The Body Social , 1993, said it quite well: “Men have justified their hegemony and women’s inequality in numerous ways and in every discipline. But times change and so do societies. Now men are being defined as the problem: killers, rapists, racists, imperialists and death-oriented and genetically deficient. The battle is not only verbal, however, it is also physical and structural. Dualism, as a defining and dichotomizing ideology, is itself problematic. It has both ‘legitimated’ male dominance, and, more recently ‘legitimated’ the women’s movement. In the past it used to be considered part of the problem perhaps; now, some consider it to be part of the solution – a necessary ideology, until structures are equalized and humanized. Gender remains therefore a critical attribute of the body politic, like colour and age, and also like beauty.” Women who are ‘forced’ to use their bodies to fight back, i.e., toplessness, are not only directly challenging men’s control over their bodies [e.g., if men can go bare-chested in public why can’t I?], but also alerting society to wider disparities within the socio-economic and political spheres, e.g., equal pay for equal work, the ‘glass ceiling’, etc. By keeping women’s identities tied up primarily to the appearance of their bodies, men coerce women psychologically, and through the subtle use of complicit media, objectify them as consumable but natural products of the human condition everywhere. If women’s rights to their bodies were on an equal par with men, this demonstrator wouldn’t have to take her shirt off, nor have an unwanted child, nor have the only female vote on a board of directors, nor be a small minority member within a political party. “The disciplinary techniques through which the ‘docile bodies’ of women are constructed aim at a regulation that is perpetual and exhaustive – a regulation of the body’s size and contours, its appetite, posture, gestures, and general comportment in space and the appearance of each of its visible parts.” (Sandra Lee Bartky, Femininity and Domination: Studies in the Phenomenology of Oppression, 1990).
The FEMEN activist stole the statue topless with “God is a Woman” written across her bare chest