Nov 18, 2010

Topless Protests in Ukraine (PHOTOS, PHOTOS, PHOTOS!)

I just read a story about a feminist group of Ukrainian women going topless in public to protest the diminished role they play in their nation's culture. Over there, they say, women are nothing more than baby makers with hands to do the cooking and the cleaning. Which, I agree, is not cool, and it's absolutely right that they're standing up to protest. ...not so sure about the open-air hooters, though.

While on the one hand I think it's great that they are willing to do something so very un-Ukrainian and wild to get their cause noticed, on the other hand, I'm a little worried. Obviously, boobs in public (in the fall in Eastern Europe, where I'm sure it's cold, especially) are a fail-safe method to getting you noticed, but not necessarily because they're signs of fighting the establishment. More likely, it's because people love to look at, and sexualize, boobs. The article, or lack thereof, in the Huffington Post plainly demonstrates that people are more likely to pay attention to the protest because of the bawdiness of bared nipples than because they give a damn about what the ladies were trying to say.

The headline in this Western, "forward-thinking," popular publication reads: "Femen, Ukraine Topless Women's Rights Group, Causes Stir in Protests (PHOTOS)"--note the capitalized "PHOTOS." The article goes on to describe the women's goals to garner attention for their cause by "letting down their bra straps. (Scroll down for photos.)"Note the bold reference to the photos, not the article's content. This panting hint to hurry on down to the 10-photo slide show featuring suspiciously thin, perky-breasted, attractive young women (did they choose not to publish photos of less-attractive women, or are all Ukrainian ladies really that gorgeous?) holding up signs we Westerners can't even read and yelling in Ukranian in the presence of grim-faced police officers is encouragement to skip over the scant four paragraphs of broad-strokes journalism about Femen and the government's mostly condescending reaction to their outbursts. After all, who'd want to shut this protest down? There are BOOBIES involved. Let's look at the boobies!

It's a catch 22. Of course, I love boobies. I think they're a beautiful testament to the love of whoever or whatever created us, and I love looking at them. But the gazongas in this case are supposed to the bait in the trap of getting people to listen to what these young women have to say, not the focus and point of the trap in themselves (though in the cold weather I'm sure they were rather pointed, heh). But, as a woman in a former Russian block country where men are supposed to be the guardians and safekeepers of meek, hard-working, baby-making women, just opening your mouth is probably not enough to get any attention. Opening your bra--now that will win some hard looks. But you know what I mean by hard, and if these women want anyone to take them seriously, this may not be the best way to do it.

What's a young, angry, Ukrainian feminist to do? I don't know, ladies, but perhaps some more brain work should go into your next protest. If you want men to treat you as more than sex objects in a part of the world where that's been the tradition for thousands of years, showing them your sexiest of objects may not do the trick. It's certainly a worthy cause and I'd love to help you fight for it, but I am not going to take off my top in public in November in New York, and I don't think it would help all that much anyway.

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