Ah, woman. So soft, so demure, so loving, so radiant.
The graceful Hollywood beauty Audrey Hepburn said of womankind, “The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode, but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.”
But then there’s this:
Early in April, topless activists from the Kiev-based feminist group FEMEN invaded a lecture on blasphemy by Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, and doused him with water. Archbishop Léonard, speaking at the Université libre de Bruxelles, did not react—instead praying quietly and averting his eyes until the demonstrators were brought under control. Before leaving the room, he kissed an image of the Virgin Mary.
Since his installation as archbishop in February 2010, Archbishop Léonard has been an outspoken advocate on issues such as homosexuality and the relationship to HIV/AIDS. In late 2010, he was hit in the face with a cherry pie by a protestor during a Mass at Brussels’ Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula.
FEMEN, which was founded in 2008, has protested in support of issues including abortion and gay marriage, and opposing Islamism and sharia law. Their radical viewpoints frequently bring them into conflict with religion.
- In November 2011, after Pope Benedict’s Sunday Angelus message in St. Peter’s Square, a FEMEN activist stripped to the waist and waved a banner “Freedom for Women” before being apprehended by Italian police.
In April 2012, five FEMEN activists protested Ukrainian legislation that would halt abortions, by staging a pro-abortion demonstration in the belfry of Kiev’s Saint Sophia Cathedral and ringing the church bells.
- In July 2012, a topless FEMEN activist attacked Kirill I, the Patriarch of Moscow, while he was visiting the Ukraine. The protester had the words “Kill Kirill” painted on her back and screamed “Get Out!” to the Orthodox Christian leader.
- The 2012 Summer Olympics in London were marred by a topless protest by members of FEMEN, who were protesting “bloody islamist regimes”, which they accuse the International Olympic Committee of supporting.
- On August 17, 2012, FEMEN activists cut down a crucifix near Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the main public square in Kiev, to demonstrate their support for the offensive female punk-rock group Pussy Riot. The cross had been erected in 2005 as a memorial to the victims of Stalinist repression. The protest drew backlash, and a new Christian cross has been erected at the site.
The Atlantic has published an article showcasing FEMEN’s April 4 “topless jihad” protests around the world, demanding the release of Amina Tyler, a young Tunisian woman. Amina ignited a storm by posting topless photos of herself on the internet in March with the words “F**k Your Morals” painted across her chest. In another photo, she was shown smoking a cigarette with her bare chest painted in Arabic script reading, “My body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honour.”
I’m including the link to The Atlantic’s photo story, but am not re-posting here because of extensive nudity, profanity and blasphemy.
UPDATE: The Catholic bishops of Belgium have issued a statement expressing “solidarity with our colleague.” The bishops’ statement denounced “the attitude of a few persons… in total contradiction with the theme of the debate and with the manner in which the Catholic Church hopes for dialogue”. Democratic debate on social questions, they noted, is not possible unless it allows everyone to expound his ideas with mutual respect and freedom of expression.