The founder of the feminist group responsible for this week’s bare-chested protest at Quebec’s national assembly is defending her group’s tactics.
Three women, who are part of the group FEMEN, exposed their breasts on Tuesday during Question Period to protest against the crucifix that hangs in the province's legislature. The move has been criticized by some women's groups.
Chantal Maillé, a Concordia University women’s studies professor, wrote to CBC's Daybreak program calling FEMEN "a stupid group" and criticized the media for focusing on their topless protest at the expense of “other, real feminist initiatives.”
The founder of FEMEN, Xenia Chernyshova, said her group is used to criticism and uses topless protests as a statement against society's emphasis on beauty.
Rather than exploiting their sexuality, Chernyshova said FEMEN's activists present “real bodies” as a “statement about how society sees women’s bodies.”
Chernyshova promised more FEMEN protests against the Parti Québécois government’s refusal to include the national assembly crucifix among religious symbols forbidden under its proposed charter of values.
“If it’s heritage, then please put it in a museum,” she said of the government’s claim that the crucifix is a part of Quebec’s history and therefore should be exempt.
A painful memory
"[This] crucifix stems from the Great Darkness," the group said, employing a term commonly used to describe Maurice Duplessis's pre-Quiet Revolution Quebec.
"[It's] a painful memory, especially for women. That renewal of the pact between the church and the state is not at all a heritage worth honouring."
Chernyshova said FEMEN Quebec just wants to get its point across to the government.
“All the politicians want to ignore what FEMEN Quebec did. They think it was stupid and rebellious,” she said. “A lot of what we try to do is make politicians drop their masks. We want them to be real for one moment.”