There has been a rather troubling scandal after a young woman in Tunisia posted topless photos of herself on Facebook with the words “[m]y body belongs to me, and it is not a source of anyone’s honor.” FEMEN responded to Amina Tyler’s actions with organized demonstrations throughout Europe Thursday for what they are calling “International Topless Jihad Day” in which women, on behalf of FEMEN and Tyler, expose themselves with a strong anti-Islamic message.
This led to a counter-response by the group Muslim Women Against FEMEN. The group made a very articulate plea using social media to state that FEMEN does not speak for Muslim women, that they are not oppressed, and that nudity does not represent women’s rights. I believe the phrase here should be “save us from the saviors.”
Of course Muslim Women Against FEMEN is correct. FEMEN does not speak for the majority of Muslim women. FEMEN’s method of bringing attention to oppression in Islam with nudity is Orientalism. It is the blatant sexualization of Muslim women. It is also a form of colonialization. The rudimentary tenets of discourse theory is a means of controlling a dialogue on a given subject that works to oppress and silence a group. In this sense FEMEN’s actions is an unapologetic attempt to exploit one person’s actions not to speak up for women in general but to criticize Islam as a religion that oppresses women.
However, in this case, FEMEN is responding the actions of Miss Tyler. Tyler did choose to speak out against Islam. For her FEMEN is sending the right message. What happened to Miss Tyler? There are reports that she is attempting to get out of the country and that she was kidnapped by her family. Miss Tyler states she has received death threats as a result of the photos. At the moment is unclear whether Miss Tyler is safe. Though I support Muslim Women Against FEMEN and I believe FEMEN’s actions are unproductive, the threat of their counter-response may result in dismissing Miss Tyler’s plea along with every other women she does speak for.