Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

What you should know about Pussy Riot

pussy-riot.jpg
pussy-riot2.jpg

Free Pussy Riot. The phrase has bounced around the media, from celebrity Twitter accounts to broadsheet newspapers. Pussy Riot are, loosely, a Russian activist collective and a punk band. They have a strong feminist bent, but their main concern is the lack of political freedom in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Today (17 August 2012) three members of Pussy Riot were found guilty in a Russian court of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and sentenced to two years in prison.

The women had performed a “punk prayer”, asking for President Putin to be put away and for the Virgin Mary to become a feminist, in Moscow’s biggest cathedral back in February. No services were taking place at the time. No one was physically harmed and no property was damaged. They were arrested shortly afterwards and were held without trial for almost six months. They have been denied access to their families despite two of the three having small children. (You can watch a video of the protest on YouTube.)

Maria Alyokhina, 24, Nadezhda (Nadia) Tolokonnikova, 22, and Ekaterina Samutsevitch, 30, are now being called “prisoners of conscious” by the human rights charity Amnesty International. “Pussy Riot's 'punk prayer' and anarchist lyrics might not be everyone's cup of tea,” say Amnesty. “But the Russian authorities' enthusiasm to silence, harass and detain the women is an indisputable violation of their right to free speech.”

Pussy Riot chose to perform the protest in the Christ the Saviour cathedral to highlight how closely the Russian Orthodox Church is tied to the state and to force a discussion about the corruption of both institutions. The protesters wore their trademark look of brightly coloured dresses, tights and woollen balaclavas. Their relative anonymity means that almost anyone could join Pussy Riot: even if all the founding members were ever arrested their protests could continue unhindered. The ultra-feminine nature of their costumes also draws a direct contrast with President Putin’s ultra-masculine guns-and-hunting image.

Bjork, performing in Helsinki earlier this week, dedicated her song Declare Independence to Pussy Riot, asking the audience to “sing along and all wish for freedom of speech.” Madonna, playing in Moscow last week, stated the three had “done something courageous” and appealed for their freedom. Canadian musician Peaches released a single, Free Pussy Riot, featuring Kate Nash, the Knife, the Hives, Lykkie Li and members of Cheap Trick, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Le Tigre, Eagles of Death Metal and MC5.

Despite huge amounts of support in the West the group lack popular support in their homeland, interpreting the stunt as disrespectful to the Russian Orthodox faith (For more on Russian reactions and feminism read this piece by Valeria Costa-Kostritsky on the Open Democracy website).

The three women made a stand for what they believe in and have been arrested, held without trial and imprisoned for two years for protesting for a total of 51 seconds.

Keep saying it. Free Pussy Riot.

Picture credit: Rex Features

What do you think of the verdict? Share your views in the comments below.

Related

FeministBooks.jpg

50 essential feminist books

18-Again-ad.jpg

18 Again vaginal 'anti-ageing' cream launches

dilma.jpg

Is this the world's most powerful feminist?

Comments

More

The Dynasty reboot you've all been dreaming of is coming to Netflix

Big hair, big shoulder pads, big drama

by Nicola Colyer
23 Jun 2017

Lady Gaga just proved that she really isn't like the rest of us

Not your average hiking gear

by Nicola Colyer
23 Jun 2017

Bill Cosby will give talks on how to avoid sexual assault allegations

“They need to know... when they are doing certain things they shouldn’t be doing.”

by Amy Swales
23 Jun 2017

Everything we know about the Downton Abbey film so far

Next year, people. NEXT YEAR.

by Nicola Colyer
23 Jun 2017

White House responds to claims the Queen “snubbed” President Trump

But did the Queen really do this on purpose?

by Kayleigh Dray
23 Jun 2017

Ellen DeGeneres catches audience member stealing, publicly shames her

Top tip? Don’t steal from Ellen DeGeneres

by Kayleigh Dray
23 Jun 2017

Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick lined up for new thriller

"A feverish and expertly plotted tale of psychological suspense"

by Nicola Colyer
22 Jun 2017

We bloody love Kate Beckinsale’s hilarious Manspreading Action Plan

She knows exactly what to do when a man spreads his legs

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Jun 2017

This is what Amanda Knox’s Instagram account looks like

The Seattle native has made her feed public

by Anna Brech
22 Jun 2017

Prince Harry is still haunted by memories of Princess Diana’s funeral

‘I don’t think any child should be asked to do what I did’

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Jun 2017