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She the People
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Posted at 01:27 PM ET, 04/21/2012

What American women could learn from Pussy Riot, a Russian punk rock girl band

Sometimes change wears a neon ski mask, tights and a skimpy dress.

That’s the case with Pussy Riot, a punk rock girl band in Russia. Three of its members have been in police custody since March for overtaking the pulpit of Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral in February and
Members of the Russian radical feminist group Pussy Riot sing a song at the so-called Lobnoye Mesto (Forehead Place), long before used for announcing Russian czars' decrees and occasionally for carrying out public executions, in Red Square in Moscow on Jan. 20. Eight activists, who were later detained by police, staged a performance to protest against policies conducted by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. (DENIS SINYAKOV - REUTERS)
chanting “Mother Mary, drive Putin away.” Their crime: hooliganism.

This week, a judge ruled that the three women — Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich — would remain in jail until June because of an ongoing investigation. They could face seven years in prison.

Amnesty International has launched an international campaign to free Pussy Riot activists. Russian writer Dmitry Bykov wants Western leaders to get involved. (Hello, Hillary Rodham Clinton, it’ll add to your cool factor.)

Music lovers around the world are celebrating Record Store Day on Saturday as a way to celebrate the art of music. Saturday has also been declared “Global Pussy Riot Action Day” by the group’s supporters around the world. People are encouraged to organize in small groups to make posters, change a social media avatar in support of the band or “make a punk prayer in the next church.”  

Pictures posted on the group’s Facebook page showed allies in Berlin and Australia on Saturday wearing ski masks and holding posters. Three female supporters in the Czech Republic went a step further. Their red-tinted picture showed masking tape across their breasts while in the pose of “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

The feminist band’s music sounds a lot lot like the American punk girl bands of the 1990s — brash, loud and screechy. It’s less about the music and more about anti-authoritarian disenchanted expression, the basis of most punk music.

Their outrage began last fall when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced he planned to return to the presidency. They organized to protest Putin and decided to wear masks for anonymity. According to an article in the Guardian, the average age of the band's members is 25. Each member is a hard-core feminist.

They began to have “flash gigs,” quick unannounced performances with political overtones. Their videos spread on the Internet.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have an American version of Pussy Riot to lead the soundtrack on this country’s war on women? They could protest at Ted Nugent concerts, write lyrics about Rush Limbaugh and Bill Maher and call out politicians on both sides, or the Secret Service, when they insulted women. And with the protection of free speech. Pussy Riot would love to have that freedom.

In January, the group took an incredible risk when it performed in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Red Square, Moscow. Certainly, the location and call for a revolution was bold and brazen. To take on Putin even more so.

Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said in a speech this week in Arkansas that Putin was the most intimidating foreign leader she had ever met. She said he had “steely cold eyes” and tried to intimidate her by standing up and peering down over her. She stood up in her high heels and towered two inches over him. He sat down.

This week, when the three women entered court this week, about 200 supporters of the band, including prominent artists, musicians and activists, carried balloons and posters and chanted “Freedom!”

The Russian Orthodox Church initially said it wanted leniency for the women. But not anymore. The church now wants the women prosecuted for their “blasphemous” performance and calls their actions works of the devil. Thousands of church members, however, have asked for the release of the women.

If Pussy Riot had taken to the Kremlin in the 1980s to protest communism, the news would have never left the country. Now with technology and social media, the band’s incarceration could very well become the start of a global revolution against Putin. Music lovers enjoy a good protest.

As the band screamed in January, “Revolt in Russia — the charisma of protest / Revolt in Russia, Putin’s got scared!”

He may be. But the members of Pussy Riot are not.

Suzi Parker is a journalist based in Little Rock, Ark. Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.

By  |  01:27 PM ET, 04/21/2012

Tags:  Pussy Riot, Vladimir Putin, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, Record Store Day, punk music

 
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