Most Read: National

Live Discussions

There are no discussions scheduled today.

Free Range on Food: Holiday cooking

Free Range on Food: Holiday cooking

Chat transcript

The food team took your questions on New Year’s nibbles and more.

Weekly schedule, past shows

She the People
On Twitter Follow Us |  On Facebook Fan Us |  RSS RSS Feed
Posted at 10:14 AM ET, 08/20/2012

Russian punk rockers: A cautionary tale for brazen women

Who doesn’t like a feminist punk rocker?

Apparently Russian President Vladimir Putin and his cohorts in Russia, especially the Russian Orthodox Church. Three members of Pussy Riot, the all-girl Russian punk rock band, were sentenced to two years in a penal colony for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” on Friday. A judge described how they crossed into a portion of the church forbidden to women and wore skirts that dared show leg.


Members of a female punk band Pussy Riot, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (L), Maria Alyokhina (C) and Yekaterina Samutsevich (R), sit inside a glass enclosure during a court hearing in Moscow on Aug. 8, 2012. (Natalia Kolesnikova - AFP/Getty Images)

But that’s not really the case. The three members — Maria Alyokhina, 24, Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22 — dared to stand up to Putin in a very public forum.

The band was, in fact, created last fall as a protest band to highlight the danger of Putin’s return to the presidency. They often held “flash gigs,” quick unannounced performances with political undercurrents. They filmed these and soon Pussy Riot spread on the Internet, especially one gig featuring them performing in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square.

For the protest that caused their arrest, they chose Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour to perform a fast-paced punk song that called for the Virgin Mary to “chase Putin out.” They wore neon ski masks, tights and skimpy dresses, surefire ways to get attention as is often the case when challenging authority especially for brazen, smart feminists.

Pussy Riot has now become an international symbol of repression and has shined a day-glo neon light on Putin’s Russia, a place that now appears as a throwback to the country’s dark ages.

According to The Guardian, “Russian women’s prisons are even harsher than the male ones. The women have been depicted on state television as evil satanists and their lawyers fear for their safety.”

There’s very likely no way Alyokhina, Samutsevich and Tolokonnikova know how much women — and men — are mourning their conviction, celebrating their bravery and standing with them in solidarity. But we are.

For example, Duran Duran’s lead singer Simon Le Bon dedicated “Ordinary World” to Pussy Riot in Memphis on Friday night and the British band’s new song “Girl Panic” to the trio in Biloxi, Miss., on Saturday night. Other musicians defending the trio include the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna and Peter Gabriel. In late July, Sting wrote, “Dissent is a legitimate and essential right in any democracy and modern politicians must accept this fact with tolerance. A sense of proportion - and a sense of humour - is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.”

The U.S. Department of State released a statement Friday condemning Russia. “The United States is concerned about both the verdict and the disproportionate sentences handed down by a Moscow court in the case against the members of the band Pussy Riot and the negative impact on freedom of expression in Russia. We urge Russian authorities to review this case and ensure that the right to freedom of expression is upheld.”

Women everywhere are standing up for Pussy Riot even if it means challenging their own country’s laws.

In Marseille, France, on Sunday, a group of demonstrators protested outside the Russian consulate. French police halted the event and arrested several women who dared to wear ski masks, also called balaclavas. Under a 2011 French law designed to ban burqas, such face coverings are prohibited. The protestors on Sunday were driven to a police station in a riot van.

In the Ukraine, a popular female activist, who protests topless, wielded a chain saw and chopped down a Christian cross, which served as a memorial to the victims of Stalinist repression and the famine of the 1930s, in Kiev, the Ukrainian capital. She had written “Free Riot” across her chest and arms. No police appeared.

Still, in the United States, few protests have occurred. Sure, there was one in New York and smaller ones in other major cities but nothing on the scale of other countries. Perhaps, that’s because we simply take for granted free speech, the right to assemble in public places and freedom of the press. But we shouldn’t.

During the New York protest, six protesters were arrested for blocking traffic and — get this — under a city law for wearing face masks. Repression often starts out slowly and simmers; today face masks, tomorrow dancing at a rock concert or speaking honestly in a public forum.

The women of Pussy Riot are 21st century lightning rods but also a cautionary reminder of what happens when unchecked authority is challenged.

Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker

By  |  10:14 AM ET, 08/20/2012

Tags:  Pussy Riot, Vladimir Putin, Russia, free speech, Duran Duran, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sting, Madonna, Peter Gabriel, punk music

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company