An Open Letter to FEMEN and the Irony of Western ‘Feminism’

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Like clockwork, another ‘mass’ movement of ‘progressive’ First World political activism has sprung up. This time it is FEMEN, the latest in a series of media spectacles and fad movements which justify and support further First World attacks against Third World peoples. 

Despite its English-language messaging, FEMEN claims to represent ‘Arab Women against Islam’ and encourages women around the world to “bare breasts against islamism [sic].” Essentially, FEMEN asks women to write messages (‘Free Amina’) on their topless bodies, take pictures, and post them online. 

It is ironic that a movement which uses women’s naked bodies as advertising also claims to be ‘feminist.’ Fashion merchandisers who use half-naked models to sell lipstick and t-shirts are simultaneously promoting patriarchy. The same applies to nominally ‘feminist’ political messaging.

Privileged westernized women may think it is rebellious to use their chest as billboards for this or that cause. However, it is oppressed women who are most likely to be corralled into brothels and seedy strip clubs due to the commodification and objectification of women’s bodies.

And let’s be real: not long ago, western women in Victorian dresses were supporting genocidal ‘civilizing missions’ against half-nude ‘heathens.’ From this perspective, the ‘liberation’ pushed by privileged First World women is a cynical ploy to secure their own aristocratic position within global gender hierarchies. 

FEMEN is not an isolated case. Rather, imperialist centers are increasingly utilizing online-media-inspired ‘mass’ movements to create public opinion in its interest.

Anti-imperialists must be vigilant and ready to oppose ‘progressive’ and ‘feminist’ movements which advance the interests of imperialism. But, Muslim women don’t need us to tell them what they already know:

An open letter to FEMEN

Hey FEMEN,

We understand that it’s really hard for a lot of you white colonial “feminists” to believe, but- SHOCKER! – Muslim women and women of colour can come with their own autonomy, and fight back as well! And speak out for themselves! Who knew?

We are proud Muslimahs, and we’re sick of your colonial, racist rubbish disguised as “women’s liberation”!

BECAUSE we are fed-up and tired of hearing from women of privilege perpetuating the stereotype that Muslim women, women of colour and women from the Global South are submissive, helpless and in need of western “progress”.

BECAUSE it is these kinds of colonial attitudes that commit more harm than good, so stop trying to kid us.

BECAUSE we are sick of the appropriation of our terms and our customs, done without our permission for whatever reason people see fit.

BECAUSE we don’t have to conform to your customs of protest to emancipate ourselves. Our religion does that for us already, thank you very much.

BECAUSE rubbing shoulders with far-right, racist and Islamophobic groups is just ANTI-FEMINIST beyond bounds, not to mention EXTREMELY DANGEROUS.

BECAUSE you don’t really care about violence and harm being inflicted upon women, you only care about that when it is perpetrated by brown men with long beards who pray five times a day.

BECAUSE not all of us are white, skinny, physically non-disabled and willing to whip off our tops merely for press attention. Check yourselves before you go into the streets again.

BECAUSE we live in a messed up world, what with heteronormativity, white supremacy, empire, the class system and capitalism, but FEMEN are concerned most about contributing more to a climate of rampant Islamophobia instead. Take aim at male supremacy, not Islam. Your priorities are messed up.

So, next time you decide to take the crusade for global women’s liberation into your own hands, JUST REMEMBER that before FEMEN came along, there have been and will continue to be women all over the world dreaming and fighting for their own emancipation, and WE DON’T NEED YOU!

SMASH THE WHITE SUPREMACIST CAPITALIST PATRIARCHY! POWER TO THE MUSLIMAHS!

Signed,

Sofia Ahmed, Student
April Reilly, Student
Ayesha Latif, Student
Zarah Sultana, Student
Sabeeha Mahmood, Photojournalist
Malia Bouattia, Student
Rabi’a Khatoon, Student
Sajidah Ali, Student
Zaira Ejaz, Student
Sumreen Rashid, Student
Shakira Akther, Black Students Officer at the University of East London
Sumaya Abdullahi , member of the Muslim Student’s Association at the university of Alberta
Fatma Musilma, Fellow of the Institute of Swimming Teachers and Coaches

From the Muslim Women Against FEMEN facebook page:

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