Published on September 22nd, 2012 | by Engin Isin


Bare (naked) protest

It is a dilemma whether exposing your body is a political act or its objectification. It depends.

On 11 August 2009 two young feminists in Kiev bared their breasts to protest against the judiciary in Ukraine. The women belonged to a group formed earlier in 2008 that called itself FEMEN. Since 2009 FEMEN activists staged various bare (naked) acts to demonstrate against issues ranging from political cronyism to sexual exploitation in Ukraine. Much has been said and written about FEMEN and their repertoires of action and as far as acts of citizenship, these acts are not without their paradoxes. Many people have commented about the appropriateness of using nakedness as a repertoire of action when nakedness itself the object of exploitation of women. Yet, even if one is not convinced by the argument that FEMEN activists often state to the effect that they are unable to get ‘attention’ in any other way, the performative aspects of these repertoires of action are undeniable judging by the international attention they have received. The most interesting development has been the opening of a boot camp in Paris to develop these repertoires as training lessons. See the article in the Guardian. These naked acts merit much more careful consideration on how certain action begin with relatively minor disruption and how they can develop into effective repertoires of political action. It is also important to understand under what conditions such acts that begin as disruption and interruption develop into repertoires of rupture. It is difficult to say, for example, whether naked acts will develop such resilient and robust qualities to become as enduring as street protests – remember that street protests are also repertoires of action that once were illegal — but these acts may well take their place in the catalogue of acts of citizenship. In fact, the website of FEMEN gives every indication that these are dedicated and committed women who will not dissipate soon. The site includes more than 5,000 posts in more than 20 languages with charters listed by FEMEN activists in 24 cities and countries.




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