Pussy Riot: Russian riot grrrls lead the way


 
Before the police dragged them off, the members of Pussy Riot, the Russian day-glo balaclava-clad punk rock protesters, sang their anthem “Revolt in Russia” (“Revolt in Russia – the charisma of protest / Revolt in Russia, Putin’s got scared!”) near the Kremlin. Their inspiration for a style of resistance never before seen in Russia, was the riot grrrl punk movement, including groups like Kathleen Hanna’s Bikini Kill, and flash mobs. The young women of the collective, average age 25, have revealed only the smallest details about their lives. None will divulge their day jobs. They only use first-names.

In the two weeks since their mid-January action, the all-female group has become a potent symbol of anger at the status quo in Russian society and their videos have gone viral all over the world. Like many young people in Russia, the members of the Pussy Riot collective are furious at Vladamir Putin’s plans to seek the presidency again and his return was the impetus behind the formation of the group (as well as their song “Putin Has Pissed Himself”). From The Guardian:

“We understood that to achieve change, including in the sphere of women’s rights, it’s not enough to go to Putin and ask for it,” said Garadzha. “This is a rotten, broken system.”

Her bandmate Tyurya said: “The culture of protest needs to develop. We have one form, but we need many different kinds.”

The band began writing songs with lyrics such as: “Egyptian air is good for the lungs / Do Tahrir on Red Square!” and performing on trams and in the metro. Videos of the flash gigs began spreading across the internet. When the protest leader Alexey Navalny was jailed for 15 days after his arrest during Russia’s first post-election protest on 5 December, three members of Pussy Riot took to the roof of the jail where he was being held, setting off red flares as they sang “Death to prison / Freedom to protest!”

The fear of arrest long ago left the band members, steeped in the tradition of illegal protest. “We have experience with it, we’ve been detained at protests before,” said Tyurya. “It’s not scary – you’re surrounded by good, normal people, those who protest against Putin.”

All eight women were detained during the Kremlin performance, questioned and released. Most got off with administrative fines rather than the 15-day jail sentences often doled out to those who stage illegal protests.

“The revolution should be done by women,” said Garazhda. “For now, they don’t beat or jail us as much.”

“There’s a deep tradition in Russia of gender and revolution – we’ve had amazing women revolutionaries.”

The band is getting ready for its next performance, something that usually takes a month to pull together. Its members don’t discuss plans on the telephone or give away details, out of fear that the security services will disrupt the project. Is what they do art or politics? “For us it’s one and the same.”

Despite projected temperatures of -20C, tens of thousands of protesters are expected to march on Bolotnaya Square, across from the Kremlin, on Saturday. The Russian presidential election will be held on March 4. Vladimir Putin, is, of course, expected to win handily.

Read more:
Feminist punk band Pussy Riot take revolt to the Kremlin (The Guardian)
 

Posted by Richard Metzger

 

 

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