Jeff Tayler profiles Inna Shevchenko

Several times I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Inna Shevchenko, Ukrainian head of the feminist organization FEMEN. Morally and philosophically, she’s years ahead of her age (only 27)—as well as of Authoritarian Leftists and feminists twice her age. She’s also been jailed, physically assaulted, and had her life threatened at gunpoint for protesting against patriarchal religion and sexism in Ukraine and Belarus.

Inna is ignored or criticized by some Leftists because she strongly attacks the anti-woman bigotry of Islam, and so she’s simply written off as an “Islamophobe.” But her protests (usually involving nudity) aren’t just against Islam, but against all religions and states that turn women into second-class citizens. The nudity thing I have mixed feelings about, for while it brings attention to FEMEN’s causes, it does so by attracting attention to women’s bare breasts.  On the other hand, I can understand this tactic, and of course Inna and the women who do this regularly get beaten up and jailed for it.

Inna now lives as a refugee in Paris (pursuing a master’s degree in political science), and is always in fear of her life, for that’s the upshot when you repeatedly criticize Islam and once helped edit an issue of Charlie Hebdo. Having met Inna and heard her speak, I’m a big admirer.

So is Jeff Tayler, Atlantic correspondent and author who’s put a new article up on Quillette, “Femen’s Inna Shevchenko: Fear of causing offense has cost too many innocent lives.” It’s a profile of Inna as well as an interview, and here you hear a young woman speaking with a wisdom that has yet to trickle down to the Authoritarian Left or those feminists who refuse to discuss or even mention the crippling sexism of Islam (see here and here).

Here are a few excerpts from Tayler’s piece. Jeff also links to two videos about Inna (one a full-length movie in French), and be aware that there are topless women, so don’t watch the clips at work.

When it comes to Islam’s relation to terrorism and women’s rights, the betrayal by many so-called liberals has really stung [Shevchenko]. “So many on the left – in English they’re called regressive leftists, but here we call them Islamogauchistes — have ceded to manipulations by Islamists. For these leftists, “communautairisme” – ethnic identity politics, roughly, a negation of the French ideal of égalité – “has become like a new faith.” She takes a deep breath. “When you see so many who should be supporting you give in to manipulation by your enemy, you just despair. There’s this argument out there that to criticize Islam is considered racist. This is toxic for public debate. I don’t have any problem with being called an Islamophobe. I am indeed a religio-phobe. It’s not a crime to be afraid of religion. To be afraid of religion as a woman is normal.”

She categorizes the regressive left’s stance on Islam as “insulting toward the Muslim community. It suggests that all believers are a homogenous group of people. Because of the regressive left’s outcry and hysteria, moderate Muslims like Maajid Nawaz and ex-Muslims like Sarah Haider and Ayaan Hirsi Ali have to struggle to be heard.”

How does she feel when regressive leftists tell her that her stance on Islam is “offensive?”

“It’s a sign that someone is trying to deprive me of my right to free speech and impose censorship on me. It’s a sign that they’ve given up their own right to freedom of expression because of a wish for comfort and a fear of being called racist. They’ve given up the common fight and gone over to the side of the Islamists. But the right to free speech is the most precious right, the foundation for all other freedoms.”

. . . She reserves intense scorn for those liberals who urge against criticizing Islam because this would, in their view, amount to helping the “narrative” about Muslims advanced by Trump, France’s Marine Le Pen, and other right-wing leaders. Such “liberals,” she says, are really proposing “to give up on the defense of women’s rights, to give up on the security and well-being of little girls, to give up our fundamental right of freedom of speech, to give up even our right to our own lifestyles and to dress the way we want and to laugh loud in the street, and all this just so as not to be associated with opinions of the far right! For me, this is no solution – this is cowardice and really dangerous. It will leave xenophobes as the only critics of Islam and give the stage to the far right. But this isn’t a question for the far right. It’s a question for society as a whole. When I hear liberals talking this way, I understand that they and the Islamists want the same thing: the silencing of progressive voices. If you try to silence these voices, you become an ally of Islamism.”

. . . I ask Shevchenko how she evaluates the struggle with Islamist terrorism in Europe and the United States. Her response is scathing:

“It took [the authorities] two years to even name the enemy, to even use the term ‘Islamic terrorism.’ They were afraid to associate terrorism with Islam, and oh God, that they might offend anyone! They needed so many deaths of innocent people in bars or café terraces here in Paris, before they would even name the enemy. This was a huge failure, an unjustifiable failure that cost so many lives. And it took so many horrible terrorist attacks in Europe for countries to even begin sharing intelligence. But we have to fight not particular people with guns, but the ideas that lead them to take up their guns; we have to go to the root of the problem and challenge these ideas better. We can’t be afraid of naming these ideas or laughing at them. Charlie Hebdo does this, and look at what happened to them. They’re still being threatened. We see how Europe and the United States are failing in fighting fundamentalist ideas, in challenging Islam as a set of dogmas. After all, again, it’s not a question of guys with guns, but of guys with dogmas in their heads, dogmas that lead them to pick up their guns.”

A related piece by Jeff on Islamophobia appeared in Quillette about a year ago, and bears reading again: “Free speech and terrorism—Whatever you do, don’t mention Islam!”

Here’s a TEDx video of Inna:


  1. mikeyc
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    What an amazing person. Respect.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 2, 2018 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      +1. Exactly the words I was going to use.

    • nicky
      Posted January 2, 2018 at 11:29 pm | Permalink


  2. Liz
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    If men can walk around while running, at the beach, or wherever with no shirt on, why shouldn’t women be able to do the same? It doesn’t make any sense that women should have to cover their breasts. I completely understand the point with no shirt/bare breasts. Furthermore and on somewhat of a different note, it is difficult to find research done on orgasms in any living organism. It seems to me to be at the heart of reproduction but I’m having trouble finding existing literature. I think it’s because people have found that to be special or sacred and it is not. Sex, women’s breasts, and men’s chests are not special, sacred, or inappropriate.

    • Liz
      Posted January 2, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      or sinful*

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 2, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      What about pants? Can men or women run around without pants? Why or why not?

      • Liz
        Posted January 2, 2018 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        I know this sounds bizarre, but I think technically pants should be optional. It’s helpful to cover everything up below to protect ourselves from the elements, but for it to be illegal to not wear pants for either gender is the same as women having to cover their breasts. Women see other women naked in locker rooms and spas and so do men. The Y.W.C.A. has women (of all ages) changing in and out of swimwear, walking around with no clothes, and showering. I would imagine it’s the same in a men’s locker room, gym, or Y.M.C.A. Why are these locker rooms separate? If the answer comes down to having anything to do with sex being sinful or sacred, that isn’t correct. Sex, sexual parts, and the act of sex are not sacred, special, or sinful. All clothing should be optional as ridiculous as it may sound. I would choose to be clothed, but it should be a choice.

        • mikeyc
          Posted January 2, 2018 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

          What if I object? Do I get a say in being forced to see other people’s genitalia or is this something I am not allowed to object to?

          • Liz
            Posted January 2, 2018 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

            Of course you could object. I hadn’t really thought about it before you asked.

          • darrelle
            Posted January 2, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

            Don’t look. 🙂

            • mikeyc
              Posted January 2, 2018 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

              Well, yes, actually. That is the correct answer.

              However, I was trying to make the point that whether we agree or not, society has a say in this. We do not have to accede to everyone’s wishes in all respects.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted January 2, 2018 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

            It is said (apocryphally, I believe) that Victorians were scandalized by the sight of bare piano legs.

            Times change; mores change. In the meantime, de gustibus non est disputandum.

    • Travis
      Posted January 2, 2018 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      I’m pro-topless women legally but we can’;t pretend that women’s breasts are identical to men’s chests. They aren’t identical

      • Liz
        Posted January 2, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        The only difference is that women’s breasts can potentially produce breast milk. Why would it be illegal for women to not cover their breasts? It doesn’t make any sense at all.

        • mikeyc
          Posted January 2, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

          This is suggests that something which is obviously true isn’t; enlarged breasts on human females are secondary sexual traits – they are not just bigger male parts. A penis is not just a large clitoris. They are different in more than just size or function. They are central parts of many cultures concepts of sexuality and are seen by men and women alike with and for that purpose.

          Denying this is what makes no sense.

          • Liz
            Posted January 2, 2018 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

            “This is suggests that something which is obviously true isn’t; enlarged breasts on human females are secondary sexual traits – they are not just bigger male parts.”

            Are you saying that females should not be able to go running or be at a public beach with bare breasts legally? If so, why? I will accept that breasts have more specific differences than just being able to produce breast milk. *How* does that make a difference regarding the legality of them being exposed. I am not denying the genuine, specific differences.

            “A penis is not just a large clitoris.”

            I don’t know the specific differences too well, but they are basically very similar. From this article I read in 2016:

            “This is a 3D Model of a Clitoris…”
            “We can now clearly see that the clitoris includes two shafts (crura) which are actually about 10cm long.”


            They are pretty much the same size and have similar sensitivities.

            *How*, specifically, are they different in more than just size and function.

            • mikeyc
              Posted January 2, 2018 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

              “Are you saying that females should not be able to go running or be at a public beach with bare breasts legally? ”

              I did not say that. In fact, I’m all for it. My argument here and elsewhere is two fold;

              1) Society gets to determine what is and isn’t acceptable to it. That doesn’t mean society is therefore right nor does it mean that it can’t change. My feeling is that if a social restriction significantly impacts other rights then they ought to be abolished (the restrictions, not the rights). For example, if a woman is forced to wear a hijab (rather than it being her choice – and we all know how slippery “choice” is in this context) then that restriction ought to go. There is a world of difference between this restriction the one governing covering genitalia.

              2) Your argument in this regard hinges on the absurd idea that the only difference between a woman’s breast and a male’s is that one produces milk and the other doesn’t. In almost all human societies female breasts aren’t merely milk making machines – they are deeply integral to a culture’s ideas about sexuality. You may not like that and you may wish to change it (good luck) but while your feelings may be important to you, society in under no obligation to agree.

              We are not really different in our ideas on this, Liz. Essentially you are framing this as an ought/is argument. I’m trying to point out the is.

              • Liz
                Posted January 2, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

                “…they are deeply integral to a culture’s ideas about sexuality.”

                Yes. I would say more for men, though, and that shouldn’t be a factor in determining whether or not they should be able to be legally bare in public or not. I understand the “should” part here. Yes. I am saying it shouldn’t be that way. If bare breasts “inspire people to create” or express themselves physically, that is not a reason they should be kept covered.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted January 2, 2018 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          The only difference is that women’s breasts can potentially produce breast milk.

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but can’t men lactate too, given the correct hormone treatment. Which might naturally only occur in the event of some major brain, kidney, or testicle cancer, but the potential is there.
          And of course, let’s not forget that the lactating part of a breast is not the large blob of subcutaneous fat, with or without silicone enhancement.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted January 2, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      I take your point, Liz, but because society (especially conservative, religious societies) have a thing about nudity, then any protest that involves naked body parts is likely to be that more powerful and striking. If everyone went round topless, FEMEN’s tactics would be just a little less effective.

    • Posted January 2, 2018 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      I continue to be amazed that so many people are still scandalized by a topless woman. Female breasts have been socially sexualized, but their physical differences from male chests are nominal. Men can walk around shirtless with flat and smooth chests, or with giant rolling, bulging (possibly hairy) chests – all perfectly acceptable. The average woman might exhibit greater curvature in that area than an average man, but the range of physical properties are quite similar.

      I don’t think the “what about not wearing pants” question is a valid comparison. It hasn’t been deemed socially acceptable for either sex to walk around pantsless; thus, this is a separate issue.

      Something that is comparable, I think: it’s acceptable for both men and women to walk around bare-shouldered. The average woman’s shoulder exhibits more curvature and has a smaller frame than the average man’s. But shoulders don’t have the same sexual stigma (in the West) as do breasts, so no one has a problem with showing them off. This is a silly and antiquated distinction, in my opinion.

      • mikeyc
        Posted January 2, 2018 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        “It hasn’t been deemed socially acceptable for either sex to walk around pantsless; thus, this is a separate issue.”

        But this precisely/b> my point. You excuse the social taboo of going pantless because it hasn’t “been deemed socially acceptable”. The very same thing can be said for women going topless and for exactly the same reason.

        Look, I’m all for the idea that these social prohibitions don’t make a whole lot of sense and that they are subject to change. But if you think clothing options are determined by social acceptability you can’t excuse one and condemn the other.

        • mikeyc
          Posted January 2, 2018 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

          grrrrr. unclosed html again. sorry

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted January 2, 2018 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        I had been trying here for some time to comment without it becoming a very long answer. Let me just cut to the chase by saying that it is possible that we could permit women to go around completely topless, and think virtually nothing about it. I somewhat surprised myself in this answer, since initially I considered it impossible.

        The norms about women exposing much of their legs while on the street or at work has changed over just the past century, and a century ago for women to do those things seemed virtually impossible. They would be promptly arrested. Granted, things are not where they should be, but real change has occurred. So sure, more acceptance for more exposure could happen.

  3. Claudia Baker
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    A brave and beautiful young woman.

  4. DrBrydon
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I like the term Islamogauchiste, and I think I will start using it. Communautairisme isn’t quite as elegant, but expresses a real dichotomy in approach: the rights of the community versus the rights of the individual. For me, I am always suspicious when someone talks about the rights of the community, because it seems to be putting the rights of the majority over the rights of the minority, which is no kind of liberty.

    • Posted January 2, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      It seems to translate as ‘Islamic leftest’, and that is indeed an interesting twist on things.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted January 2, 2018 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      And who gets to define the “community” and its representatives? Pretty few Muslims in the UK have been consulted over whether they want the Muslim Council of Britain to pontificate on behalf of them all.

  5. Posted January 2, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    … and be aware that there are topless women, so don’t watch the clips at work.

    .. at work and in America, a nation founded by Puritans that freaks out over a “wardrobe malfunction”.

    The topless thing is just a deliberate flouting of religion-inspired dress codes such as the ridiculous hair-covering hijab.

  6. Jon Gallant
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    “She reserves intense scorn for those liberals who urge against criticizing Islam
    … so as not to be associated with opinions of the far right!”

    Shevchenko’s account of this pop-Left behavior is, in its way, an old story. During the Cold War, Leftists invariably shunned “Captive Nations” protests against Soviet imperial domination of eastern Europe, so as not to be associated with the opinions of conservatives and emigrés. Finally, in 1968, Hal Draper of the Young Peoples’ Socialist League made the heretical suggestion that there be a demonstration BY THE LEFT against the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. Needless to say, there were virtually no takers, outside of a few YPSL eccentrics like Draper.

    This behavior reveals that pop-Leftists choose their views essentially on the basis of sartorial fashion: they ask themselves not what such-and-such an opinion actually expresses, but rather how it looks on them. If a gown is the same color as one worn by (gasp!) conservatives (or emigré Estonians), they would never, ever be seen in public wearing it.

    One has to wonder how acolytes of the pop-Left bring themselves to wear a coat in winter: after all, those evil beings on the “far right” wear coats in winter too.

    • XCellKen
      Posted January 2, 2018 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      And so many of them are Vegetarians. I guess they didn’t know that Hitler was also a Vegetarian lol

  7. Posted January 2, 2018 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Wow. Respect her, yes I will.
    Among the bits was ‘..It [not criticizing Islam] will leave xenophobes as the only critics of Islam and give the stage to the far right.’

    That exactly outlines for me why it is so important to criticize the leftests who are on the wrong side here.

  8. J. Quinton
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    James A. Lindsay (I believe) came up with the word Ophobophobia to describe the Authoritarian Left’s relationship with Islamic misogyny.

    It’s basically the phobia of being an Islamophobe (hence Islamophobophobia).

    While on the topic, many Iranian, Arab, and otherwise Muslim feminists are disgusted with Western feminists for these same reasons:

  9. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    At least one of the feminist critiques of FEMEN concerns its relationship to Viktor Sviatsky, who acted (or so he claims) as something of a Svengali to the group (as was covered in Kitty Green’s documentary on FEMEN, Ukraine Is Not a Brothel).

    Don’t get me wrong; I support the protests of FEMEN four-square. But the matter may be a bit more nuanced than the post allows.

    • Posted January 5, 2018 at 2:32 am | Permalink

      Svyarski (as Tayler spells it in his book) is covered in his book which I finally just finished reading Topless Jihadis. Well worth the read and short (94 pages) but some of the groups run-ins with the secret police before they fled to France are chilling. I recommend the read.

      Svyatski, BTW, is explained as the male figure for a bunch of 20 year old young women who were brought up to listen to the “man” on everything. It took awhile to break through on that but he certainly has nothing to do with the group now it appears. The Green documentary is discussed as well.

  10. Mark R.
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    I think it wise to listen carefully to someone who has actually lived under an authoritarian government. Perhaps a root problem of many regressive leftists in the U.S. is they have a very superficial understanding and no experience with real governmental/religious oppression.

  11. Ullrich Fischer
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Inna and FEMEN are heros.

  12. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    Umm, sub.

    And I note that Femen have certainly found a way of ensuring that everyone will read their protest messages!


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