Hardcore Feminists Take Over Russia? That is so Punk Rock
By Marcy Driehaus
Who would’ve guessed that a hoard of Russian women in vibrantly colored balaclavas have the power to make radical political statements all through punk rock music? It would’ve been hard to predict the enormous impact that these women would have on the world through their outlandish and provocative actions, but their activism is fierce, unwavering, and making a world of difference in the lives of many.
Pussy Riot is coined as a feminist punk-rock collective. In regards to how they got their name, one member of the group explains that, “A female sex organ, which is supposed to be receiving and shapeless, but suddenly starts a radical rebellion against the cultural order, which tries to constantly define it and show its appropriate place.” This name, though controversial, does the job of attracting the attention the group needs in order to captivate the masses and accumulate a fan base that is willing to stand behind them and help rally against injustice.
Formed in Moscow in August of 2011, Pussy Riot is a blend of about 11 rotating members who are all banded together to promote human rights and battle oppression in Russia in forms of protest. Usually what comes to mind when one hears the word “protest” are marches, sit-ins, and picket signs, but Pussy Riot takes a different route. Topics consistently interweaved into Pussy Riot’s music include social issues such as LGBT rights, feminism, and the one that’s gotten them in the most trouble, their glaring opposition to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. This opposition is so glaring and provocatively executed, in fact, that it even landed some of the group’s members in jail.
In August 2012, three of Pussy Riot’s members (Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich) were arrested on charges of hooliganism after a scandalous performance of their song “Punk Prayer” at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior with the intention of attacking the church for supporting Putin in the reelection. Their arrest triggered a gargantuan reaction from fans and human rights activists across the globe. Beatles singer Paul McCartney even extended his support for the women in an open letter saying, “I would like you to know that I very much hope the Russian authorities would support the principle of free speech for all their citizens and not feel that they have to punish you for your protest.” With this outpouring of encouragement for Pussy Riot’s efforts combined with outrage directed towards the Russian government from people across around the world, it’s evident that women’s voices were heard and the revolution had begun.
Through their music and protests, Pussy Riot’s primary goal is to bring justice to those in Russia who are being discriminated against no matter what the cost of their actions is. During their time in prison, Tolokonnikova, Alekhina, and Samutsevich endured extremely brutal conditions and harsh treatment, but once the women were out they made it clear that they would serve as much time as necessary as long as it meant they were getting their point across and their voices were being heard. Through their persistence and unwavering efforts towards a brighter future for women specifically, Pussy Riot is making waves of change. As Pussy Riot member Garadzha summed it up, “Sexists have certain ideas about how a woman should behave, and Putin, by the way, also has a couple thoughts on how Russians should live. Fighting against all that—that’s Pussy Riot.”
Living in a world where a group of women has to take extreme measures in attempt to diminish discrimination and are beaten, abused, and arrested because of it, serves as a huge indication to how much progress humanity has yet to make in terms of equality and freedom. Though Pussy Riot’s actions are bold, and some view them as derogatory, they’re the ones who are out to conquer the world and won’t falter until they do. This unwavering determination is what the world needs in order to shift the meaning of the word “change” from a concept to a reality. Always keep in mind the diehard activists who are out there risking their necks for the greater good. Pussy Riot, along with numerous other human rights groups and political activists, are the push needed in the direction of peace. Make the decision to take action and fight for a cause you believe in. The time for change is now.