Topless Protest of Putin: Did Feminism Just Take a Step Backwards With Flash? [VIDEO]

OPINION/ANALYSIS

By Cammy Harbison April 9, 2013 12:06 PM EDT
A topless protestor in Germany confronts Putin with a message of distain painted on her back (Photo: Facebook)
A topless protestor in Germany confronts Putin with a message of distain painted on her back (Photo: Facebook)

A topless protest in Germany gave Vladimir Putin an eyeful on Monday. The protester flashed Putin hoping to make a point, but could all this physical activism actually take the feminist movement backward? After all, if you user the imagination, you can probably hear the jokes now. "Putin gets flashed by nude protestor! Yeah!", "Feminism rocks!", or "I support feminist topless flashing!" 

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The story began Monday morning as Russian president Vladmir Putin and German chancellor Angela Merkel were met by a group of females who staged a protest-one of whom went topless to make her point to Putin.

The topless protester, Alexandra Shevchenko, who confronted Putin did so at a fair in Hanover Germany in hopes of getting his attention and driving home her message of disdain. Though certainly there is no way a woman flashing a man won't get some kind of reaction, the question is, is it really moving the cause of feminism forward or are women just feeding men exactly what they want?

Why Topless Protest? Shevchenko Explains

Ukrainian feminist Inna Shevchenko says protesting topless is liberté. Photograph: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters
Ukrainian feminist Inna Shevchenko says protesting topless is liberté. Photograph: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

After all when we think about it, in what cases do we see women going topless for men? Generally in situations that would seem to be completely against everything feminism stands for. Situations in which men derive pleasure such as strip tease, topless dances, marketing ploys and other instances that lower the status of women to merely an object of pleasure to be used and then discarded. It is for this reason many feminist protests, such as the topless woman who confronted Putin, choose this physical form of protest, because this way, it cannot be ignored.

Still, was the protest effective? I mean Putin himself it seems laughed off the incident and even told the press that he "liked it". Meanwhile Shevchenko seethed, stating the reason for Putin's response is that he is "a stupid man" and that the German female chancellor Merkel would have never responded that way.

According to Shevchenko, the reason she went topless in front of Putin was not to bring him pleasure but to send a message. On her back Schvchenko has painted the words "F*ck You Putin" because as she said, the message is "really simple". And indeed it is, but is it all that effective?

I mean really, how many women might have said similar things to a husband or lover just moments before engaging in passionate make-up sex? For some it might be quite difficult to see how topless protests move the feminist movement forward, but according to Shevchenko who confronted Putin in a topless protest on Monday, there is a definitive purpose behind what they do and it is getting a response.

"Topless protest - I think this is the only effect that can work," Ms Shevchenko said to the Telegraph Monday. "This way of protest is being used by women all over the world. In new countries, in Mexico, in the US, in Brazil, France and Germany."

Shevchecko went on to say,

"When a woman's nudity is not controlled by men, when she's not using it to entertain men, or to give them sexual satisfaction or advertise men's products - when she's using her sexuality for her own aims, political aims - that really makes patriarchy irritated. And you can see the result."

According to Shevchenko, topless protests have resulted in regular threats against the Femen activist group most well known for these partially nude protests. Schevchenko told the Telegraph of a Tunisian woman who posted a topless image of herself online, which resulted in kidnapping.

Madonna Topless Protest in Moscow To Support Pussy Riot Band

Of course there have also been quite a few celebrity feminists who have launched protests of their own involving some show of skin.

It was just last summer at a concert in Moscow Madonna also stripped her shirt in support of the Pussy Riot women who were imprisoned at the time awaiting trial. Pussy Riot, made up of three young women - Maria Alokhi, 24, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22 and Yekaterina Samutsevich, 29 - were facing up to three years in jail after staging a "punk prayer" against Vladmir Putin in a Russian Orthodox cathedral in March 2102.

Madonna strips her shirt at a 2012 concert in Moscow in support of Pussy Riot (Photo: YouTube)
Madonna strips her shirt at a 2012 concert in Moscow in support of Pussy Riot (Photo: YouTube)

Though numerous musicians lauded the cause of the Pussy Riot band/activists, including Sting and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna was the one performer who seem to have made an impression with her actions.

In an August 2012 Moscow show the artist stopped the concert to issue a speech to the audience concerning the case of these girls.

"I just want to say a few words about Pussy Riot. I know there are many sides to every story; I mean no disrespect to the church or the government. But I think that these three girls- Masha, Katya, Nadia - I think that they have done something courageous. I think they have paid the price for this act and I pray for their freedom. I know that everyone here in this auditorium - if you're here as my fan - feels they deserve the right to be free. So to these three girls who've been in jail now for five months, who are going through a trial right now I pray for your freedom, I know we all pray for your freedom and lets hope that one day we really will live in a world filled with peace and freedom and tolerance. "

The artist then stripped down to just her bra where on her back was stamped the words 'Pussy Riot'.

Madonna showcases support of Pussy Riot by painting thier name on her back, sending a message to Putin (Photo: YouTube)
Madonna showcases support of Pussy Riot by painting thier name on her back, sending a message to Putin (Photo: YouTube)

After her concert, demonstration threats were made to the artist and there was fear that an attack could take place at her St Petersburg concert the next day. The concerns were severe enough that the U.S. Embassy issued a statement warning fans to be cautious and alert when attending Madonna's St. Petersburg show.

Why Topless Protests Are Working

So it seems what Shevchenko is asserting is true concerning women using their bodies and topless protests to make their point. Though some may say education and intelligent conversation could do better, one thing to keep in mind is most of these women are college educated and certainly not just a pretty face. All members of the Pussy Riot are highly educated women and hold white-collar jobs. Though their medium of protest may seem like the ploys of the uneducated the reality is, logic isn't working, so a guttural emotion evoking action is the only thing remaining.

It's not uncommon for those who choose to make a structural or societal change to suffer great adversity or to have their actions questioned. There will always be those who call those who choose to stand for what they believe crazy or radical and be ridiculed for their stance. Meanwhile however, the world watches, takes note and prepares itself for change.

What do you think of the topless protest of Putin? Was it effective or is there a better way? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

SEE ALSO:

Madonna Burned in Effigy for Support of Russian Punk Rock Valdimir Putin Protesters [VIDEO]

[VIDEO/POLL] Anti-Putin Punk Rock Band "Pussy Riot" on Trial for Controversial Protest, Gains Madonna's Support. 

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