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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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Join the conversation! 7 Comments

  1. There’s a lot that’s valid here. For those who do not subscribe to cultural relativism, this critique can cut in more than one direction. Just as there can be cultural imperialism, so there cannot be cultural exceptionalism–they cannot coexist. Feminism rightly crosses all borders and categories. I hope I will never encounter anyone–even a women–claiming that female genital mutilation (FGM) cannot be critiqued from outside the culture or place where it is practiced. I offer this as an illustrative example, not as a singular instance, of where my concern is aimed.

    When the FEMEN representative spoke of seeing patriarchal oppression (and repression) “in the eyes” of other women, she touched on something real, even as she inevitably overreached–and consequently offended some other feminists. It is a common experience to see in a woman’s face things unsaid, even things contrary to her words. Sometimes this occurs in a context that helps to explain the dissonance–if her abusive partner/spouse is present, for example, or she is afraid “word will get back,” furtive or avoidance expression can indeed carry real significance. I say this not to excuse or rationalize anyone’s overgeneralization, but to acknowledge something real, something well within the collective experience of feminists. The consciousness of this is not spurious, nor is it dishonest.

    Now I will put my head on the block: it would be heartening if some of the feminists who cogently expressed their objection to FEMEN, would express their affirmation and support of women who choose to express their challenge to patriarchy in ways that provoke cultural lacunae, such as predominantly Muslim enclaves and nations. What I’m search for here is not any form of apologetic–none is needed–but of a clear, reciprocal affirmation. The reason for this is based on need for feminists to maintain solidarity even while strongly dissenting. Patriarchy feasts on our divisions, and so it is important to frame, undergird, pointed critiques with solidarity. This is my view, and hope it will be considered.

    It is hardly unknown for women to bear patriarchal messages and values, claiming them as their own. We have this here in the United States, including women elected at the highest levels of government, who exert themselves to repeal abortion rights, deny civil unions and liberties to sexual minorities, and deny contraception and family-planning services to women. Patriarchal women share the values of their oppressor, internalizing and doing a useful part of the dirty work in trying to keep women “in their place” (ironic, given their elected, elite status). I believe it is the awareness of this reality that explains some of what FEMEN’s representative said. It is not fantasy–it has a grounding in real-life events, including contemporary struggles.

    With all this in mind, I appeal for us, as we must dissent and do so strongly, to always return to our shared commitment to free women from the very real oppression that spans our world. Thanks for considering these musings.

    Reply
    • So you mean that just for the sake of avoiding divisions among feminists, it is ok to accept imperialists and islamophobes amongst us.

      Why is it so hard for you guys to see that Femen are just plain islamophobes trying to trivialize islamophobia and hatred towards muslims, especially muslim men, by shamelessly describing them all as “bearded inhumane beasts”?

      As for your example about FGM – I wonder why MGM is not equally preoccupying to you, misandry maybe – I suggest you guys just leave those communities who practice it alone, they will figure out a way out of it with time, you don’t have to speed up time for them.

      Is it so hard to learn to stay inside your countries’ borders and stop stepping on other countries’ sovereignty.

      You THINK that muslim women are afraid of their men!! Typical western supremacist naivety and simple-mindedness. GUYS … FOR GOD SAKE .. MID YOUR OWN FREAKING BUSINESS AND … ####LEAVE US ALNE####

      Reply
  2. Just one little point: While Femen is obviously inspired by an interpretation of Western bourgeois feminism, Ukraine itself should not be seen as a first world, nor imperialist country. Ukraine is definitely an oppressed country which finds itself sandwiched between EU/NATO imperialism and Russia’s wannabe regional imperialism.

    Reply
  3. It is correct that FEMEN is not the only western-influenced NGO to engage in cultural imperialism, as well as other types of imperialism. So much of what is considered the Left feels that they know what’s best for the world’s people than the people themselves. Look at the different sectors of the left who gave cover for imperialist intervention in Libya and Syria, whether the reason was that Obama was doing it or the leaders of those countries were bad guys. This type of attitude is why Malcolm X called liberals foxes to the right wing wolves, because the foxes smile at you when they attack.

    Also, their protest at Putin backfired when Putin got amused at the site of naked women around him: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/04/11/matt-gurney-how-vladimir-putin-beat-femen/

    Reply
  4. Firstly i must congratulate on the use of such powerful rhetoric by the author of the given article. Secondly being a part of the “third world ” and a feminist i have two cases to consider in the article that i find objectionable.
    A) the white “colonial ” feminist (as you put it) are trying to provide an alternative. It maybe right or wrong. But branding them with such adhectives should not be encouraged. We must understand that the fight against patriarchy is not an isolated one and the same may fall if we dont stand united.
    B) if one claims that the motto of the movement started by the europeans disintigrates the strong feminist bonds then i highly doubt the article too does the same…
    Fight against patriarchy has to be fought united for the same succeed…
    Hence i strongly support the cause taken up by the author but i request to reconsider the words chosen by the same…

    Reply
  5. […] Efter lördagens aktion i en moské i Stockholm tänker jag för första gången reagera på FEMENS taktik och det gör jag genom att länka till ett öppet brev. […]

    Reply

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