Femen in Paris: Ukraine’s Topless Warriors Move West
Femen in Paris: Ukraine’s Topless Warriors Move West - Jeffrey Tayler - the Atlantic
In France, members of the protest group have been beaten and detained, but they’re using the experience to train for a bigger challenge.
In mid-November, when Inna Shevchenko, 22, Femen’s leader in France, and Oksana Shachko, 25, a veteran Femen activist, heard that the militant Catholic organization Institut Civitas was planning to protest against a proposed law that would legalize same-sex marriage in the country, they decided to stage an in situ counter-demonstration in the controversial, deliberately provocative style for which their group has won no small measure of notoriety. Along with eight French members of Femen, they donned nuns’ habits, painted their bodies with slogans (FUCK CHURCH, GAY IS OK, FUCK RELIGION), equipped themselves with aerosol canisters of white powder marked Jesus Sperm, and set out for the Civitas rally. Once there, they stripped down to their black panties and black and white head veils, and began marching, breasts bare, brandishing their “sperm,” and chanting, in an ever more strident crescendo, “In Gay We Trust! In Gay We Trust!” A minute later, they halted and sprayed their “ejaculate” into the startled, predictably hostile crowd of Catholic fundamentalists.
In the ensuing gaseous white-out, male Civitas demonstrators set about savagely beating and kicking the Femen activists, who tried to keep up their chanting between blows to the head and body and screams of fear. Most of the women retreated halfway down the block, stopping nevertheless to blow kisses to their assailants and shout, rather unconvincingly, “We love you!” But demonstrators pursued them. They took off again and reassembled at a safe distance, and, battered and visibly shaken up, chanted some more for the cameras, before allowing police vans to carry them out of range of further mayhem.
In the brawl, Shevchenko lost an incisor and Shachko got a bloody nose, and most of their cohorts suffered cuts and bruises. Though Shevchenko knew of Civitas’ extremist reputation, such violence was hardly what she expected when arriving in reputedly liberal Paris to establish, at the behest of French feminists, Femen’s international “training center” and its first official presence abroad.