The global feminist activist group FEMEN staged a topless protest at Paris’s Musée d’Orsay this weekend to demonstrate against the museum’s barring of a woman from entering the galleries until she covered up her low-cut dress.
A group of about 20 activists gathered at the museum on Saturday and took their shirts off in its sculpture gallery. Standing alongside classical nude statues, hands planted firmly on their hips, the women painted each other’s torsos with slogans such as “obscenity is in your eyes” and “this is not obscene.” In unison, they raised their fists and chanted in protest.
The French chapter of FEMEN posted photographs of the action on Twitter, titling the performance .
“We support Jeanne and all women who are victims of sexist discrimination,” the group wrote, referring to the woman at the center of the controversy, who has been identified only by her first name. “Stop the sexualization of women’s bodies.”
Video of the incident shows museum visitors applauding the performance as the women left the building, but at least one male onlooker gave the group the middle finger. The protest continued outside the museum.
The museum issued an apology to Jeanne after she published an open letter on Twitter in which she said she was “humiliated” by the incident, and accused the museum of sexism. In its apology, the institution did not address issues of discrimination and sexism, saying only that “we deeply regret this and offer our apologies.”
The museum has previously been targeted by Luxembourgian performance artist Deborah de Robertis, who infamously disrobed inside the museum galleries and reenacted Gustave Courbet’s 1866 painting (), a closely cropped shot of a naked woman’s genitals in the Musée d’Orsay collection, and Édouard Manet’s historic nude Olympia (1865).
In both instances, de Robertis, who spoke out against the museum’s censorship of nudity, was removed from the museum by the police. On the second occasion, she spent two days in jail.
In February, the French supreme court, dealing with two cases about FEMEN protestors, ruled that women who expose their breasts in public, even for political or artistic reasons, can be charged with “sexual exhibitionism,” according to the . However, the court allowed for the possibility of acquittal in incidents of protest to avoid infringing on women’s “freedom of express[ing] rights in a disproportionate way.”
See more photos of the protest below.