If Femen was set up by a man, where does that leave its topless protests?

In June 2011, it was revealed that Amina Abdallah Araf – the woman behind the A Gay Girl in Damascus blog – did not exist. The person behind it was revealed to be an American student at Edinburgh University, Tom McMaster. The disappointment was palpable; authenticity – on the web, and elsewhere – is a prized attribute, and when it is eroded, people understandably get angry.

Now Australian film-maker Kitty Green has named Victor Svyatski as the wizard behind the curtain of Ukrainian feminist group Femen. Green alleges that Svyatski not only supports the group, as Femen had previously acknowledged, but actually founded the organisation, as well hand-selecting the "prettiest girls" for their topless protests. Love or loathe Femen – and it is no secret that I am no fan of theirs – this is plain depressing.

For the documentary, Ukraine Is Not a Brothel, which is being shown at the Venice film festival, Green recorded an interview with Svyatski in which he acknowledges he may have started the group to meet women. His reply is a masterclass in how to cop out: "Perhaps yes, somewhere in my deep subconscious."

Did we guess that something might have been going on? The clues were there. Topless protests featuring mostly skinny, "pretty" European women. The slogans: "Our mission is protest, our weapons are bare breasts", "Nudity is liberty" and "Better naked than in a burqa", gave off an unpleasant stench but didn't necessarily point to a male svengali figure in the background.

Women have proven themselves to be just as capable of insensitivity and bullish action: asking for a "topless jihad" could have easily been the idea of a man or woman. And the aggression and ferocity of their protests did not automatically raise red flags – aggression is not the sole preserve of men, and women have a lot to be angry about. (Have a read of the @EverydaySexism Twitter feed if you don't believe me).

The Independent reports that Inna Shevchenko, the lead campaigner of the group, will be attending the premiere of the film at Venice today, along with other members of Femen. This seems a little fishy. How real is this story? Femen have been incredibly adroit users of the media – is this yet another way of gaining attention for their next campaign? It's more than a little worrying that some people think Femen capable of these machinations, rather than seeing them for their primary objective: being a credible feminist protest group looking to effect change.

If it is true, there emerges an over-arching Charlie's Angels narrative of the male impresario and the young women who need a guiding hand. It is a potent trope – we respond to it even as we rail against it. It persists in hip-hop, for example, where women rappers are routinely accused of being ghost written by men, and also in pop: from Phil Spector and the Ronettes to Simon Cowell and his X Factor empire.

In Green's film, Svyatski talks of the campaigners needing a firm hand as they lack strength of character – and he is the one who will teach it to them. "They show submissiveness, spinelessness, lack of punctuality, and many other factors which prevent them from becoming political activists. These are qualities which it was essential to teach them."

No one is saying men can't be involved in the feminist struggle. Allies are an important component in the march towards equality But if you have friends like this, who needs enemies?

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Via: theguardian.com

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The mission of the "FEMEN" movement is to create the most favourable conditions for the young women to join up into a social group with the general idea of the mutual support and social responsibility, helping to reveal the talents of each member of the movement.

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