We kind of figured it out ourselves in 2008 when we wrote one of the first articles about FEMEN. In the early days, they were a breath of fresh air – calling attention in novel ways to the problem of sexual exploitation of Ukrainian women through prostitution abroad and sex tourism at home. But by 2011, their antics lost meaning. In a Nov. 17, 2011 editorial, “End this show,” the Kyiv Post wrote: “They became publicity-obsessed showgirls who nowadays seem more interested in putting on a performance more worthy of a tawdry strip joint.”
Green’s documentary broke new ground by portraying a foul-mouthed Ukrainian man named Viktor Sviatskiy as the mastermind behind the group. The film shows him having a Svengali-like influence over the women. In one scene, Sviatskiy dons a rabbit mask and asks how to say rabbit in English, then says: “I fucking rabbit.” He suggests that he launched FEMEN for sexual reasons. He talks poorly about the women and goes into an obscenity-laced tirade against them for not following his instructions at a protest.
“These girls are weak…They don’t even have the desire to be strong. Instead they show submissiveness, spinelessness and lack of punctuality and many other factors which prevent them from becoming political activists,” Sviatskiy tells Green. Sviatskiy blithely acknowledges the irony of a man leading a feminist organization: “I am a patriarch in an organization against patriarchy.” Even FEMEN’S Alexandra Shevchenko admits his influence is unhealthy. “It isn’t exactly slavery, but we might call it that…we need to end this relationship,” she says.