by Naomi Westland, Special for USA TODAY 12:19AM EDT October 29. 2012 – LONDON — When Lady Godiva protested oppressive taxes, as legend has it, by riding naked on a horse in 11th-century England, she started a trend that continues a millennium later.
Godiva instructed the townsfolk to close their shutters and avert their eyes while she bared herself. These days, the whole point of a nude protest is to be noticed.
Recent protests have seen naked feminists in Ukraine and “nudity rights” activists in the United Kingdom, anti-war protesters in California and environmental campaigners in Nigeria.
Stripping off clothing is a “guaranteed way to get publicity” for a cause, said Philip Carr-Gomm, British author of A Brief History of Nakedness.
“Nakedness is so provocative, even in the 21st century, when we think we’re so liberal and that we’ve seen it all, it is still a big deal,” he said.
A Ukrainian women’s rights group, Femen, would agree. After two years of having their fully clothed protests ignored by the media, in 2010 they decided to change tactics.
“We started out protesting wearing brightly colored clothes, carrying flags and banners and balloons, but journalists weren’t interested,” said one of the group’s founders, Aleksandra Shevchenko.
“The media is the most important part of our work, because our goal is to spread ideas and opinions. Through the media, we can reach millions of people. We realized we had to do something more radical.”
They went topless. They turn up at a particular location, strip off and scrawl slogans in marker pen across their bare breasts. The media coverage they receive – not just in Ukraine but around the world – is immense.
The group mostly demonstrates in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, but since opening an office in Paris this summer, activists have stripped off in front of the Venus de Milo statue at the Louvre museum to protest against the alleged rape by police of a woman in Tunisia.
Last week, they were outside the French Ministry of Justice to protest the acquittal of 10 men accused of raping two teenage girls in France. They also staged a topless protest at the London Olympics this summer claiming the International Olympic Committee collaborates with Islamist regimes that oppress women. Read more at USA Today