Cultural activism, apart from being fashionable, is much needed.
Femen would have been a good example, just like Voina or Pussy Riot, if it was not for the fact that they ignored the first rule of activism: studying the cause they are adopting (in this case, women’s rights) and learning very well about it before ‘championing’ it.
A few days ago, Femen staged what they referred to as the ‘International Topless Jihad Day.’ Basically, they posed topless right next to Paris’ Mosque, in support of the Tunisian activist Amina Tyler (herself a member of Femen) who had received threats from some Islamists after she posted her topless photo with ‘Fuck your morals’ and other phrases written on her breasts.
Where did Femen go wrong then? Because at a first glance it would seem they were only supporting Amina and defending the liberty of Arab/Muslim women in general, not a bad cause at all! No?
No, not a bad cause, but a method that beats the purpose (and I am not referring to nudity). Here is why:
– The choice of the term ‘jihad’ for describing the ‘action’ they did is more than lame, it’s simply ignorant. While a vast majority of non-Muslims tend to understand the word ‘jihad’ as equivalent to ‘holy war’ (al-Qaeda, Taliban and the Western Media are to blamed for that misunderstanding), Jihad in fact means struggle, mostly against one’s own self in order to be a better person.
Jihad is not the Islamic equivalent of the Crusades!
– Shock therapy (now I’m referring to nudity) beats the purpose of their action. If the idea was to get a message across to the Arab/Muslim world through nudity, then I assure you that the only message that reached the people there is this (knowing how a mainstream Arab would think): what these women of Femen want is for our women to have the kind of freedom and liberty that made them (Femen) free to go bare-breasted or fully naked down the street. No, thank you, we don’t want this ‘model’.
If Femen really wanted to send a message of support, they definitely had not done their homework: the name is wrong, shock therapy does not work for Arabs (we are speaking millennia of rigid traditions) and nudity is not the kind of ‘teaching-by-example’ that would appeal to that part of the world.
Having said that, if the point of the whole ‘campaign’ was some media frenzy, then at least they got that.