Blog By Shaley Howard

The Untamed Pussy: How Putin Failed to Silence Pussy Riot

Pussy_Riot_by_Igor_MukhinBy Shaley Howard, PQ Monthly

If there’s one thing this lesbian in particular loves to hear it’s the word pussy. And ever since Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist punk rock band, made the news a few years ago in Russia and were jailed for “hooliganism” almost every news channel from ABC to BBC to NPR had broadcasters saying the word – PUSSY (Riot) over and over. Well this lezzie’s ears are perked up again as the word pussy is once again making the news. Monday, December 23, 2013 Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned and released the two jailed band members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot.

For anyone who somehow missed all the pussy talk, Pussy Riot is known for their outspoken lyrics and unauthorized and deliberately antagonistic performances against Putin and the Russian government. Three of the five members were jailed back in March 2012 for staging a performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior which they created a video right afterward entitled, “Punk Prayer – Mother of God, Chase Putin Away!” Band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were all charged and convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and sentenced to two years imprisonment although Samutsevich was freed on probation. The other two members of the band fled Russia for fear, obviously real fear, of persecution.

If this is the first time you’ve heard about this you may be thinking, seriously? Jailed for two years for speaking out against Putin and charged with hooliganism – for that?! Welcome to Russia – where the men are supposedly top dogs, the women know their place and the gays know to stay in the closet – or leave.

So along comes Pussy Riot – again so much fun to say – to challenge the gender roles of Putin and his followers and of course they get major push back. But now Putin seems to be in a bit of a political pickle. Could it be that Putin had some sort of conscientious awakening and realized how his agenda against women and gays is archaic and he’s turned a new leaf? OR, could it possibly be that he pardoned the two members of Pussy Riot because the Winter Olympics is just days away and Putin’s ban on “gay propaganda” at the Olympics has made international news for months on end. And perhaps the weight of resistance to his homophobic political agenda is making him appear more and more inept and slowly chipping away at his power.

Just recently President Obama slighted, no really metaphorically flipped Putin off, by announcing that for the first time since 2000 the president, vice-president or first lady would not be attending the Russian Olympics and instead the U.S. would be sending two openly gay athletes, Billy Jean King and Caitlin Cahow as our Olympic delegates.

Moreover, the two Pussy Riot band members released Monday seem just as defiant and perhaps even more determined now to continue to speak out against Putin and his sexist, homophobic policies. Upon release, Maria Alyokhina told NPR reporter Corey Flintoff “her release was not a humanitarian act on the part of Russian President Vladimir Putin but rather a ‘PR stunt’ aimed at shoring up his nation’s international image before February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi.” And according to Reuters, fellow band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, released from a different prison shouted “Russia without Putin” after being freed.

What continues to amaze me are the governments and people who persist in trying to oppress segments of a population yet historically always fail. Putin didn’t quiet Pussy Riot or the message they continue to send. And Pussy Riot is just a voice or a messenger in a sense that has countless followers who also believe that women and gays should have equal rights. Putin thinks he tamed the women of Pussy Riot but in fact, he most likely has only added fuel to the fire and inadvertently increased their popularity. I guess you can’t keep a good pussy down.

ShaleyShaley Howard is a sports writer for PQ Monthly as well as an athlete, sports enthusiast, and organizer of the annual Portland Women’s 3×3 Basketball Tournament. She is also is the owner and operator of Scratch N’ Sniff Pet Care, which she considers the best job in the world.

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