How My Body Positive Drawings Became "pornography"

A life 2023

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How My Body Positive Drawings Became "pornography"
How My Body Positive Drawings Became "pornography"

Video: How My Body Positive Drawings Became "pornography"

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Video: Silent Planet – XX (City Grave) 2023, January

In recent months, activist Yulia Tsvetkova from Komsomolsk-on-Amur is constantly in the news: first, due to pressure from the city administration, she had to cancel the festival of activist art, now the police called her body-positive pictures "pornographic" and requires an explanation. We talked with Yulia Tsvetkova about what happened.


Yulia Dudkina


The sensational story with posters and the Saffron Blossom festival is only part of a long chain. I have been doing activism for a little over a year, and all this time amazing things have happened to me. Either crowds of haters run into my account and publics, now they call me to the police or the "E" center, then articles about our performances are removed from the city portal. I'm certainly not going to give up. But the visits to the police were already tiresome. The saddest thing is that not only I suffer from this, but also the children who are engaged in our theater with my mother.

I'll start in order. I run several activist projects at once. The first is the "Merak" theater. In it I do directing and teaching, and the administrator is my mother. This is a studio where children and teenagers go to study - from six to seventeen years old. We put on performances about bullying, stereotypes - in general, we raise social problems. Another project of ours is called "COM.UNITY". Once a week we organize open events - it can be film screenings or lectures. The main idea of ​​this project is to create a safe and comfortable space, to help guests to fulfill themselves.

I also organized the Komsomolskaya Pravda feminist educational platform. It all started with a public post on the social network, but then I began to organize events as well: film screenings, meetings, lectures on women's history. Conduct master classes called "I'm Big". On them we paint together on very large canvases. The fact is that women are accustomed to saving on themselves, to spare the material. These workshops are like therapy, during which we learn not to be afraid to use space and materials for our own purposes.

When I started holding fem-events, I realized that the city was not ready for this. As soon as I posted an announcement somewhere on social networks, a bunch of insults and threats appeared in the comments. The very word "feminism" scares many - as soon as you call yourself a feminist, people begin to remove you from their friends on the VKontakte network. As such, we also do not have a femsociety. I know several girls who educate on the Internet and openly support feminism. But we haven't managed to cooperate yet. Basically, our communication led only to disputes about which direction of feminism is "correct". This is very offensive: it seems to me that in such an environment it would be better to act together and forget about differences. I will be glad if someday we succeed.

My main accomplice in all endeavors is my mother. When I just started learning about feminism, understanding what abuse and violence are, I began to share new knowledge with her. I also told her about the "Beauty Myth" and body positive. She was surprised: "But that's what I've been thinking all my life!" And so it happened that we were at one with her. Themselves a fem-community.

We usually have two to twenty people attending the fem events. It can be anyone: we invite everyone who is interested. Not all of our guests consider themselves feminists or openly declare this. And I understand that, many are simply afraid of condemnation. In addition, in our city, if you work in an administrative position, you can easily have problems with work because of your views.

But, although there are not very many of us yet, I can already see the results. For example, once I myself made small brochures about abuse and distributed them to everyone who wanted to read them.After a couple of weeks, the guests of COM.UNITY and femme events began to share their experience: they revisited their past and current relationships, realized that in certain situations they faced violence that they did not even know about. When I hear this, inspiration immediately appears - I want to work even more actively.

When the work was in full swing

I got a call from the city administration and started asking strange questions:

“What are your performances about? What do 'pink' and 'blue' mean?"

All the time that we were engaged in feminist events, each of our actions caused some kind of hype. For example, once I decided to hold a femcha party - it was supposed that the girls would get together and discuss the topics of their concern. I made an agreement with one of the local libraries, but at the last moment I was asked to cancel everything: the announcement of the tea party in social networks made so much noise that the site administrators were frightened. As a result, we held a "secret", private tea party in another place.

Our theater is not directly related to feminism - it is rather a story about creativity and activism. But the guys who come to us to study also get it. They are constantly asked: “Are you talking to feminists? Is it true that they don't shave? " When I’m going to give a workshop or a meeting, I post announcements on social media and immediately move away from the computer - I can no longer read tons of these terrible comments. Sometimes they start to write in a personal message. For example, when a story with "pornographic" pictures appeared in the media, I received 120 messages in one evening. Basically, they said that I was "scary", "crazy", that I should be killed or imprisoned.

For the past couple of months, I have regularly met with the police and the E center. It all started when our theater and I decided to hold a festival of activist creativity. We were going to show several theatrical performances: one anti-war, one against bullying. Another performance was called Pink and Blue. He talked about stereotypes about boys and girls - as if girls should be cute and wear only pink, and boys should be warlike, active and in blue. It was this name that played a cruel joke on us.

We chose the Komsomol Youth House as a platform. This is not the first time we cooperate with them, our theater is known there. We told about our idea, the director liked everything. We started actively distributing posters and selling tickets. We needed to fill the hall for four hundred people, which is quite a lot for us. And so, when the work was already in full swing, I received a call from the city administration and began to ask strange questions: “What are your productions about? What do 'pink' and 'blue' mean? " What struck me most was when the voice on the other end asked, "What do you mean by 'personality'?" I could not find what to answer.

After this conversation, the Youth House refused us to hold the festival. We were told that another event is taking place there on this day, and nothing can be rescheduled - everything is scheduled for six months in advance. Of course, in fact, there was no "other event"; on the appointed day, the assembly hall was empty.

Then the police began to come. Once, law enforcement officers showed up at my work. They asked students and their parents if I was promoting LGBT people. The funny thing is that when we called the play "Pink and Blue", we didn't even think that someone might think about homosexuals. We meant that girls and boys are traditionally associated with these two colors, that's all. But no matter how much I tried to explain it to the police, they didn't seem to hear.

Following this, I was summoned to the "E" center and told to write an explanatory note about what I think "about traditional and non-traditional family values." At the same time, I was asked to explain what gender stereotypes are. Then I got the feeling that the very word "gender" is associated with something "indecent" among law enforcement officers.

After the police became interested in us, several parents took the children out of the theater. Someone thought that we really are somehow connected with the LGBT theme. Someone accused us of coming up with an unfortunate name for the play and causing problems. But most of the children continued to go to rehearsals. Some of them know my mother and me almost from infancy - at first they went to my mother in the early development group, and then came to the theater. They grew up with us. Of course, their parents know that we are not engaged in any propaganda.

In spite of everything, we wanted to host the festival and found a new venue for it. It was a private place. The owner said there shouldn't be any problems. We have resumed preparations. But on March 16 and 17, police came to our students. They conducted conversations with them at school, without the consent and participation of their parents. One girl was interrogated for two hours. She was shown screenshots from my pages and asked who told her what LGBT is. They kept repeating: “Did Yulia tell this? That's her?" You might think that schoolchildren have nowhere else to know about this.

One boy became terribly nervous during such a conversation. A piece of paper was slipped into him, and he signed it in horror without looking. Then it turned out that it was a statement that I was engaged in propaganda. The boy, of course, has no questions. But the actions of the police and school administration are surprising.

The day before the festival, the owner of the site called us. Her voice was trembling. She said that she was summoned to the city administration, they said that I was a "zastank from Geyropa" and threatened: either she would refuse to host the festival, or the administration would make sure that she lost her premises. At this point, we ourselves decided that we would not substitute a person and we would cancel everything. In the end, we held the festival in our own studio. There is very little space, so we could only call parents and a couple of journalists. But we made a video of the play "Pink and Blue" and posted it in the public domain so that no one had any doubts - this is not about LGBT people.

Recently, at 8:30 in the morning, the police knocked on my mother and I again. We went to the site, and a law enforcement officer said: "Open the door wider, we came to see how you live." Of course, we didn't show anyone anything. She wrote out a summons for me and left.

They recently showed me my post

with hashtag #savelgbtinrussia. It was dedicated to Chechen gays and called for an end to the torture. They asked, "Is this your post?"

When I went to the police, two women looked at me with very serious faces. They said: “Julia, we understand everything. But children read you. And we found out that you are distributing pornography. " They were so alarmed that I myself tensed and began to sort out in my head: what could such a thing be on my pages? And then they showed me screenshots. These were my pictures on the topic of body positive. Women with hair and folds, drawn in a naive manner. The pictures were captioned like "Living women have fat, and that's okay." The idea is very simple. These are pictures that do not need to be ashamed of your body, naturalness is normal.

I drew these posters in the summer and posted them in my public. There is absolutely nothing remarkable about them - on the contrary, there is absolutely no originality in them. When I saw why I was called, I was ready to laugh out loud.

On Monday, I again had to go to the police - to write an explanatory note that there was no sexual connotation in my drawings. The policemen and employees of the "E" center have a thick folder with my explanatory notes and screenshots. I do not know what they are going to do with her, whether they will initiate any case against me.

Everything I say about my conversations with the police seems ridiculous. But in reality it is very difficult. The police in a circle ask the same questions, raise their voices, do not listen to what you say to them in response. This puts a lot of pressure on me psychologically.They recently showed me my post with the hashtag #savelgbtinrussia. It was dedicated to Chechen gays and called for an end to the torture. They asked, "Is this your post?" Of course, he was mine, and besides, he was completely neutral - it was completely incomprehensible to me what to find fault with there. And then they showed me another screenshot - with the same hashtag, but also with some pornographic pictures. They began to convince me that since the same hashtag is used there, then the post is also mine. I saw this post for the first time and tried to explain it to them. But they either really did not understand, or they did not pay attention on purpose.

The last time I was with the police, I was asked if I had connections with the American Embassy and what I was doing abroad (I studied for a long time in London). In the end, they told me in plain text to be less active - they say, then they would stop calling me to the police all the time. It already looked like a threat.

This whole story has convinced me of only one thing: we must continue. If the word "gay" causes so much shock and hatred, it means that Komsomolsk needs activism more than ever. I have a lot of ideas and developments, the performances are scheduled for years to come.

The only thing I regret is that our students saw so early how unjust the world can be. We teach them that it's great to be active, not to be silent. And now they know what happens.

Cover: Etsy


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