Why Pussy Riot is Harmful to Russian Feminism

Katarina Valieva is one of Breaking the Glass Ceiling’s regular contributors.

I was hesitant to write this article since I was worried that my interpretation of Pussy Riot might not be a correct one. However, we all live in the world of views and interpretation and I would like to represent you mine. As a Feminist and a Russian, I believe that Pussy Riot is harmful for Russian Feminism and in this article I will try to explain why.

Pussy Riots caught the attention of society after their `demonstration` in the Church of Christ the Savior on 21st of February, 2012. Four women with covered faces were singing anti-Putin songs in front of the Church`s Altarium disturbing the visitors and the staff members of the Church. The Band was sentenced to 3 years of imprisonment under the regulations of criminal law. The case caused changes in Russian Criminal Code and the new articles suggested a stricter punishment for the crimes against the Church and attack on religion. The supporters of the band argue that women were imprisoned because of government`s fear of opposition and their arrest further solidifies the democratic deficit in the country. However, I would strongly disagree with this statement. Perhaps, Pussy Riot conveyed a strong political message in their songs. Nonetheless, their methods are, indeed, questionable. The Church of Christ the Savior is one of the most famous churches in Russia and it receives hundreds of visitors daily. Organising a `demonstration` there directly violates the feelings of those religious persons. Furthermore, a large proportion of the Russian population are Orthodox Christians. Therefore, it would be strange if Pussy Riots` actions were perceived positively by the Russian society. In my view, the act was disgraceful since the Church and religion are intimate matters and for many persons and are beyond politics. Some might argue that they chose to protest in Church in order to gain attention and raise the issue of gender inequality in Russia. Partially they managed to achieve their objectives since their actions were covered by the Russian Media. However, their actions created the wrong image of Russian Feminism making it even more difficult to raise awareness of gender inequality.

You might, dear reader, disagree with me and argue that feminists have a freedom to choose how to express their views. Women have had to even resort to violence in order to promote their views and create change in society. For instance, Suffragettes organised protests on the street in 1910s which was not welcomed by the British society at the time. Suffragettes succeeded and women gained the right to vote, however, Pussy Riot achieved nothing for Russian women. Now they call themselves `political analysts` and promote the Rights of Russian women from the USA, where the and is now based. They managed to meet influential figures such as Madonna and Hillary Clinton (Washington Post, 2014). They write songs and articles criticizing the Russian Government and discussing the problems caused by Russian democratic deficit in notable newspapers like The Guardian. The Saatchi gallery launched an exhibition named Inside Pussy Riot. Do these `achievements` help women in Russia? No, they don’t.

It is extremely easy to criticize Russian government from a nice apartment in the USA or at the dinner table with Hillary Clinton but it is harder to understand how does the system operate and try to change it. Many of you have been to or heard of the Saatchi Gallery and, perhaps, you have attended the exhibition. I did not and I cannot discuss or make a judgement on its content. The price of tickets for this exhibition starts from £21 and a person does not have to be an economist to conclude that the price already narrows down the number of people who can attend. Furthermore, the owner of the gallery, Charles Saatchi was accused of physically assaulting his wife (BBC, 2013). In my view, by organizing an exhibition in his gallery, Pussy Riots indirectly/directly perpetuate the normalization of domestic violence that millions of women are subjected to in the modern world and in Russia. They are using Feminism to gain financial and social benefits for themselves with making little or no impact on the lives of women. I am a Feminist and I feel that it is my duty to do everything in my power to push a change towards a more equal and fairer society. You might argue that I am privileged myself since I have an opportunity to study at one of the best universities in the world and to write this article. You are right, I am lucky to be here. However, I did not use Feminism to achieve this. Regular contributors for the Blog are not paid to write articles, we share our views to be heard, not to gain profit. I strongly disagree with the claims that Pussy Riot represent the Russian Feminism and symbolize in any way the struggle of women in Russian society.

As I explained in the previous paragraph, Pussy Riot are welcomed by the West but the title of my article is Why Pussy Riots is harmful for Russian Feminism? I would like to outline 3 answers for my question. Firstly, their methods of protesting were not efficient due to the importance of religion in Russian society. Secondly, they cover only a limited audience and ignore a large proportion of the Russian population since they operate in the Western countries and write articles predominantly in English. Lastly, their actions create the wrong image of Feminism as a movement in Russia making it extremely difficult to push changes. Of course, I cannot make claims on behalf of the whole Russian population and it is only my view. However, I hope that I managed to outline the potential problems that the band has and how they used Feminism for, perhaps, purely their own benefits.

 

Sources:

News about assaults perpetrated by Charles Saatchi:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-22947383

Hillary Clinton meeting the members of the Pussy Riots:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2014/04/07/hillary-clinton-poses-with-pussy-riot/?utm_term=.81361f24ecd1

Articles about Pussy Riots and those that are written by the musicians themselves:

https://www.theguardian.com/music/pussy-riot

Exhibition about Pussy Riots in Saatchi Gallery:

http://www.saatchigallery.com/art/inside-pussy-riot.php

Pussy Riots in the Church of the Christ The Saviors:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-uS4-5K6Jo

Facts about Pussy Riots:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-25490161

Picture credit: http://www.dw.com/en/pussy-riot-stage-first-concerts-in-germany/a-40584871

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