Well, that’s one way to get the job done: A feminist group in the Ukraine has gone to extreme measures to get out their message. Members of FEMEN, a Ukrainian feminist group, have taken to topless protesting to get their point across. The group supports everything from equal pay and anti-sex trafficking bills to fighting for increased voting rights and against unfair utility taxes.
Founded in 2008 by a group of fed-up Ukrainian college students, FEMEN aims to rally young women to feminist causes. “I set up FEMEN because I realized that there was a lack of women activists in our society; Ukraine is male-oriented and women take a passive role,” explains founder Anna Hutsol. “Here at FEMEN we have developed our own unique way of civil self-expression based on creativity, courage, humor, efficiency and shock,” Hutsol explained in a 2009 interview. “People wouldn’t pay attention to the serious problems we tackle if it weren’t for the way we dress. We are not afraid to go topless or wear bikinis if it serves a purpose.”
One major issue on FEMEN’s docket: sex trafficking and sex tourism. The Ukraine is a major port for the global sex industry and poor women from rural Ukraine are often shuttled through its illicit sex rings. The group doesn’t support the legalization of prostitution, and instead believes that sex trafficking should be combated by offering stricter punishment for men found purchasing sex.
Whether it’s topless rallies, busting in to government meetings skimpily dressed, or bathing half nude in a local fountain to protest water rights, the group does attract attention. One protest featured members mud-wrestling in a Kiev square, as a commentary on state corruption. And that’s probably at least in part why it now boasts a membership of around 15,000.
FEMEN justifies their topless incursions by claiming that it’s helping them spread their message. “This is the only way to be heard in this country. If we staged simple protests with banners, then our claims would not have been noticed,” says FEMEN member Galina Sozanskaya.
What do you think? Is FEMEN’s method a positive step for the women of the Ukraine, or a step backwards? And click here to watch a somewhat NSFW video of a FEMEN supporter protesting for equal pay.