Why Femen or any other white feminist group shouldn’t speak out for Muslim women

You may or you may not have heard about the Muslim conference that was disrupted by two women from Femen this Saturday. As usual, they were naked with a slogan written on their body and very aggressive with their message. They stormed on stage, took off their shirts and started yelling slogans such as “I am my own prophet” and “I will not submit to anyone”.

As a Muslim feminist myself I don’t associate with Femen in any way. In fact when I hear Femen I think about three things: aggression, nudity and white feminism. And when I say “white feminism” I’m not referring to white people who identify as feminists. White feminism stands for the kind of feminism that doesn’t acknowledge that different women have to deal with different kinds of oppression or sexism. These differences can come from religion, race, class, ability, etc.

Organizations such as Femen don’t acknowledge this. All they stand for is the ability for women to be naked. But who says that it is something that all women want? Some women are empowered by modesty, and this doesn’t mean that women who are empowered by nudity are any less of a woman, but it is wrong when you see nudity as the only right way.

Muslim women for example. I am not going to speak out for every individual Muslim woman out there, but I know that there are many of them that feel empowered by wearing a headscarf or by wearing a long dress or skirt. Which is okay. Other women might feel empowered by wearing tight jeans and short skirts and that is okay too. But when your feminism is about “freeing” every woman that doesn’t feel the need to be naked, it’s not that okay anymore. Muslim women don’t need to be rescued, we’re not oppressed by our religion. In fact, the ones that are oppressing us are those white feminists who think we should “free our nipples” if we want to be “real women”.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to portray a perfect image of the Muslim community. I know that there is still a lot of misogyny living in our community. But it is not up to white feminists, who know nothing about our situation, which is different for every Muslim woman out there, to come out here and be our voice. Let Muslim women be their own voice. Let them speak out on how they feel and what liberates and empowers them the most. Because there is not just one image of what a Muslim woman is, let alone that there is only one aspect of what empowers Muslim women.

If you want to empower other women, give them a chance to have their own voice. A chance to speak up for themselves. Don’t just think you know everything about them and ignore them by going out there and yelling strange slogans in their name. Because in my opinion, that has nothing to do with feminism.

Like our Facebook page. Femen does so too. We think.

I’m ending this article by looking back at the situation that happened Saturday and all the reactions that came afterwards. Those people on the Internet yelling that those two women should be raped or beaten up are wrong on all levels. Do I agree with the way Femen works? No. But that doesn’t mean I agree with the misogynist comments coming from some people. Me not agreeing with those women doesn’t take away their rights as a woman.

Written by Latifa Saber

Latifa Saber

Latifa Saber is a 21-year-old student with strong opinions on pretty much everything. Feminism, literature and fashion are her main fields of interest.

  • Lievenm

    At least they have the guts to protest when two man stand on a stage and debate whether it is allowed to beat your wife.

    • jan vansteenlandt

      Exactly. Also might I add that it’s incredibly ignorant to say that someone of a certain race can’t say anything about a religion, what about white muslims? This article basically states, femen only fight for women to be nude – oh – and white women don’t know jack shit about our situation. BULLSHIT! How ignorant to identify a race with a religion. The veil btw is a submission to the man and your god as we all do know. That’s why they were shouting and “being aggressive”, seems to me that it appears to be a mystery as to why women are being harassed when they’re not wearing a veil which is not so uncommon. She had better incorporated that into the article instead of making a fool out of herself.

      Turn around the roles and you get a better picture of the racism in this article: arab people can’t tell us how to run immigration rules, they don’t understand our situation because they’re not from here. Equally stupid to say such a thing.

  • K. Alice

    femen is a man directed group to make lingerie propaganda, are news still refering to them as feminist?

    • Lievenm

      They’re making lingerie propaganda by not wearing any? Brilliant strategy.

  • Eric Sutton

    Feminists are Feminists, Black or white makes no difference, why cant culture just work forward to a better future, then I hear about outbursts of what you call “White Feminism” by a woman who describes herself as a “Muslim feminist.” It is disturbing you named it “White” and even more that you label yourself a “Muslim feminist”, Not to be all out rude, get into the 21st Century or stay in the dark ages! I respect peoples rights to religion or lack of, but segregation of humanity into race’s, religions and skin color is a ancient way of thinking, embrace the human race, not by color of the skin, or what parts the body comes with. Yes the feminists you talk about maybe in the wrong and offensive to many, but also take on board they are seeing, the image of 19th and 20th century suffragette in the 21st century, and its only 84 and bit years to 22nd.

  • Bo

    It seems like some people are colour blind. You show a lot of pictures of rather pale faced people on your site and they don´t look like afro americans or black africans to me. Are arabs white or black. In northern arab countries they seem to be white and in the southern countries more darkskinned. Islam is not a race it is a religion. I like Femen and what they do.

  • Cavalerius x

    Being neither a Femen activist, nor a Muslim woman, I can however tell you that Femen’s goal is NOT simply to make it possible for every woman to be naked and feel empowered. They have many different goals and their way of protesting is one way to say: we want to desexualize the human body. We just want to be able to wear a skirt or to show one part of our body without having people seeing us as sexual objects, without having people feeling like it’s not okay. It’s not about women having to be naked, it’s about women having the freedom about their bodies and deciding what they want to show and be respected for that.
    I admit that Femen does not pay enough attention to other inequalities, yet it is a certain form of feminism (tending to be like Radical Feminism of the late 60s-70s, yet not entirely). It is not liked by everyone, but honestly, you can look at every type of feminism and there will always be people criticizing it.