Anya Subich

P for protest

When a cup of patience overflows, all that remains is to pee.

The act of peeing on something contains a well-documented symbolic value, which makes it a useful tool for provocation. Urine and feces, hurled at policemen and politicians, is a common thing during NATO summits and oil conferences. But is it a powerful metaphor or just the last weapon of the weak?


FEMEN - Activists of the Ukrainian women's movement FEMEN activist hold placards, reading: "Azarov is a liar, " in reference to Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, " To urinate standing is not privilege," "Women at the Cabinet of Ministers," in front of the Cabinet Ministers building in Kiev on December 13, 2010. Sergei Supinsky, Afp Photo


Infamous for making the powers-that-be blush, Ukrainian feminist protest group FEMEN utilizes the power of urine in their campaigns. Back in 2010 they protested the all-male cabinet of ministers by pretending to urinate standing up in front of the municipal building in Kiev. "We think that the prime minister has got the cabinet of ministers mixed up with a male lavatory, thus forbidding entry to members of the 'weaker' sex," activists said in their statement.
And when ex-president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, decided not to sign an agreement with EU and instead support Russia, FEMEN - wearing only tiny black leather skirts, peed on his portrait in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Paris, France.
FEMEN founder Inna Shevchenko explained the metaphoric significance of the peeing to the press: "Dictatorship in its purest form is already in Ukraine. That's why we are coming today here to pee on this face, on the face that is bringing dictatorship, pure dictatorship, to Ukraine under protection and influence of Russia, of Putin. And we are bringing an alarm to Europe that we need help. And no one has to hear this face, we just have to pee on his opinion. Right now, the only opinion that Europe can hear of Ukraine is the opinion of that bastard. And that is not the opinion of the nation"

Meanwhile, responding to the initiative of Hungarian government to introduce obligatory drug tests for the youth, members of Young Democrats party voluntary brought their urine samples to the authorities – literally, that is. They filled little jars with urine and took them to the municipal offices in Budapest. “The mayor has nothing to do with our private lives”, said the leader of Young Democrats, Bendeguz Koppany Szarva.

Also protesting government surveillance, English activists brought a child’s potty, filled with their own pee, to the building of Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham, UK. With the words “Government is taking the piss, so now we're giving the piss back”, they offered the potty to a policeman, and when he refused to take it, they apparently decided to share a drink between themselves instead.

The question of transgender use of lavatories continues to be a progressive point: Which public lavatory should transgender people use? For transgenders, the answer is clear. They have the right to choose for themselves. After several states in the US passed restrictions on public lavatories to be used according to birth gender, a movement with the slogan “We just need to pee” appeared in both the US and Canada. Protesting the restrictions, transgenders took to making toilet selfies, highlighting the humiliation of being forced into the "wrong" lavatory. Using the hashtag "Plett put me here" when sharing the photographs, naming (and blaming) American senator Don Plett, who originally introduced the restrictive amendments to a trangender rights bill.


Plett put me here - Transgender woman Brae Carnes is taking a selfie with a hashtag "PlettPutMeHere" in a ladies' lavatory as a part of "We just want to pee" protest Image by Brae Carnes/Facebook Brae Carnes