Three members of the Ukrainian activist group Femen caused significant disruption during Christmas worship services at the Vatican on Monday when they staged a protest against what they believe to be the systematic oppression of women by the Roman Catholic Patriarchy. Founded in 2008, Femen is well-known for using topless protests as a means of dissent and to garner media attention for their messages.
According to Reuters, the Vatican police apprehended Alisa Vinogradova during an attempt to steal the statue of the baby Jesus from the Nativity in St. Peter’s Square. With the words “God is Woman” painted on her bare torso in English, it took several officers to subdue the Ukrainian “sextremist” before Pope Francis began his Christmas mass. Two additional Femen activists with the phrases “#MeToo” and “Assaulted by church” written on their bodies had previously been detained while attempting to break into the Nativity scene on Christmas Eve.
Inna Shevchenko, the Ukrainian activist who leads Femen, applauded the women’s efforts to bring a greater consciousness to the practice of sexual assault perpetrated against women by the patriarchy. “As feminists, FEMEN considers organized religions with their institutions and leadership to be one of the historical oppressors of women,” Shevchenko wrote in an email to the Huffington Post, describing the activists as modern ‘Virgin Marys’; a nod to one of the central figures to the institution of Catholicism.
“Despite her significant role,” she continued, “Mary represents chastity, maternity and passiveness-all that is expected from women in patriarchal society. The passiveness and silence of Mary is still often expected from women across the world as they get assaulted and attacked. As the #MeToo campaign has shown, many women kept silence about their horrible experiences for years often under pressure, out of fear and insecurity.”
In addition to expressing their solidarity for the #MeToo movement, Shevchenko explained that Femen aims to criticize the patriarchal traditions of all organized religions. “We oppose religious scripture which often [portrays] women as inferior and weak creatures, their bodies as dirty and shameful, their souls as guilty.” For Shevchenko, the “Marys” that participated in the protest this year exist in stark contrast to the patriarchy as the pinnacle of female sexuality: unashamed and in control of their bodies.
Read the full story at HuffPost.