Mixed opinions on Naked Athena: Is she helping or hurting the protest?
How Naked Athena is doing more exposing of police than her body
Nothing about naked women initially grabs my attention. I already have their body parts so big deal. But seeing Naked Athena* stroll to the intersection of Taylor Street in Portland, and only wearing a beanie and a face mask, had my full attention. According to Oregon Live, she laid down and kicked her feet. She did yoga poses. She sat spread-eagle on the ground with her vagina out for Portland officers to see clear as day from the other side of the intersection. Even when pepper balls were shot at her bare feet, she kept on posing in the nude.
Although she has not been identified — and she looks more Asian than white to me — what fascinated me was she didn’t talk for 10 straight minutes, just posed. And then the officers left. Somehow this naked lady in the middle of the street made these officers want to retreat. On the surface, it’s the power of woman and the power of a vagina. But I’m still left scratching my head over whether I admire her or feel she’s a distraction. I have not made up my mind.
This sista with a “Black Lives Matter” shirt on while humping the ground, twerking, telling officers to kiss her ass and bending over is not the image I want to support an anti-violence, anti-racism message for BLM. It feels like a mockery of the entire cause and made even less sense than Madonna’s son dancing in the kitchen to “They Don’t Care About Us.” But playing Devil’s Advocate with my own opinion, what’s the difference between Naked Athena and her? They’re both dancing — one far less agile than the other — and the latter has on more clothes.
But a fully clothed sista, Ieshia Evans, standing there and waiting to be arrested is something I would frame on my wall; she is yet another fierce presence proving the power of femininity. Calmly standing in one spot while officers swarmed her like she was a threat speaks volumes about the questionable use of police power. She is a direct example of why people are protesting the murder of George Floyd and millions of other black men and women, and other people of color. All three women were a threat to no one, but the police only backed away from one of them.
But how do I feel about a naked possibly white (still believe she’s Asian until told otherwise) woman as the latest headshot for the Black Lives Matter movement? My opinions are mixed. It’s “noise” for the movement. But it’s the kind of “noise” that makes officers stop beating people, spraying tear gas (including on a mayor), pushing them, knocking them down, breaking veterans’ hands, shooting them, strangling them and killing them — just long enough to watch this one woman go in the street. She was graceful. She was quiet. She wasn’t vulgar. But more frustratingly, she also was not the profile of a woman who would be shot dead while she slept — like Breonna Taylor. She wasn’t the kind of woman who would’ve had a questionable suicide attempt in prison like Sandra Bland. And somebody definitely would’ve had to be punished for spitting on a woman who looked like her if she was Belly Mujinga.
In America’s history, I’ve seen this story play out too many times, where feminism (white feminism specifically) gets drowned out by racism. I don’t want Naked Athena’s boldness to drown out the real purpose of the movement. But I also think her ballsiness to dodge a human shield quietly and confront the police — weaponless and alone, without anyone doing anything stupid like slapping her ass — is worth my respect. It doesn’t get as much as Evans does or even Bree Newsome for taking down South Carolina’s Confederate flag, but she deserves her moment of showing how her own fragility still made officers step back and temporarily be peaceful. Protect and serve. Maybe someday they’ll learn to protect and serve those who look more like Brown Athena, not just Naked Athena with the light skin.
* This nickname was inspired by reporter Donovan Farley, according to Snopes, because Athena in Greek mythology is “the patron goddess of heroic endeavor, and in the circumstances, I felt the moniker appropriate.”
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