A man who doesn’t exist, although a lot of people rather wish he had; and another man who does exist, a fact that has prompted even greater disappointment.
The man who does exist is Victor Svyatski, who appears to be the svengali behind the topless provocateurs of Femen. A new documentary presents him as an unlikely feminist, admitting he hand-picks activists on the basis of their looks, describing them as “bitches” and admitting to the possibility that he started the organisation to “get girls”. Indeed, he appears to be a repository of the sort of patriarchal attitudes that – we thought – Femen was intended to challenge:
These girls are weak... They don’t have the strength of character. They don’t even have the desire to be strong. Instead, 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.
Nobody with any degree of political nous truly believed that Femen was an authentically grass-roots movement but the revelations about Svyatski seem to take astroturfing into a new dimension and risks discrediting the whole movement. Unless of course the film is part of some as-yet unspecified campaign of counter-intuitive publicity, in which Svyatski is in fact a helpless pawn of the bare-boobed campaigners. And in case I sound too puritan about the whole story, it’s no coincidence that I’ve put the Femen picture first in this post, acknowledging the fact that, when it comes to luring online traffic, nipples will always trump...
...a park bench, even one bearing a gloriously grumpy salute to the memory of Roger Bucklesby.
Although it soon became clear that Mr Bucklesby was a figment of a writer’s imagination. And yet that somehow makes the park bench thing even more endearing; whereas the fakery behind Femen disturbs us. I keep coming back to those words by TS Eliot: “human kind cannot bear very much reality.” And I think Eliot would have chuckled at Bucklesby but I’m not sure what he would have made of all those nipples.