Alisa Vinogradova, a FEMEN activist from Ukraine, referred to Turkish men who travel to Ukraine for sex as “disgusting assholes” during an interview with Euronews Turkey on Sunday.
FEMEN, a radical feminist group founded in Ukraine in 2008 and now based in Paris, is known for its topless protests against what they call the “three manifestations of patriarchy: dictatorship, religion and sexual exploitation of women.”
Answering questions from Euronews Turkish reporter Bahtiyar Kucuk, the FEMEN activist, Vinogradova, made bold statements on the equality of men and women, asserting that she doesn’t believe in gender equality. “We don’t fight for equal rights because men and women are different. It is ridiculous to become equals,” said the FEMEN activist, adding, “Women can be equal to men only if they take the male gender role.”
FEMEN has organized many controversial protests in the past, such as three topless activists rushing toward the motorcade of the US President Donald Trump in Paris, or topless female protesters trying to snatch a statue of baby Jesus from the Vatican’s St Peter’s Square twice.
Vinogradova was one of the two FEMEN members who tried to take the statue from the Vatican crib. She rushed onto the larger-than-life Nativity scene while shouting “God is a woman,” before being apprehended by the gendarmerie during Christmas celebrations in 2017.
Before the Vatican protest, she burnt figures of bears and a decorative tram in a Kyiv metro station and was once kidnapped by vigilantes in Ukraine for her political stance.
Vinogradova contended that FEMEN’s bare-breasted protests against the patriarchy are normal and equated the activists’ chests with the banners of regular demonstrators.
When asked about her views on the controversial topic of sex tourism often associated with Ukraine, Vinogradova pointed to the economic hardships her home country faces. “Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe, so everything is very cheap here,” she lamented, claiming that the reason behind the stereotype of Ukraine as a sex tourism attraction stems from its beautiful girls with financial troubles.
Kucuk asked the FEMEN activist about her thoughts on Turkey and Turkish men, who form a substantial proportion of sex tourists coming to Ukraine, according to Vinogradova. “I don’t think that all Turkish men are bad, but those who come to Ukraine for sex tourism, I think they are disgusting assholes,” she replied, lambasting the Turkish male visitors of Ukraine who are seeking sex there.
The “sextremist” stance against dictators
During the interview, Vinogradova identified these two topics as the world’s biggest problems: militarism and dictatorship.
Defined by FEMEN as one of the manifestations of the patriarchy, authoritarian leaders are not high and dry when it comes to the female wrath of the group.
Alexandra Shevchenko, a member of the group, ran bare-breasted towards Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hannover with other FEMEN members, as Putin was walking side by side with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2013. “Fuck the dictator,” was written on their chests and backs in black makeup as they rushed towards the Russian leader before being seized by his bodyguards.
Shevchenko described the event as “…non-violent women protesting against the most dangerous dictator in the world.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who tightened his grip over the country after the failed coup in 2016, was also confronted by a topless protest.
Anzhelina Diash, another confident FEMEN activist, entered a football match between the national teams of Ukraine and Turkey in Kiev where both countries’ presidents were attending in 2017. Protesting against Erdogan, Diash ran onto the field with the slogan “Erdogan killer,” written across her chest.
Vinogradova recalled the gratitude of Turkish women, who conveyed their blessings to her through texts for this particular demonstration, during the interview with Kucuk.
Another FEMEN activist group demonstrated against Erdogan in January 2018 when she visited France as the guest of President Emmanuel Macron.
FEMEN members dubbed the protest “Erdoğan’s Cannibal Lunch”, in which they shared a menu consisting of Turkish government’s massacres and crackdowns against women, Kurds, LGBTI members, journalists, freedom of expression and human rights.
The activists wrote “Erdoğan, women’s rights eater”, “Erdoğan, journalists’ rights eater”, “Erdoğan, Kurds’ rights eater” and “Erdoğan, gay rights eater” on their bodies.
Finding shelter in France
The members of FEMEN are now acquainted with attacks from vigilantes and mobs in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, but one particular member, Inna Schevschenko has received more attacks than ever and had to flee to Paris in fear of her life after she chopped down a monumental wooden cross in Kiev in 2012. She established a training centre in France, making it the largest headquarters of the group.
Although there is controversy over who the founder of the group is, Anna Hutsol, the public figure who is believed to have started it, acknowledged the support of Victor Svyatski, who was exposed as the group’s founder on a documentary movie made in 2013.