I have an extra reason to dislike FEMEN and Pussy Riot that I want to discuss here. I would have been bugged by their actions no matter what, but it especially pains me that they have chosen to call themselves feminists.
Russia and Ukraine are in dire need of a strong feminist movement. I watch a Russian TV program and every other woman shares that she was a victim of violence at the hands of her father, husband, boyfriend, or a male acquaintance. Or all four. Every other Russian or Ukrainian movie shows a female character who is viciously raped by a man and who comes to realize that it was all for her own good and she has to love him in return. Rape is tragically under-reported and under-prosecuted because the victims are treated like garbage and like they deserved it.
A big reason for this is the myth of male scarcity. It is drummed into women’s heads that men are hard to come by and have to be tolerated no matter what they do to you in order to be retained in your life. This is the legacy of the post-WWII generation that did experience a lack of men after the horrifying losses of the war.
In the 1970s-1980s, when a generation of women born after the demographic balance was reestablished grew up, a veritable avalanche of movies filmed by men and books written by men promoted the belief that men are still scarce and have to be placated at any cost. Since then, the narrative of gender relations has not changed.
There is a dire need in these countries for a feminist movement that will create a different narrative, that will engage in a painstaking, slow work of addressing every instance of sexism. But who wants to waste time on boring hard work, right? It’s much more fun to wave your breasts around and jump on an altar, making headlines and getting your picture taken. In the meanwhile, the very word “feminism” is getting discredited. The feminists who do want to do the work and make real change find themselves in a situation where anybody who hears the name of their movement immediately associates them with fame-seeking silly clowns.
FEMEN and Pussy Riot never did a thing to advance the rights of women. They are shrewd enough, however, to realize that calling themselves feminists will attract the attention and support of gullible Westerners who are dying to find familiar labels they can attach to an alien cultural reality in order to make it more comprehensible.