About that whole FEMEN “Topless Jihad” thing

I haven’t commented on any of the FEMEN topless protest stuff in Eastern Europe because I don’t particularly understand the point of protesting topless and figured that maybe it’s just a cultural thing that I don’t get. I did kind of get Amina Tyler’s decision to do the photos she did in Tunisia because if you feel like people are going all modesty police on you and trying to control your body, that is one fairly logical reaction (kind of like how I got fed up with the fundamentalist purity culture and decided “screw this, I’m not going to have you controlling the necklines of my shirts”). Similarly, Tunisian filmmaker Nadia El Fani’s decision to take a picture in support of Amina Tyler made sense because she’s Tunisian and she’s commenting on what’s going on in her own country. 

What seemed entirely off, however, was that FEMEN types outside of Tunisia decided to show their support with the whole “Topless Jihad” thing. Amina Tyler wasn’t protesting against Islam, she was protesting what she saw to be repressive and controlling elements within her country, and she did a perfectly good job of making that clear. A bunch of Western feminists seem to have decided for her that it was about Islam as a whole and ran with it, which is kind of insulting to her, if you ask me, because it’s taking away her voice and replacing it with theirs.

It seems like FEMEN missed the point in going with the “Topless Jihad” and were protesting entirely the wrong thing. Now it seems that Amina Tyler thinks that too, since she told reporters that she doesn’t like it that the Topless Jihad is associated with her because it’s insulted all Muslims. Ya know, maybe, just maybe, before all of these people around the world started taking their tops off to criticize Islam, thinking that they were supporting Amina Tyler, just maybe they should have asked her what she thought about it. This rush to make a statement, any statement, without understanding what the actual issues are strikes me as that sort of Western attitude of superiority that doesn’t help anything and reduces women in non-Western countries to weaklings who are incapable of acting without Western help. If nothing else, Amina Tyler should have proven that that’s not true. She has her own voice, she’s made it quite clear what she stands for and what she believes, and she doesn’t need anyone to speak for her, she’s doing a perfectly good job of communicating for herself.

Addendum: It seems that Tunisia is trying to figure out for themselves what sort of country they want to be now that they’ve gotten rid of their dictator. That includes internal discussion and struggle like this sort of thing, and if people really believe in the right to national self-determination, I think it’s rather important to let them figure that out as a democratic nation. Incidentally, it appears that unlike FEMEN, Anonymous understands that–they provided the tech support for the revolution after Tunisian Anons reached out to their counterparts in the rest of the world, but that was Anonymous providing the tools that people within the country didn’t have access to at the time and were asking for. Funny how a hive mind of kids from around the world managed to understand and treat their counterparts within Tunisia as equals who they were working alongside, something most Westerners don’t get. 

Published by Kathryn Brightbill

I was born at a very young age.

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