We are Not Boobs

Women Use Men’s Breasts to Promote Gender Parity in Politics

By SM Dipali

As a crowd gathered on Oct. 21 near the ancient Charles Bridge, an exciting murmur rose about a “topless protest” that was scheduled to take place in front of the more recently installed monument of Starbucks.

A woman with blindingly red and orange hair addressed the crowd and explained the issues facing women in Czech politics, calling for action to be taken to change the current state of the political system.

A makeshift drum roll began among the women involved in the protest; their signs depicting cartoon breasts held high. Cameramen readied their equipment for the promise of sexy female breasts.

Instead, the crowd was greeted by a group of five topless men, donned in clown noses and singing about women’s political representation. As they chanted in Czech, referencing equal representation, journalists and cameramen were entirely taken aback.

Shirtless males support a greater voice for women in politics.
Photo by SM Dipali

The unexpected protest was organized by a Czech nongovernmental organization called Forum 50%. The group seeks to call attention to the under-representation of women in Czech politics and promote equal representation of women and men in influential positions.

Currently, women account for 22% of the lower house of Parliament and 23% of the upper house. The current center-right government includes only two women in its 18-seat cabinet. Similarly, of the 14 regional gubernatorial positions in the Czech Republic, only two are women.

The protest comes ahead of the Oct. 25 parliamentary elections.

To combat low representation, Forum 50% is pushing for a level of 30% female representation on the list of future election candidates. Not only do they want women to make the list, but they want to see an increase in the chance of these women actually getting elected.

“I think someone needs to do something about it. I mean, I was waiting for some breasts. But it was fun. It’s up to people whether they’ll listen.”

In order to achieve these goals, Forum 50% supports preferential quotas for women in Czech politics. The group cites that such quotas of one-third representation have been tested in countries like Norway and work to remove inequality and discrimination. These quotas would be temporary, and would be removed when they are no longer necessary.

Although Czech politicians have not given the issue much attention in the past few years, Forum 50% continues to attempt to raise awareness. Their methods have gotten creative, evidenced by their widely publicized “topless” protest. I asked Czechs watching the protest what they thought of Forum 50% and their unconventional methods. While the crowd may have been disappointed by the lack of female nudity, they gave some interesting opinions on the issue and the organization:

·       “There are many ways to tell people what you’re trying to say; we chose discussion. This protest, however crazy, starts the discussion. Nothing has changed in the political sphere, so we have to change things,” said Karolina Silna, age 33, Forum 50% member and resident of Prague.

·       “This is the first half naked protest in Prague, but I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s going to have any impact. Right now, Czech women don’t have a road into politics,” said Patrik Kaiser, age 41, journalist at Prima TV and resident of Prague.

·       “This program is important, but not realistic. I think they’re losers – they think they can actually accomplish something like this? Look at them,” said George, age 41 and resident of Prague, who refrained from giving his last name because he felt the topic was too controversial for him to expose himself to the public.

·       “This protest was very original, this has never happened before in the Czech Republic. This was classic Czech absurdity and originality,” said Osahan Kaifan, age 29.

Rallying against sexism in Czech politics.
Photo courtesy of http://www.radio.cz

·       “I think someone needs to do something about it. I mean, I was waiting for some breasts. But it was fun. It’s up to people whether they’ll listen,” said Tomas Sletka, age 35.

·       “I think people will always listen, but the question is ‘will they do something about it?’ This Republic is always about doing nothing at all. The 1989 Velvet Revolution was the same—if students didn’t do anything, nothing would have changed. But I too just wanted to see a topless woman,” said Pavel Brilla, age 30 and resident of Prague.

·       “What they are doing is important. I find the topless men a great idea—women would have been shocking and anti-feminist. I’m glad they chose this form of protest,” said Anna Karnikova, age 29, and member of a supporting organization of Forum 50%.

SM Dipali is in the NYU Stern class of 2016. Her hometown is Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Categories: Culture, Fall 2013 Issue Number 2

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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