Big sister is watching you, Stefan Weeber 2013

This research contributes a detailed personal account of a FEMEN activist. It presents an autophenomenographic analysis of cultural artefacts, including a Retrospective Diary, resulting from the activity of Yelena Myshko in FEMEN between 2012 and 2014. Previously FEMEN has been used as raw material for external analysis by press and academics to fit their individual agendas. To counteract this, Myshko’s research proposes an insider perspective on FEMEN activism. She writes herself in response to academics and FEMEN leader Inna Shevchenko who ignore the contribution of FEMEN Netherlands. Myshko merges author/researcher/researched and uses evocative storytelling to provide an introspective account of sextremism, connecting it to relevant embodiment concepts that illustrate its technology of empowerment and unintended side effects.

Through an autophenomenographic analysis of her personal experience, Myshko suggests how FEMEN employs sextremism to create soldiers of feminism. Her research proposes that sextremism is an attitude, a way of life and technology of resistance. For Myshko, sextremism embodies feminist polemic that turns against patriarchy through topless protest. Through personal accounts she illustrates how she internalized this aggressive femininity during physical and mental training. Myshko argues that in protest FEMEN activists communicate to the public and mobilize new activists through feminist snap. In addition, Myshko observes that sextremism produces visual activism that internalizes feminist polemic and transforms it into figurative storytelling. Myshko explains how she reproduced sextremism through body image that made her assertive and empowered her in action.

In turn Myshko demonstrates how personal accounts of sextremist embodiment and problems encountered as a woman in the world reproduce FEMEN’s fight in the media. Myshko analysis interviews with the press where she pinpoints topical feminist issues, making FEMEN real and relevant in Western society. Myshko observes that the media appropriated the spectacle created by FEMEN Netherlands but often distorted it and bend the news to fit its own agenda. In addition, the media criticized FEMEN Netherlands for cross-passing national values and power symbols. For Myshko, sextremism is empowering but also destructive. It promotes an unapologetic self-critical attitude that accumulates collateral damage in battle. The sporadic and restrained relationships between activists does not allow intimacy. Because of the eye of the media, tenderness is perceived as weakness and is not aloud. The combination of criticism, media scrutiny and police persecution hurt Myshko’s feelings. These unresolved feelings of hurt led to resentment and disengagement from FEMEN.

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