Inna Shevchenko (Ukrainian: Інна Шевченко) is a feminist activist and the leader of international women's movement FEMEN, which often demonstrates topless against what they perceive as manifestations of patriarchy, especially dictatorship, religion, and the sex industry. Shevchenko has a higher profile than the other members of the group. She was the leader of the three FEMEN activists reputedly kidnapped and threatened by the Belarus KGB in 2011. She achieved attention in Ukraine by cutting with a chainsaw and then bringing down a 4-metre high Christian cross in central Kiev in 2012.
In 2013, Shevchenko was granted asylum in France, and now continues her activism by leading FEMEN France from a training base she has established in Paris.
In July 2013, Olivier Ciappa, who together with David Kawena designed a new French stamp depicting Marianne, stated on Twitter that Shevchenko had been the main inspiration for the depiction.
Inna Shevchenko was born in Kherson near the Black Sea, on 23 June 1990. Inna had a childhood 'like that of all girls. I was brought up as a typical Ukrainian, Slavic girl, and was taught not to shout or argue'. She was a 'patsanka' (tomboy) and was especially close to her father who was a military officer. She also has an older sister. The 2004 Orange Revolution opened her eyes to politics and in the TV shows which pitted journalists against politicians, she said the journalists 'looked more intelligent so I wanted to be one'. She went to university at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv from 2008 until 2012 where she studied journalism and graduated with honours. Her extracurricular activity as a leader of the student government gave her political connections that helped land her a job in 2009 working for the Mayor's press office in Kiev. Shevchenko's first language is Russian, although she is also fluent in Ukrainian and English.
Shevchenko made contact with two leading FEMEN activists Anna Hutsol and Alexandra Shevchenko (no relation) through the social networking site vKontakte and joined FEMEN early in 2009. Anna Hutsol had formed FEMEN in Kiev on 10 April 2008, with two friends, Alexandra Shevchenko and Oksana Shachko, from her hometown of Khmelnytskyi; they initially protested on issues affecting woman students, but rapidly moved to demonstrating against the sexual exploitation of Ukrainian women. Inna Shevchenko first demonstrated with FEMEN on 23 May 2009 in Kiev, against prostitution and under the banner, "Ukraine is not a Brothel", in collaboration with DJ Hell. Late in August, 2009, Oksana Shachko became the first member of the group to bare her breasts during a protest; but not until 2010 did this become the usual tactic in FEMEN demonstrations, justified on the grounds that without the media attention generated by topless protests their message would not be heard. In debates within FEMEN over the ethics of topless protest, Inna Shevchenko at first opposed the tactic, then was persuaded of its validity. She was fired from her job in the Kiev Mayor`s press office after her arrest for taking part in a protest against the absence of women in Prime Minister Mykola Azarov's cabinet in December, 2010, a decision which had angered her very much.
On 8 September 2012, Shevchenko cut down wooden crosses at GOGBOT festival in Enschede, the Netherlands, as a protest on the arrest of Pussy Riot., following her cross-chainsawing action in Kiev in August. 18 September 2012, Shevchenko established a training facility for FEMEN France in Paris. 26 October 2012, when Shevchenko was giving a live interview to the Arab television channel Al Jazeera, she was asked, "Which is better for women, nudity or the paranja?" She responded by taking off her T-shirt in protest at "Medieval prejudices". The live picture was immediately cut. In July 2013, Shevchenko was granted asylum in France.
Although Shevchenko has come to think of topless protest almost as a working uniform, she still has to overcome her reluctance to bare her breasts before each demonstration.
In December 2012, the French magazine Madame Figaro included Shevchenko in its list of the world`s top 20 iconic women of the year.
In July 2013, Olivier Ciappa, who together with David Kawena designed a new French stamp depicting Marianne, stated on Twitter that Shevchenko had been the main inspiration for the depiction. The artist Olivier Ciappa who designed the 2013 image of Marianne on French stamps has stated that the portrait is a 'mixture of several women but particularly Inna Shevchenko'. On hearing this Inna tweeted 'All homophobes, extremists, fascists will have to lick my arse when they want to send a letter'.
Shevchenko is a speaker at conferences and a columnist for the international press. She was a speaker at a debate on the freedom of speech in Copenhagen on 14 February 2015 with cartoonist Lars Vilks. She was speaking about an illusion that in Western Europe people can fully enjoy freedom of speech when a terrorist opened fire in the lobby of the cultural centre, where the debates took place. Surviving the attack, Shevchenko later said, "Liberal voices should be louder than Kalashnikovs." Shevchenko's TED Talk is entitled by "I will not stop speaking out"."Nos seins, nos armes!" (Our breasts, our weapons!), documentary film (1hour 10 mins), written and directed by Caroline Fourest and Nadia El Fani, produced by Nilaya Productions, aired on France 2 on 5 March 2013.
"Everyday Rebellion", documentary film (1hour 58 mins), written and directed by the Riahi Brothers Arash T. Riahi and Arman Riahi, Austria / Switzerland / Germany, 2013, world premiere at Copenhagen International Documentary Festival on November 13, 2013.
Ukraine Is Not a Brothel