the structural continuities of colonialism. If you think only what you find in Google is real (as in, exists), you can definitely find Coloniality there. The problem is that Femen have the welfare of a SPECIFIC type of woman at heart, leaving other types of resistances excluded as they are seen as "illegitimate" for they don't subscribe to the things FEMEN wants women to want.
Feminism is about choice. And you say the author is "claiming ownership over a girl and trying to dictate the terms of her personal protest". FEMEN is taking ownership of what a woman should want and dictating it to them. The author is questioning THAT.

I bet 7 out of 10 guys just looked up the nudie pics of this chick like I did. If this is feminism then please give me more ;-p

Haha feminist fight *grabs popcorn*
Too bad we are all paying for these silly academics

I understand using the veil as symbol of cultural identity but not of female liberation. As far as I understand the veil is worn to cover what men find attractive in a woman's body and thus diverting them from good religious morals or commiting any sexual deviation. To me this seems the logic where society teaches women not to be raped instead of teaching men not to rape.

Please Sara explain because this is just incredibly contradictory...

All religions are social inventions.Whether it is christianism oppressing women in the west or islam oppressing women in the east, it is more than obvious that they act as vehicles to foster classism, sexism, racism, fundamentalism and many other evils. The problem with faith is that you accept but do not question. You put your faith in the hands of religious institutions that take centuries to change in favor a social justice and equality and you end up in small dark room trying to juggle your own values with their patriarchal morals.If you are free to decide for yourself, why following a religion?

Thanks for posting!

I thought the writer made some good points and intra-feminism critique is always welcome to remind us that it's a multicultural movement with different cultural contexts. This is definitely important for a white westerner like myself.

Which brings me to my point as it seems the author was drawing parallels between Femen and Western feminism.

Who on earth really thinks Femen represents "Eurocentric bias" or means "Muslim women are being judged by European feminists again"? Not any European news outlet I know sees Femen as an intellectually honest representative of _feminism_ or the struggle against a patriarchal culture. Moreover, it is seen as a way for these Ukrainian women to make their voices heard in a post-Soviet, extreme capitalist and ultra-sexist environment. It's self-representation as a "feminist movement" is widely questioned everywhere in Europe. Femen is definitely not a text book example of mainstream Western feminist thinking.

But I do have an honest question: how can veil be seen as a feminist choice? I am not trying to insult anyone; I'm just sincerely curious about how it is possible to frame the veil in feminist terms.

I understand that it is postcolonial and potentially insulting when Western men and women condemn the veil altogether as a sign of oppression. And of course everyone should be heard and seen, no matter what they wear. Everyone should be able to wear what they want without being discriminated against. Veiling or not veiling yourself should be a choice you make, for yourself, not a choice someone else makes for you.

But aren't there some uncomfortable patriarchal undertones in covering your head in the name of Islam?

yes they are, people just assume things about the religion and ignorantly claim that it is a form of patriarchy. There are some Muslims that believe this, but we cannot generalise their views through the whole religion. Many see the veil as a form of freedom, being free from the eyes of hungry men. And anyway, why don't they fault nuns for covering their heads since they fault Muslim's for covering theirs?

Anthropologist Fadwa El Guindi points out that the veil is a multi-valent, multi-layered symbol that can signify any of several possible meanings. One cannot simply look at an example of a woman veiling, out of context, and conclude much of anything about it. For example, for women in some contexts, it signifies "tradition" as much as (or more than) "religion"; and even then, one must know something about the local history to understand what "tradition" means and why the woman is signifying that.

Imagine a colonized or post-colonial society in which there is a powerful elite class of Western-educated, Westernized people who are busy "selling the farm" for their own profit. (Several real examples come to mind.) In such a situation, enforced veiling may well have been taken off the law books at the behest of this Westernized class. A woman from a lower class might then choose to continue veiling in part as a statement against the Westernization of her culture and the concomitant sexualization of the female form for advertising and other commercial purposes. Her veiling might well be understood as a feminist statement in this context.

Now, substitute "generation" or "social cohort" or "ethnic group" for social class in the above scenario, and you can begin to appreciate the complexity that the veil embodies.

In short: veiling is so rich in possible meanings that it cannot be read simply as either "feminist" or "anti-feminist." It bears meanings that are highly contextual and may have nothing at all to do with the woman's social position, oppressed or otherwise.

Answering your question about the veil and the burqa: A woman has as much right to cover her body as she has to uncover it.
Islam never explicitly states that you must cover your head. My grandmother is a Muslim, from a family of Muslims, and she rarely does. But coming back to the point, IT IS ENTIRELY A WOMAN'S CHOICE. If a woman chooses to cover her head, brilliant. Her choice, her body, her decisions. If she doesn't, that's okay too. Again, HER CHOICE. It is always your choice. The problem appears when women are forced to wear or even not wear clothing. Forcing women to strip is just as bad as forcing a woman to wear a burqa. You are taking her freedom, her right to choose away and in that you are just as much of an extremist as those you protest against. That's the best answer I can give you.

How much is a woman's choice and how much is society's pressure to cover or uncover? How much is religious conditioning and how much actual free will?

The same amount of free will that conditions western women to wear a certain-cut shirt or skirt to gain respect from a man... Cute orientalism you got there

The issue is very simple "FreeAmina" end oppression of Women and minorities in Islamic countries, so much other crap they talk here to divert from the issue. The fact that this movement is successful is the very ignorance of the Islamic thugs who do not stop their single minded patriarchal approach to society and women. with out that release the relentless attacks will go on until the sharia darkness is annihilated to pulp. It is happening and they know they are defenceless for sisters have pushing their breasts at the right button. Viva the Liberation. Down with Barbarism

Nakedness is not feminist activism and it never will be.

Being decorative objects and performing "erotic" acts for men are part of the behavior demanded of women by an oppressive system, doing those behaviors (however ironically) only reinforces women's oppression.

There aren't many "feminisms". There's only one that has any chance of working. It involves getting at the root cause of women's oppression. This requires resisting what men expect of women, not playing to it.

I wrote about this on my blog here:

Actually Alia Al-Mahdi didn't pose naked, she posed with red shoes and black stockings, which bears a very different message.

Instead of showing the innocent purety of a woman body as God created it, she chose to show off the erotic power of her almost naked body.

There is certainly nothing wrong with eroticism; with its public display there may be at least questions of when and where it is proper. One may argue too that she wore Western attire even though Arab culture has a wide choice of clothing and props designed to highlight and enhance women's charms.

It is entirely understandable that a young modern woman would want to have her beauty admired; to hide this desire behind a claim to fight for freedom of speech and women's lib is a bit dishonest.

It may be interesting to note that when I very politely made this remark on her blog, she censored my comment...

Degenerate European ideologies have NO place in human civilization. Whether right wing or left wing, white western reactionary movements have no place in civilized society. Westerners and campaign of lies must be confronted and corrected. Who do they think they're fooling, they are the greatest enemies of human rights, including women's rights the world has ever known. Pure scum. We are not oppressed, nor do we have any desire to be white.

I admittedly know much less than many posters here about conditions in the Ukraine, Egypt, etc, but I do think that on a global scale, via digital media we are being exposed to a common set of visual images.

What I have wondered about consistently with regard to femen is why every protestor I see visually represented fits the narrow western definition of "sexually attractive" as dictated by the porno-industrial complex. Are there no middle-aged, older, heavier, more unusually shaped women in this movement?

Each time I read an article on femen in some mainstream cyber-news platform, the comments sections inevitably fill up with men commenting on how sexy the women are. This confuses me.

Very interesting point, I have wondered the same thing myself. At first I assumed the media was choosing to show only the normative members of Femen, but after continuing to look at photos of their protests, watch interviews, and see various articles about them, I am noticing really only one or two body types being represented (white, non-disabled, thin, socially accepted as attractive, etc). This is totally problematic--especially within the context of combating patriarchy and oppression with nudity. I am all for body positivity, sex positivity, etc., but when only normative folks are represented, body shaming and policing tend to naturally follow. These protests would challenge and expose patriarchy, body policing/shaming, etc. much more effectively if fat, disabled, queer/gender nonconforming bodies were represented there too--this is transgressive and therefore more liberating, imho.

How is imperialist powers linked to unveiling or veiling 'women in the middle' women in the middle east some are atheist or christian or other theologists so 'women in the middle east' are not all islam , while various campaign are funded for political islam to spreed and convert women into islam and make them wear veil 'by choice' i am arab speaker atheist and non liberal .

The voices of atheist non-westerners, especially in the arab world, need to be heard.


The typical UNIVERSITY now prides itself on DIVERSITY. But watch out when DIVERSITY becomes PERVERSITY. That's when God will put His CURSE-ITY on the whole world (see Malachi 4:6 - NIV)!
For dessert Google "Separation of Raunch and State," "God to Same-Sexers: Hurry Up" and "Dangerous Radicals of the Religious Right."

Seriously Alia is colonizing who? Alia posted photos on her own blog and received death threats and been forced to leave her home. And now they even question her citizenship! This is clearly within a boundary of wrong, calling it colonial is a blatant non-sense. Maybe it is Islamic colonization when people are punished for their own photos on their own blog.

I'm very interested to know what is "islamic colonization"? Is it similar to "progressive white supremacy" in its level of nonexistence?

Well said Sara. Thank you for writing this. I came from Indonesia where the majority of population are moslem and multicultural. And i do feel that Femen ways are insensitive to the diverse of women and broader feminism. I against repression and patriarchy, but freedom can not be judge by the look, veil or unveil, naked or burka. I live among those great feminist who wear veil but very vocal against patriarchy, and witnessing those half-naked women but ignorance and reaffirm partiarchy. I came from fundamentalist moslem family and wearing veil for 15 years, i decided to unveil my self but it doesnt mean that i'm better than those who stick with their veil. I choose it and others choose differently. I always amazed by how women plays the politic behind their veils, go beyond their faith. This is what femen misses. They can not generalize others situation based on their own situation and neglected the diversity of women.
Maybe it fit if they called it sextremist, but sex is not the only identity for all of us.

Interesting article, thank you. The most important question may not be as I read above: "can feminism survive unless it sheds its Eurocentric bias and starts accepting that the experiences of all women should be seen as legitimate?"

To my mind the important question is simply : will Mahdi survive as an Egyptian woman or will she get punished for her nude protestact and how? My worries are not fictitious as you can see: http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2013/01/01/258106.html

Statistically women are subject of domestic violence highest in Egypt followed by Ukraine (ignoring African countries) no wonder all of this craziness and feminism nonsense. Don't get me wrong I believe in equality between men and women in terms of respect but not equal roles. We are different by genetics... anyways long story short just don't beat your wife and get down to peaceful conflict resolutions but don't let her (or or any extremist feminist) become your superior or lead you, men were genetically made to lead hunt go work and bring back food... duh.

As for the veil... a big middle finger to anyone insulting Islam. The veil is used to protect a women's dignity and avoid perverted looks. Not to "oppress" her lol... Many converts to Islam from women I know that converted by own choice say that it was the veil idea that got them to convert and don't get me wrong but I would go nuts to see her hair cuz they're hot... anyways... but she respects herself.

The problem isn't feminism or whatever that is cuz I'm sick of feminism it is ruining women families and men and the west in general... the problem is. Why the hell would you beat your wife, you idiots... they were given to you by her parents so that you take care of her...

I'm quoting your last sentence: "they were given to you by her parents so that you take care of her..."
So a women is GIVEN by her parents(like an object or a slave)...and you take care of her because she cannot take care of herself (like a child). All justified by your own vision of "genetics"

Now you wonder what the whole fuss is about with feminism, right? Go on giving a bad name to Muslim men and Islam.

if you cannot control yourself by seeing a woman's hair or body - you did not evolve from an animal. I refuse to cover myself because men are savages! i can choose to cover myself for other reasons but I will not protect myself from your sexual predator behaviours by covering myself. showing my hair or body or not has nothing to do with protection of my dignity - you violating my body has all to do with it.

Actually stripping naked is a protest form in some countries. Some years ago, would-be military coup plotters in the Central African Republic came to arrest the president. I think it was Ange-Felix Patasse. Patasse mobilised his supporters and many women among them stood in front of his home, stripped naked and blocked the plotters. It seems women stripping naked in public in the CAR is a way of shaming the men and switching them off. Don't know if FEMEN know about it. Would bring them at least one anti-imperialist reference.

Oh, just another point. Algeria, where the French colonial rulers tried in the mid-1950s to get women to cast aside their veils, which by the way, some had adopted to protest colonial actions and violence against women. Well when the FLN took over after independence, they too ran a strong campaign against the veil. I have it from former FLN fighters. The FLN was a stoutly secular party in the beginning.

Still another point: all religions, mainly the three west Asian monotheisms, are veritable inexhaustible sources of reactionary ideas. Other religions too, but the three abrahamic ones really win out over hinduism, buddhism et al. Just check the role of the religious stalwarts anywhere in the world in popular strugglers against oppression and exploitation, including colonialism. Not much to crow about. In fact much to condemn, regarding the pro-ruler stances of the huge majority of those religious big-i-ams!

Hi Sara,

How do you expect FEMEN to adopt "anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic and anti-Islamophobic rhetoric"? I find this expectation unrealistic, and I truly believe that feminism is much about realism of our lives. Unfortunately, for many of us, the access to such rhetoric and politics is a privilege obtained against all odds, even if it liberates ourselves as subjects of racism, lesbophobia/transphobia, Islamophobia etc.

FEMEN's discourse and actions scream ignorance. It has to do a lot with the situation in Ukraine and post-soviet countries, the violent penetration of capitalism in ultra sexist forms building on sexist structures of the Soviet era, the material and socio-cultural conditions of women there. You criticize FEMEN for not addressing capitalism but you also don't examine them as a phenomena of capitalism in post-soviet context, it's more an application of post-colonial critique from western contexts that is not sufficient to understand what's going on here. FEMEN are obviously ignorant as for feminist grassroots and academic critique on gender and sexuality, on sexworkers' rights, on racism and Islamophobia. They don't choose to adopt their racist discourses, they simply replicate the only mainstream crap available to most people, while pushing for change in the few ways available to them. I believe that our concern should be precisely this politics of ignorance that turns our communities and societies to be so sexist, racist and Islamophobic.

It's true that "Feminism has the potential to be greatly emancipatory by adopting an anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic and anti-Islamophobic rhetoric", but I think it's time for us to ask why and how, for many women, like FEMEN, this potential is simply out of reach. As feminists, I believe, we must address the actual conditions that make this impossible.

Maybe. But it's foolish of Femin to think the issues of womans rights from the Ukraine can be crossed over to the issues in teh middle east. Or that their methods would work.

Femen, by attacking feminists in egypt and other countries that wear the hijab and accusing them of not being real feminists dimishes the work such woman did for building equal rights and changing the culture to see woman better.

The last thing the muslim world needs is viewing feminism as a western entity that inherently hates their ways.

Even if that is true, they will reject any change if it's packaged antagonistic toward them.

without relating to femin yes or no question:
Sara here makes a common colonial post colonial mistake -
ideologically femin is not a hare to western colonialism , but rather to russian colonialism of asia as part of establishing a wide soviet empire. and the russian colonial gaze is quate different from the western european one.

Former Soviet Jews turned Zionists are usually very keen to blame USSR for everything, including "colonialism". I wonder, what exactly was "colonial" in Soviet Asia, esp. in comparison with Zionist colonization of Palestine? Were the natives denied the rights and opportunities Russians had?

Of course, Zionists also use feminist-washing of Zionist colonialism, blaming Palestinians for being not enough "feminist".

And "Femen" are sure a tool of Western imperialism, no matter form where they are.

My, Lydia, your ignorance knows no bounds: "I wonder, what exactly was "colonial" in Soviet Asia, esp. in comparison with Zionist colonization of Palestine? Were the natives denied the rights and opportunities Russians had?"
The good news is that you don't have to wonder. You can simply inform yourself of the elementary facts. Occupation, murder, imposition and regulation of language, wholesale control of the political process, puppet governments – yes, all that and more was part of the Soviet colonization of its satellite states.

Occupation? Since when being the full-right citizen means occupation? The languages were promoted, including in culture, higher education and of course, state affairs. It is much more than so-called "Israel Arabs" have in colonial settler state on their land, and Zionists usually do not use word "occupied" regarding Palestine colonized in 1947. The rights of women, by the way, were also promoted, including in education, work and domestic causes.

So, it is no more than misusing the word "imperialism" to try and whitewash very real Western imperialism, and Zionist colonialism.

" Occupation, murder, imposition and regulation of language, wholesale control of the political process, puppet governments – yes, all that and more was part of the Soviet colonization of its satellite states."

Which is the same as "Western European" colonialism. And notice that the author said Western Colonialism. Since when is Russia not part of the mythical "West" and how is it colonialism and different from from the colonialism of its neighbors, west or east?

The same as Western colonialism? So, Algerians had the same rights as the French before the liberation of Alger? And Indians were the full-right citizens under the British Raj? It is funny how silly could be one writing about USSR "colonialism"

Colonialism means robbing colonies to enrich the colonizers. In USSR a lot of money were invested into its Asian republic for development for the natives, in schools, hospitals, culture and so on. In short, it has nothing to do with colonialism.

You really expect us to buy your excuses & denials for your preferred brand of imperialism? Black Americans have been citizens of the US for over a century, yet they're still subjected to grotesque forms of oppression. And just like western european imperialism, Russian imperialism is also masked with slogans about education & social welfare. But the stark reality is that they were/are just as much champions of corruption and autocratic silencing of dissent as their western european counterparts. White lies don't fool us anymore, sorry

I would argue that the discourses used by Femen are closer to western colonial feminism.

This author cares more about defending the image of Islam than about the actual lives of "Muslim" women. (I use quotes so as to include women who are born into Islamic families without themselves believing in the faith.) Her perverse "postcolonial" mentality is a product of seclusion in the towers of academia.

Islam is the #1 force oppressing "Muslim" women. Everything else - racism, capitalism, etc - is a distant second. Capitalism, despite (or because of) its destructiveness, has the potential to be a liberating force for women (and for all people oppressed by religion everywhere in the world) because it poses a challenge to Islam, patriarchy and tribalism.

The oppressiveness of Islam towards women is certainly exploited by imperialistic forces, but that doesn't alter the underlying reality: Islam is THE most oppressive force facing "Muslim" women. Denying this reality is hardly an effective response to imperialism.

i live in south borneo, indonesia. though islam is yet to be applied as a complete regulation by the govt here, i can feel and see that neither I nor my sorroundings suffer due to the appplication of islam in their lives, but rather by capitalism.
how could u use such words to insult my religion while we are happy with it!

I suggest you actually try studying Islam (What the media is spewing doesn't count here) Islam's image has been warped out of proportion but saying that it is an "oppressive" force is ridiculous once you analyze what it preaches.

You mention the lives of *actual Muslim women* - are they the ones who told you Islam is the most oppressive force in their lives? Or have you decided that for them?

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