Europe, Free Speech, Human Rights, Politics

Femen’s Inna Shevchenko: Fear of Causing Offense Has Cost Too Many Innocent Lives

Editor’s note: As we enter 2018, brave women are protesting Islamic modesty culture and laws in Iran. Jeffrey Tayler has documented women’s protests against modesty culture in Europe for years. What follows is an interview conducted by Tayler with Femen’s leader, Inna Shevchenko, in 2017.

A female activist has just sawed down a giant Christian cross on the central square of the capital city of Ukraine, in protest against the prison sentence meted out to Pussy Riot band members for the “punk prayer” they had performed in a Moscow cathedral earlier that year. What fate awaits her when she flees, personally threatened by her country’s president for her audacious deed, to France, the self-proclaimed “homeland of human rights?” Upon her arrival in Paris, do orchestras greet her with rousing renditions of La Marseillaise? Do accolades of support pour in from the French media? Does she settle, finally, into secure environs, certain, for the first time in her young but politically active life, that she can pursue unhindered her feminist struggle for human rights and the propagation of atheism? And, in the country that enshrines laïcité (secularism) in Article 1 of its constitution, does she find her staunchly godless views lauded?

Quite the contrary! The now twenty-seven-year-old Inna Shevchenko, the leader of the international topless protest movement Femen, had, in August 2012, barely taken up residence in the attic of France’s historic Théâtre du Lavoir (which would become Femen’s headquarters), when she found herself and her activists under threat. True, she had inaugurated Femen’s arrival with a topless march in the Lavoir’s predominantly Muslim neighborhood. (Their slogan: NUDITY IS FREEDOM! Was this “culturally insensitive” to Muslims?) True, her activists had demonstrated, topless, against the burka in front of the Eiffel Tower. (Slogans: BETTER NAKED THAN BURKA! And MUSLIM WOMEN LET’S GET NAKED! Was this “Islamophobic”?)

And yes, she and Femen, the self-described “shock troops of feminism” and “watch-bitches of democracy,” were loudly decrying the spread of political Islam in France at a time when French Muslims were widely viewed as an oppressed minority. But Shevchenko expected liberals to back her group’s remonstrations against political Islam and Islam’s suppression of women’s rights.

They did not, by and large.

Physical violence soon followed, when, in November 2012, Femen, shouting IN GAY WE TRUST! disrupted an anti-gay-marriage march led by the far right, who beat them up in response. (Shevchenko lost a tooth, and she and her fellow activists were badly bloodied.) French liberals, however, rallied to support Femen’s defense of single-sex marriage, and the raunchy satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo adopted her (and Femen) and featured them often, even letting Shevchenko, by then a political refugee, co-edit an edition. The prominent French journalist Caroline Fourest shot a documentary about Femen for French television, focusing on Shevchenko in particular. For Shevchenko, among the left, things were beginning – just beginning — to look up.

But for France’s growing and increasingly restive far right she quickly became a hated figure, and death threats against her began multiplying. When the French government, in the summer of 2013, chose an image inspired by Shevchenko for its famed “Marianne” postage stamp, the controversy, as well as the danger, surrounding her seemed to peak; a week later a mysterious fire broke out in her room at the Lavoir, incinerating her few belongings. (Shevchenko was elsewhere at the time; the police have not pronounced on the origin of the blaze.) And when three Femen activists demonstrated against the incarceration of their first Tunisian activist, Amina Sboui, and landed in prison in Tunis, Femen embroiled France in a diplomatic crisis, exacerbated by their launching a topless attack (slogans: TOPLESS JIHAD! and WOMEN’S SPRING IS COMING!) on Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki while he was visiting Paris. This, after having burned the black flag of Salafism in front of the Grand Mosque of Paris, with ARAB WOMEN AGAINST ISLAMISTS and FUCK YOUR MORALS! the slogans painted on their bare chests.

Now times have changed. Islamist attacks have since wrought havoc across Europe and show no sign of abating. Many of Shevchenko’s friends at Charlie Hebdo were assassinated by Islamists in January 2015; and a month later, while she was speaking on stage, an Islamist gunman opened fire at a free speech conference in Copenhagen. (She escaped unhurt.) France now labors through its third year under a state of emergency. The country’s security forces continue to track terrorists and thwart attacks, but at times, as in Nice during the summer of 2016, fail spectacularly.

Reality has discredited those who maintained that Islam and terrorism have nothing to do with each other. This has granted fresh legitimacy to Shevchenko and Femen. On November 14th of 2017, France’s Comité Laïcité République (Committee for Secularism of the Republic) awarded Shevchenko its annual Prix de la Laïcité (Prize for Secularism). Standing before the crowd in Paris’ lavish Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), Shevchenko explained that she was more accustomed to being “arrested, attacked, and accused” than to receiving such honors, and shared her laurels with other Femen activists she invited on stage.

I spoke with Shevchenko one day recently by Skype. She is now pursuing a master’s degree in political science at a Paris university. Her voice sounded upbeat, though, she said, “far right nationalists” have called her winning the prize for secularism a “terrible crime.” Yet she took this in stride. “The far right uses laïcité only against Muslims, not against Catholicism. It’s just a tool to express their xenophobia.” (Femen has also demonstrated against the Catholic Church, across Europe and in front of the Vatican itself — repeatedly.)

Femen, she tells me, now runs itself, essentially, which leaves her time to write. “My work as Femen director is mostly done; the movement progresses on its own, following the philosophy we laid out for it.” Earlier in 2017, she and coauthor (and fellow Femen comrade) Pauline Hillier published Anatomie de l’oppression, a damning treatise, going female body part by body part, about how religion (and not just Islam) violates women’s rights and conspires to keep women under foot. “Monotheistic religions are waging a world-wide war against women,” she says. “It’s not a matter of specific countries.” She was surprised by the book’s reception. A times, at book-signing events, the faithful would show up to voice approval for pointing out “calmly and rationally what needs to change in their religion.”

“Even Muslim women?” I ask.

“No,” replies Shevchenko. “They continue to try to disprove what we say. Some of them call themselves ‘Muslim feminists.’ But it’s harmful to women rights look at them through the prism of religion.” Elsewhere she has called the idea of a Muslim feminist “oxymoronic.”

I first met Shevchenko in 2012, just after she arrived in Paris, and had seen the toll, physical and emotional, her activism took on her since then. I ask how she feels now, after so many years of risky street activism.

“I feel beaten up, as if yanked in all directions.” This, she says, started even before she reached France, when she was, in 2011, kidnapped by the KGB in Belarus for demonstrating against the Lukashenko regime. Apart from suffering a beating during Femen’s disruption of the anti-gay-marriage march, she had also been badly bruised by Italian police after Femen’s 2012 action against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, repeatedly threatened with death by Islamists, and traumatized by the loss of many close friends at Charlie Hebdo. Then, of course, she almost fell victim to the Copenhagen attack in 2015.

The tension in Shevchenko’s life never really disappears. She has to keep an eye out when walking down the street or taking taxis, and, despite attempting to hide her widely recognizable face under dark glasses, has found herself recognized and threatened in the Paris metro. But bystanders have intervened to protect her. “The situation with terrorism has made people feel more responsible,” she says, “and they know they have to defend their rights and liberties. . . . They come up to me and say I may not agree with everything you do, but please continue, we need what you’re doing.” All in all, she adds, “I feel like a completely alive human being, having come three times close to death.”

“How do you deal with the stress”

“I take a philosophical approach. I ask myself, is it better to give in to fear or to master it? Well, I won’t let fear prevent me from expressing myself. I see fear winning out in European elections, so I feel a special obligation not to give in to fear.” She pauses. “I sometimes ask myself why a 27-year-old should have gone through so much. The answer is terrible: that it’s because I was defending my rights.”

Yet her direct interactions with the public have at times proved humorous. “I once had a man come up to me and say, ‘it’s cool that you’re so against the system!’ I said, ‘what? It’s the system that’s anti-me!’ The problem is with society, not with me! After all, all I’m doing is protesting or writing or speaking about my views – nothing more.”

When it comes to Islam’s relation to terrorism and women’s rights, the betrayal by many so-called liberals has really stung her. “So many on the left – in English they’re called regressive leftists, but here we call them Islamogauchistes — have ceded to manipulations by Islamists. For these leftists, “communautairisme” – ethnic identity politics, roughly, a negation of the French ideal of égalité – “has become like a new faith.” She takes a deep breath. “When you see so many who should be supporting you give in to manipulation by your enemy, you just despair. There’s this argument out there that to criticize Islam is considered racist. This is toxic for public debate. I don’t have any problem with being called an Islamophobe. I am indeed a religio-phobe. It’s not a crime to be afraid of religion. To be afraid of religion as a woman is normal.”

She categorizes the regressive left’s stance on Islam as “insulting toward the Muslim community. It suggests that all believers are a homogenous group of people. Because of the regressive left’s outcry and hysteria, moderate Muslims like Maajid Nawaz and ex-Muslims like Sarah Haider and Ayaan Hirsi Ali have to struggle to be heard.”

How does she feel when regressive leftists tell her that her stance on Islam is “offensive?”

“It’s a sign that someone is trying to deprive me of my right to free speech and impose censorship on me. It’s a sign that they’ve given up their own right to freedom of expression because of a wish for comfort and a fear of being called racist. They’ve given up the common fight and gone over to the side of the Islamists. But the right to free speech is the most precious right, the foundation for all other freedoms.”

Femen activist Inna Shevchenko

Shevchenko tells me that she believes fervently in the right to blasphemy because “blasphemy is a celebration of free speech. It’s a raw form of free speech, yes, but it shows that any ideas and values can be challenged.”

How does Shevchenko respond to those who defend retrograde, misogynistic practices because they derive from a particular culture, with culture now presumed sacrosanct by so many on the left.

“There’s this argument on the left that if it’s someone’s culture, the debate is closed and you must shut up. So if you criticize female genital mutilation or child brides or headscarves, they will say that’s my culture and it’s offensive to argue about it, it can’t be discussed. Well, that sort of talk is offensive to me. Progress means recognizing more and more rights for people. There are many cultures that are violent or discriminatory, and they should be called such and changed. How can we progress or move forward if we aren’t able to give up medieval ideas?”

She reserves intense scorn for those liberals who urge against criticizing Islam because this would, in their view, amount to helping the “narrative” about Muslims advanced by Trump, France’s Marine Le Pen, and other right-wing leaders. Such “liberals,” she says, are really proposing “to give up on the defense of women’s rights, to give up on the security and well-being of little girls, to give up our fundamental right of freedom of speech, to give up even our right to our own lifestyles and to dress the way we want and to laugh loud in the street, and all this just so as not to be associated with opinions of the far right! For me, this is no solution – this is cowardice and really dangerous. It will leave xenophobes as the only critics of Islam and give the stage to the far right. But this isn’t a question for the far right. It’s a question for society as a whole. When I hear liberals talking this way, I understand that they and the Islamists want the same thing: the silencing of progressive voices. If you try to silence these voices, you become an ally of Islamism.”

Other liberals have pressed Shevchenko to drop her criticism of Islam because “’Islam’s such a sensitive issue.’ Well, I ask them, why do we feel so comfortable talking about other forms of fascism and extremism? What makes Islam so sensitive is that we can’t talk about it. If we keep silent, we won’t find a solution to this global problem. The solution is for progressive voices to take the stage and drown out the xenophobic voices. Then society will feel more comfortable discussing Islam, without discriminating against Muslims.” The end result will benefit Muslims, she asserts, since “they want their rights and freedoms protected. If these liberals don’t want to talk about Islam themselves, why don’t they give ex-Muslims and reformers the stage? Why don’t they support them?”

Shevchenko believes that she herself is not the one to talk about reforming Islam – that task properly belongs to Muslims themselves. Skeptical of the project, she adds that, “I don’t want to say their work is wrong. I just think it will be hard for them to change the minds of millions of Muslims around the world when they face such opposition from religious extremists.” All the more so when Islamists manage to take power, “as they have in Turkey. It’s not just a problem in the past, as with, say, Iran and Saudi Arabia.” Nevertheless, she has been heartened by the success of the first female imam, Sherin Khankan, who leads Friday prayers in Copenhagen, and by the emergence of female rabbis in France, whose work “gives me grounds for hope. If women took positions of power in religious institutions, the institutions and religions would be completely different. Regarding the courageous public intellectual Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Shevchenko declared that “her life story demonstrates just how violent, horrible, and hostile Islam is to women in particular. Her life story presents a challenge to religious communities. Do they want to reform [Islam] or give it up?”

I ask Shevchenko how she evaluates the struggle with Islamist terrorism in Europe and the United States. Her response is scathing:

“It took [the authorities] two years to even name the enemy, to even use the term ‘Islamic terrorism.’ They were afraid to associate terrorism with Islam, and oh God, that they might offend anyone! They needed so many deaths of innocent people in bars or café terraces here in Paris, before they would even name the enemy. This was a huge failure, an unjustifiable failure that cost so many lives. And it took so many horrible terrorist attacks in Europe for countries to even begin sharing intelligence. But we have to fight not particular people with guns, but the ideas that lead them to take up their guns; we have to go to the root of the problem and challenge these ideas better. We can’t be afraid of naming these ideas or laughing at them. Charlie Hebdo does this, and look at what happened to them. They’re still being threatened. We see how Europe and the United States are failing in fighting fundamentalist ideas, in challenging Islam as a set of dogmas. After all, again, it’s not a question of guys with guns, but of guys with dogmas in their heads, dogmas that lead them to pick up their guns.”

Donald Trump’s election as president is a “perfect example of the Democrats’ failure to name the problem.” Trump played on Americans’ fear of the terrorist threat, “because we didn’t have a proper discussion of Islam. So many people were moved by fear, so they voted for the only candidate willing to address the problem.” Trump, she said, is a “clown, a parody of a politician, of a human being, a cartoon that could have been drawn very well by Charlie Hebdo. And he won because Democrats failed to talk honestly about Islam.”

Shevchenko is right, as I have pointed out in Quillette. She and Femen have done much to further the discussion about Islam and terrorism that should have begun broadly years ago.

Unfortunately, no one can restore the far too many lives lost in the meantime.

 

Jeffrey Tayler is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. His seventh book, Topless Jihadis — Inside Femen, the World’s Most Provocative Activist Group, was published as an Atlantic ebook. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyTayler1 

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34 Comments

  1. Kurt says

    I guess my question when I hear people on the left lamenting how the left is dangerously wrong on this topic and others like free speech is, are you really sure you are still on the left?

    Even if you may strongly agree with your standard variety left positions on taxes, welfare, even abortion…when do people like the subject of this article say to themselves “Holy crap, the left is really dangerous and is going to get me killed. That takes priority. Also, when I say something reasonable, why do I gain friends on the right and enemies on the left. Maybe I’m not the lefty I thought I was.”?

    • Charles says

      It’s a difficult issue. I have struggled with where I am on the political spectrum (of the left) as I have objected to the dogmatic redefinition of some words by progressives, but overall I feel it is a lurch to the left which has left me behind rather than myself moving to the right.

      I also sometimes feel very conflicted by social media as when some of the worst leftist (and right wing) postings go viral I am confused whether that is just extremism becoming louder or indeed more acceptable.

  2. Terra Manna says

    You have outlined only one problem with the left and have forgotten many more issues that has come out of a POLITICALLY CORRECT propaganda push. PC culture has now become the new fascism, shutting down discussion of various points of view and allowing Islamic dogma to propagate unhindered within the leftist/marxist movement unhindered

    By blindly trying to shut down free speech as anti this or anti that, trying to silence an idea you are no better than Mussolini, Hitler or Stalin. Freedom of thought and speech is fundamental to a free and open society.

    Without this right, we will devolve into a dictatorship of the mind and soul that will get one killed or cast in jail for wrong think.

    Islam is just one of the enemies of free speech, thought and right to dress as one wants. The mind set of PC has to be destroyed as this is a dogma that has it roots in legalistic religious zealotism.

    The PC culture has become the new religion of the left and it has gone so far left as to become a mockery of itself and a danger of destroying an entire culture and civilation.

    1984 lives in the leftist world and they would implement the concepts, culture and ideas without even considering that they would bring the final solution into being by giving it strength and recognition within the PC culture movement.

    By and far the progressive leftist is the most dangerous person to freedom as they are so afraid to offend anyone for any reason that they would even accept the limiting of their rights and everyone elses on the assumption that it would it make others happy and offend no one.

    To end this discussion, I will close with this final thought. By locking down free speech and expression,, you will get extremism on both sides of the spectrum any many people will die and/or be jailed for expressing wrong think.

    The modern day liberalism is just one step away from 1984. it’s brain rotting thought process must be stopped before the whole world is infected and destroyed by the proliferation of the PC culture.

  3. Sean says

    She is worried about criticism of Islam being left to terrible people like Trump. I am just as worried that it will be left to groups like Femen who have never displayed any respect for perfectly peaceful people with whom they disagree and who engage in silly, grotesque theatrics like pissing on sidewalks and attempting to steal Jesus statues from nativity scenes while topless–because, I guess, all religions are now and always have been the enemies of women or something, Femen activists being the self-appointed voice of all women everywhere.

  4. Clayton Luke says

    As a work of reason, this article is nothing more than a collection of meaningless slogans tacked onto a tale of woe. Ms Shevchenko appears to me to be a zealot and an ideologue of the worst possible kind. Even though I might agree with some of the positions stated, with friends like her, who needs enemies?

  5. augustine says

    Then you would have Islam somehow “reform” to accommodate equality, and make even more severe demands on the Christian West to demobilize and vanish under a wave of atheistic bliss? Presumably you believe that Confucian, Buddhist, animist and other traditions must be wiped out as well to satisfy your demands.

    It sounds like you are advocating for the abolition of culture, of any particular society, to usher in an autonomous, depersonalized and universally equal New Man. This narrative sounds like little more than a youthful yearning to be free of all constraints and so-called constructs, to “equally” pursue individual desires unimpeded. How do you expect any more than a fringe population to subscribe to an idea that offers (or demands) only *dis*belief and abstraction as against tradition, as if the latter had nothing good at all in it?

    If you destroy everything you are against in order to obtain freedom, what does that freedom look like really? With whom will you share your victory?

  6. Joe Halstead says

    She is correct to ascribe much Islamophobia to xenophobia, but even xenophobes have a point: you don’t allow millions of people into your nation if they’d rather tear down your society than assimilate to it, and then try to reform said immigrants after the fact.

    As for her identification of the Regressive Left and its most fatal flaws, she’s spot on.

    • Marshall Gill says

      There is no such thing as Islamaphobia. Mohammedans regularly murder their neighbors in the name of their death cult. A phobia is an “irrational” fear. It is not irrational to fear a religion that is commanded to kill infidels AND REGULARLY DOES IT.

  7. Marshall Gill says

    ” the propagation of atheism”

    So she is deeply evil.

    I am an atheist but I am not so wrapped up in myself that I fail to see the comfort that religion provides believers. Anyone who would deny the mortally ill the (however false) belief that they might live again, whole, is a very sick person. She is no friend of Liberty. Stalin and Mao were also big fans of atheism. Is there a bigger dick in the world than Richard Dawkins?

    My mother’s belief comforted her as she died from bone cancer. Only the most repulsive, self hating, and sick person would have denied her the comfort that religion provided her.

    • Sea Mammal says

      On the other hand, “Only the most repulsive, self hating, and sick person” would have eviscerated her pre-pubertal clitoris with a razor. Just sayin’…..

      • Marshall Gill says

        No argument here. Since there is a giant and violent death cult in the world calling itself “religion” all religion can rightly be eradicated? Also, I didn’t read about this “hero” standing up to Mohammadens. You know, the one’s who use the razor as you describe. Only to Christians who’s responses were most like to pray for her.

        OH, you are suggesting that if she had a religious person do something evil to her in the name of religion she should be able to deny the sick and dying the comfort of religion? It would be understandable? Someone took a dump on her so she should do the same to others? And it is heroic?

        Ayaan Hirsi Ali had that done to her. She is an atheist who knows first hand the evil that can be done in the name of religion. To my knowledge, she does not rail against religion itself, not even Islam, but only claims that it needs reform.

        How can people be so ignorant that they are unaware that atheists, Stalin, Mao top the list of “repulsive self hating and sick” people? Pretending that only religion, and not atheism, has perpetrated evil upon mankind is obtuse. It is not surprising though. Collectivizing individual human beings will always lead down the wrong path.

        • Sea Mammal says

          “Also, I didn’t read about this “hero” standing up to Mohammadens. You know, the one’s who use the razor as you describe. Only to Christians who’s responses were most like to pray for her.” I don’t have the patience to list the many references in the article to Femen’s pushback against Islam. Seriously, have you read the article?

          “[…] she should be able to deny the sick and dying the comfort of religion” – please supply your link to where she said this.

          Any form of ideology which privileges ‘revealed’ wisdom from imaginary beings will inevitably be subverted by power-trippers, whether the imaginary being is God or ‘the masses’ or ‘racial purity’ or whatever your bag is. The evil, surely, is substituting formulae for humanity when dealing with fellow human beings. On the evidence of this article, Femen’s anger seems to be provoked by inhumanity at any level, whether by extremist secular ideologies, for example the far-right march she protested which is mentioned in the article, or the many examples of religious bigotry, extensively covered in this article.

          “Pretending that only religion, and not atheism, has perpetrated evil upon mankind is obtuse” – please provide your evidence from this article that Femen is making this claim.

          “Collectivizing individual human beings will always lead down the wrong path.” Best ban the internet, language, music, art, medicine, transport, irrigation, agriculture, science and literature then, eh? Wouldn’t want those pesky humans ganging up and doing things together, now would we?

  8. Rory O'Connor says

    Reality has also discredited those who maintain that Christianity and terrorism have nothing to do with each other. The same may be said of Buddhism, as we now see in Myannmar, Hinduism in India, and indeed many if not all other religions. Why single out Islam?

    • Sea Mammal says

      Did you read past the title? The *very first line* of this article reads “A female activist has just sawed down a giant Christian cross …” And the point is made, with a confirmatory link, that: “Femen has also demonstrated against the Catholic Church, across Europe and in front of the Vatican itself — repeatedly”. And a direct quote from Femen herself sates unequivocally: ” I am indeed a religio-phobe.”

    • Taupe Pope says

      Yeah, you have to whack all the moles before you can whack this particular mole!

  9. Pingback: Jeff Tayler profiles Inna Shevchenko « Why Evolution Is True

  10. John Millington Singh says

    I’m not sure that it’s wise to consider Femen an ally for any cause. Particularly when one thinks about the sorts of personalities attracted to this form of protest. My sense is that these are all women who have suffered some extreme sexual humiliation and subsequently found in Femen what seems to them like a dignified, and even productive, channel for all that unfocussed outrage and anger. If this is true, then to promote Femen, or even speak well of it, might be outright wicked.

    The language of empowerment that these women use rings false, at least in my ear. I doubt somehow that any lasting good ever comes from vague slogans, shrill antagonism and hysterical screams for destruction — no matter how alluring the speaker (or shouter)….

    In fact, one wonders just how much of Femen’s media & social-media coverage is simply a righteous-sounding excuse to show photos of reasonably attractive topless women. Beyond that Femen doesn’t seem to make any constructive contributions to important discussions, whatever the stated intentions of its founder or activists.

    I’m disappointed that the writer here declines to discuss or examine in any depth why Femen protesters might seek attention in this way. But perhaps he does so in his book? It would be strange to ignore something so obvious….

    • Sea Mammal says

      Ah yes, just a bunch of “shrill” “exhibitionist” women here, obviously working out their neuroses – not our “sorts of personalities” at all. And worst crime of all, only “reasonably attractive”. Thank goodness we’ve got sensible men like you, John, to keep us all grounded in sanity and reason. Poor little dears, perhaps with therapy they might be cured of their distressing tendency to “seek attention in this way”? If so, I’m sure you’re just the sterling chap to diagnose the remedy.

  11. David Carroll says

    I’d have to say that women who force whst they perceive as mainstream cultural “normies” to stare at their naked breasts as a form of righteous protest are in fact just trying to impose their particular myopic(and narcissistic) vision of how people should behave and see the world onto a majority of people who do not share that vision.

    Moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, a liberal who set out to understand the “backwards conservative”, writes that people who lean Left tend to have a bad habit of condemning Conservative morals out of hand, because they actually don’t understand that the things conservatives care about are indeed moral virtues, and are in fact shared by the majority of the world’s population. They misinterpret “conservative morals” as being offensive immoralities, because they tend to only perceive a very limited moral landscape, dominated by the moral category of Harm/Care(though strangely there is an exception for abortion). In other words they are quite literally blind to the fact that there are many more moral categories that are shared by the vast majority of the world’s population which they chronically diagnose as backwards(appropriate for many hard-line Islamic nations but a rediculous diagnosis of the West). Haidt shows in his work that left leaning individuals are more or less concentrating on two of the five moral categories, whereas conservatives are concerned with five.

    These other moral categories mean a great deal to a great deal of people in the world, including Sanctity/Purity of body and sexuality(seen as repressive and totalitarian by the Left), Loyalty and Fidelity to group/nation/marriage/family/hierarchy (seen as repressive, agressive, rigid, totalitarian by the Left), Reciprocity and Proportionality, as in people should receive roughly an equal amount of energy to that they offer into society(seen as hard-hearted and uncompassionate by the Left).

    As Aristotle famously said, any virtue in excess quickly becomes a vice. I think there has to be a toleration and acknowledgement of the broader moral landscape by the Left beyond the myopic obsession with the Harm/Care principle, which is of course important but also is like eating sweets or junk food all the time when it is comes to dominate the moral landscape. Interestingly enough there are portions of the modern Left that are also obsessed with the Purity principle(your body is a Temple) but very selectively about food instead of sex, with endless health supplements, de-toxes, strict vegetarian and vegan diets, etc…

    Anyway, I highly recommend Jonathan Haidts book “The Righteous Mind, Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion”.

    • Sea Mammal says

      ‘women who force whst [sic] they perceive as mainstream cultural “normies” to stare at their naked breasts’ – so, how does that work, David? Really, I’m interested in your personal experience of the brutal methods employed to “force you to stare” at anything. Head restraint? Someone threatening to shoot you if you looked away? And besides, what is it about the human form you’re so shocked and offended by, and why? By forcing your own prurient pseudo-morality on to the opposite gender by defining for them how they should act in public spaces which you do not own, it’s almost as if you “are in fact just trying to impose [your] particular myopic (and narcissistic) vision of how people should behave.”

  12. Christine says

    I think it’s a great interview. Shevchenka is right about religion always and everywhere discriminating against women, even hating women. Just read the Quran, where it says why women should “cover their beauty”. Or read the bible.

    And we should stop using the word “islamophobia”. Islam is an ideology. You’re a muslim by choice, not by fate or by birth. By chosing to be a muslim, you accept responsibility for what Islam does all over the world. You willingly associate yourself with 800.000 muslim protesters (Grozny, Jan. 2015) protesting against Charlie Hebdo and in favor of the terrorists that killed them. You willingly take responsibilty for what Islamists do. Same as when you join any movement or organisation: you take responsibilty for what they say and do.

    Inna Shevchenko is a brave and courageous woman, who deserves our support. Femen deserves our support. I subscribe to Charlie Hebdo, I’m happy that they support Femen.

  13. Richard says

    Great, now let’s have a discussion about Christian terrorism.

    • Marshall Gill says

      Ok, why don’t you pick a few, say three different examples, and we will discuss them.

      Remember, you said “Christian” terrorism, not terrorism perpetrated by Christians. So you would expect something similar to “Allah Akbar” to announce their loyalties. I will wait.

    • Taupe Pope says

      No. Let’s talk about something else since you’ve broached an uncomfortable topic.

    • Jiye Sindh says

      Please cite an example of Christians blow themselves in a mosque or a concert hall?

  14. Darwin T of BC Humamists says

    Dear Inna;

    Your courage is only met in equal measure by your willingness to learn and grow. Best of luck in your studies and feel free to search out a Humanist branch in Paris for support.

    You should know, in case you do not already know, that Humanism, that near century old movement that had great members like Carl Sagan, Betty Friedan and Bertrand Russell also knows the tricks of religion and those who do its bidding. Humanists do not seek and never have, to outlaw or ban religion. We just want it tamed to the point that is never gets mixed in with any form of government. By all means practice your brand of the supernatural as long as it harms no one and stays in the private sphere.

    All religions, are equal glimpses of the same untruth¨, said the late Christopher Htichens and in that one sentence he encapsulated so much of what the modern secularist thinks. After many years of study, debate, reading and quiet contemplatation so many young people are rejecting the religion of their backgrounds. This includes many former Muslims by the way who have decided that the future is better for them without a 7th century software running and ruining their mind and lives.

    Secularism sounds bland and without meaning to many relgious apologists but we seek love, art, science, empathy and societal health and that is just for starters. That partial list hopefully answers the bland brigade.

    To those that accuse Femen of being sloganeers and protest pushers I hope they also see that theatre of the street gets noticed in the media and in the minds of those curious enough to listen or read about Femen. A stock protest with zero zest would get no attention and no results. Street theatre has a long and valuable tradition especially for those that do not come from powerfully connected classes. To dismiss and therefore deny their chosen form of protest shows a lack of creative imagination on the part of the critics I respectfully submit. After all what is the problem with the human body? It is nothing at all to be ashamed of. It is mostly religions that attempt to body shame us.

    Even Henri Bergson who gave so much space in his philosophy to the spiritual and religious, near the end of his life saw the problem very clearly when he wrote, ¨Once started on this road, there is hardly any absurdity into which intelligence may not stumble.¨ Some reading this quote will say exactly only that it applies to us Humanists, freethinkers and materialists and yet we have not abdicated our thinking in some real senses to some set of imaginary sky deity or deities. Go ahead and be offended, it only means you have voluntarily stopped thinking. You can alter that stance any time you like in a free setting.

    Increasing mumbers of us are doing precisely that!

    Keep up the great work Inna and know that you have many, many allies and friends.

  15. Bartek says

    The article is not very balanced – fortunately, there are some reasonable comments pointing this out. To add two cents:

    Showing naked breasts as a mean of political protest really makes no sense. OK, it actually make some sense, just like adding boobs to the sport car advertisement makes some sense, but I am pretty sure that Femen doesn’t follow this logic. Now imagine a Quillete male patrons protesting the abuse of Title IX by wiggling their penises before the campus buildings. It’s plain stupid no matter how you rationalize it.

    Another problem with this essay is the act of confounding free speech with the abuse of private property and other people’s right for free speech. The right to free speech has no unconditional precedence over, for example, property rights (T. Sowell explained this conflict nicely). You cannot enter private property, insult the owner, demolish his belongings, spoil his celebrations and then demand security because of the right to free speech. In such cases, the owner has the right to call the police, kick your ass, or even shoot you. In fact, if you excuse Femen you are actually following the reasoning of progressive left (“it is allowed to punch a nazi”) and this a very dangerous path.

  16. David Gowers says

    “Progress means recognizing more and more rights for people. ”

    No, it really, really doesn’t.
    That’s very similar to saying “Progress is oppression”. Every right imposes a duty on someone. We need a minimal, well optimized set of rights that preserve the maximum of personal freedom and responsibility (taken -together-; The worship of rights claims one while denying the other.)

    The fact that she scoffs at the prioritization of ‘offense’ is a superficial detail – the mindless expansion of ‘rights’ is aligned with the same thing as PC culture — making people increasingly touchy and frightened of doing the ‘wrong thing’.

    For example, perhaps she personally would not object to being told to put a top on.. but in a society where one has the right to wear as little clothing as one chooses, it would be absolutely naive to think that nobody would choose to legally persecute someone who says ‘put some clothes on!”. If the system is exploitable then it -will- be exploited.

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