Bare activismBare activism

Topless protesters make Israel debut

Radical women’s rights organization makes surprise appearance at Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride celebrations

FEMEN Israel members protesting on the street.  (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Elhay Helman/CC BY-SA)
FEMEN Israel members protesting on the street. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Elhay Helman/CC BY-SA)

Organizers of Tel Aviv’s gay pride parade probably didn’t expect this: In the midst of last Friday’s celebrations a group of naked women stormed the stage, shouting “End discrimination within the community!”

It heralded the arrival of the newest chapter of FEMEN, a global feminist group originally founded in Ukraine in 2008.

Featured at length in Haaretz Wednesday, the women’s rights group has been quick to take off. The group’s Facebook page, created last month, garnered some 600 “likes” by Wednesday.

The group has staged topless protests in Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and elsewhere. In March, two activists were arrested in Turkey after staging a demonstration in Turkey against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Shoshan, a FEMEN Israel activist, told the Israeli daily that the local branch was initiated by a Frenchwoman, Elodie, after she was exposed to the movement’s activities in France.

“She reached out to other women who dressed topless and from there a chapter was started here in Israel. We are in the earliest stages — we are about 15 women in total, but are growing week to week.”

Members are anywhere from 17 to 30 years old and are from all over the country.

“We fight against the oppression of women in all its forms,” Shoshan explained, “against the objectification of women, sexism, unequal wages, blaming the victim and the culture of rape.”

Interviewed on Army Radio Wednesday, an anonymous member explained why the group utilized toplessness as a form of demonstration.

“Our bodies are the weapons of protest that allow us to deliver our message,” she said. “We are not men — we do not have the same type of physical strength. This is not the only thing that women possess, but we accept certain realities for what they are.”

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