“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. 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.