If ‘No More Page 3’ is a feminist campaign, and Femen is a feminist group, I wonder how the latter would organise a protest against page 3 outside Sun HQ? Would they bare their breasts adorned with the words ‘no more page 3’?
Femen seem to walk a very fine line between reclaiming their bodies and using the tools of the oppressor to make themselves heard. Both use women’s bodies to sell a message. With page 3 this message is ‘you may be a working class man attacked and exploited from all sides but at least you can have a gratuitous and guilt free look at a woman’s breasts!’ whilst Femen go for the much more subtle ‘fuck your god’.
Femen describe their campaigning tactics as creative with an element of surprise. Unfortunately, bare breasts in the public domain of Western societies are anything but surprising. Just have a look at the third page of the sun newspaper. Bare breasted women protesting in Saudi Arabia, now that would be revolutionary and surprising! In the middle of Paris or London?Not so much.
One difference between Femen and page 3 is that liberal men who see themselves as comrades in our struggles, may find page 3 offensive. But, what if it was liberated activist women who were getting their breasts out? Would this make it ok to have a look and comment on them? When you see comments like these underneath a Femen picture on an ‘anarchist’ facebook page, then you know the struggle for women’s lib is not yet won:
‘Think I like this too much. Against religion and naked women. Yes.’
‘ love the message love the tits’
‘ No censored girls! :D’ – there were a number of complaints that the girl’s (sic) nipples had been censored out. Just for the record, there was nothing written on the nipples. I’ve checked.
…and whilst approving comments included praise of the women’s breasts, there were also the more abusive offerings that focused on the women’s “undesirability”. It feels like the conversation has not progressed past the usual sexist discourse. I think the ‘fuck your god’ message got lost somewhere.
Most of the Femen campaigners are young women with a particular body type. I would like to hope that older women, larger sized women and women who have undergone mastectomies would be greeted with the same enthusiasm, but I am too cynical to actually believe that.
For me, feminism is about liberation from the gender stereotypes that society imposes on us. Yes, Femen are breaking the mould of the quiet and well behaved women that many would like us to be. They may be the punk rockers (with flowers in their hair) of the feminist movement…angry, passionate and ready to put themselves in the firing line. However, their T-shirt sized messages seem to be often quite vague with no tangible demands for change. Their tactics are too much style over substance.
I am not convinced that I would feel liberated if I had to get naked in order to make my point. Nor should our struggles be defined by male acceptance and their acceptance of our bodies.For decades, women have fought for equality and this should include equality in the sphere of campaigning. If men don’t have to prance around naked to be heard, I don’t see why women should.