KIEV, UkraineÃ‚Â Ã¢â‚¬â€Ã‚Â How to protest domestic violence, corruption and a visit by Russia’s Vladimir Putin? Ukraine’s answer: Take off your bra!
A group of young activists is gaining popularity here for staging topless protests that involve sexually charged gestures, obscene slogans and scuffles with security guards and police. Often, the point seems to be just getting naked.
The activists, slender, long-legged beauties with traditional Ukrainian flower wreaths in their hair, say they are promoting women’s rights and fighting for democracy, but some critics say they’re just seeking fame and undermining the feminist cause.
“If sexuality is used to sell cars and cookies, why not use it for social and political projects,” said Anna Hutsul, 26, the chain-smoking leader of Femen who has closely cropped red hair. “Sometimes you need to show your breasts for ideological reasons.”
It’s perhaps no coincidence that Femen originated in Ukraine, where the 2004 Orange Revolution ushered in chaotic democracy and made noisy street protests something of a national sport.
Born out of a girls’ pajama party two years ago, the group has turned into a popular movement whose escapades are the subject of evening news, talks shows and blog gossip. They’ve become so popular, in fact, that Hutsul plans to launch a political party and run for parliament.
The group campaigns against prostitution and discrimination of women but also weighs in on a wide range of hot topics in Ukraine such as the tax code, freedom of speech and foreign borrowings by the government.