Femen in Paris: Ukraine's Topless Warriors Move West

"We're always raised being told, 'be careful or you could be raped; it's always the woman's fault.' But it's men who need to be taught not to rape." Inna added her perspective: "In Ukraine, you're always taught it's your mission to look good, but if you get raped, they say, 'Ah, look at how you look!' Always the women is blamed, always the woman's role is to please men."

Julia presented the clearest, most outlandish examples of retrograde remarks on rape she could find, which all happened to have come from U.S. Republican Party members over the past two decades. "'Legitimate rape' . . . 'honest rape' . . . 'forcible rape' . . . 'easy rape' . . . 'enjoyable rape' . . . 'gift from god' rape" -- the last, in reference, she explained, to the fetus conceived following the crime, which must not be aborted. (Several of the group members voiced disbelief that American politicians could have said such things.) She then returned to France, to the scandal-ridden Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who faced rape charges in New York but was not prosecuted, and who then fended off rape accusations levied by a French journalist. "Rich and powerful people rape and suffer no penalties. Look, DSK is free. This sends a message to young men, that you have power and money, so you can rape." (DSK has not been convicted of rape, but recently reached a civil settlement, the terms of which remain secret, with his New York accuser).

With that, the session adjourned. During our subsequent talk, I asked Shevchenko to describe working with French women. "We've created a culture called Femen. Here, maybe we would never otherwise be friends, but we share language and beliefs." She does not necessarily planning on remaining in France. Once Femen can sustain itself here without her guidance, she plans to "move to more faraway lands."

Where, specifically?

Her eyes lit up.

"The Middle East."

To confront regimes there, and bare-breasted at that, Femen activists will need all the training they get in Paris, and more. Compared with the reaction the group will surely face south of the Mediterranean, the confrontation with Civitas may end up looking like a minor skirmish.

Video edited by Sarai Suarez

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Jeffrey Tayler is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and the author of seven books.

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