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Everyone has their own opinion on what feminism should look like, entail, or work towards, but I’m going to focus on an Eastern European feminist group named FEMEN. FEMEN recently launched a campaign to “liberate” Muslim women who are forced into covering themselves by misogynistic regimes. This campaign was a response to 19 -year old Amina Tyler’s topless photos which attacked the Islamic regime in Tunisia. As a Muslim feminist, it’s pretty obvious what kinds of issues I might have with this form of protest, but speaking objectively, there are issues with FEMEN’s actions that simply cannot be overlooked.

Just to be clear, I agree that there is a problem when it comes to Islamic regimes forcing women into cloth jails. The Qur’an states “there is no compulsion in religion,” so forcing women to cover themselves and hide in their homes is not Islamic in the least. That said, I think there are more effective ways of dealing with this issue. Moreover, proponents of FEMEN have been quoted as not just speaking out against oppressive regimes, but also against Muslim men in general, which really goes beyond the scope and is borderline Islamophobic.

Here are the issues with FEMEN’s topless protests:

1. They don’t have any effect on the regimes they’re attacking. Women who go topless in European nations don’t affect the misogynistic leaders that FEMEN wants to change. This form of protest doesn’t put any sort of international political or economic pressure on these regimes, rendering them useless.

2. The women are using their bodies to gain attention that could easily be considered anti-feminist. I’m all for women having the right to use their bodies how they want, but it just seems a bit backwards to use your body to gain media coverage while you protest the fact that women are being forced into covering their bodies a certain way. Are these women choosing to walk around topless or has the sexualization of media coverage forced them into doing this?

3. The protests foster unnecessary Islamophobia due to their lack of clarity. Not all women in the Middle East are in the same situation that Amina found herself, and FEMEN fails to make a distinction between who they are defending and who voluntarily believes in covering themself. This seems to be the biggest issue. FEMEN needs to publicly draw the line between the women who they claim to be saving and the women who don’t need saving because they’re just exercising their right to cover their body however they choose. The lack of this distinction makes FEMEN’s actions seem imperialistic in that the group is forcing its idea of (what some might label) “Western feminism” onto the East. Like any great ideology, feminism pops up in different forms all over the globe, and arguing that the Arab world doesn’t have any form of feminism at all is ignorant. I guess I just think FEMEN protesters needs to take a moment to read a couple books before disrobing.

Meghji is a member of the class of 2015.

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