Femen: The Israeli Branch

Global movement Femen has been increasing in popularity in Israel. Femen is a feminist organization established in the Ukraine in 2008, and is known by its members using their bodies as a protest, and exposing their breasts in public places during the protest. The first time I came across the women of Femen was at Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride, when a few women burst onto the stage topless and shouted “Stop the discrimination within the community.” It was an unusual spectacle in today’s reality.

232_295_295Shoshan Weber, an activist in Femen, told me about her perception of the movement, and why all this intense struggle is needed. “We live in a patriarchal, sexist and chauvinistic world,” she says. “As women, we are victims of this situation on a daily basis. I don’t know one woman who hasn’t experienced sexual abuse of some kind. The statistics are one in one. There is no real equality in many areas, for example in terms of salaries, where a man and woman do the same job and they don’t get equal pay. There are also all the ideals that are being set for women, and that often contradict each other. This inequality harms women on every layer- economic, political, sexual, psychological, and more. There’s no way to avoid it. In light of all of this, I as a feminist – I must fight, for survival. I can’t just sit by and watch it happen.”

But why protest naked?

“The act of protesting topless came out of the phenomenon in which a woman goes through sexual assault and the first question she is being asked is ‘what did you wear?’ The thing is that it doesn’t matter what you wear, you can also wear nothing. It still doesn’t give justification for rape. There’s no justification for rape. In addition, the topless thing for us is actually ‘playing the game.’ The only female nudity that we are accustomed to is pornographic nudity, nudity in advertising, fashion, in the media- it surrounds us. Our nudity is a ‘protest nudity. ‘ That’s what scares a lot of people, because it doesn’t exist anywhere else. In demonstrations they tell us to dress up, but we are surrounded by nudity. Then how come it’s suddenly scary?”

“There is also this particular statement: that if I was dressed, you wouldn’t have been listening to me, so it’s really backward logic,” Shoshan adds. “But as soon as I take off my shirt, suddenly people ask what I am trying to say. Suddenly they are interested in my message. It is provocative and it’s good that it’s provocative because that is the only way we can say what we want. Women in this society are transparent, so that’s the way to do it .”

Shoshan’s goal is to raise awareness and create a debate, and she does it by going topless, which is, for her, rather normal and not sexual. For her it’s a way to transfer feminist messages that don’t have many ways to be heard. “It’s a great tool for my purposes,” she says. “They call it a provocation? So be it. I see no problem with exposing my breasts, especially when it exposes the chauvinistic hypocrisy and allows me to talk about these issues. ”

For whom is Femen relevant?

“Our goals as an organization are relevant for everyone. Discrimination against women also affects men. We are half the population, and so it’s clear that the processes we go through also influence the other half. Beyond that, men also suffer from the attitude towards women. The ideals set for women force opposite ideals on men. A man should be tough, a man doesn’t cry, in order to ‘be a man’ you have to have sex with many girls.”

“Some people think that the world is equal, they don’t understand what they’re saying. Some people think that everything here is just fine, but this is not true. The very fact that one in one experiences sexual harassment of some sort shows that something’s wrong, and we must work to change it immediately. So this fight, to me, is just critical. These things have to change. “