What Pussy riots about?
Pussy riot became a symbol of oppression and is claimed to be LGBT rights supporter. But is it all as it seems?
The modern society is increasingly voyeuristic, picture is often the biggest part of on-line story and youtube videos often replace articles. In our fast and informatively overloaded times attention span is shrinking and many go for a fast food option even with the mind food. There is however a danger for a lazy information consumer to get extra fat that can go to ones brain, of missing the whole plot by restricting ones options.
The Pussy Riot's case is a good example of the stereotypical brainwashing in tabloid's search for a scandal amidst east/west divide. In the West, it seems perfectly clear that LGBT supporting band of young Russian girls got brutally prosecuted for speaking out against undemocratic regime of President Putin. Ask Amnesty International, Hillary Clinton, Sir Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono or Madonna - all confirm that innocent artists are jailed for their political views.
Why would then Russian opposition be distancing itself from the band that enjoys the top has support around the western world, with band's leader Tolokonnikova even named women of the year by French magazine 'Figaro'? Don't they know, can't they see that symbol of anti-Putin struggle is right under their nose. No, Russians are not in the information vacuum at all and while Western reaction is well known they seem to have another side of story as well that gives a more comprehensive picture.
What is Pussy riot? Officially, it's a band, however it is not known for its music, a cacophony of sounds accompanied by the high pitch sceams of its members. It is hard to make it in the times of Idol, X-factor and the Voice when you have no voice, nor original music, cant play or dance. But there are indeed other ways to get noticed.
Tolokonnikova' husband started the first 'pussy riot' by throwing live cats over the counter into McDonald employees. Then he, Tolokonnikova and another member of the band made up art project Voina ( the war)', this 'project' got publicity by undressing and engaging into the group sex on camera in the Moscow museum of biology. Tololonnikova was 9 month pregnant giving birth 4 days later. They put on slogans 'f--k the bear', addressing then president Medvedev's (bear-man) concern of falling birthrate in Russia.
The War project protests included turning over police car, releasing thousands of cockroaches in the court room, drawing gigantic phallus on the rising bridge. most disturbingly, member of the 'War' and future feminist pussy rioter was filmed shoplifting chicken from the supermarket, apparently protesting against capitalism and consumerism, she pushed the whole chicken into her vagina and left the shop without paying. All these explicit XXX 'war' actions along with future 'pussies' 'acts' have been uploaded on the youtube for fans to enjoy.
The ' war' project broke out after Tolokonnikova with her husband reportedly gave their ex mates away to the police. Then they started to infiltrate demonstrations of the groups opposing President Putin, however they were not welcomed with their calls to violence.
New project began with new image, ideology and target market. English name and inscription ''pussy riot' was chosen that was neither understood nor translated into Russian, it appeared the brand was from the beginning created for export rather than internal use. Group went for the multi color costumes accompanied with masks. Their acts became reminiscent of terrorist acts across Russia less than a decade ago when Chechen terrorists often including woman wearing similar masks took hostages in hospital, school and Moscow theater killing hundreds of people.
The band would 'occupy' unusual places like trolley bus roofs, roof of the police detention center and former execution place in the Red Square and terrorize Muscovite with their 'art' acts that included firing and throwing objects. The Red Square's 'song' was called 'Putin has wet himself' and included direct unprinted swearing against Russian President and calls for people to arm themselves with boulders. Girls have been detained but released the same day. but that was not enough. the next month they broke into the holiest place i the holiest Cathedral in Moscow to stage mockery praying with kicking, jumping and screaming that was later turned into a video with words that apart from widely publicized in the West 'Virgin Mary, put Putin away' was mainly targeted at the Orthodox Church and personally at Russian Patriarch Kirill: 'bitch, you'd rather believe in god' and 'shit, shit, Lord's shit'. Believers present at the Action sued the band for hooliganism which is a legal offense in Russia. Russian society was very in denouncing the act, only 7 per cent of respondents sympathized the act and only 1 per cent supported it.
The place of action had symbolic meaning for majority of Russians. Built to celebrate Victory over the Napoleon (who conquered and burned Moscow), biggest Orthodox Cathedral in the World was demolished by communists to give the way to the Gigantic Palace of Soviets projected to dwarf the Imperial State building. Only its foundation was built before the WW2 that became the flooded hole for decades until turned into the world's largest open swimming pool. After the fall of USSR millions of Moscovites contributed their funds to the rebuilding of cathedral that was completed in 2000, symbolizing hope for the revival for the whole country.
Hip-hop dancing, kicking, shouting, swearing and mockery in the holiest of places by the pussy obsessed band in terrorist inspired masks was regarded in the whole historic context and got universal condemnation across the society taken. However majority while accepting that band should be prosecuted, believed it should not got the prison sentence. That opinion was shared by many top Orthodox church officials as well as President Putin himself who publicly asked for leniency. Rather unexpectedly, the three remaining pussy rioters (others fled overseas) were jailed. However the trial spectators were not surprised. The band and its lawyers turned trial into kind of reality show in style of 'Chicago' musical. Orthodox church announced it was ready for leniency as long as band will to Tolokonnikova stated it was President Putin who had to ask her for forgiveness. Bands lawyers alienated the judge with their theatrics, interruptions, recalls and requests to bring in Patriarch as a witness.
Band lawyers chose to look for support overseas, extensively touring the US with lectures. Despite claiming they were supporting band free of charge, they were received extensive financial support from investigated for fraud and fled overseas Russian millionaire anti-Putin magnate. Wife of the lawyer tried to register brand Pussy Riot, estimated to worth millions, and got 20,OOO deposit for making a movie about the trial. It definitely appears that getting quick trial and acquittal for the band would not work that well for their lawyers as longer and more dramatic process would draw attention to them, allow them travel extensively, getting more income and higher profile and securing future of long term projects as movies, books (two books already published) and other revenue sources. Interestingly, once Ekaterina Seminovich selected her own lawyer, she got acquitted the next day. In unprecedented development, former lawyers turned against their ex client, disclosing intimate details and claiming she betrayed the band.
It seems eventually other girls realized they have been taken advantage of too got new lawyers too, Tolokonnikova even turned against her husband claiming he has been acting outside of their authority.
So Madonna sells Pussy Riots merchandise, others stars get their profile by standing behind 'pro democracy' band, lawyers get profile, journalists write books and their wives make movies. LGBT media swallows the bate too protesting against 'gay supportive' band, but what in fact has band did for LGBT community, or was it in fact used to draw attention to the band and in fact damaged it through the association?
And what indeed pussies did for gay rights other than having a line 'gay pride in chains goes to Siberia' in their 'song' performed in the cathedral? Could it be one of the 'War' actions when Tolokonnikova has been forcefully planting kisses onto unexpected female police officers in the Moscow underground? It looks more like a sexual assault to me. Tolokonnikova indeed made an appearance at attempted unsanctioned gay parade near the Red Square, there is a picture of kicking the air while being carried away by two police officers. That was a violent meeting indeed, with UK MP Peter Thatcher punched in the face by anti-gay orthodox protesters. However when I checked youtube video of Tolokonnikovas performance I saw in her case it was she assaulting chanting Orthodox man, much bigger than her, obviously provoking him however he was restrained.
Provocation seems to be the most efficient if not the only strategy for Pussy Riot's media success. And the same strategy has been copycatted by Ukrainian cousins of Pussy Riot - the Femen Group. These topless protestors have been entertaining public in the Ukraine with their mockery actions for years but were not taken seriously. However with competition of Pussy Riot on stage as well, Femen began more extreme actions. Irina Shevchenko, topless with a note 'Kill Kirill' on her back attempted to threw herself onto Russian Patriarch during his visit to Kiev. Then in a highly publicized action topless Semen activist cut down big memorial Christian Cross with a chainsaw. Eventually Femen was ruled extremist organization, soon after its members break into residency of Indian Ambassador and burned flag of the country.
Tolokonnikova and team are inspired by Feerbach, Marx as well as Russian and Cuban revolutionaries. Russian revolutionaries of the last century specifically were famous for political assassinations, for using terror, detonation of bombs and executions to stir the public, get attention and anger citizens with inefficiency of the authorities. In their tribute to Russian Revolutionaries marking anniversary of the riot, The 'War' staged mass execution of homosexuals and migrants in Moscow Mega market. The video is quite disturbing, only documenting the fact accompanied by a brave music, homosexuals are shown stereotypically as weak, fat, feminine wearing fairy clothes, there is no condemnation of the act, I would argue that it helped LGBT case in any way but might have contributed to growing negative attitudes towards gays in Russia.
So Pussy Riot and Femen effectively became Trojan horses for the LGBT community, fake gay idols that only alienated people, provoked spike of anti-gay sentiments, endangered LGBT unity and backtracked LGBT rights.