The Art of Gentle Revolution1 – Experience with a Feminist Wikihack
Digital resources offer an exciting opportunity for feminist activity. Wikipedia, written by ‘the people’, is an accessible and ubiquitous ‘encyclopaedia’ where feminist activists can challenge and change androcentric assumptions, and ensure the experiences and realities of women are represented. A feminist masterclass, part of the Motherhood and Culture conference (Maynooth, Ireland 15-17th June 2015), encouraged feminist activism through a coordinated wikihack. Participants chose a topic from their own discipline in relation to motherhood and formulated content to challenge norms and broaden feminist representation on Wikipedia.
Feminist organizations exist around the world for many decades. Nowadays feminists fight not only for women’s rights but they are actively involved in political affairs as well. FEMEN group is often represented by media as a feminist organization and is famous for its provocative way of protest by using their nude bodies. However, it is not the matter of nudity that is questionable but the appropriateness and clearness of the message it is supposed to represent. Our research group is constantly raising the question of the efficiency of FEMEN tactics. To explain our concerns the following video may be analyzed:
On March 6, 2014 FEMEN sextremists staged a topless protest at the Times Square, New York, in order “to stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people against the excessive military aggression and opportunism of the Russian government under the command of Putin regime” (cited from the video above). They asked US and EU officials to apply economic sanctions toward Russia by advocating the motto: “Stop Putin’s war before he stopped you!” and “Fuck you, Putin!” Their political intention seems to be pretty obvious. Nevertheless, there are several issues which invoke some doubts. First, if they are addressing their protest to the officials, why have they chosen the Time Square as the location? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to organize the protest in front of the parliament building or any other official state establishment? Second, in many of their interviews, and the video provided above in particular, it is emphasized that FEMEN uses their nude bodies because people are not ready to see naked and aggressively disposed women. At the same time they choose not only to expose their uncovered breasts but also to represent a common stereotype of women who wear high heels and make up. The question then is whether they accept such an image of contemporary woman themselves. Finally, since it looks like FEMEN chose media as the mediator between them and US government, a range of questions arise: what audience is this organization referring to – journalists, government, citizens – and what do they expect from such a protest? Do they anticipate any response from the target audience or is it simply another attempt to popularize their organization around the world by using a defiant way of protesting? How do FEMEN activists promote the feminist motives and do they intend to do this at all? What is the difference then between a commercialized popular brand and a reactionary organization which chooses to consciously fight against various inequalities and under which of these categories can we place FEMEN?
All these uncertainties appear mainly because of FEMEN’s lack of clear platform. They seem to be against many injustices and it is their right and choice to use naked bodies as the tool for the protests. The question remains though whether their message is lucid to people and in which way it is productive. Although the questions raised still remain open, there seems to be a disconnection between FEMEN’s motives, the follow-up results and the intention of using naked bodies in the first place.