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"the feminist virus infecting your thoughts"
June 26, 2013 8:58 AM   Subscribe

Pussy Riot aren't just on tour. They're on the run. Laurie Penny meets the Russian punk-protest group.

When we meet in a secret location in central London, they make it clear that this interview is on condition of anonymity. The Russian punk-feminist protest group, two of whose members are currently travelling the world, talking to activists and journalists and raising support for their band-mates in prison, are wanted by their government, who have branded them extremists for their stand against religious patriarchy and the Putin regime. It will be illegal to read or share this article in Russia.

“There’s a media war in our country,” says the one who, today, is calling herself 'Serafima', whispering painfully through a sore throat. Since three members of the group, Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova, were tried and sent to labour camps last year, Pussy Riot has been attacked in almost every press outlet in Russia. The international outcry on their behalf goes unmarked. “Katya did not realise there was so much support until she was released. When we were in Russia, we didn’t fully understand, but now we see there truly is huge support,” says Serafima. She asks for a translation of a German proverb she knows: “Nobody is a prophet in their own country.”


Previously here, here, here, here.
posted by not_the_water (18 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Punk Prayer
Footage of their performance at Cathedral of Christ the Savior was used to create the video for Punk Prayer. Translation via. The Atlantic and The Guardian have their own translations.

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away
Рut Putin away, put Putin away

Black robe, golden epaulettes
All parishioners crawl to bow
The phantom of liberty is in heaven
Gay-pride sent to Siberia in chains

The head of the KGB, their chief saint
Leads protesters to prison under escort
In order not to offend His Holiness
Women must give birth and love

Shit, shit, the Lord's shit!
Shit, shit, the Lord's shit!

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist
Become a feminist, become a feminist

The Church’s praise of rotten dictators
The cross-bearer procession of black limousines
A teacher-preacher will meet you at school
Go to class - bring him money!

Patriarch Gundyaev believes in Putin
Bitch, better believe in God instead
The belt of the Virgin can’t replace mass-meetings
Mary, Mother of God, is with us in protest!

Virgin Mary, Mother of God, put Putin away
Рut Putin away, put Putin away
posted by not_the_water at 9:06 AM on June 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


Thanks for this post.

For anyone who hasn't seen it, HBO has just done a documentary called Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer which I would highly recommend.
posted by triggerfinger at 10:12 AM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


So. Here's how you make a balaclava out of old stockings. Cut a length off a really thick pair, preferably in day-glo pink or blue or green, and pull it over your head to work out where the eye and mouth sockets go. Snip little holes with a pair of kitchen scissors; pull them apart with your fingers. Bear in mind that if you go outside like this, you may be breaking the law in several countries, including this one. Put on your homemade neon balaclava. Now go and start an oppositional art revolution.

It’s what Pussy Riot want you to do. Really. Right now, it’s extremely difficult for the six group members who are still free to organise protests: they want their punk-feminist, anti-authoritarian message to spread around the world, and they want people to interpret it in their own way. “We’re open-source,” says Serafima. Throughout the entire interview, it’s the only thing she says in English.


Personally, I'd much rather see more neon, homemade balaclavas than the mask from V for Vendetta™ at protests. I don't mean to denigrate the people who find meaning in that mask, but I think it's high time to retire a symbol generated by corporate profit and start investing in symbols made by the people.
posted by myelin sheath at 10:40 AM on June 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


I don't mean to denigrate the people who find meaning in that mask, but I think it's high time to retire a symbol generated by corporate profit and start investing in symbols made by the people.

like guy fawkes masks?
posted by pyramid termite at 11:04 AM on June 26, 2013


I watched the HBO documentary recently, and it was great. The fact that such a small act of protest created such huge amounts of trashing from the Russian government was amazing. What they did was almost nothing - sang a song in a place, really. But the huge outpouring of rage that small act created forced the state to act as authoritarian as it possibly could, contrasted with the supposed freedom of 'New Russia'. It's like the apocryphal 90 lb weakling using a single Judo hand gesture to flip over the 300 lb bully with his own weight.
posted by codacorolla at 11:29 AM on June 26, 2013



Personally, I'd much rather see more neon, homemade balaclavas than the mask from V for Vendetta™ at protests. I don't mean to denigrate the people who find meaning in that mask, but I think it's high time to retire a symbol generated by corporate profit and start investing in symbols made by the people.


Agreed. Additionally, I guess I get the "V for Vendetta" thing, but seriously Guy Fawkes? A white Christian English dude* who wanted to blow up Parliament to put a Catholic princess on the throne is your go-to global symbol of revolution and anarchy? We can do better, people.

*I mean, you could have at least gone with Wat Tyler, for crying out loud.
posted by thivaia at 11:33 AM on June 26, 2013


[quote]
Agreed. Additionally, I guess I get the "V for Vendetta" thing, but seriously Guy Fawkes? A white Christian English dude* who wanted to blow up Parliament to put a Catholic princess on the throne is your go-to global symbol of revolution and anarchy? We can do better, people.

*I mean, you could have at least gone with Wat Tyler, for crying out loud.
[/quote]

I agree, but to paraphrase Rumsfeld, "You start a revolution with the icons you have."
posted by KaizenSoze at 11:41 AM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's like the apocryphal 90 lb weakling using a single Judo hand gesture to flip over the 300 lb bully with his own weight.

Sadly, the judo-using kid later gets pounded by the Bully and his pal, the Patriarch, but, hey.

Still, it makes a great point when people are talking about how manly and tough Putin is. "Yup, he's so tough he had to throw a couple of young women in jail for singing a song. Ooooh, scary."
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:50 AM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


You can print a guy fawkes mask and cut it out of cardboard, or you could even make one yourself, I suppose. But the majority of the guy fawkes masks I see in protest photos are manufactured.

A stocking balaclava, OTOH, you just need scissors and some disposable stockings. And it does feel much more grass-roots than picking up the symbol in an old old conflict between religious extremists and monarchists.
posted by lodurr at 11:52 AM on June 26, 2013


Sadly, the judo-using kid later gets pounded by the Bully and his pal, the Patriarch, but, hey.

Sadly true, but it's not like this is a settled thing. Russia's government now has to go forward with the public being however much more aware of the totalitarian ends they'll go to to silence a few young adults singing a song.

What I gathered from the documentary is that religious freedom is a hallmark of New Russia which sets it apart from the narrative of communist totalitarianism that came before it, and which threatens to return without Putin's loving, guiding hand. By confronting this so-called freedom directly, Pussy Riot was able to force the state in to demonstrating massive, massive hypocrisy.
posted by codacorolla at 12:11 PM on June 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


On a slight tangent: what would it take to have the rest of the internets moderated by mefi's mods? 'Cause I would happily pay a monthly fee for that service.

The responses to that NewStatesman article devolve into sexism, racism, and all the usual garbage quicker than youtube. And this is an issue just asking - in the article itself - for some meaningful discussion.

[I'm not sure what requesting more censorship as a response to an article on free speech means, but there might be something important there. Or it could simply be garden-variety hypocrisy and shortsightedness.]
posted by booksarelame at 1:10 PM on June 26, 2013


I'm not sure what requesting more censorship as a response to an article on free speech means

Please do not conflate moderation with censorship. Moderation is telling the ones who are yelling and waving placards in an auditorium to sit down and let other people speak too. Moderation is ensuring that all voices are heard, not merely the loudest ones. I thought it was pretty obvious for Mefites at least.
posted by hat_eater at 1:20 PM on June 26, 2013


And please forgive me my brain fart leading me to misunderstand you completely.
posted by hat_eater at 1:21 PM on June 26, 2013


These girls are young. Very young. For their safety, I can’t say how young, but imagine how young you think they might be. Are you imagining it? They’re about five years younger than that

I was like "what 12, 13?" then they told me to subtract 5 and I found out they are 7-8 years old!

Surely that is too young to be cutting up stockings and being interviewed by journalists.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:42 PM on June 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Agreed. Additionally, I guess I get the "V for Vendetta" thing, but seriously Guy Fawkes? A white Christian English dude* who wanted to blow up Parliament to put a Catholic princess on the throne is your go-to global symbol of revolution and anarchy? We can do better, people.

*I mean, you could have at least gone with Wat Tyler, for crying out loud.


Because 4chan. Some people say it is because of Epic fail guy. But I still maintain /b came up with epic fail guy because on some level they long to be V, but they also exceed at self mockery. It is circle jerks and anti jerks and sometimes it goes full circle and everyone switches sides.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:48 PM on June 26, 2013


Pussy Riot on 60 Minutes.
posted by homunculus at 3:50 PM on June 26, 2013


It is circle jerks and anti jerks and sometimes it goes full circle and everyone switches sides.

... and loses track of the references. Honestly, that's one of the weaker parts of what would be fairly weak sauce (in either the Moore or Wachowski version) without a cast-iron bad-bad-baddy to drizzle it on.
posted by lodurr at 3:30 AM on June 27, 2013


Jailed Russian female punk rock member loses parole appeal
posted by homunculus at 1:17 PM on July 25, 2013


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