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FEMEN And The Suppression Of Native Voices

By Roqayah Chamseddine | Letters From The Underground | April 6, 2013

I loathe the premise that people of colour should be ‘grateful’ that others are taking notice of their subjugation, or that they should bite their tongues and clench their fists and instead show gratitude because their varied plights are being in some way ‘acknowledged‘ by others.

“Shouldn’t you be glad that people are recognizing these issues?” is the arrogant lamentation which customarily follows even the most cautious criticism of these perverse pseudo-solidarity actions – FEMEN’s nude predominantly white, predominantly thin photo-ops “for Amina,” a 19 year-old Tunisian woman who posed for them with the words “my body belongs to me, it is not the source of anyone’s honour” scrawled across her torso, being the latest example, and KONY2012 being an earlier one. This aforementioned response contends that we should withhold criticism, alleging that even being ‘noticed’ should be good enough.

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Despite having our religious attire, skin colour and even facial hair, being routinely mocked and worn as makeshift costumes as a part of ‘solidarity actions’ it is said time and time again that we should be ‘grateful’ that anyone simply has reason enough to ‘care.’

Despite the watered down slogans of liberation and freedom being copy-pasted by the parade of online followers of groups such as FEMEN many of these same activists are so inebriated with colonial feminist doctrine that they gleefully take part in patronizing, Islamophobic and misogynistic rhetoric in response to women of colour telling them that they take great offence, that their voices will not be usurped, that they are the sole guardians of their plights and no one has the authority to speak on their behalf, no matter how allegedly ‘well-intentioned’.

In response to FEMEN’s topless “jihad day” event Muslim women created #MuslimahPride on Twitter; Sofia Ahmed, one of the women behind “Muslimah Pride Day” described the campaign as follows:

“Muslimah [term for a female Muslim] pride is about connecting with your Muslim identity and reclaiming our collective voice. Let’s show the world that we oppose FEMEN and their use of Muslim women to reinforce Western imperialism.”

Using #MuslimahPride many Muslim women began voicing their disapproval of FEMEN, one such woman was Zarah Sultana who posted the following photograph on her public Twitter page, which I have received permission to post here, and which in turned catalyzed many other Muslim women to do the same in an array of languages, by women from multifarious backgrounds:

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The responses Sultana received were drenched in perverse Islamophobia, sexism and pure, unashamed hatred: “Fuck off back to your own country”, “burn in hell”, “grab your ankles and remain silent”, “Mohammad was a pedophile”, “put on your burka”, “she’s happy with her chains” etc.- all coming from those who, just moments earlier, were tweeting gleefully in support of Muslim women.

When it comes to non-natives speaking in regards to native issues – it is a path that must be tread upon lightly in order to avoid (a) tokenization and (b) the usurpation of native voices. Solidarity is great, but it is when campaigns turned publicity stunts like the ones FEMEN indulges in begin using brown bodies as props while at the same time perpetuating orientalism and engaging in blatant prejudicial acts to promote their idea of ‘liberation’ does this become more a theft of native voices than a rallying cry for ‘freedom’. FEMEN, and other such groups, offer no solution to the undeniable subjugated of women present in the Middle East-North Africa, it is all a show of thin, white grandeur.

Simply stating that you are in solidarity, that you support a woman’s right to don the headscarf, remove it, cover/uncover etc. is in no way dubious. It is when aforementioned solidarity crosses the red line and veers into the seizure of native voices and the tokenization of these voices does this become intensely problematic, ineffective and perverse.

Also it has long been chronicled that women of colour are often left out of mainstream feminist discourse, unless it is by means of humanitarian imperialism channels where they are simply tokenised. Bell Hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins), a feminist, social activist, does a magnificent job describing this in much of her work.

In terms of the mounting questions in regards to how one is to raise awareness in light of such groups as FEMEN: you raise awareness by highlighting native voices, not co-opting them. It is your duty to amplify, not commandeer.

As Sara Salem, PhD researcher at the Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands, notes:

“Feminism has the potential to be greatly emancipatory by adopting an anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic and anti-Islamophobic rhetoric, instead of often actively being racist, homophobic, transphobic and Islamophobic. By clearly delineating the boundaries of what is “good” and “bad” feminism, Femen is using colonial feminist rhetoric that defines Arab women as oppressed by culture and religion, while no mention is made of capitalism, racism, or global imperialism. It is actively promoting the idea that Muslim women are suffering from “false consciousness” because they cannot see (while Femen can see) that the veil and religion are intrinsically harmful to all women.

Yet again, the lives of Muslim women are to be judged by European feminists, who yet again have decided that Islam – and the veil – are key components of patriarchy. Where do women who disagree with this fit? Where is the space for a plurality of voices? And the most important question of all: can feminism survive unless it sheds its Eurocentric bias and starts accepting that the experiences of all women should be seen as legitimate?”

Post-Colonial feminists worth mentioning, a few of many:

Arundhati Roy
Gloria Anzaldúa
Chandra Talpade Mohanty
Audre Lorde
June Jordan

Responses to FEMEN by women of colour, others:

The Inconsistency of Femen’s Imperialist “one size fits all” AttitudeBim Adewunmi
Femen’s Neocolonial Feminism: When Nudity Becomes A Uniform – Sara Salem
The Fast-Food Feminism of the Topless FEMEN – Mona Chollet
That’s Not What A Feminist Looks Like – Elly Badcock
The African History of Nude Protest – Maryam Kazeem

My piece on rediscovering Feminism

Suggested reading:
“Is Western Patriarchal Feminism Good For Third World/Minority Women?” By Azizah Al-Hibri

“Women and Gender in Islam” by Leila Ahmed

And two relevant books by Edward Saïd:
Culture and Imperialism
Orientalism

June 29, 2014 - Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Islamophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. FEMEN is of course a jewish funded and controlled endeavor.

    http://pauleisen.blogspot.com/2013/08/femen-israel-and-its-jewish-backers.html

    Like

    Comment by kenny | June 29, 2014 | Reply

  2. Along the same lines. I posted some of these quotes, with links, to Letters from the Underground, but I’m not sure the comment will go through. (Occidental Observer is probably a deal breaker, but I certainly don’t support Kevin MacDonald’s apparent idea that the white man claimed North America fair and square. I do find some of the analysis of ethnocentric Jewish politics there to be useful.)

    “Recently, France gave a big welcome to the Ukrainian group calling itself “Femen”, young women who seem to have studied Gene Sharp’s doctrines of provocation, and use their bare breasts as (ambiguous) statements. These women were rapidly granted residence papers (so hard to get for many immigrant workers) and allowed to set up shop in the midst of the main Muslim neighborhood in Paris, where they immediately attempted to try (unsuccessfully) to provoke the incredulous residents. The blonde Femen leader was even chosen to portray the symbol of the Republic, Marianne, on the current French postage stamp, although she does not speak French.

    Last December 20, these “new feminists” invaded the Church of the Madeleine near the Elysée Palace in Paris, acted out “the abortion of Jesus” and then pissed on the high altar. There were no cries of indignation from the French government. The Catholic Church is complaining, but such complaints have a feeble echo in France today.”

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/01/24/blasphemy-in-secular-france/

    “Then there is the so-called “International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism” (LICRA). Originally founded in 1927 as a Jewish activist group, it added the “R” in 1979 and officially became an “anti-racist” group. In fact however, every single one of its five presidents since its founding has been of Jewish descent (presumably no one was qualified among the Goyim 99%?) and its Executive Bureau does not have a single person of color, being made up mostly of Jews, with some White gentiles. If one goes by skin color, the “anti-racist” LICRA may in fact be whiter than the Front National (FN), the leading nationalist party, but it spends a large amount of time campaigning against that party for its “racism.”

    The LICRA took the lead in attempting to criminalize the “quenelle” gesture, regardless of whether it is used in a political or an overtly Judeo-critical context. LICRA activists termed it a “sodomization of the victims of the Shoah.” The group’s lawyers coincidentally also legally represent the Ukrainian ultra-feminist group FEMEN despite the latter’s having undertaken such outrages in France as urinating in a cathedral and chain-sawing a cross in half. Perceived Christophobia is rather more tolerated than perceived anti-Semitism…”

    http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2014/05/as-happy-as-god-in-france-the-state-of-french-jewish-elites-part-1/

    Femen member has photo op at the 2014/5/2 Odessa Massacre. Also some in-depth discussion of Femen actually being started and run by a rather unpleasant man.

    http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2014/05/19/18755970.php

    “Finally, one more part of the Ukrainian economy, which experts prefer not to write about. Arms trade, military technology and narcotics. Experts name dozens of names here. The main ones are: Vadim Rabinovitch, citizen of Israel, Ukraine and Hungary, Sergei Maximov and the Derkatch family. The elder Derkatch is Leonid Derkatch. He was the head of the Ukrainian security service, SBU. Now he holds all the cards, as he’s dealing in weapons. Rabinovitch is a very interesting figure. He supports the gay-lesbian party Raduga and the Kiev feminist group Femen. Often quarrels with other Jewish oligarchs.”

    https://wikispooks.com/wiki/Document:Battleground_Ukraine

    More generally related to Roqayah Chamseddine post:

    http://zeroanthropology.net/2014/01/23/sochi-sexuality-and-empire/

    Like

    Comment by Rudy M | June 30, 2014 | Reply


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