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(en) Ireland, Belfast, Organise!, The Leveller* #12 - Page s 7/8 Frack Off! Anti-fracking campaigners at Stormont + We Wonât Pay Twice For Floods + Who Are Femen?

Date Sat, 10 Nov 2012 15:01:36 +0200


Frack Off! Anti-fracking campaigners at Stormont ---- Tyler McNally updates the Leveller on the campaign against fracking in the north. ---- In Ireland, we are familiar with attempts by Companies to exploit natural resources at the expense of both people and planet, with the issue of lignite mining in the North and the infamous struggle against Shell in Rossport being very good examples. Now however, we face a new and potentially more dangerous threat in the form of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking as its frequently referred to as). ---- Fracking is a process in which water mixed with sand and chemicals is blasted into shale rock formations underground to cause it to fracture releasing the shale gas trapped within it. Itâs been used widespread across the US and has been fought against vigorously by people in communities where it is been used, in some places this resistance has led to fracking being banned as it has been in Vermont.

Bans are also currently in place in Bulgaria and France as well as moratoriums (temporary bans) in South Africa and elsewhere.

You may find yourself questioning
why there is such a strong
opposition to fracking wherever it
is introduced globally, and itâs with
very good reason. Fracking is
linked to cases of water
contamination and health problems
in local inhabitants with illnesses
ranging from cancer to lesions in
the brain. Fracking causes massive
carbon dioxide and methane
emissions, with methane being the
more potent greenhouse gas.

With reports from bodies such as
The Environmental Protection
Agency in the US and the Tyndall
Report in Britain, why do our
politicians not place an immediate
ban on fracking? Well itâs because
they are desperate to continue
with providing the capitalists
anything they need to make a
profit in return for what will be
very few jobs, despite the
propaganda from Tamboran et al
that they will supply 100s upon
100s of jobs! With the crisis of
unemployment and no real
solutions coming from our
Politicians, theyâll use anything to
take the heat off. The jobs issue is
one that will be a very potent issue
for the anti fracking campaign to
deal with, but one that must be
surpassed if we are to win.

Despite the efforts of groups like
the Fermanagh Fracking
Awareness Network (FFAN) and
Belfast Not For $hale, Stormont
has been largely unresponsive to the
demands for a ban, after a whole year
since this became an issue, a motion has
passed calling for a moratorium which has
been ignored by the Executive, an
executive with vested interests in having
fracking go ahead in the North. DETI
Minister Arlene Fosterâs husband owns 54
acres of land in an area of West
Fermanagh sought by fracking companies,
she is set to financially benefit from
allowing the process to go ahead whilst
other parties on the Executive make loud
noises outside but when push comes to shove
prove unable to perform.

For the anti fracking campaign to succeed,
the groups need to mobilise the communities
and prepare them for the fight ahead.
Whilst direct action isnât a sole winning
tactic to a campaign, it canât be ruled out
and if Stormont continues to ignore the will
of the campaign; a case could develop
when local communities use direct action to
fight against the installations. These must be
backed and brought forward as part of a
strategy to beat fracking.

----------------------------------

We Wonât Pay Twice For Floods

Recent flooding in Belfast, Dunmurry, Lisburn
and Bangor saw hundreds of homes
damaged, flooded with sewage, roads
were put out of action, and cars destroyed.
Thousands more homes were hit with power
cuts.

Northern Ireland Water received over
2,800 calls about localised flooding.
Emergency services received nearly 1,000
call outs.

In a blatant attempt to force water charges
back onto the political agenda the Alliance
Party have demanded we âget realâ about
how our water service is funded. Other
parties are skirting around the issue fearful
of a backlash. So they should be - successful
campaigning by groups like the We Wonât
Pay Campaign against water charges has
saw their defeat repeatedly over the years.

Water charges will simply heap increased
poverty upon the misery of the working-
class communities worst effected by the
flooding. The âdebateâ on water charges has
been re-opened. It is essential that the
sewage system in the north is upgraded but
working-class people cannot be made to
pay for this. It is simply not true that there is
not money available to upgrade our water
and sewerage system.

The message is clear âwe wonât payâ and we
can and will organise mass opposition if
proposals to implement this charge are
forced back onto the political agenda.

--------------------------------------------

Who Are Femen?

I hadn't heard of Femen until Derry
Anarchists posted an image and link on
facebook to a topless blonde woman, with
âFuck Euro 2012â painted on her belly,
tackling the UEFA cup off its podium. The
woman was immediately tackled and
trailed off herself but not before creating a
media storm due to her action.

The group have generated huge publicity
for their campaigns by staging topless
protests. Making headlines around the
world by baring their breasts against
prostitution, corruption and exploitation.
Regarded by some as a new generation of
feminism are Femen simply providing
images for a sex obsessed media?

According to their facebook page:

Our God is woman, our mission is
protest, our weapons are bare
breasts!

Picture: Femen activists protesting at the World Economic Forum
meeting in Davos at the start of this year

They state that among their goals are:
to shake women in Ukraine, making
them socially active; to organize in
2017 a women's revolution.

Set up to challenge the subservient role of
women in Ukranian society, the movement
was founded in 2008, in Kiev, by Anna
Hustol, and two other women, after hearing
stories of Ukranian women duped by false
promises of a better life abroad. Many of
these women ended up the victims of sex
trafficking.

Anna is an economist with a background in
theatre, which Femen certainly put to good
use. At 28 Anna is slightly older than most
of Femenâs topless activists, most of whom
are university students and former students
aged between 18 and 24. These activists
number about 30 and are a minority of the
groups membership - estimated at around
300.

The group has opposed prostitution, sexism,
human trafficking, attacks on abortion
rights. They have also protested political
corruption, internet pornography,
international marriage agencies, the World
Economic Forum, the Euro 2012 (co-hosted
by Poland and the Ukraine this year) and
the lack of public toilets in Kiev. The group
have also protested against politicians such
as Putin and former Italian Prime Minister
Silvio Berlusconi. They have refused to
support protests at the prison conditions
faced by former Ukranian Prime Minister
Yulia Tymoshenko. They regard Tymoshenko
as part of a ruling class clique of oligarchs
at war with each other.

Accusing the Ukranian
government of moving to
legalise prostitution prior
to the Euro 2012 the
group asked the
government and UEFA to
create a social program
devoted to the problem
of sex tourism and
prostitution in Ukraine; to
inform football fans that
prostitution is illegal in
Ukraine; and to take
additional steps to fight
against prostitution and
sex tourism.

Their activities have saw some Femen
members spending time in jail and being
harassed, beaten and kidnapped by the
police. Particularly since the election of
President Viktor Yanukovych in 2010. There
have also been cases taken against them
for âhooliganismâ and âdesecration of state
symbolsâ.

Oksana Shachko, a 24 year old Femen
activist, faced a sentence of 5 years for
taking part in a topless protest during which
she told the Indian ambassador to kiss her
ass. The protest was in response to a claim
that the Indian Foreign Ministry accused
women from former Soviet countries of
going to work in India as prostitutes. Four
women from Femen stormed the building,
waving the Indian flag proclaiming
âUkranian women are not prostitutesâ and
shouting âkiss my assâ. Oksana was facing
jail again only days after her release from
a Moscow prison. Jailed for trying to steal
(while topless) the ballot box that contained
Putinâs vote, during the 4th March
Presidential election, she was imprisoned for
2 weeks and banned from Russia for life.
Oksana was in prison again for 5 days as a
result of protests during the Euro 2012.
Together with Anna and Sasha Shevchenko,
Oksana is one of the founding members of
Femen. After many discussions on Marxism,
feminism and the position of women in
Ukrainian society the women decided they
would not follow the usual route of
marriage but that they would instead try to
change society. Anna Hutsol told German
magazine Spiegel that when they began
the movement she was 21 and had just
started reading August Bebel, the founder
of the social democratic workersâ movement
in Germany. Bebel had introduced a bill on
equal rights for women to the German
parliament at the end of the 19th century.
Looking at her own life and the lives of
women around her Anna concluded that
nothing had changed and began
organising.

Picture: Will this hammer and half naked body be able to
smash patriarchy?

They started a group called New Ethics that
organised discussion groups and organising
protests at the university. This group was to
become Femen. From the start Anna knew
she:
...didnât want us to mutate into a
typical feminist organisation. I didnât
want an organisation in which
women talk, talk, talk, while years
go by and nothing happens. We
have brought more extremism into
the womenâs movement.

Femenâs first protest was in the summer of
2008. Dressed theatrically as prostitutes
they held up signs and shouted âUkraine
isnât a brothelâ. They created a scandal and
also attracted a lot of media coverage. In
August 2009 they staged their first topless
demonstration in Kievâs main shopping
street, to protest against internet
pornography.

Since then Femen have regularly protested
'topless', and have staged erotic street
theatre (that they have called rallies) at
the offices of the Cabinet of Ministers, at
Maidan Nezalezhnosti, the Turkish embassy
in Ukraine and in front of the Iranian
embassy to oppose the expected execution
of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

EMMA, a German feminist magazine
carried a supportive article on Femen
written by feminist and anti-pornography
campaigner Alice Schwarzer. A bitter
opponent of media depictions of female
nudity Schwarzer claims:
The Femen women are catching the
boomerang in mid-air and throwing it
back. The bare breast, which would
normally objectify them, becomes a
weapon for them. They use it to attract
attention, and to deliver their message
to men, namely their protest against
the exposure of women! Against
prostitution! Against trafficking in
women! I think thatâs a good thing.

Femen were also brought to France by
Safia Lebdi, a founding member of the
womenâs rights organisation Not Whores,
Not Submissive to bring media attention for
a campaign for the ârightsâ of Muslim
women. The women wore burkas that they
tore off to reveal naked torsos with slogans
like Naked War, and I am a woman not an
object. Alongside Femen were Maryam
Namazie, an Iranian womenâs rights
campaigner and several French feminists.
The protest was covered by over 40
journalists.

Femen and their supporters believe that
they are using their naked breasts as
âweaponsâ and contributing to feminism.
Many of their critics feel they are
reinforcing sexism, pornography and the
objectification of women.

A recent protest against prostitution in the
Swedish fan area during the Euro was lost
on fans. Initially drunk male football fans
cheered on what they thought was a
spontaneous tabletop strip. Cheers turned to
boos and one of the women was grabbed
by the arm and trailed off a table by a
Swedish football fan. Security then moved
in and physically removed the two women
from the zone and handed them over to
police. One fan told the media he thought
the point of the protest had not got through
as a direct result of the tactics used.

Femenâs justification of its methods has been
that:
This is the only way to be heard in this
country. If we staged simple protests
with banners, then our claims would
not have been noticed.
It is a justification they stand by, despite the
lack of impact on the fans the stunt in the
Swedish zone certainly gained media
attention across the world.

Femen as a movement leave me with more
questions than answers. Are Femen simply
about shameless self promotion? And if they
are does it matter? In their own terms they
have certainly proven that the media will
provide greater coverage to protests
featuring bare breasts. Are they wrong to
use this to their advantage?

More importantly are Femen sex positive/
body positive feminists or do they reinforce
the objectification and commodification of
women? They certainly make commodities
out of themselves. Following the Euro
protests they have released prints of their
breasts on their online shop. In order to
âsupportâ Femen, prints can be ordered of
paint âboob printsâ of your favourite Femen
activists breasts - signed by the activist
youâve chosen!

Certainly the issues they seek to address
are very real issues. Issues that perpetuated
by patriarchal society and capitalism. In a
free society the sight of topless women
should be no more out of the ordinary, no
more controversial, than the sight of topless
men. Are Femen trying to ânormalise â things
and enable women to go topless without the
associated sexualisation? I think not, their
protest thrive off the media attention
generated by the fact that bared breasts
are not ânormalâ.

As an anarcho-syndicalist I also have other
concerns. The actions of Femen contribute to
the demonization of prostitutes and demand
that it is kept illegal, they demand that the
state keep prostitution, and drive it further,
underground. Would it not be better to
have decriminalised prostitution with some
levels of protection for the women involved?
Do we deny prostitutes the right to organise
as fellow workers? This of course applies
only to adult prostitutes who have not been
trafficked.

Femen also relies on stunts as opposed to
building working class self organisation. An
issue that is reflected in their desire to
become a political party and to:
build up the image of Ukraine, the
country with great opportunities for
women.

There can be no emancipation for women
on the basis of stunts and little meaningful
change in the sphere of party politics,.
Womenâs emancipation, and menâs
emancipation, can only begin to be fully
realised with the destruction of patriarchy
and capitalism. Femen many have drawn
important attention to the causes they
promote and campaign around but real
change demands organisation. Stunts may
have a part to play but working class men
and women must organise in their
communities and workplaces to bring about
A truly revolutionary transformation of
society.

===================================================================================
Julie, an anarcho-feminist from Belfast, gives her opinion
on Femen.

Campaigning and protesting against issues such as; sex trafficking,
exploitation and sex tourism are important. And itâs good to see that women
in eastern Europe, where women are generally not heard, are being active.
However, the way that Femen approach it; Iâm not sure to be honest. Femen
claim that the tactics they use are the only way of getting publicity. But I think
that always using this tactic plays to the stereotype that unless women are
doing something âsexualâ or provocative they arenât worthy of attention.

And I personally canât disagree more with their decision to fund themselves
by doing a âpick your favourite Femen protestor boob print!â

Although not exclusively; women that appear on Femen demos and street
theatre are the stereotype of what, in our society, should equate an
attractive woman. I know Iâve never seen that many extremely thin, blonde
women at a protest before.

For the most part I agree with what they are protesting. But their tactics and
messages are too one dimensional.
=====================================================================================
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