P / P Introspective: Pussy Riot Takes on…an Entire Country

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I learned about Pussy Riot before they were arrested and put in jail for “Hooliganism” and “hatred against religion” in February 2012. I’d been running an international music collective and music blog, called The Process Records and had become familiar with Estonian and Russian underground rock and roll through the grapevine of the European music scene.

I could write about dates, facts and create an intricate timeline of everything that happened to Pussy Riot, but what I’d like to do is express how these women are highlighting and even birthing a movement of soviet feminist ideology.

They’re watering the seeds of international underground feminist activism (riot grrrl), and counter culture enlightenment.

I personally feel a sense of reciprocity with Pussy Riot. I was talking about the resurgence of the riot grrrl movement in 2010 (there are video interviews of it), but didn’t really see a change happen until the Riot Grrrl Berlin facebook community page was started around the same time Pussy Riot recorded their music video for Punk Prayer in early 2012.

In case you don’t know, Pussy Riot recorded a music video in a Catholic church protesting the treatment of women in Russia. Putin immediately threw them in jail. What seemed like a silly lo-fi punk rock stunt, and escalated into a true cultural-political firestorm.

Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot, not only survived 21 months of prison in a Syrian correctional facility, but after they were released from pardoned from jail they have become fearless and verbally militant political disputants of the Vladimir Putin. Putin is known for having journalists killed in broad daylight, and throwing any naysayer, protester and social rights activist in jail without much chance for explanation or court appeals.

Nonetheless, in an uncharacteristic act of good will, Putin pardoned the members of Pussy Riot from imprisonment along with countless activists and humanitarians from jail in December 2013. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were not impressed, and immediately berated Putin, exclaiming that his motives were strictly to attract approval in light of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which are hosted in Sochi, Russia. The young women spoke against Putin, saying they would have glad finished out their sentences, and that they did not want any false sympathy from such a man.

Putin’s feelings seemed to have matched their distaste as he called Pussy Riot “unladylike”, and he was glad they were punished for their behavior.

THE EFFECT

As soon as Pussy Riot was placed under arrest and held for trial, there were benefit shows being coordinated all over the world. Every punk and young feminist gathered and protested to show their solidarity in the name or Pussy Riot, and when the women were sentenced to prison, the International underground collective of pro-Pussy Riot protesters felt defeated.

In a case like theirs, when you have moral, social and political opposing views, fighting any kind of Governmental power, the vigilantes are going to lose. Putin is who he is. He has never been one to be lenient, and has a history of sculpting the moral and social make up of postmodern Russian culture with an iron fist. Anyone who understood Putin’s personality and social patterning knew Pussy Riot’s trial was over before it started.

Just as there was a change in Putin almost two years after the young women’s arrest, there was a mirrored effect in Pussy Riot.

When the women were initially sentenced, they were understandably afraid. They sent letters about the awful their treatment in the prisons and were and how they feared for their lives, but once they were released, they fearful demeanor grew into immense strength, and determination to bring a change to the social and cultural conditions in Russia.

They became unafraid of the consequences of Putin’s ruthless punishments that hung over their native nation’s heads at every waking moment. Two women in their early 20’s have decided to take on Vladimir Putin. The irony of this fact is not only a glowing example of a David and Goliath allegory, but it is a historical marker for Russian social unrest and evolution.

Pussy Riot is going on a world tour to speak out, and will be arriving in Brookyln, NY to speak at an Amnesty International event in February 2014, almost exactly two years after Punk Prayer was recorded on video.

Residents of Brooklyn held many protests and fundraisers for the band, when they were being prosecuted, and now these women will be arriving as surviving political prisoners. How powerful is that? When was the last time we saw a Joan of Arc emerge? If you do some research, you’ll find that there are NO notable Russian feminist activists since the 19th Century! Pussy Riot could be considered a profound historical manifestation. There has never been a woman to take on the Russian government. Ever.

They don’t look like Ghandi or anything, but when Ghandi was doing his thing, there was no one before him to compare him to. There are no Russian women to compare Pussy Riot to. They are fascinating, young and full of energy, and if they are not martyred for living out their lives as many powerful peace mongers, they have about 60 years of work to do.

If they are granted those life spans, Russia could be a completely different society for the next generation of women. They could change present day western civilization into a culture full of self-aware women.

It’s strange to write that statement in the context of something that “could be.” Watching two young women take on a country in 2014 is pretty surreal, but it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Putin has had it coming for a long time.

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