After more than a year of covering the topless protest actions of Ukrainian feminist crew FEMEN, I have finally caught up with the girls on Skype and we g
Jdc Jdr's insight:
Q: I understand that your main agenda is the “Anti-Prostitution”/anti-sex tourism platform. Are you opposed to sex work in general or are you against the exploitative element of Ukrainian sex industry in particular?
First of all, women are the victims of the sex industry. In Ukraine, this is an epidemic. Prostitution is an enormous business, a vast vortex that sucks women in. Sex bosses hire propagandists to daily snag them off the streets, from bars, cafes, night clubs, peddling this myth that a successful Ukrainian woman is one that makes substantial money selling her body: “You’re so pretty and sexy. Instead of earning $30 a month as a schoolteacher, wouldn’t you rather earn $1000 a month enjoying yourself?” This is a poor country and women are suffering. We’ve talked to many prostitutes. They all have the same story. They’re economically disadvantaged. Some have a kid to feed and can’t even feed themselves with their waitressing jobs… Never mind self-realization!
Q: What about female-owned porn studios or unoppressed sex workers? As a feminist, don’t you think that a woman can make a conscious choice, taking the pressures of poverty out of the equation?
If a woman makes this choice, it’s in distress due to factors outside her control. Even in other countries, I don’t think any woman – Ukrainian, Italian, American – ever thinks that she wants to sell her body, that she wants to be a good, an object. I don’t believe this.
Q: We enjoyed your topless niqāb drive-by the Saudi Arabian Embassy in support of Saudi Arabian women’s right to drive. You support many international feminist causes, yet, in your homeland where there’s virtually no rights and no social or legal recognition for LGBT, you’ve never supported any of your persecuted lesbian sisters. What gives? You oppose that too?
As feminists, we support all women. Homosexuality is normal and there’s nothing shameful about it. But you have to understand — in Ukraine, there is no notion of a sexual minority. It is not allowed. Our rigid Ukrainian men dismiss this with confusion and aversion. What can we say? There’s no notion of what a feminist is either; Ukrainians all image feminists as these male-like creatures who are angry at life. We haven’t brought up gay rights yet because Ukraine hasn’t brought it up. It is not in the public forum. When a porn actress approached us for help with leaving the industry, we took up her cause. We have a few gay male and female friends, but they don’t want to go public.
I just finished watching an episode of al-Jazeera Stream, where one of the women from the feminist group Femen was speaking. Femen have become widely known over the past few years, particularly for...
Jdc Jdr's insight:
“Feminism can only succeed if we accept diversity. There is no way we can fight against a system as strongly entrenched as patriarchy if we keep up all this in-fighting about who is a good feminist and who isn’t a feminist at all. Feminism shouldn’t be about whether a veil is “okay” or not—it should be about whether a woman was forced to wear a veil, just as it should be about whether a woman in Paris was forced to wear a mini-skirt. It should be about the effects of capitalism, of racism, of Islamophobia on the everyday lives of women. Feminism has the potential to be greatly emancipatory by adopting an anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic and anti-Islamophobic rhetoric, instead of often actively being racist, homophobic, transphobic and Islamophobic.”