The new face of feminism is boobs

I’m sorry but I am so freakin done with Femen. I mean, to be real, I was done with Femen the moment Femen’s boobs were plastered all over the media by horny young Occupy enthusiasts, but this quote really solidified the fact that these ladies are little more than a clueless distraction:

“We’re the new face of feminism,” Shevchenko said. “Classical feminism is dead. I think French feminism needs our new feminism.”

Look. I KNOWWW y’all are excited about whatever you think feminism is. I know you are stoked on all the attention you’re getting. I believe that you care about women’s empowerment (whatever that is) and the causes you are fighting for. But, seriously.  What the fuck is this?

Diversity of tactics, ok. But “classical feminism is dead” / “we’re the new face of feminism”? No, you’re not. You’re the new face of what the mainstream media wants feminism to be.

Do you know how many dudes I know posted this image on Facebook during the Pussy Riot trial, all like: “FEMINISM, FUCK YEAH”?

It’s no surprise to anyone who follows this blog what my thoughts are on Slutwalk / burlesque / MEANDMYCHOICE style feminism, but just to reiterate I will borrow a quote from Radfem Hub:

You can measure the degree of feminism of an action by how men react to it, and if men collectively cheer and celebrate it, then you can be pretty sure there’s something wrong about it, or that it doesn’t somehow support our liberation from men.

Anytime anyone makes reference to a “new face of feminism” and that face is either lingerie, something about pole dancing, or boobs, we should be skeptical. As Twisty put it: “‘What’s going on here?’ should be the motto of every dedicated blamer.”

Here are the true facts: If a dude posts a photo of boobs and tells you it’s feminism, it’s not. If someone tells you “classic feminism” is dead because the media isn’t plastering photos of women working long hours in rape crisis shelters or providing a critical analysis of pornography and its ties to rape culture all over the internet, they’re wrong.

There isn’t one way of doing feminism and this isn’t about saying that feminists can’t be fun or hot or like sex and their boobs or whatever (because, you guys, I’m fucking fun) – it’s that all that stuff doesn’t matter. We aren’t trying to sell feminism to the porn industry. We aren’t infiltrating patriarchy from within. Replicating patriarchal images, objecting ourselves, sexing up feminism for the media, etc. doesn’t make any frat guy go: “Oh hey, while I was watching your burlesque show, mid-erection it occurred to me that I’ve never had to put on a strip show in order to gain power and privilege in this world.”

Never happened, won’t ever happen.

 

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.ca BK

    I’m actually speechless, this is so far from feminism it might as well be on Neptune! There’s so many things wrong…I…I can’t even…

  • http://www.newstalk1380.com Andrew Pari, LCSW

    Every time I see something about Femen, part of me gets sad, very sad. This is not the feminism my mother (and, yes, my father) fought for.

    I do admit I get using the “showmanship” of it to attract attention, to get the focus, but I wish they would, once they have our attention, put it to better use, more ironic use. Using nudity to either highlight it’s total irrelevance to feminist issues OR using it to mock the viewer, to have the viewer look at themselves in their voyeurism.
    There is a kind of ’60’s sensationalism to it, like many of the forced shows of the Vietnam movement era, but it is a shadow of those things. Femen is trying too hard to appear deep which is odd because French philosophy is actually very deep.

  • http://toofatforourpants.blogspot.com j.a. martino

    Oh my lard, that site of the best of femen is SO APPALLING. Half the time there’s absolutely NO REASON for their boobs to be out; it looks like sexy hallowe’en up in there. Sexy riot gear? What the fuck? Sexy nurses posing around a column? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

    • Meghan Murphy

      Yeah no. No reason for boobs. So they made one up!

      “We are taking off our clothes so people can see that we have no weapons except our bodies. It’s a powerful way to fight in a man’s world. We live with men’s domination and this is the only way to provoke them, the only way to get attention.”

      Got it. No weapons. Except boobs! Which men pay attention to. Ta daaaaa!

      • Ed Drain

        Meghan,

        I am so with you. I was DISGUSTED when a so-called feminist tried (and failed!) to upbraid you saying: “Feminists don’t need to tell other feminsts that there way isn’t the right way.” How vacuous! She might have added, “Except when I, the ruler and judge of all things feminist, DECREE it is so!” Anyone paying attention noticed that she broke her own rule when she said that to you, but who cares about integrity anymore, right?
        Instead she merely added “It isn’t fun.” Well who cares if it is fun or not? THe world is a messy place and there are messy problems like forced starvation of women, forced ignorance of women, women being KEPT from economic, and educational opportunities, even denied lifesaving medical care. We should worry about THOSE things, not fuel desires for young breast-baring women.

        I agree with Femen’s aims but their tactics suck.

  • http://rmott62.wordpress.com Rebecca Mott

    I am angered and somewhat heart-broken about groups like Femen and Slutwalk claim to be against male violence, but use imagery from the sex trade to get publicity. This is not serious politics, let alone feminist.
    Femen claims to attacking the sex trade in Ukraine, but by using imagery from porn, strip clubs and other aspects of the sex trade means it had backfires.
    As an exited woman who campaign hard for abolition, feel great anger that Femen trivilises and go towards pleasing men. It should remembered that most women and girls in the sex trade are forced to be the images that Femen have the privilege and luxury to play with.
    It makes me cry.

    • Regina

      I totally agree with you !

  • http://neodemokratia.ca/ Nick Van der Graaf

    Sorry, I have to disagree. I think the reason Femen is operating the way they do IS to get attention despite an overtly hostile media and government. Femen and Pussy Riot are operating in a very different social and political environment than North America. They are using whatever tools they can muster against entrenched interests, quasi-criminal governments and a deeply conservative social milieu. And before being quick to condemn them, remember how much they risk by their actions: assault, jail, ostracism.
    These brave women don’t “play” with sex trade imagery; they are deliberately using it to highlight the plight of so many Eastern European women who are forced into the sex trade. That’s been a key issue for them. To look at those activists and think they are enjoying any sort of ‘luxury’ or ‘privilege’ is to utterly misread the grim reality on the ground in Ukraine and Russia.

    • Meghan Murphy

      How is Femen operating in a different social and political environment than North America? The article I linked to says they are setting up an international training centre in Paris to teach women the art of naked protest – is France somehow above patriarchy? Porn? Objectification? Are there no other ‘tools’ to use against patriarchy in Europe besides boobs? I don’t get it.

      I’m sorry but saying that “classic feminism” is dead and declaring themselves the “new face of feminism” is ridiculous, ignorant, and anti-feminist. Rejecting decades of women’s work because the media likes you temporarily is just stupid (and offensive!).

      • http://www.newstalk1380.com Andrew Pari, LCSW

        Where’s the upvote button? I can’t find the “like” switch. How am I supposed to register my important opinion on someone else’s stance here?

        • Meghan Murphy

          Sorry about that, Andrew! Like button is fixed – like away!!

          • http://www.newstalk1380.com Andrew Pari, LCSW

            Ahhhhhh!

      • assman

        “How is Femen operating in a different social and political environment than North America?”

        They live in the Ukraine which is a deeply conservative society.

        • Meghan Murphy

          But Paris is not.

    • marv

      Nick, there is no substantial difference between the “social and political environment” in Eastern Europe and in North America in terms of male institutionalism and its “entrenched interests”. Pornography, stripping and prostitution are globalized. They instill worldwide uniform and rigorous male standards for women’s value and fundamental purpose: sexual use. If you can’t see that you have a very narrow/male notion of politics.

    • Nousha

      AH UNLIKE!!!!!! accidental.

    • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

      Fairly good mansplanation, although you could have added some biological determinism in there too. I give it 7/10.

    • Ed Drain

      Nick,

      Do you have any idea who Rebecca Mott is? And have you ever heard the phrase the medium is the message? Rebecca was enslaved just like those women that you say Femen is fighting for. But she uses words to fight Human Trafficking, not images. There are some men for whom those images will only conjure lust and some of those will give into that and pay to use a prostituted woman. How do you fight trafficking while FUELING it??

  • http://neodemokratia.ca/ Nick Van der Graaf

    Like a typical dummy cruising through the internet I skimmed the item and then commented rather quickly. For the record, I do disagree with the Femen spokesperson who said ‘this is the new feminism’ or words to that effect. I seriously doubt what they are doing can be usefully exported to Western Europe or North America. But when looking at their protest in the Ukraine, I do see principled resistance. I see underfed, over-nicotined, rather ragged looking women who accurately reflect the depressed lives of most of their fellow Ukrainians. Certainly nude protest can be quite principled – I’m thinking primarily of the Doukhobors. But to get out there, raise the issue of trafficking in women, strip down and be vulnerable in that way (in the freaking winter too! Brrrr!) and expose themselves to serious repercussions is to me admirable. If they say this supplants feminism in the West I think they are mistaken. But surely they don’t deserve our disparagement.

    As regards comparing the Ukraine (and Russia) to other countries, my chief concern is deteriorating civil rights there – meaning they can expect *far* harsher punishments in far nastier prisons then protesters in France or Canada (for example)would realitically expect, and the role that organized crime plays – not only trafficking women, but it has its tentacles deep, deep in the government – the very government which is supposed protect its female citizens. They either turn a blind eye or are actively complicit.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I’m afraid I just don’t understand what the point of the nudity is. Nude protest, in today’s culture, seems to be something that is largely reserved for women (or at least, it’s naked women that make it into the media) — PETA, Femen, the nude photo revolutionary calendar. I mean, I don’t see the labour movement getting naked…
      Photos of boobs is a great way to get page views, so of course women who engage in nude protest get attention but, in the end, what does it accomplish? Are the men who see those images connecting this to a fight to end patriarchy? Do they care? Why do women have to get naked in order to get anyone to pay any attention to them?

      • assman

        “I’m afraid I just don’t understand what the point of the nudity is.”

        “Photos of boobs is a great way to get page views, so of course women who engage in nude protest get attention”

        You answered your own question.

        “Are the men who see those images connecting this to a fight to end patriarchy? Do they care? Why do women have to get naked in order to get anyone to pay any attention to them?”

        You use the boobs to get attention. Once you got attention you deliver your message. Your message is not the boobs…the two things are separate. For instance, advertiser has a funny story that makes you watch ad and at the end of the ad is a message “buy coke”. The story is totally disconnected from the message to buy coke. Buy they got you to pay attention long enough to get the word coke into your head. When you go to the store you are trying to pick a drink and you are tired and busy so not sure which one you want to pick. But are familiar with coke. So you buy it…not because you particularly want to but because there is an anchor in your head.

        Nobody was paying attention to Femen before they started showing their breasts. Now people are and discussing what they stand for.

        “Why do women have to get naked in order to get anyone to pay any attention to them?”

        Because people have basic urges and sex is one of them. Men enjoy looking at naked attractive women. When I organized speaking engagements I would always advertise that lunch would be served. People like free food. Why do you have to serve food in order to get people to listen to a speaker. Because people like to eat.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Enjoying “looking at naked attractive women” is not the same thing as liking free food. Free food is not a human being. YOU have, in fact, proved my point. Men objectify women. Women are viewed as consumable things which exist for male pleasure. Just like food is a consumable thing that we see as existing for our pleasure. Re: Femen – there is NO MESSAGE. What is the message? Tell me. Can you figure it out? How are they affecting change?

          • Rye

            What should a man do if he happens to cross paths with a naked woman in public? Cover his eyes? Train himself to be unaffected and focus on her face (if he needs to talk to her) or move on?

          • Meghan Murphy

            You’re an idiot.

        • marv

          assman you have offered nothing more than nothing to the discussion. You have simply reiterated the same glib, stale and sexist remarks that other men have stated ad nauseam. Someone once said, “it is better to be thought of as a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”. Take heed and be silent. The same applies to Wry/Rye.

          • Rye

            I can understand if “dumb” remarks test your patience, but that is to be expected when someone encounters a different world picture. Most people are raised with a liberal world picture, so their disputes with you are usually unproductive. This is understandable if we think of world pictures as a kind of puzzle. A debate between two liberals will likely be more productive because the location of a few pieces is at stake. However, entire economic and political puzzles are at stake between liberalism and radical feminism. So if a liberal wants to have a comprehensive understanding of radical feminism, they have to rearrange a lot of pieces in an entirely new order. This sort of project takes time. So while I can understand your frustration and impatience, I think having a more charitable attitude towards liberals who make the effort is justified.

            In my case, I attempted such a project because I believe one ought to make a serious effort to understand the other side. Presently, I am somewhat conflicted between world pictures because I uncovered pieces that radical feminism can connect that liberalism can not. At the same time, I find myself cherry picking or tinkering with radical feminism because I am hesitant to accept conclusions because they seem so distant from my lived experience. Other times, I don’t understand how to rearrange the pieces and I experience difficulty accessing material that covers my questions. For example, I have found Carole Pateman especially helpful because she fairly addresses liberal arguments, but only fragments of her work are freely accessible.

          • Meghan Murphy

            It’s not about having a more charitable attitude towards ‘liberals’, it’s that the comment you left struck me as disingenuous and purposeless: “What should a man do if he happens to cross paths with a naked woman in public? Cover his eyes? Train himself to be unaffected and focus on her face (if he needs to talk to her) or move on?”

            As if that’s what we’re suggesting or what this conversation is about? Come on.

          • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

            This is not really the place for Feminism 101. You might want to take in these web sights before you participate further:

            http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/the-faqs/
            http://radicalhub.com/2012/07/17/radfem-101-a-radical-feminist-primer-part-one/
            http://radfemimages.wordpress.com/the-gears/

          • Rye

            @Meghan,

            My bad. It was a sincere question I had on my mind, but my perceived opportunity to state it failed to pay adequate attention to the context of the conversation, sorry.

            @Francois,

            Thanks, but my problem is that I have a lot of puzzle pieces to rearrange to match the feminist world picture. Which means I have to reevaluate my lived experiences, my relations with women and political and economic beliefs etc. This is a lot more difficult than understanding the basic concepts of radical feminism.

            In other words. It’s one thing when a few stones at the top of one’s tower of knowledge do not fit quite right. It’s another thing when all the stones fall down because the foundation collapses. Then you have to build a new tower from a different foundation.

            That’s what radical feminism does. It rests on a different foundation from liberalism. I’m still building a new tower, trying to figure out where all the stones should go.

          • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

            I totally understand, I went through the same process. I dunno if you’re male-conditioned or not, but I was and it was quite a shift in perspective, but it’s not that hard if you keep going at it. Just keep reading, especially comments thread where people (like you) get hammered for their mistakes, understand what mistakes they made and why they’re mistakes.

          • marv

            Rye, feminists in this blog are crying out in a world of sexual, racial and class oppression – a land of desolation. Many of them have experienced and are experiencing agony and torture in their darkest hours like you and I will never know. In this context your comments are too clinical and detached from the suffering women endure. This is not some laboratory where men are free to test out their silly ideas and hypotheses, or a therapeutic setting to express sexual tensions and resolve inner conflicts. When you speak like it is you are adding insult to women’s injuries, further aggravating their deep wounds and trauma. You and I are god dam lucky that Meghan and the other feminists even allows us to share opinions here. We have no right to be present. Bearing that in mind, you must stop exploiting your privileges by ignorant unconscionable statements. And it’s not just a matter of reading the right materials to become educated, followed up by informed speech. This helps. Primarily, you have to stop using porn and prostitutes, volunteer with feminist organizations to promote abolition and donate money to the cause. If not, have the decency to refrain from interjecting in this discussion field. In other words, if you are not willing to eschew sexist behaviour or engage in ongoing profeminist political activism then at least get out of the way.

        • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

          In a choice of getting free food or seeing a naked women, I’d definitely choose the free food. Besides, it’s not like we can’t already see half-naked women pretty much everywhere… I guess I don’t get why naked women would be such a great tool of propaganda, especially in our post-Internet world. Maybe men are stupid enough to think they might get to have sex with them.

  • marv

    Belatedly, Nick. You declare that your “chief concern is deteriorating civil rights” in the Ukraine and Russian. But pornography and stripping are violations of women’s civil rights there and in the West. It is hypocritical that many human rights advocates rightly critique state and capitalist systems of power but deny pornstitution as a system of male power over women (these same proponents also side step the fact that governments and corporations are male fashioned). Porn and live porn, for whatever noble cause, are manifestations of social conditioning under sexual hierarchy, not of individual freedom. This is every bit as socially unjust as the state transgressions of human rights that trouble you. You are sorely deficient in feminist critical thinking skills. The solution: more collaboration with feminists.

  • http://screaming-banshee.net Leah L.

    #unclearontheconcept

    Next thing you know, there’ll be an initiative with the basic premise that hate speech stops hate crimes.

    Oh, wait.

    • Meghan Murphy

      You got it.

    • lizor

      Oooh… Nice one!!!

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  • Emmanuelle

    I think that this ’empowerment’ by showing one’s body is part of a kind of “sexual capitalism” which put every woman against each other in a sexual competition, making winners and losers, depending if you accept to play the game and if you have the right body and attitude to succeed. It’s irritating when some call feminism what is just an egoistic self-promotion.

    • H

      Oh!! This!! Yes!! Thank you. I’ve heard so many women shaming others into not being sexy or sexually adventurous enough. Can we stop being so competitive with each other, and announcing how “sexually liberated” we are for the whole world to see? Can’t we just enjoy our sex lives privately and get on with our lives and fighting the Patriarchy through our sisterhood? I don’t really get it. I don’t need to know about other women’s sexual assets. That’s none of my business, and I don’t care. Sexuality is a personal issue. Why adopt the attitude of the worst sort of men, bragging about sexual exploits? How can these “feminists” continue the commodification of sex, the forcing of it into narrow pornified constraints? Are we not ready, collectively, for a truly liberated sexual understanding, moving beyond sexual capitalism and “conquest” notions? Hmm.

  • K.O. Kowalski

    I’m a bit sceptical about the whole new thing about new feminism. I always told myself that empowerment is really a way women should use in their fights, and being able and free to show their bodies (or at least not being forced by men to hide it) is a way to empower, for sure. But what I did understand is that showing nudity again and again doesn’t change the way a man see women body.
    It’s all about it, huh ? Capitalism do not make any distinctions regarding the use of the body. It needs flesh and bones, to enslave people.
    So showing your boobs and using medias for marketing and to promote the cause is just a new way to let the medias take the message out of women (and men) who fights against domination.
    It’s doesn’t make a lot of sense to celebrate nudity, if nudity is still seen as a valuable cause to fight for. It’s all about the way men attached women body to sex, sex to power, and power to domination. But some of men are not like this, and they should show to others men that it’s a more comfortable situation to be done with the male domination. And we can do that naked or suit up, huh ?

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  • http://www.hellyeahimafeminist.com ptittle

    “Oh hey, while I was watching your burlesque show, mid-erection it occurred to me that I’ve never had to put on a strip show in order to gain power and privilege in this world.”

    Yes! So FunnyBrilliant!