Pussy Riot and the Charisma of Protest

A girl and her laptop explore the world.  Her head is filled with clamor.  The noise goes “Injustice. Inequality.   Discrimination.  Degradation.”  This kindles anger in the girl’s heart.  She does not like feeling emotional discomfort.  She does not tolerate vexation.  She pursues revolution.

I knew of Pussy Riot, but like many, had reduced them to a contentious punk band stirring political controversy à la the Dixie Chicks.  I did not know that it is a feminist collective of raucous rabble-rousers taking a stand against Russian suppression at the hands of Putin’s regime.

After watching Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, I was struck with overwhelming emotion.  If these women under extreme suppression could exercise a triumph of will and sacrifice their freedom for what they knew was right, it was no longer an option for women everywhere not to be brave.

Attractive, even though masked by colorful balaclavas, Pussy Riot symbolizes a new type of feminist, one who is not intimidated by the threat of public exposure.  This was like Improv Everywhere, but with a political agenda.  And the product was the incarceration of several of their members for the performance of A Punk Prayer in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Holy crap.

Strategically, the imprisonment of Pussy Riot members Masha Alyokhina and Nadia Tolokonnikova was very poorly played on Putin’s behalf.  Their arrest led to the worldwide exposure of the corruption in Russian politics. Masha and Nadia were nothing less than charismatic, intelligent, clever and cutting-edge wordsmiths who had been jailed for, at its very core, dancing in a church.

While incarcerated, Nadia remained in the spotlight.  She went on a hunger strike in protest for better living conditions for prisoners.  She found herself in trouble for refusing to participate in the prison beauty pageant.  Masha made claims of persevering daily “mandatory vaginal examinations” and refused to sit in on her own appeal while Nadia was hospitalized for starvation.

Free members of Pussy Riot and family members alike gained global acknowledgement from international feminist outlets and exploded on social media by acting as eyes and ears, baring Masha’s and Nadia’s trials to the outside world. They gained patronage from organizations like the The Voice Project and Amnesty International.  The tension stiffened as women watched everywhere, incredulous, impatiently waiting for the two to encounter justice.

On December 23, 2013 Masha and Nadia’s prison sentences were absolved.  They were freed with fervor, but not with contentment.  Upon her release, Nadia assured the Russian public of one thing: her amnesty would spawn a staunch rebound.

The written words of political prisoners delivered in a speech by Masha and Nadia at last week’s Amnesty International concert in Brooklyn proved just that.  The derelict and unjust Russian prison system fueled their contravention the way anger fuels the Hulk.  Masha’s ennui is anything but listless. It is austere. Nadia speaks with a poignant zeal.

Masha and Nadia are no longer members of Pussy Riot.  The two have parted ways with the affiliation in pursuit of their own human rights agenda, but this separation does not weaken or water down the stark revolt of either group.  It may in fact just make them stronger and further project their global outreach.

With each passing day, women everywhere are standing up for what they believe is right.  Whether it be the power of one girl in one room with a laptop, or a “collective” of ferocious women storming the world with frenzied punk rock performances, each boot stomp on the ground or tapping on a keyboard moves the world a centimeter closer.  Closer to equality.  And closer to justice.  The noise of inhumanity will not be tolerated.  Women’s ascension cannot be stopped.  We are in the future now.

dp_headshotsmAbout the author: Sprouted in the “birthplace of Hip-Hop,” decently traveled and a well-read Bronx native, Damares Pleasants takes pride in her intuitive knack for survival and fluid adaptability. A former resident of Las Vegas and Miami, she’s found her way back to the Big Apple, firmly planting roots where she and her elderly Italian Greyhound proudly call home.

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Categories: POP

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1 reply

  1. Great read! Masha and Nadia are so inspiring.

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