Topless Women in Paris and the Scandal in Being a Woman of God

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 imagineable, 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 and she got pregnant.

Rahab ran a brothel (or perhaps merely an inn, if you look at some interpreters) and then committed treason. 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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14 Responses to Topless Women in Paris and the Scandal in Being a Woman of God

  1. Jeannie says:

    Thanks so much for NOT posting on the “about the ethics, morality and value in these types of protests” but taking a more challenging and thoughtful angle. Yesterday I walked past the missions calendar we have on our wall at home and really stopped to look at the beautiful faces and colourful clothing of the Thai villagers on this month’s photo. The caption stated that these people’s poverty makes them vulnerable to being taken into the sex trade. I stood their in disbelief that this horrible evil sends its tentacles into the remotest parts of our world. And I just thought how God must grieve the abuse of these souls made in His image. Sometimes we have to cry out and offend and disturb in order to ensure the voiceless have a voice. So thanks for this reminder.

    • Tim says:

      “Sometimes we have to cry out and offend and disturb in order to ensure the voiceless have a voice.” Yep. Tossing temple tables comes to mind.

  2. Mary Anne says:

    Re: Bathsheba. I’ve always felt sorry for her, because, well . . . David was the king. Yes, she allowed herself to be seduced, but I always think of some of the women, married or not, who drew the attention of a monarch like, say, Henry VIII. Either give in to his wishes or face having royal power turned against you and your family. I really can’t be sure how far David would’ve pressed matters if she’d tried to say no, but he behaved like a real heel here and needed a SUTH, to borrow a Pemberley term.

    As for the topless women in Paris, I think a lot of whether or not something like that is “wrong” has to do with intention. After all, there are cultures where baring the breasts (or everything else) is quite natural and no one even takes notice of it. And there was nothing wrong about it in Eden, but then came the Fall, and then . . . ooops. Make with the fig leaves.

    For my part, there are any number of good reasons why I won’t be doing that, and the world will thank me! X-D

    • Tim says:

      I’ve thought the same thing about Bathsheba, MA. She’s responsible for her own actions, but look at the type of pressure those ancient monarchs could bring to bear on someone!

      As for going bare-chested, if I did that in public you’d hear protests all right.

      • Mary Anne says:

        *snort* Yeah, same here. Or they might not even notice. Was it Oscar Wilde? “There is one thing worse than being talked about and that is NOT being talked about.” 😉

        Re: responsibility. Yes, she was responsible for her actions. There are some who would think she should’ve told him “No,” and let the chips fall where they may. But certain circumstances make that extremely difficult. I think about Isabella in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, when she refuses to sleep with Angelo to try and save her brother’s life. “More than our brother is our chastity.” Technically she’s in the right, but it’s no wonder that leaves audiences a bit cold these days. For my part, I hope I’m never put in any position where so much is at stake—it can be hard enough to choose what’s right when there’s nothing LIKE that much to be considered.

  3. Aimee Byrd says:

    I just think about what that image would do to my 7-hr-old son. I don’t think what they are protesting would enter his mind at all, but I’m not sure if he could ever get those images out in a lifetime. Thankfully, God cover’s our sin with his own righteousness, which is what the whole clothes-wearing-thing points to in the first place.

    • Tim says:

      Yeah, this style of protesting is not something I’d want to come across with young children. Then again there are some cultures where the bare breast is commonplace and kids pay no special attention to the sight. A lot of how these types of protests impact society depends on the local culture, so they work in western societies but I bet would not have much effect in others.

      And about the fact that wearing clothes points to God covering our sins with Christ’s righteousness: if only I’d thought of that! Oh well. I’m glad you thought of it Aimee, because that is an excellent way to reflect on this story as well.

  4. I wouldn’t say Tamar planned for her father-in-law to sleep with her, but somehow through that event which I still have a hard time understanding what she went through with feeling so lowly and having so many dead husbands and one that didn’t want her at all and a father-in-law who saw her completely covered and thought she was a prostitute and that her silence was supposedly so righteous….gah. I just don’t get that one at all! She was sinned against countless times, so was she sinful as well? I mean she did steal from him too.

    I think the issue with the women protesters are that they are doing it to get attention their bodies and not with their heads and minds. Men already have sexual problems of lust, and they are adding on. They like it too. It probably gives them a thrill to have the attention, as many people need that extra adrenaline for a thrill. . .these women are just adding on to it.

  5. I’ll admit, I find this post rather amusing. 🙂 While there’s a part of me that wants to gasp and complain about the immaturity of such tactics, another part of me remembers Nobel Peace Prize winning Leymah Gbowee threatening to strip in front of the soldiers (because seeing “your mother’s” nakedness was a curse), and how effective a tactic nakedness was for the the barbarian’s combatting the “civilized” Romans. The shock-value of defying certain taboos might be underrated.

    And, honestly, isn’t it kind of a sign of the sexism these women are fighting that in European countries men don’t need to cover ther chest, but women do? While most people groups around the world cover their sex organs, chests don’t quite make it into that category.

    • Tim says:

      I thought it was funny too, Jen. And the double standard for going topless is staggering to me. Remind me sometime to tell you about the time I was on a beach on the Costa del Sol in Spain and saw all those pasty and pudgy bare chested northern European men on holiday with their families. Talk about staggering!

      • Joy says:

        Here in Ontario, Canada, it is legal for both women and men to go topless in public. I remember when it was under discussion people only discussed whether or not it should be legal for women to go topless. I could never understand why no one discussed making it illegal for men to go topless. (In case you’re curious – I have yet to see a woman go topless in public.)

  6. Marsha V says:

    Jenny Rae beat me to the punch. “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” is a documentary about the women in Liberia calling for an end to civil war. Another of their tactics (other than threatening to strip) was threatening to withhold sex from their soldier husbands. Great story.

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