Topless Women in the News

[From the archives.]

***

Topless women are roaming the streets of Paris. Here’s what NPR had to say:

Sometimes, less is more.

That’s certainly the thinking of the Ukrainian feminist movement Femen, best known for its bare-breasted protests in its home country. Now it has brought its self-described “sextremism” to Paris, opening its first international training camp and wasting no time attracting new recruits, causes and attention.

On a recent sunny morning, seven young women stride purposefully toward the stone facade of France’s Justice Ministry. Suddenly they throw their coats to the ground. Slogans are painted across their bare bosoms; garlands decorate their hair.

The report when on to say that the protests have at times been successful in bringing issues to light, forcing dialog and attention to injustices inherent in various forms of patriarchy, whether in the realms of religion, the sex industry or dictatorships. This form of protest is new to Paris, though, and the reporter appeared to have fun describing how the police were perplexed at one aspect of rounding up the protesters: just where does a male police officer grab a topless protester to take her into custody, especially if the protesters are jogging from one side of the public square to the other as police officers follow with outstretched arms?

I listened to the report and started wondering about the ethics, morality and value in these types of protests but I didn’t get too far in that line of thought. Instead, I started thinking about some women in the Bible who also acted in ways that offended society, yet God honored these women mightily. In fact, all five of the women I thought of made it into the most honorable roll-call imaginable, the ancestry of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 1.)

Tamar masqueraded as a prostitute in a scheme to have sex with her father-in-law. Her scheme worked: she got pregnant.

Rahab ran a brothel (or perhaps merely an inn, if you look at some interpreters) and then committed treason against her own people of Jericho. God saved her and her family from foreign invasion and gave her a place in the nation of Israel, his chosen people.

Ruth was a widow and a foreigner, from a nation that was an ancient enemy of Israel. God opened her heart to a relationship with him through dedication to her mother-in-law, and  brought her a new husband from the leading ranks of Israel’s society.

Bathsheba allowed herself to be seduced by King David, the most powerful man in Israel, betraying her own husband in the process and then when David had her husband killed she went and married the king. God blessed her with a son who succeeded his father as king and whose reign was the most prosperous and peaceful in Israel’s history.

Mary scandolously became pregnant by means other than sex with her betrothed husband. And then she gave birth to Jesus, God himself, the greatest blessing for us all.

After all those examples of women whose lives would never meet with society’s approval, I have a hard time critiquing the tactics of the Paris protesters. Who knows how God will bless the efforts of people who behave in ways we do not understand, people who live lifestyles we would never adopt.

I sure don’t.

Do you?

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20 Responses to Topless Women in the News

  1. Yes, I do not think that protest is wise, even if men like it. Why do they like it, one has to ask.

    • Tim says:

      I’m not so concerned with whether they liked it or why; that type of thing has been around for millennia. I am amazed at how God uses the scandalous for his glory, though; now that’s something of eternal importance.

  2. lauradroege says:

    My mom has (or used to have) a quote on her fridge: “Well behaved women rarely make history.” It is interesting that our society (and Christian culture) pressure people to “behave” in “acceptable” ways (sometimes arbitrarily determined by societal whims/fashion rather than God’s moral standards), and yet the people who change things often behave the very opposite of acceptable! (That change could be good or bad, of course; Hitler and Mother Theresa both changed our world but in radically different ways and with radically different results.) Thank goodness that God uses all kinds of things for his glory. Gives me hope that he can use me, too.

    I like the new photo! That’s one doozy of a train wreck.

    • Tim says:

      Your mom’s fridge quote reminds me that what some people demand out of other in the name of good behavior can be exactly the wrong thing to be doing. When Gladys Aylward traveled alone from England through Siberia and into China to serve in the mission field on her own a century back, I’m sure she created quite the scandal in many people’s minds. Good for her, and boo to them.

      Glad you like the pic, too. I mean really, wouldn’t people rather see an antique train wreck photo than my train wreck of a face?

  3. Aimee Byrd says:

    Hmm, God certainly does use all things for his glory and for the good of his people. And perhaps we have done much worse things than these topless protesters. But I can’t help but state the obvious that the message from a protest like this is topless women. Who will remember what they were protesting? I would be horrified if I was walking down that street with my 8-year-old son. I think he would be scarred for life! Thankfully, when God calls us to himself, he renews our minds. He doesn’t leave us where we are. And to use the clothing illustration, he covers us in the righteousness of Jesus Christ! Praise God for that!

    • Tim says:

      I agree, Aimee, the methods of those protestors obscures the message of their protest. The scandal of our own poor choices, bad behavior, native sinfulness is graciously washed away by Christ. That covering of righteousness goes right through to the core where he has placed a new heart within us.

    • I have an eight-year-old son. I doubt he’d be “scarred for life” by seeing women suddenly bare their upper bodies. Surprised, yes; scarred for life, no.

  4. Mary Anne says:

    “Bathsheba allowed herself to be seduced by King David, the most powerful man in Israel, betraying her own husband in the process and then when David had her husband killed she went and married the king.”

    Yes, Bathsheba has to take responsibility for her actions (we all do) but I find myself wondering what would’ve happened to her otherwise. In that era I’d have been frightened to resist the king’s interest in me; David could have brought all kinds of pressure to bear on her if she’d refused him. And if he’d been in the lines with his troops where he belonged instead of spying on women from the roof, everyone would’ve been far better off.

    • Tim says:

      She was vulnerable in so many ways: David had ultimate power as king, her husband was away on the military campaign and not there to protect her, and she was a woman in a society that considered them second-class citizens at most.

  5. Jeannie says:

    You make a good point here, Tim. Whether someone’s actions are socially acceptable is less important than whether God can use the person — and not only use them, but hold them in honour — and from your examples, He can.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Jeannie. I’m glad God takes my sometimes scandalous behavior and builds his kingdom. I have a post on that coming up next week, as a matter of fact.

  6. With regard to the women from the bible – why is it that it is more scandalous if a woman does something than if a man does (that being a rhetorical question, not aimed at you personally)?

    I adore the story of Ruth. It’s such a wonderful blend of loss, of self-sacrifice and of ultimate redemption. Plus, I love the humour. My kids have an animated version of Ruth on DVD. I think the film-makers must have been watching too much Disney because when Ruth and Naomi arrive, Ruth sets about cleaning the old house and as she does she starts to sing and is joined by all the little birds and fluffy creatures o_O

    • Tim says:

      That Ruth movie sounds like it’s a real hoot, Sandy!

      And I am asking that same rhetorical question as you when it comes to the double standard for women and men caught in situations that society labels as scandalous.

  7. Adriana says:

    What a way to start the blog back up — with a bang!
    I’m learning to ponder some of your points for a while, Tim, before stating my opinion. (e.g. Ladies vs. Women) Thanks for making us think. Glad you’re up and running again!

    P.S. The new header is quite fitting. Nice touch.

  8. Dana Tuttle says:

    Interesting…I see your point and you always make me think. I do agree with Aimee that the only thing that people will remember from this particular example is…well…boobies! But the path you are leading down is a bit down my alley and I will apply some of your points to my fascination with martyred christian women in history. I have always liked that saying, too…”Well behaved women rarely make history.” But I fear that it’s my sinful nature that smiles like the Grinch when I read it. I’m working now on a book review for Aimee about Mary Dyer. She was the first women to be executed on American soil. Her motives and actions were not the best choices, yet she is held as an example for the movement toward religious freedom in our country. There are always horrific consequences to our “behavior”. Maybe she is someone more in the direction of your thoughts. A really bad situation that God ultimately used for good and progress. Yet, to the extent of extreme sacrifice. She also was topless for all to see. Stripped naked after her hanging by the Puritan men who killed her. Her “naked” protest made a bigger impact then these Paris women. Stay tuned for my review soon!

  9. hqas says:

    Excellent, read. My point is that feminism has been limited to become a brand as done by FEMEN. Because for baring it all, the protestors are getting royalties and being paid. Where is the real fight for women’s equality and how does offending other women become a show for support? http://saadiahaq.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/femen-akbaris-that-branding-feminism/

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