You may have heard of FEMEN’s recent attacks on Muslim women and men with their “International Topless Jihad” campaign. They claim they are standing up for the rights of women to…be naked in public? But there are several unsavory implications behind their actions:
1. FEMEN is singling out Islam for it’s emphasis on modesty, and fails to do so for Orthodox Jews, Orthodox Christians, Mormons, and many other religious groups whose faith directs them towards modest dress.
2. By staging protests “on behalf” of Muslim women, they assume that Muslim women are not or do not speak for themselves. This disregards the many Muslims working and sacrificing their lives for a better future for their families.
3. They assume that Muslim women are ALL unhappy, oppressed, and hate their hijab and situation, thereby robbing them of their voices.
4. They assume that freedom for Muslim women is simply the ability to strip in public at will, thereby ignoring the many real problems that Muslim women (and men) face on a daily basis, and reducing them to a headcovering.
5. Their protests outright insult the religion of Islam, which Muslim women love and respect, thereby insulting the people they are claiming to “help.”
6. Their attitude is a re-hashed version of the racist and condescending attitude that colonial powers would use to subjugate and oppress others: the White Man’s Burden, or the “Civilizing Mission.” That Muslim women need to be undressed for their own good–that WE (FEMEN) not THEY know what is good for them. They are merely poor slaves and we (FEMEN) should speak up for them and free them from their own backwards religion.
These women are free to express themselves any way they like, but they should not claim to speak for others.
Here are a number of good articles on the situation: Al Jazeera, the Global Post, the Muslim Women Against FEMEN Facebook page, the Frustrated Arab, Jezebel, the New Statesman, the Huffington Post UK, the International Business Times, Policy Mic, Bikya News,
Related: “Muslim Women Redefine Feminism,” by the Monitor