Date of Award
Honors Thesis (Open Access)
Colby College. Sociology Dept.
Cheryl Townsend Gilkes
Julie W. de Sherbinin
In 2008, Anna Hutsol, an economist by training, founded feminist organization FEMEN (Megginson 2011). Comprised mostly of university-educated women, FEMEN has received international media coverage, encountered controversy, and received death threats for their topless protests. For their activism, French magazine Madame Figaro ranked one of the founding members Inna Schevchenko on the 13th position in their list of Women of the Year (Madame Figaro 2012). They have delivered lectures on their movement at international forums and universities. FEMEN now has chapters in Brazil, Tunisia, France and Germany. FEMEN activists attribute their visibility to “sextremism,” their tactic of using the shock generated by their naked bodies to draw attention to their messages. They say that sextremism provides the advantage of maintaining non-violence in their ideals while at the same time generating the greatest possible shock.
In Ukraine, the status of women has remained low since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Political representation of women has sharply fallen. Over half of married women work as housewives and those who choose to work experience wage inequality and sexism in the workplace. In a country where “feminism never existed before in any form,” FEMEN claims that it is bringing the new wave of feminism to elevate the status of women (Steirischerberbst 2012). They fight for their rights with their bare breasts, the only remaining weapons of Ukrainian women. In response to their topless protests, Ukrainians and even other feminists have together attacked FEMEN.
In this paper, I seek to study this emerging feminist movement from a theoretical framework of feminist sociology and Ukrainian history. To contextualize the reasons for which FEMEN activists protest, I examine the history of Ukrainian women from various feminist perspectives. My study is an interdisciplinary study that is both sociological and cultural/historical. I perform a visual analysis of FEMEN’s protests in order to understand their aims from multiple perspectives. I contextualized their movement by examining the history of Ukrainian women and feminism in Ukraine through both historical and journalistic accounts. I compare FEMEN’s use of nudity with other social movements and feminist artists’ usage of nudity to challenge sexual objectification of women. My data are photographic images and video footage of their protests, texts from their critics, and FEMEN’s original documents that contain their arguments and other discourses. The videos, images, news sources, and other discourses are in English, Russian, and Ukrainian.
feminism, protest, sextremism
Recommended CitationKim, Jayeon, "We Came! We Stripped! We Conquered! The Sextremist Feminists of FEMEN in Ukrainian Historical Context and Contemporary Controversy" (2013). Honors Theses. Paper 708.
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