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‘Shame has to switch sides’ – Feminist activist Inna Shevchenko on #MeToo

The Femen 'partisan' talks about #MeToo protests and why a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France was “an insult to all women”.

“2017 should be marked as another victory in women’s rights, women’s fights and feminism in general,” says feminist activist Inna Shevchenko. Finally, people have been forced “to turn their heads and look," she said, about the sexual abuse scandals and #MeToo protests that have erupted in recent weeks.

Why didn’t women speak up about their experiences of abuse before? Shevchenko said she was “shocked” to hear people ask such questions. “Society’s ears that were ignorant and closed towards our issues,” she said.

Shevchenko’s activist group Femen is best known for its controversial use of nudity as a form of feminist protest. She spoke about #MeToo on the sidelines of last week’s World Forum for Democracy (WFD) in Strasbourg.

Women have been speaking up about sexual harassment and abuse "forever," though few have been listening, said Shevchenko. It’s time for shame and fear to “switch sides,” she argued, from survivors to perpetrators.

Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Moana Genevey (left) and Inna Shevchenko. Photo: Lara Whyte.Shevchenko said growing attention to women’s experiences of abuse has made 2017 a year of feminist victory. She also talked about a recent Roman Polanski celebration in France, and why it was “an insult to all women."

Polanski fled statutory rape charges in the US in the 1970s and has lived in France since. Last month new allegations emerged against the film director (which he has denied).

Originally from Ukraine, Shevchenko also lives in France. She was one of dozens of speakers at the WFD, hosted by the Council of Europe and focused on the question: is populism a problem?

Shevchenko was interviewed by Moana Genevey, a French youth delegate at the forum. Genevey is a co-creator of the website "Allons Contre" which aims to counter populist hate speech in France, online and offline.

About the authors

Moana Genevey co-created the website "Allons Contre" which aims to counter populist hate speech in France, online and offline, with counter-discourses. She holds a bachelor's degree in political sciences, and master's degrees in European studies and human rights. She's worked for international institutions including the European Commission, and NGOs including the European Network Against Racism. 

Lara Whyte is an investigative journalist and award-winning documentary and news producer focusing on issues of youth, extremism and women’s rights. Originally from Belfast in northern Ireland, Lara is based in London. She is currently commissioning editor (special projects) for 50.50 tracking the backlash against sexual and reproductive rights. Find her on Twitter: @larawhyte.

Claire Provost is editor of openDemocracy 50.50 covering gender, sexuality and social justice. Previously she worked at The Guardian and was a fellow at the Centre for Investigative Journalism at the University of London, Goldsmiths. Find her on Twitter: @claireprovost.


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