Amina Tyler and The Fear of Men
Last May Amina Tyler, a FEMEN activist in Tunisia was detained for protesting against the situation of women in her country during a demonstration of an illegal fundamentalist group. Police promptly detained her but leaved alone the demonstrators of the outlaw group. Until here, nothing new or shocking. Unfortunately we have become all too used to this kind of news. But this time, there was a difference. Amina decided to call the attention of the authorities and the media by stripping to the waist and show her young breast with words of freedom. And then is when the storm began. Infuriated fundamentalist reacted like if they have seen the devil itself, attacking her verbally and physically, until the police took her away.
So what has provoked such a disproportionate reaction is not that he was protesting about the shocking situation of women in many of islamic countries, their treatment as mere objects belonging to the male cast. She was the vinegar poured on an open wound that the world has been trying to ignore for too long.
But why, I ask myself. Why is she on the first pages of the news, not because she protest against injustice, but because she has dare to do so showing her nude breast? Why are we so afraid, we men, of a young woman that, all alone , dares to protest in front of a crowd of reactionaries ( Oh, gosh, such a courage !). Who dares dares to show her breast in a photo with the words written on it” My Body Is My Own “ ?
If you, and I talk now to the men who read this post, go one day in your town, with no shirt, with such an obscene message written on your barely haired chest, what do you think the reaction of the people would be? Would crowds of women kick you and call police, offended by your outrageous act? Or would you just provoke some smiles or curious gazes ? If you are lucky, maybe a young chineese tourist will ask you for a photo to pin it on her blog !
I can try to understand her courageous act in three different levels : cultural, values and symbolic .
On the cultural level, I can see that in a country that keeps the body of the women completely hidden, where a bikini is a rarity, and conservatives are trying to steer the recent revolution into the domain of islamic fundamentalist, her act really goes against the mainstream behaviour and customs. But leaving apart that a protest is precisely that, an act that goes against what is normally accepted with the intention to call attention to what may my unjust, is the reaction that surprises me: aggression, condemnation and eventually jail. Why not just look to another place? Why not just to ignore her ? Or even laugh? Why such a disproportionate reaction?
What brings me to the point that maybe her brave appearance in front of the bearded male mob, has reached a deeper level. The level of values. What do I believe, what are my core values. Do I believe that women have equal rights to men, that being obviously different, their intrinsic value are not less than mine? That, as Amina and FEMEN says, their body is their own. Or would you, as a male , accept that a society of women has the right to decide on your body ? When to procreate or not, how to dress or undress, how behave in private or public ? If you won’t accept this, why you won’t support the ideas of this young strong women?
Suddenly I can feel something inside myself rebelling, and probably also inside yourself too. A muted, indescribable fear crawling slowly under my skin. And is normal, as I am much more than I consciously feel. It brings me to a last symbolic level. And there it is where our fear and theirs in Tunisia and the world comes from. The bared breast that represent the nurturing Mother Goddess, the Earth who has gave us birth and has been our cradle and our home until now, when we have become the arrogant teenager species, overconfident and wasteful, just concerned about our present enjoyment of the place. We are afraid of looking at the eyes of Nature and see our behaviour reflected, our betrayal, our lack of love.
We cannot withstand the presence of Amina Tyler and the FEMEN activist because they throw in our faces our lack of integrity, our inconsistency with the values we proclaim in public, because we are afraid of their creativity, at all levels, their primeval strength and energy. We are afraid of Amina, because we are afraid of letting women grow.