Seeing Flesh: Naked Body Protests and Gender Performance in Post-Soviet Ukraine
Butler’s theory of gender performativity, I attempt to draw connections between how the body interacts in Ukraine’s public and private sphere since the emergence of Femen in 2008. My research explores the ways in which deviant gender performances – such as the use of sextremism and hypersexualized acts in a hyper-masculine domain - have the ability to alter past meanings associated with the body. In such, the body becomes empowered through its own redefinition. Despite conflicting opinions about the effectiveness of this form of protest, this paper argues that Femen has successfully challenged conventional norms of femininity in the public sphere through its naked body protests by redefining the body as a political tool and as a site of liberation – thereby creating a space for politically active women in the traditionally masculine sphere of politics. The implications of this research provide insight into similar radical feminist movements that engage the body in overtly sexual and public ways. By understanding the body through Butler’s theory of gender performance, these feminist movements can be critically understood as resistant, empowering, and liberating.
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