Known for its bare-breasted actions, the group FEMEN has expanded over the years to several European countries. FEMEN has always used performance to present its message. With a deliberate theatrical transnationalization of its political mission, the group’s objective is total victory over patriarchy, and it seeks to achieve this by “sextremism” by provoking patriarchy into open conflict, undermining its fundamental institutions (such as dictatorships), abolishing the sex industry, and the church both of which it sees as controlling and oppressing people, and creating an effective, influential, worldwide combat feminist movement.
In relocating from Kiev to Paris, FEMEN INTERNATIONAL, as the organization is now called, operates in a country where in 2004 a law has banned school children from wearing “explicit signs” of religious affiliation in public schools. Although the law applies to all religious groups, it is primarily directed against Muslim girls wearing headscarves. The law’s supporters regard the veil as a symbol of Islam’s inability to modernize, claiming that upholding the ban is a way to defend France’s secular and republican values.
This chapter is based on an analysis of the issues that underlie the ban debate, namely racism, secularism, individualism, and neoliberalism, and rather than facilitating coexistence between different religious and cultural groups, the law has exacerbated such divisions in French society. A new approach, in which diversity is accepted as a necessary component of national and transnational communities, is badly needed. Unfortunately, the political tendency in European politics is not going in that direction. Instead, we are witnessing a resurgence of neo-fascist and right wing populist parties with their Islamophobic anti-migrant agendas. Such parties have one thing in common: the dream of a mono-cultural nation, free from migrants, as their political utopia. FEMEN does not appear to have realized how complex this political question is when they declared their vision of veil-free Muslim sisters.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 127-138 p.