As someone who follows Ukrainian politics and has been watching FEMEN on the regular I thought I would bring attention to what is really going on here, and give some people in the West a little perspective on what it is they’re supporting/shaming. To understand FEMEN’s ideology, you have to know where their money is coming from, and who exactly are they.
Their leader is Anna Gutsol, an economist and ex-PR manager. For a while, FEMEN got money for the recruitment of their “activists” from an American multimillionaire expat named Jed Sunden, the owner of the Kiev Post, and one of the richest expats in Ukraine. His support dwindled, however, when Gutsol started to get into political activism, and move away from feminism in any sense of the word. FEMEN’s logo was bought by Sunden in Russia’s premier design agency, the Lebedev Studio.
When Gutsol enacted several nude protests outside of foreign embassies in Kiev, Sunden cut off all contact with them (his involvement led to him being declared persona-non-grata in Ukraine, and he had to go through a court process to stay in the country).
Gutsol had to find financing elsewhere, and her father (a member of the Ukranian parliament, no less) was just the solution. Mikhail Gutsol is also a criminal, for the record. In 2009 he actually killed a pedestrian while driving under the influence. He never saw jail because Ukraine has one of the most corrupt political systems in the world and because Gutsol is good friends with Vadim Rabinovich. Now this man essentially owns FEMEN. Ukrainians have taken to calling FEMEN “Rabinovich’s boobs”.
Rabinovich, an Israeli expat in Ukraine (he forbid Gutsol to picket the Israeli embassy in 2011), also has a sketchy record with the Ukrainian penal system: excluded from the KOMSOMOL for “amoral behaviour” in 1974, arrested for the first time in 1980 for large-scale theft of governmental funds, then found a cushy job as the owner of several large crystal factories in the USSR, and sold a large quantity of Soviet weapons abroad, he was arrested again in 1982 for more theft. He did well, however, seeing as he owns a number of Ukrainian tv channels, papers, and publishers.
He always had an eye on Ukraine’s politics (having supported several political parties at the same time during the The Orange Revolution) and world politics (having sold the Taliban two hundred T-55 and T-62 tanks with his friend - you might’ve heard of him - Viktor Bout, transporting them to Kabul by plane via Sharjah). He’s a real class act.
Rabinovich is also well known for his philanthropic activities: but many Jewish leaders believe he is trying to buy positive publicity to make up for the negative publicity that his financial and political activities have drawn.
But FEMEN isn’t some hottie-women, feminist, counter-cultural rebel group in Ukraine. Most of them are students recruited from Kiev’s colleges. Some of them are even high school students. None of them are unpaid in their capacity as “activists”. They’re poor young woman who are being paid to play activist by multimillionaires. All their members are strictly forbidden to disclose payments they receive, but according to Ukrainian papers, each student gets around $600-700 a month, which is a tidy sum for a Ukrainian student. There is a lot of poverty in Ukraine, and I’m not sure whether I feel worse for these women or the idiots in the Western world who have no idea what they’re supporting: poor Eastern European women being paid by a white Israeli man to have Western viewpoints to do neocolonial protests naked…. that’s a whole mess of crazy.
Either way, please know that FEMEN’s purpose was always to be a political tool in the hands of the highest bidding media magnate. They were used to discredit ex-president Kuchma in 2011, ex-PM Tomoshenko (attacking her in front of the prosecutor’s office and showering her with fake dollars “to buy her freedom”), and many, many others. They are nothing but a puppet organization (even their numbers are uncertain, with Gutsol claiming to have 15,000, 300 and 40 members at different points), and any support for them from the west should be an object of ridicule.