July 19, 2013
Amid the celebrations marking Bastille Day on Sunday, French President Francois Hollande unveiled a new stamp that had been printed in secrecy for the past two months. Little did he know that the drawing of the pretty young girl would spark a nation-wide controversy.
Representing the features of the revolutionary icon Marianne, the cartoon-style drawing shows the beautiful face of a young women holding up her hand. According to Le Parisien, Hollande lauded the effigy as an “illustration” of the youth that he had declared a priority during his presidency.
Following the release of the image, many begged artists David Kawena and Olivier Ciappa to reveal who they had modeled the design after. Ciappa ended the mystery on Sunday in a post on Twitter:
“For everyone who asked [to know] the model for Marianne, it’s a mix of different women but most of all Inna Shevchenko, founder of FEMEN,” he wrote.
Ukrainian-born Shevhcenko is one of the founders of FEMEN, a feminist activist organization famous for its topless protests slamming misogyny and homophobia around the world. The activist group has its European headquarters in Paris and has staged numerous demonstrations in the country, including one targeting a march by far-right groups to celebrate Joan of Arc earlier this year. Shevchenko, notorious for destroying a wooden cross with a chainsaw to protest the arrest of the members of the Russian band Pussy Riot, applied for political asylum in France earlier this month.
The announcement sparked a storm of reactions. Former head of the French Christian Democrats Christine Boutin voiced her contempt for the design on Twitter, even retweeting a post by her party calling for a boycott of the stamp.