Message from the IPRA President: Inequality is a bastion seemingly impervious to surrender. April 2017


I was reading a post about a phenomenon the actress Kristen Bell called ‘pink sourcing’: that is the hiring of women for less money, less benefits and lower career recognition than men. It has also been described as a form of profitable outsourcing of jobs without leaving the country (Gloria Feldt Former President Obama believed the non-existence of a US female president was symptomatic of the trouble society has seeing powerful women.


The IPRA President’s Award 2016

Attaining power, in whatever form, may be the route to gender equality. But as I was thinking about the IPRA President’s Award 2016, power assumed a different concept: the power of brazen revolt and uncompromising protest. For a number of years, the female activists of FEMEN have harnessed the power of their bodies as the literal vehicle of their drive to overthrow patriarchy. The female body, says FEMEN, is both the means of women’s suppression and the vessel to their equality. And so, FEMEN’s activists worldwide have staged topless protests, painting their bodies with slogans, and disrupting the prevailing order.


I can think of little other types of communication that capture the moment more forcefully than that of the FEMEN activists. Few activists are so brave to fling the very object of stereotyping and submission in the face of the male establishment: they often receive a hostile response. Then again, this activism has proven to be highly effective in its communicative power. Who has not seen FEMEN activists in the media? Who doesn’t know what this protest is about? There is no doubt in my mind that the 2016 IPRA President’s Award must go to the women of FEMEN.


In the IPRA tradition, the President’s Award is given to a person or organisation for having made an outstanding contribution to better world understanding. This may easily suggest someone or some organisation more docile than FEMEN. But if inequality is indeed a “bastion impervious to surrender” then the bare-breasted provocations of FEMEN and the message written on their bodies speak volumes. Both the sophistication and brazenness of FEMEN’s communication power makes it a required addition to the list of previous recipients of the President’s Award.


Ms. Inna Shevhenko, the founder of FEMEN, will accept the President’s Award on behalf of all the FEMEN activists, past and future. For me, this is an honour. I have admired the audacity, courage and steadfastness of these activists from afar throughout the years, never suspecting I would have the opportunity to celebrate their braveness and FEMEN’s cause.


Bart de Vries

President 2016 – 2017


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