Archive pour le Tag 'Elsa Daniels and Julien Quelennec'

Performing Naked Feminism : A Taiwanese Contextualization of the Femen’s Body / Elsa Daniels and Julien Quelennec

« In the beginning, there was the body, feeling of the woman’s body, feeling of joy because it is so light and free. Then there was injustice, so sharp that you feel it with your body, it immobilizes the body, hinders its movements, and then you find yourself your body’s hostage. And so you turn your body against this injustice, mobilizing every body’s cell to struggle against the patriarchy and humiliation. You tell the world : Our God is a Woman !
Our Mission is Protest !
Our Weapon are bare breasts !
And so FEMEN is born and sextremism is set off. » (femen.org)

The statement is clear : the body is the core of Femen’s activism. Their movement is a reaction against all forms of alienation of the woman’s body. It was originally free, but now it is enchained. This parody of genesis sets the tone of Femen’s activism: it is provocative and subversive, with a touch of humor. Anna Hutsol, one of the founders of Femen, declared in 2009 how the Femen had developed a “unique way of civil self-expression based on creativity, courage, humor, efficiency and shock.” (1) However, if this is indeed a good description of the undertaken actions of the Femen, one cannot but feel ill-at-ease while reading the texts which are supposed to provide a more elaborated view of their political stance. Identifying the sex-industry as “the most large-scale and long-term genocide against women” (femen.org) for example, certainly cannot be seen as part of a humoristic strategy anymore. We can read in such formulation the expression of a certain truth claim (the genocide belongs to the regime of international law and supposes a form of universalism) that goes far beyond the mode of actions Femen have chosen in order to face the socio-political injustice imposed on women. With such claims, the rebellious body in action becomes representative of a certain representation of the woman’s body as bearer of a universal truth: the oppressive nature of the patriarchal order. Most critiques of the Femen have focused on the use of the topless body for feminist actions, but few have paid serious attention to the role of the text inscribed on the body of the protester. What could be a discursive analysis of the Femen’s movement? Is there anything interpretable in the words “Fuck Putin !” or “Fuck the Church !”? It seems to us that this is where the Femen’s political use of the body must be problematized. On the one hand, their actions manifest the desire to break away from a dominant representation of the woman’s social role. The breast becomes a weapon and is not identified anymore as a source of pleasure or as a source of nourishment (Yalom, 105). The performative nature of their action is effective in activating a strategy of subjective agency in search of control of its own body. Is this what they mean when they say that their body is politicized through their topless protests ? The body is not objectified, because it speaks back and does not subject itself to the desire of the observer. On the other hand, the body of the woman is somehow idealized (“Our God is a woman”) and becomes the bearer of a truth, the revolutionary truth of the free women, even if it is vulgar and obscene. To use their own words : “Body-poster is the truth delivered by the body by means of nudity and meanings inscribed on it” (femen.org). The passage from a politicization of the body in action to the inscription of truth on the body of the protester is important because it indicates the point where the body cannot fully speak for itself and needs to be re-articulated in a language which can speak for and about it. Our concern is that this articulation of the body to language, its translation, seems to be largely ignored by the Femen who engage in their actions with a sense of self-certainty associated to the nude truth (or the self-evident truth of the nude). To what extent then is the initial politicization of the body operated by the Femen not limited by their participation in a discursive universalization of the woman as a category ? In that perspective, we would like to question the Femen’s current tendency to re-appropriate, as “Femen-like,” any protest which would make use of the topless body as a form of political expression.
We will first try to provide a contextual understanding of the formation of the Femen in Ukraine. Our goal is not to make the detailed history of this group, but to have a glimpse at the geo-historical conditions of its transnationalization. It is important, because we think that the universalist claims of the Femen should be placed in a post-cold war context in order to evaluate the possible imperialist tendencies underlying their movement. Then, we will come back to overview Femen’s actions, and try to shed light on some of the limits of the standardization of the politicization of the body. We wonder if the inclination to perform body politics as a way to attract public attention is not also what keeps Femen’s discourse at a level of abstraction where they lose sight of the contextual conditions of the protest. In these both parts, we will refer to the Taiwanese context in order to put into perspective the problem posed by the supposed universalism of the Femen’s body politics.
Elsa Daniels and Julien Quelennec
Performing Naked Feminism :
A Taiwanese Contextualization of the Femen’s Body
/ 2014

Communication produite à Korça (Alabanie)
Université d’été d’Ici et d’ailleurs / Les usages politiques du corps

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1 http://observers.france24.com/content/20090828-how-they-protest-prostitution-ukraine-femen-sex-tourism




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