The reception of exPussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina after their release from jail has been the most bizarre event. First, it seems much of the public thought they were musicians and not political activists or performance art activists. Since they are both attractive women who embrace western cosmetics they have been treated like activists-lite or since they have been called girls, sexual, and such, Hello Kitty activists. Tolokonnikova was a philosophy major with work in theater and performance art.
Pussy Riot a radical feminist, separatist, anti capitalist, anarchist group is sufficiently strident that if two male members had rushed the church, been jailed, and released the public and news would have displayed them differently. Masha Geeson contextualizes them within prison activism.
Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot, by Masha Geesen, is an instant classic, destined to take its place with Solzhenitsyn’s writings about the Gulag, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness At Noon, and Jacobo Timerman’s Prisoner Without A Name, Cell Without A Number.
The most ludicrous moment in the book, however, occurs not in Russia but in the West, when musicians like Sting and Paul McCartney bestirred themselves for the few seconds it took them, or more likely their personal assistants, to tweet their disdain for Russia’s behavior.
How great the courage gap between Pussy Riot on the one hand and the fat and happy rockers who tweeted their moral outrage and then went back to their delightful lives.
The sexualization of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina is wildly entertaining. What activist wouldn’t get thrills on multiple levels yet be dismayed. Do they need to growl and spit to look scary and real?
Tolokonnikova: Well, if I am a sex symbol, it’s certainly not in the classic sense. I’m opposed to the traditional image of a woman’s role. But if someone finds our Spartan and combative performances sexy, like the one in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, that’s just the way it is. No one can claim that our protest in the church coincides with the classic image of women.
SPIEGEL: You make a point of looking good. Even in the Plexiglas cage in the courtroom, you were always wearing makeup.
Tolokonnikova: So? Men should also pay attention to their appearance and occasionally use cosmetics. I support equality. Everyone should feel free to live out the parts of their personality that correspond to the classic male or female image.
Tolokonnikova protested in a church over religion but she is not an overt atheist.
SPIEGEL: Do you believe in God?
Tolokonnikova: I believe in fate. And in the depths of my soul, I am an Orthodox Christian. I think the New Testament is especially important. What Jesus and his disciples preached and did was a great thing.
They were protesting the collusion of church and state.
At the time, I was determined to do something against the alliance between the Kremlin and the church, and in our opinion the Cathedral of Christ the Savior seemed to be the best place for that.
Imagine a legal trial where you can’t mention a name.
Yet during the trial all mention of Putin was suppressed, making it clear whose name was really not to be taken in vain.