'Our Mission is Protest': FEMEN, Toplessness and Female Spectacle
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This thesis examines the dramaturgical strategies of protest employed by the contemporary Ukrainian protest group, FEMEN. In doing so, it draws from theories of protest as performance, outlined by Richard Schechner (1993) and Baz Kershaw (1999). The all-female group are arguably most well known for their use of the topless female body in protest. As such, this thesis will explore FEMEN’s use of toplessness in relation to Mary Russo’s notions of ‘female spectacle’ (1994), considering the ways in which the group might challenge understandings regarding the appropriate behaviours and appearances for women.
This exploration of understandings of the female body potentially generated through FEMEN’s protest, is considered alongside the group’s use of and relationship to space. To do so, it will examine Hannah Arendt’s theories surrounding ‘action’ and the ‘spaces of appearance’ (1998) and Edward Soja’s ‘thirdspace’ (1996). In doing so, it considers the potential political ramifications of space in relation to FEMEN’s protest. Through a characterisation of protest as a form of action, this thesis seeks to expand understandings of the longevity and spatiality of FEMEN’s protests, by taking into account the ‘spaces of appearance’ action may produce.
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