Femen: Because they really bug me


Femen are back in the media once again.* This time they are running about Ikea with their breasts bared to protest Ikea’s decision to edit out all the images of women in their catalogue for the market in Saudi Arabia. Now, I’m quite offended by Ikea’s decision but I’m not sure what protesting in the Ikea in Paris two weeks after the story broke is going to change. In using women’s bodies as a canvas of protest, Femen are using some fairly basic signifiers of woman as object. Their message is obscured by the medium of their protest because the medium conforms to the normalised construction of the Patriarchal Fuckability Test. As Exiled Stardust says, getting naked or stripping aren’t acts of Feminist defiance or resistance. They are simply appeasement since “(m)en don’t care if you write incendiary messages of revolt all over your naked body, as long as they get to see that body.” Femen’s activism using the objectification of women’s bodies to make a political point isn’t new. It isn’t clever. It’s just the Patriarchy trying out a new hat. After all, as Megan Murphyhas pointed out, PETA’s been doing this shit for years. Their male supporters include a veritable who’s who of celebrities with criminal convictions for Violence against Women.

Femen’s use of the female body is a tactic deliberately chosen in order to get recognition in the western media and they seem more interested in the attention than any specific feminist goals. They have already joined the Free Pussy Riot movement and, frankly, there are very few attention-seekers who haven’t hopped on that bandwagon. It’s proving to be quite a profitable one for everyone but the two women currently being transported to a penal colony. Inna Shevchenko demonstrated her “support” for Pussy Riot by destroying a crucifix in Kiev with a chainsaw. This stunt coincided exactly with the court in Moscow finding Pussy Riot guilty of hooliganism; make of that what you will.

Femen have also occupied the Louvre to protest the rape of a young woman called Mariam by two Tunisian police officers. Personally, I think the women of Tunis taking to the streets is a more important and braver protest than a bunch of topless women running around the Louvre. Equally problematic are Femen’s anti-burkha protests. Femen attacked an easy target; veiled Muslim women are some of the most frequently silenced of women’s voices. But Femen aren’t really doing anything really radical here. Instead, they are just doing exactly what western neo-liberal men do: attack a visible target with little to no power. Running about in front of the Eiffel Tower stripping off burkhas to reveal young, thin white women in their underwear isn’t very interesting. Setting up a “bootcamp” in Paris to teach French feminists how to tackle the Patriarchy using tactics developed in the Ukraine is also not very clever. A reversal of the normal imperialism it may be, but it nonetheless shows a rather incredible lack of self-awareness. Thing is, which protests get more coverage? And, which ones really deserve the media attention?

And, this is the problem. The issues Femen claims to want to discuss are important. They are very, very important, particularly the issue of sex trafficking and prostitution in Eastern Europe. The sexual exploitation of vulnerable and poor women is increasing at astronomical rates. But, this isn’t what the media is discussing. Femen’s insistence on baring their breasts, regardless of what they are actually protesting, just reinforces Patriarchal norms. They have become objects for men to wank over rather than feminist protestors. Whatever message they had is obscured. Instead, their breasts are what are deemed important. 

We won’t destroy the Patriarchy by reinforcing its constructions of “acceptable” women. We won’t destroy the Patriarchy by targeting one small group of women and demanding that they remove their veil, without even considering the political and cultural structures in which they are either forced or, in some cases, choose to wear the veil. We cannot demand the government of Tunisia tackle the issue of rape by police officers, by running about art galleries naked. We won’t change the control that the Church has by chopping down crosses half-naked. Protest needs to be vibrant, engaging and culturally specific but we will not smash the Patriarchy by reinforcing its belief that the only women who matter are those who conform to the Patriarchal Fuckability Test.

As many a wise feminist has said: if the penis is keen, it probably demeans. And, that’s the problem with Femen.** Men aren’t listening to the message. They are wanking to the image.


*I submitted this piece to the Huffington Post on Monday; just before their servers went down due to Hurricane Sandy. It hasn’t been published and I’m assuming they are currently swamped as I haven’t had a reply from them. Or, they didn’t like it. Either way.

**Apparently, this originally comes from the I Blame the Patriarchy blog. 

I am Pro-Woman not Pro-Choice

You see, unlike all the penises who believe they have the right to dictate the contents of a woman’s uterus, I happen to believe that women are not only fully human but are also capable of making decisions for themselves. Without the help of a penis. 

I support unlimited access to abortion on demand because I believe women are human. I believe women are more than capable of making decisions for their own bodies. 

I believe no woman will have an abortion at 37 weeks for shits and giggles. 

I believe that we need more sex education for children that their parents can not opt out on.


I trust women to make the decision to have an abortion or to continue with a pregnancy for themselves.

I trust women to make the decision without political interference. 

I trust women.

The people I don’t trust are the anti-women nincompoops who want to curtail women’s rights to access abortion. I don’t trust male politicians who will never have to make the choice to write the laws which will effect my body. My “pro-choice” MP didn’t think it was important for him to show up to the debate in parliament today since the debate was “purely for expressions of view, and do not make binding policy. There are no votes at the end of these debates.” His refusal to attend meant that the voices of the anti-choice women-haters were the loudest. His refusal meant that the men who claim that fetuses are “fully human” were heard and not the voices of those who believe that women are fully human. 

These men dictating their right to control the contents of a woman’s uterus are the same men who voted for cuts to benefits. It is the same men who are currently carving up the NHS. Who do they think will pay for the incredibly expensive neo-natal care of a fetus born at 22 weeks? As one of the anti-choicers pointed out today in the debate, people were already fundraising for special care baby units. Where will this money come from now that the NHS is being destroyed? Who will pay for the long-term care of these children? Who will pay for their housing as housing benefit is slashed? Who will pay for their education as the schools budget is decimated? Who will pay for their childcare as benefit payments are destroyed? 

Anyone who is anti-abortion and who also votes to cuts to the welfare state, in any shape or form, is a hypocrite. I’m sick to death of the hypocrites. 

I am pro-choice because I believe women are human too.

Some excellent blogs on abortion: 


We’re a Culture Not a Costume:


I love Halloween. It is my favourite holiday ever. When I was a child, Halloween was about making the most original costume possible. Witches, skeletons and cats were dull. I have been a ladybug, a broken heart, a cabbage patch kid and a punk rocker; my mother being far more artistic than me. Unfortunately, the push to be creative at Halloween involved costumes based entirely on offensive and racist stereotypes. I frequently find myself with clenched teeth handing out candy to small children dressed as “Indians” wondering why their parents thought it was a good idea to dress their child up as a racist stereotype.






Last year, a group of students from Ohio University’s Students Teaching about Racism started a campaign called “We’re a culture, not a costume’ on this issue. These are some of the brilliant posters from this years campaign whose tagline is “You wear the costume for one night. I wear the stigma for life”. For me, this is a feminist issue. The Patriarchy requires racism as much as it requires misogyny to keep functioning. We can not destroy the Patriarchy whilst this type of racism remains socially acceptable.


It is the End of Feminism.


At least, this is the story the media keeps spinning based on that pisstake of a survey by Netmums. The sheer number of feminists pointing out the problems with the survey has gone completely unnoticed by the press. So, I say we roll with it. 

And, we declare feminism dying.

Then, we can declare ourselves an endangered species.

Technically, humans are animals so I’m sure we can work out how to get ourselves added to the World Wildlife Federation’s list of protected species. I mean, people are forever talking about feminists as if we were some sort of strange sub-breed of human so let’s embrace it.

Then, we can get funding to run schools to train other women to be feminists thereby ensuring the survival of Feminists as a species.

Granted, there are some serious holes in my theory; notwithstanding the whole issue of there being nothing cuter than a baby panda. Also, that whole feminist thing about not being judged by our physical appearances. But, frankly, this plan is nowhere near as stupid as all the nincompoops who read that Netmums survey without recognising that it is nothing more than over-priced toilet paper.

If we’re really lucky, maybe those bucketheads at PETA will come up with a sufficiently offensive ad campaign that will have all of Hollywood tripping over themselves to donate to our cause.

War on Women: The Abortion Battle.

Nadine Dorries has secured a 90 minute debate spot on abortion on Wednesday October 31 at 9:30. She is asking for the limit for abortions in the UK to be reduced from 24 weeks to 22 weeks. This is just a debate. There will be no vote, however, Dorries is using this as the second stage of her attack on abortion rights. Her next stage is a full parliamentary debate in the Spring of 2003 where Dorries would like to decrease the time limit on abortions to, at the most, 20 weeks. Considering the support Dorries already has from the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, this is quite clearly a concerted attack on women’s bodily autonomy. Women in the UK already do not have the right to abortion on demand. Women in the UK need greater access to abortion without judgement. We can not allow Nadine Dorries continue her War on Women’s bodies. 

Please write to your MP today to ensure that they vote to keep the abortion limit at 24 weeks. There is an excellent form letter available here on Edinburgh Eye’s blog.

Petition here to end the legal requirement for two doctors signatures for a woman to access an abortion.


Not Quite the Misogynistic Advertising Walk of Shame but it Made me Cranky

Actually, this really isn’t even remotely close to making it to the Misogynistic Advertising Walk of Shame. It’s actually quite an incredibly cute ad by Ikea featuring a number of small, cherubic children setting the table with the help of their toys. The only complaint I have is that they have gendered the toys. Would it have been so far out of the realm of possibility for a little boy to have a teddy bear and the little girl the blue robot? It’s still cute though.

But, let’s be honest here, the best ad Ikea has ever made was the cat one. There is nothing funnier than a 100 cats let loose in an Ikea store. It makes me howl with laughter every time I see it.

And the behind the scenes video:

James Bond’s Skyfall

I feel the same way about James Bond movies as I do Superhero movies: I like my misogyny straight-up. That way you don’t get sucked into watching something arty like Sideways and then discover half-way through that its just another giant wankfest for men. James Bond is usually predictable in its misogyny: every woman who fucks Bond dies a horrible, vile death as punishment for being a slut. After all, the only reason any woman would want to have sex with a man they aren’t married to is because they are a slut. Consequently, they deserve to die. But, Casino Royale changed this. It was different. Bond was different and his relationship to women was different.  He wasn’t just a violent, misogynistic sociopath. He was an arsehole and recognised as such. Even with the whole “falling in love with a woman made him a better man” trite sub-plot, Craig’s first outing as Bond changed the franchise.  Eva Green’s Vesper Lynd was a different woman to previous “Bond girls”.  She was smart, resourceful, loyal and brave. 

Olga Kurylenko’s Camille Montes in Quantum of Solace took it one step further. The film ends with Montes being left to lead the Bolivian resistance movement in taking back their land and their water rights. She is every bit Bond’s equal. Unfortunately, in order to have Montes as an equal, the film reasserted the “women who fuck Bond deserve to die” motif which is unbearably tedious. It’s like the producers were frightened by a Bond who wasn’t just a sociopath and so had to drag the series back to its original construction of Bond the Misogynist. 

Skyfall is just a pile of pooh. It’s basically old school Bond resurrected and it wasn’t anywhere near as good as either Casino Royale or Quantum of Solace. The plot had holes big enough to drive a subway train through, which it did. Literally. There were 3 women: the whore who dies, the ‘wife’ who becomes the secretary and the mother who is M. Each gets the punishment they deserve for trying to transgress her assigned gender role. Heck, they even throw a female MP who is clearly supposed to be the ‘bitch’. Quantum of Solace ended with a strong woman walking away from Bond to lead her people to freedom. In Skyfall, the women fucked up, got punished and then disappeared into ignominy.

Now, I like James Bond movies. I like movies with explosions and general silliness but Skyfall couldn’t decide if it wanted to like Casino Royale or cheesy like Tomorrow Never Dies. The  funny places were few and far between and mostly figured around Q; by far the best character in the film. But, it was the erasure of the strong women from the previous two films which disappointed me the most. It’s a good movie for car chases and explosions but they lost their nerve. Skyfall is just like a 100 other movies in the spy franchise which is unfortunate because it had the chance to do something really different. And, even almost feministy .

UPDATE: I have been getting crosser and crosser about Skyfall. I have been in such a rage that I haven’t quite worked out what pissed me off the most. Last night, a friend posted on FB and pointed out that the woman who is punished with death for fucking Bond isn’t just a ‘woman’. Severin’s back story involves being sold to a brothel at the age of 12. She is raped and tortured repeatedly. Her escape route is the official ‘bad guy’ of the film who is still raping her. As she says, he frightens her more than anyone she’s ever come across before. It is a deeply abusive relationship. Bond’s response to this story of child rape is to push Severin into helping him. He does so by climbing aboard her boat and getting into the shower with her. Without asking permission. Bond has sex with a terrified and abused survivor of child rape. She dies because of this. This is why Skyfall is more than a return to old school Bond misogyny. It glamourises and eroticising child sexual abuse by keeping the adult woman as nothing more than Bond’s sex toy.



Here is a great blog by Giles Coren on Skyfall: [[http://reciperifle.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/bond-villain.html]]

And a brilliant response by Exiled Stardust: [[http://exiledstardust.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/women-the-makers-of-skyfall-hate-you/]]

Misogynistic Advertising Walk of Shame: Move your Lee

@CellarDoor790 brought this ad to my attention [and went out of their way to get a photo of it for me].  Now, normally I would dismiss this as the usual, insidious form of the sexual objectification of women’s bodies to see a product. These campaigns are just so tedious and fucking everywhere that no one bothers to complain about them. Now, yeah, they are selling jeans but they don’t actually have to have a super skinny model showing off her ass. They really don’t.

But this campaign is actually making me snarl with rage and not because of the everyday sexism. It’s pissing me off because it’s actually quite a fun campaign. Lee have used a group of athletes and dancers and filmed them dancing and hanging out.  The video is great fun and I am insanely jealous of anyone who can dance like that because I certainly couldn’t even before I became disabled. Yet, in the midst of some great dancing, they had to go with 30 seconds of three young women wiggling their arses walking down the street. It’s not exactly new selling jeans by using women’s sexuality and bodies for male gratification but this campaign had the ability to just be fun. Instead, it went with the same old shit. and I am disappointed. 

Femen Redux: Still Conforming to the Patriarchal Fuckability Test


I’ve blogged about Femen before because I was utterly gobsmacked that a photo of a topless Femen protestor without any political context managed to win a World Press Photo award (and the total lack of understanding of the irony of this photo being called The New Amazons). Supposedly, Femen protests against sex tourism, the legalisation of prostitution and the selling of “brides” internationally. How they quite expect the Patriarchy to take them seriously when they protest using pretty basic anti-woman signifiers is beyond me and that’s without getting into them selling prints of their breasts as a fundraising tactic. In using women’s bodies as a canvas of protest, Femen are conforming to the norms of Patriarchal objectification of women’s bodies. Their message is obscured by the medium of their protest because the medium conforms to the normalised construction of the Patriarchal Fuckability Test. As Exiled Stardust says, getting naked or stripping aren’t acts of Feminist defiance. They are exactly what the Patriarchy  wants after all: 

Doing what men want is appeasement. Feminism is resistance. Appeasement and resistance are opposing forces; the more you do of one, the less you can do of the other. That’s why these groups are insidious; they divert feminist energy into meaningless acts that only serve male interests. Men don’t care if you write incendiary messages of revolt all over your naked body, as long as they get to see that body. 

We all have to appease in one way or another to survive, but let’s not confuse that behavior with feminist activism. It’s not. Let’s do as little of it as we can get away with, and as much resistance as we are capable of.

Femen’s activism is the same old Patriarchal twaddle dressed up as “Fun Feminism”. The objectification of women’s bodies to make a political point isn’t new. It isn’t clever. It’s just the Patriarchy trying out a new hat. After all, PETA’s been doing this shit for years and their supporters are a whose who of celebrities with criminal convictions for Violence against Women.

Whilst I’m willing to concede that there might be a reason why using women’s naked bodies as a platform of political protest in the Ukraine is an interesting tactic because I know nothing of the their Feminist movement, it isn’t a new or even interesting tactic in Western Europe. More importantly, I think it’s a tactic deliberately chosen in order to get recognition in the western media because appealing to horny men is really the only way women get any attention. I think Femen are more interested in the attention than they are in achieving specific Feminist goals. They are hopping on far too many bandwagons, such as the Free Pussy Riot movement. Frankly, there are very few attention-seekers who haven’t hopped on the Free Pussy Riot bandwagon. It’s proving to be quite a profitable one for everyone but the two women currently being transported to a penal colony in Russia. Inna Shevchenko demonstrated her “support” for Pussy Riot by destroying a crucifix in Kiev with a chainsaw. This stunt coincided exactly with the court in Moscow finding Pussy Riot guilty of hooliganism; make of that what you will.  Femen also occupied the Louvre to protest the rape of a young woman called Mariam by two Tunisian police officers. This article seems to imply that the Femen protest in Paris was more important than the woman in Tunis who protested outside the courtroom. Maybe I’m over-thinking things here, but I think the women of Tunis taking to the streets despite the crackdown on women in Tunisia is a shitload more important and so much braver than a bunch of topless women running around the Louvre. Thing is, which protest got more coverage? And, which one really deserved the media attention?












Femen’s anti-burkha protests are equally offensive. Regardless of what I, as an individual, think of burkhas, the fact of the matter is that many Muslim wear them. It is utterly arrogant for a group of non-Muslim women to tell Muslim women what they can and can not do. The debate over whether or not the burkha is anti-feminist or whether or not it should be banned is a debate that needs to involve the voices of Muslim women. This does not mean that others can not have opinions. I think the burkhas use as a tool of oppression for all Muslim women in some countries supercedes its use as a tool for freedom for a small number of women in “western” countries. However, Muslim women’s voices need to be central in this discussion. In this case, Femen are attacking an easy target; one which has very little access to mass media. Veiled Muslim women are some of the most frequently silenced of women’s voices. Femen aren’t really doing anything really radical here. They are just doing exactly what western neoliberal men do: attack a visible target with no power. A radical approach would have been for members of Femen to approach Muslim women’s groups and ask them how to support them. Running about in front of the Eiffel Tower stripping off burkhas to reveal young, thin white women in their underwear isn’t radical. It’s not even very interesting. Setting up a “bootcamp” in Paris to teach French feminists how to tackle the Patriarchy using tactics developed in the Ukraine is also not very clever. It’s a reversal of the normal imperialism but, nonetheless, it shows a rather incredible lack of self-awareness.

I would not have bothered to write another blogpost on Femen had I not caught the discussion on Femen live-streamed on AlJazeera called the “Future of Feminism”. I knew from the beginning that the discussion was going to piss me off when the host got herself confused between Radical Feminism, the political theory, and radical forms of protest. Femen are not a Radical Feminist group. Femen’s idea of “sextremism” is not Radical Feminist. This is not to say that they aren’t feminists. Femen clearly defines that way. They just aren’t Radical Feminists. That said, I agree with Chloe Angyal from Feministing that we should be having discussions about the role of women’s bodies in the public sphere but it isn’t Femen starting these conversations. These conversations have been started recently by the Everyday Sexism project, the Turn Your Back on 3 campaigns, the publication of nude photos of Kate Middleton, and the unmasking of violent, predatory internet trolls. Femen are getting media attention for being naked; not for their message. They are just like PETA: equally tedious and utterly incapable of listening to others. And, this is the problem. The issues Femen claims to want to discuss are important. They are so very, very important, particularly the issue of sex trafficking and prostitution in Eastern Europe. The sexual exploitation of vulnerable and poor women is increasing at astronomical rates. But, this isn’t what the media is discussing. Femen’s insistence on baring their breasts, regardless of what they are actually protesting, just reinforces Patriarchal norms. They have become objects for men to wank to rather than feminist protestors. Whatever message they had, is obfuscated. Instead, their breasts are what is deemed important. 


We won’t destroy the Patriarchy by reinforcing it’s constructions of “acceptable” women. We won’t destroy the Patriarchy by targeting one small group of women and demanding that they remove their veil, without even considering the political and cultural structures in which they are either forced or, in some cases, choose to wear the veil. We can not demand the government of Tunisia tackle the issue of rape by police officers by running about art galleries naked. We won’t change the control that the Church has by chopping down crosses half-naked. Protest needs to be vibrant, engaging and culturally specific. Suffragettes marching on Parliament this week was truly beautiful but it would have been a stupid protest in somewhere like Zimbabwe where the symbol of the Suffragette does not have the same political meaning. Femen’s protests lack the imagery that Pussy Riot managed. We will not smash the Patriarchy by reinforcing its belief that the only women who matter are those who conform to the Patriarchal Fuckability Test.

As many a wise feminist has said: if the penis is keen, it probably demeans. And, that’s the problem with Femen. Men aren’t listening to the message. They are wanking to the image.

The New Minnie Mouse: Just Reinforcing the Patriarchal Fuckability Test

I was fairly creeped out by these “sexed up” Sesame Street character costumes for women. I can’t think of anything worse than women dressing up as “sexy” versions of children’s cartoon characters. Turns out I’m really naive because there is a whole industry of selling these kinds of costumes. I don’t get how this is even remotely sexual and I would rather scrub these images right out of my brain. The thing is lots of retailers, including Amazon, sell these kinds of costumes. If you google search Minnie Mouse costumes, you will get links to these kinds of outfits. They are easily available for all kids to find. It’s just another way sexualise childhood for girls.

I also don’t think it’s difficult to over-emphasise the problematic relationship between these kinds of costumes and the “new” Minnie Mouse campaign of Barneys New York. She is ultra thin, tall and glamorous. She is everything that Minnie Mouse, and the other Disney characters, were not. Despite quite a lot of activism to get Disney and Barneys to stop running this sexualised Minnie Mouse campaign, the companies have dismissed concerns:

“We are saddened that activists have repeatedly tried to distort a lighthearted holiday project in order to draw media attention to themselves,” Disney and Barneys said in a joint statement to the News.

“They have deliberately ignored previously released information clearly stating this promotion is a three-minute ‘moving art’ video featuring traditional Minnie Mouse in a dreamlike sequence set in Paris where she briefly walks the runway as a model and then happily awakens as her normal self wearing the very same designer dress from the fashion show.”

Neither Disney nor Barneys want to acknowledge the problem of the sexualisation of young girls. They see only a 3 minute video where Minnie Mouse pretends to be a model. I see a culture which punishes women who don’t conform to the Patriarchal Fuckability Test. I see a culture which prevents little girls from being children by focusing on their appearance rather than their person. I see a culture which tells women they aren’t important unless they are pretty.

Disney and Barneys might think it’s just a silly video. I see the increasing pornification of society. It breaks my heart to see little girls being taught that they are worth nothing unless a man wants to fuck them.

There is a petition here requesting that retailers stop selling sexy Halloween costumes for young girls. I don’t know what it will change but I signed. Because I wanted my voice to be heard.