Oh, FEMEN. Whether you respect their antics or think they’re terribly offensive and annoying, you have to admit they’re good at publicity stunts! The topless feminist activist group’s latest hijinks? Going into a mosque in Stockholm, Sweden, while wearing burqas and then whipping off the veils to reveal their bare breasts underneath and political slogans written across their stomachs.
After removing the burkas, the FEMEN activists shouted in English: “No to Sharia! No to oppression! Free women!” The slogans written on their chests read “Gender Equality,” “My body is mine, not somebody’s honor,” and “No sharia in Egypt and the world.” All three were arrested for disorderly conduct and later released from jail.
One of the activists is Egypt’s Aliaa Elmahday, who is currently living in political exile in Sweden, where she had to flee after posting provocative images of herself online. After being arrested this weekend, she told the Swedish publication AftonBladet, “If we did that demonstration in my country, we were going to get raped, we’re going to be cut with knives, we were going to be killed.”
Another FEMEN activist named Jenny told the same publication:
“Freedom to have your own individual choice to decide over your body, not to have somebody else telling you ‘We do that.’ We should not be called ‘whores’ or that we are doing something shameful, like they were calling us today in the mosque. They were calling us ‘whores’ and ‘whores from hell’ and that we didn’t get fucked and that’s why we were there. My message in the church today was gender equality and my body is no sin.”
While I completely agree with these activists about women’s autonomy over their own bodies and respect their symbolic affront to Islamic sharia law, I find it difficult to empathize with anyone who does something that is considered so disrespectful in another person’s house of worship. I’m not sure these FEMEN activists will ever convince devoted Muslims with actions like this; on the contrary, I worry that they’re making progress difficult for all feminist activists.
[Photo of veiled Muslim woman via Shutterstock]
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