Topless Protestors Start a Feminist Boot Camp

by Amy Bucknam

Members of FEMEN, a Ukranian feminist activist group, bring attention to their cause by baring their boobies.  The group known for topless protests has now started something of a feminist “international training camp” in France, which opened on September 18.

Inna Shevchenko, a prominent FEMEN member, was wearing nothing but salmon-colored denim shorts and the words “Free Riot” painted on her body when she chainsawed down a giant Orthodox cross near Independence Square in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. Her cross-chopping was in response to the sentencing of three members of Russian punk collective Pussy Riot following their anti-Putin protest in one of Russia’s main Orthodox cathedrals. 

Constant threats of violence have led Shevchenko to leave Ukraine. She told Presseurop that men followed her everywhere she went, until finally, “One morning, they started to break down my front door. I grabbed my passport and I fled through the window.” 

She first went to Warsaw, then finally settled at Paris’s Lavoir Moderne Parisien, a neighborhood theater in the northern Goutte de’Or neighborhood.  The managers of the modest French theater made it available to FEMEN refugees free of charge, so they can use the space to open a feminist boot camp.

“We want to train young women from around the world to become soldiers for the feminist cause,” Shevchenko told Presseurop with enthusiasm. The training consists of “psychological, theoretical and athletic exercises” to prepare young feminist warriors to take on the war on women all over the world. 

FEMEN has been around since 2008, but took on their naked protesting strategy for the first time on August 24, 2010 – Ukrainian Independence Day.   Since then, members of the group have bared all at events such as Milan Fashion Week, where they protested the overly thin models that promoted anorexia and bulimia amongst women. Four FEMEN protesters were also arrested at this past summer Olympics in London when they were protesting the International Olympic Committee’s support of what they called “bloody” Islamic regimes.

“The press is our best protection,” she explained. “If we are bare-breasted, our message is more widely spread and we are in less danger.”


Photo by Alexander JE Bradley via

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