She's since been dubbed "Naked Athena" in honor of the Ancient Greek goddess of wisdom, handicraft, and most importantly, warfare.
Content Warning: Adult Content
Over the past few days, the city of Portland has been drowning in protest. Even though United States President Donald Trump signed an executive order to send in federal agents as a means to discourage demonstrators from taking to the streets, protests have been going strong. Out of the violence and aggression that the city has been witness to, however, emerged Naked Athena—or so she has been dubbed. Amidst angry protesters, a woman stripped naked and posed herself in front of the troops in a display of extreme vulnerability and courage. While many speculated that she was a white woman, a "trusted source" has revealed that she was in fact a non-Black woman of color.
A cropped version of this photo I shot on Friday is getting a lot of attention; I don't mind the crop but I do prefer the full version, so I'm putting it here pic.twitter.com/iraXCqYYP2— Dave Killen (@killendave) July 20, 2020
Reportedly, the woman's demonstration lasted about 15 minutes. She struck some poses in front of the federal agents before slipping away as quietly as she had arrived. The powerful photos of Naked Athena making the rounds on the internet have been both celebrated and criticized. Though the latter may be the result of misogynistic attitudes, those in the former category viewed the woman's demonstration as symbolic and iconic. She reminded fellow protesters of others who had carried out similar protests in the past, such as the man who stood in front of a column of tanks leaving Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989 and the "Flower Power" protester, a young man who placed a carnation into the barrel of an M14 rifle held by a soldier during the series of demonstrations against the Vietnam War.
At first, much discussion centered on the woman's perceived whiteness. During protests that should center voices of color, particularly Black voices, it appeared that Naked Athena had stolen the spotlight—regardless of how well-intentioned she was. Furthermore, it was argued that a Black woman in her place would have been murdered, if she had been noticed at all. Historically, the act of bearing one's breasts has been viewed as a process of mourning, exhibiting grief, or signifying protest. During #SayHerName protests, several Black women have gone topless in order to express their dissent. While many go ignored, others are fetishized. Ultimately, it turned out that the demonstrator was a non-Black woman of color.
Forty years fm now when HS teachers going over year 2020, in history class, this will be one of pictures in all textbooks!— 𝕄𝕖𝕖𝕪𝕒🧕🏽 (@ilmeeyat) July 19, 2020
Absolutely a legendary timeless photo! Fear a woman who in simple act of vulnerability & peaceful resistance more bravery than an army of men. #NakedAthena pic.twitter.com/3wyoEkvI5Y
This is not to say that she did not benefit from at least some white-passing privilege, which is when an individual looks white and is therefore treated as a white person though they may actually be a person of color. Though this erases their racial identity, it has largely been viewed as a complex but real "privilege." Unfortunately, even this privilege was not fully granted to her. The Los Angeles Times initially reported that Naked Athena had not been harmed; "News photographers said she slipped away, uninjured, into the crowd," the news outlet suggested. However, a "trusted source" revealed to the internet that she was, in fact, shot at and assaulted with tear gas. The source stated, "The press has been mistakenly reporting that she was unharmed. There has also been inaccurate reporting that she was doing yoga or ballet. The foot she raised was the foot which was shot at and bleeding; her arms were raised in defiance." The woman has asked not to be named.