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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”.

Claire Provost author pic
Moana Genevey Lara Whyte Claire Provost
13 November 2017

“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.

Is gesture politics hindering progress against racism?

We have all seen a huge explosion around the debate on structural racism in recent weeks.

But that has been accompanied by corporate statements that many activists say are meaningless and will lead to little change.

How true is that? How can the movement against racism deliver long-lasting change instead?

Join us on Thursday 9 July at 5pm UK time/12pm EDT for a free live discussion.

Hear from:

Evadney Campbell Managing director and co-founder of Shiloh PR. A former BBC broadcast journalist, she was awarded an MBE in 1994 for her services to the African and Caribbean communities in Gloucester.

Sunder Katwala Director of British Future, a think-tank on identity and integration

Sayeeda Warsi Member of the House of Lords, pro-vice chancellor at Bolton University and author of ‘The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain’.

Chair: Henry Bonsu Broadcaster who has worked on some of the UK's biggest current affairs shows, including BBC Radio 4's Today. He is a regular pundit on Channel 5's Jeremy Vine Show, BBC News Briefing and MSNBC's Joy Reid Show.

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