Dear Pussy Riot Supporters,

Dear Pussy Riot Supporters,

Increasingly, I have become concerned about your inability to see the woods for the trees. Your desperate attempts at out-cooling each other as the Great Defenders of Free Speech seem to have come at the cost of your critical thinking skills. Frankly, I’m still disturbed by the articles which seemed to suggest that the only people who shouldn’t be deported to the Gulag are the women of Pussy Riot because they might be raped or killed. I know you can’t really mean that. No one deserves to be raped or killed because they committed a crime and, let’s be honest, Pussy Riot aren’t the only Russian citizens being deported for questioning the state. I have no idea what the statistics are for convictions and deportation but I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that Pussy Riot aren’t the only political prisoners. So why are they important and others not? Why is it important they not be raped or killed in prison?

This case is manifestly not about “free speech” or the right to protest. What this case has demonstrated, time and time again, is that we, as a society, are essentially a bunch of hypocrites. The ‘Western’ support of Pussy Riot is not because we are the great defenders of Free Speech. Anyone who believes that is, frankly, completely deluded. Pussy Riot has not garnered support because they are feminists who are critical of the power of the state and church. In fact, their feminism, which is actually a fairly patriarchy-approved brand of feminism, has been written out of much of the media coverage. They have gotten support because they are young women dancing in public. They have been supported because they don’t really challenge the status quo; although they do wear all their clothes which puts them ahead of Femen’s soft porn protests. If Pussy Riot were challenging the Patriarchy in any way, they would have been slaughtered in the Western Press. They certainly wouldn’t have Madonna, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and half of Hollywood lining up to support them. Personally, I think a lot of their support is because of their name. It appeals to the juvenile; those who haven’t progressed emotionally from being 5 and yelling penis in the playground. And, yeah, I sniggered the first time I heard a right-wing journalist say ‘pussy’ on air but that’s not a good enough reason to support Pussy Riot at the expense of others.

The UK has recently banned protest outside of Parliament. If there is any physical space in the UK where the right to protest should be paramount, it’s outside of Parliament. Yet, we let the government deny us this right with very little complaint. Trenton Oldfield was sentenced to 6 months in prison for jumping in water to disrupt a boat race. His crime: prejudice against prejudice. You literally couldn’t make it up. As Nina Power writes: “The message is blunt: if it’s on TV and aristocrats are involved, then the state can deprive you of your liberty for as long as it likes.” The correlations between Oldfield’s conviction and that of Pussy Riot are pretty clear, yet I doubt there will be any protests to have Oldfield’s sentence over-turned. Certainly, there was very little campaigning about the ridiculously harsh sentences given out in light of last years riots with people being sentenced for 6 months for, basically, shoplifting. If we incarcerated every shoplifter in the UK, prisons would be overflowing. We’d have to move all prisons to the Outer Hebrides and let them fend for themselves since no country can afford to imprison that many people. 

I think the Pussy Riot case matters. I think it matters a lot. These women do not deserve to be arrested or imprisoned for what was a political protest. Political protest against the government should be a fundamental human right but let’s not be hypocritical here. The right to political protest really exists nowhere. There are limits everywhere on the right to protest and Russia isn’t the only country guilty for imprisoning people for political reasons. Pussy Riot aren’t the only activists whose voices are being silenced by repressive regimes. Oldfield isn’t the only protestor being silenced in “democracies”. You only need to look at the 3 activists currently imprisoned in the US for refusing to testify in a grand jury case. Maya Evans was incarcerated in the UK for having the gall to read aloud the names of British soldiers who died in Iraq across from the Cenotaph in Whitehall. That garnered very little support. There has been very little media coverage of the attempted silencing of Mexican journalist Lydia Cacho by drug cartels. In Cacho’s case, I suspect the almost total lack of media coverage has something to do with the fact that she deliberately targets the Patriarchy in her research into sex trafficking.  Yolanda Ordaz De la Cruz was murdered because of her activism as a journalist. The murder of journlaist Anna  Politkovskaya was covered by the media but she had no celebrity endorsements about her right to free speech [or the right to life for that matter].

I’m not saying we shouldn’t be protesting or standing up for Pussy Riot. I’m saying we don’t get to choose whose “free speech” we defend based on their relative attractiveness or the fact that their name inspires giggles. If we are defending the right to protest all political structures, then we damn well had better be defending everyones and not just a group of young girls in Russia.  We also need to ensure that our defence of “free speech” does not happen at the expense of harming vulnerable members of our society. The use of free speech to defend pornography and prostitution is basically the acceptance of state-sponsored rape. It’s the Patriarchy defending itself.

And, all those celebrities lining up to support Pussy Riot, how about you put your money where your mouth is and pay their legal representation. How about  you pay for the childcare of their children required whilst their mothers are in prison? How about you financially support the grassroots activists in Russia fighting to end the Gulag system? Why aren’t you financially supporting Sara Kruzan who was imprisoned for life as a teenager for killing the man who raped and trafficked her?

SGM

Some articles which need to be read:*

Why the Pussy Riot case still matters.

CeCe McDonald vs. Pussy Riot: Political Imprisonment and Perspective

Q&A: Pussy Riot’s Yekaterina Samutsevich on Their Fight for Freedom

Pussy Riot’s Act of Faith


From Pussy Riot to Todd Akin: The Claiming—and Silencing—of Language and Speech


Pussy Riot: whose freedom, whose riot?


BY HUB NEWSFEED

Please reblog this radical feminist analysis of the Pussy Riot controversy. [via RadFem Hub]
Recently there has been lots of noise around the arrest of three members of Pussy Riot, a Russian anarchist female punk band. The media almost unequivocally represented them as the modern heroines of our time, fighting for freedom, democracy, sexual liberation and peace against a dark and ruthless dictatorship (articles are to be found in the NYTLe MondeThe Guardian, etc.) Feminist groups all over the Western world are sending links and petitions to “free pussy riot”, anddemonstrations have even been organised in support of the group by big institutionalised organisations such as “Osez le féminisme” (dare to be a feminist).
Now while I support without ambiguity the liberation of Pussy Riot’s members, it’s worth pausing for a minute to ask ourselves, as radical feminists, what the political dynamics are here. Why would Western media denounce so passionately the repression of feminists in Russia, when it usually only diffuses information that supports male supremacy and patriarchy? Feminism has long disappeared from any malestream media, except when journalists can turn it into male masturbation material, that is pornify either our suffering or our resistance to it. What’s going on here?
Before learning more about the case, the first thing that made me frown was the fact progressives were hailing Pussy Riot as the “new feminists”, despite that their name is fairly insulting to women. It is certainly not apolitical, since we are in a context in which pornography has deeply colonised our movement and the only groups that the media presents as feminist are those that either insult us or reclaim the very instruments of our subordination, that is, male sexual violence, PIV, pornified femininity and all the associated harmful cultural practices. These tactics of destroying the meaning of feminism form part of a general worldwide backlash against women.
I found it suspicious that Pussy Riot was getting so much media attention, even for pseudo feminist standards. You can measure the degree of feminism of an action by how men react to it, and if men collectively cheer and celebrate it, then you can be pretty sure there’s something wrong about it, or that it doesn’t somehow support our liberation from men. And as far as I can recall, even the slutwalks didn’t get as much coverage or public appraisal. What was it that men liked so much about Pussy Riot?
Well, under closer inspection I discovered that the high level of coverage was related to – though indirectly – promoting men’s right to women’s sexual subordination and the pornification of our movement. The arrested women actually form part (and are victims of) a mixed anarchist group called “Voina” (meaning “war”), founded in 2007 by two men called Oleg Vorotnikov and Leonid Nikolaïev, who regularly engage the women in extreme and degrading women-hating pornography as part of their public “political stunts”. Some of Voina’s men have actually already been incarcerated in 2011 for hooliganism – which is punished for 7 years of prison in Russia, but their bail was paid for by an artist named “Banksy” four months after their imprisonment. (More information can be foundhere and here)
Included in their anti-government actions are a “public orgy” in the national museum of biology in a room full of stuffed bears, where several men anally penetrated their female partners in a position of submission, including one heavily pregnant women, as a metaphor to “bugger/fuck Medvedev”. “Medved” means “bear”, hence all the stuffed bears – this was meant to be symbolic, artistic and revolutionary according to the activists. Here the male anarchists literally used women as dead bodies or receptacles through which to make a political point to other men. Violating women as a means to offend other men is nothing else but an age-old patriarchal mechanism – behind which the intended target are us, for men to bond over our annihilation.
Another planned stunt in the name of “sexual freedom”, inspired by extreme forms of pornography such as zoophilia/ necrophilia, includes a member of Pussy Riot masturbating with a dead chicken in a supermarket under the watch and camera of the anarchist males, after which she inserts the dead chicken entirely into her vagina and hobbles with the chicken inside her out of the supermarket. This is how the male members themselves describe their act of “liberation”:
“How to Snatch a Chicken: A Tale of How One Cunt fed the Whole of the Group Voina… in honor of their hero, a 19th century political philosopher/prisoner, Voina’s president’s wife dubbed “Vacuous Cunt With Inconceivably Huge Tits,”smuggled a chicken out of a grocery store in said “Vacuous Cunt…”  [the journalist comments] : First, the troupe searched for a large and fresh enough chicken. Then, the store isles and CCTV cameras were blocked by the members of the group holding up banners with “FUCK WHORING YOURSELF!” smeared on them in I-don’t-want-to-know-what. The blockade allowed Vacuous Cunt to promptly stuff and smuggle the poultry out of the store, which was then presumably cooked and eaten.[1]
The president is presumably Oleg, and the woman in question, apparently his wife – a situation which would qualify as domestic abuse and sexual slavery given the level of violence, women-hatred and humiliation directed at the women involved. The woman is reduced to a corpse to be ‘stuffed’ in the most degrading and insulting way. No woman would desire such things as inserting a dead chicken in her vagina in public were she not under heavy control and terror. Also of note is the fact that one of their children was brought to this stunt, visibly no older than four. Sexual exhibitionism in the presence of children may also qualify as child sexual abuse. How deeply has women-hatred sunk into men’s minds, that they are incapable of imagining a riot without it being a by-the-book copy of a gonzo porn film? Here again, we see men instrumentalising women and using sexual torture of women as a means to communicate a political message (which if not totally vacuous, communicates nothing other than their hatred of women).
Perhaps the most saddening action of all consisted in filming one of the women naked, covered in cockroaches, meant to be understood as “sexy”. The association of women to filth and parasites to be eliminated couldn’t be clearer. This is women-hating, genocidal propaganda at its most dangerous form. Voina’s men give the world to see where women’s place must be, even when fighting against authoritarian regimes: head down, underneath men and fucked by them.
Now what does this mean for us, what can be understood from the media’s silence about Voina’s pornographic exploitation of women, when all the attention is focused on promoting Pussy Riot as our modern heroines? The effect and intent is political. While all the public eyes are set on the Russian representatives of the state and religion as the ultimate fascists, dictators and machos, we are made to forget that the primary oppressors and tyrants of these particular women are the men closest to them, that is, Voina’s men and their use of pornography to demean, oppress and enslave their female comrades. They are their everyday police, the fascists and colonisers breaking the women’s resistance, occupying their souls, sentencing them to public humiliation and subordinating them through sexual abuse. We are made to forget that these women are doubly victimised: first victims of the violence by the men of their own group, they are then punished and held responsible for the abuse committed against them.
By holding Pussy Riot as examples of resistance, being silent about the pornographic violence and denouncing the state and religious authority as the only oppressor, it follows that the media is complicit with the men from Voina. It protects the anarchist’s individual impunity, and more generally, furthers all men’s interest in promoting rape and women-hating propaganda. It also prevents women in general from identifying men’s sexual violence and the harms of the penis as the primary agents of our oppression. It distracts and disgusts women away from feminism. What kind of dignity and respect for our movement can women have if the only models of resistance given to us by the media are those to be seen by millions of men as humiliated, soiled and degraded in this way?  Even the most brave and valiant women, who fight bare handed and alone against Putin and the religious authority, must be shown by men to the world as surrendering and conquered.
If we want justice for the women imprisoned and to show true solidarity, we need to not only denounce the injustice by the Russian state, but also denounce the violence by the men from Voina. We need to recognise and openly denounce the pandemic levels of sexual violence present in most male-centric leftist or anarchist activist groups, whereby women are often pimped by the men of the group for pornography or expected to submit to extremely violent or degrading acts in the name of “sexual freedom”. What counts for these men is to fight for men’s total public access to women, especially militant women, because it really serves to put all women back in line. The weapon of mass destruction against women is the penis and this is why all men are focusing on making Putin look bad while they say nothing about the bastards of Voina.
For our sisters, for all women, we need to say out loud that this is not feminism.
–  HUB Newsfeed


Pussy Riot: Gender, Free Speech, Benevolent Sexism and "Western" Hypocrisy?


I’ve been following the legal trials of Pussy Riot for several months now. I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable about the directions the press has taken with this case and with the level of celebrity endorsement, particularly on the issue of free speech. Whilst I do think this issue is fundamentally about the right to free speech, I don’t think it is the right to free speech that the media suggests. I have always felt that the right to free speech only supports those in power or a very small group of those with no access to formal power but who can engage with the media. I don’t think discussions about the right to free speech are ever supportive of marginalised groups; no matter how much left-wing men swear it is. Free speech is the rallying cry of pornographers, neo-Nazis, rape apologists, and racists who assert that their right to be a jackass is more important than the harm they cause. Hearing people defend the tenets of free speech always makes me twitchy. Free speech, like pacifism, is a position only available to people with privilege. After all, the right to free speech is irrelevant if you live in abject poverty in a place with no access to electricity and, subsequently, have no real medium in which to assert that right.

A couple of weeks ago the journalist Miriam Elder, who is the Moscow correspondent for the Guardian, tweeted this:

Curious: do you think there would be such a campaign against Pussy Riot if they were men? And such a campaign of support in the west?

I’ve been pondering this since she tweeted it but haven’t quite been able to articulate my concerns about the way the media is constructing Pussy Riot. I’m a big fan of anarcho-feminist punk bands, or any feminist musicians,  and feminist performance art but there is something wilfully disingenuous about the uncritical way in which Pussy Riot are being portrayed in the “Western” media. This is not to say that I think Pussy Riot deserve to be convicted for hooliganism in this case. Far from it, I think arresting non-violent protestors is one of the Patriarchy’s favourite power plays. It’s a nasty silencing technique. The three members of Pussy Riot should never have been arrested; never mind convicted. However, I do have concerns about the media’s treatment of Pussy Riot; particularly since Pussy Riot were not protesting the right to free speech. Free speech is somewhat of red herring here. The debate for “free speech” is just the same old “Western” hypocrisy and benevolent sexism pretending to liberate women when all it does is further constrain us.


Until last night I thought I was the only one with these concerns. Then, Rowan Davies tweeted a link to this article on RadFem Hub: A Radical Feminist Collective Blog. I had no idea about Pussy Riot’s connections to Voina. To be fair, I hadn’t actually heard of Voina either. A perusal of google suggests they are a political performance art group; that is usually code for general misogynistic pornography pretending to be “art”. PETA has a similar policy and I think they are all misogynistic nincompoops too. Voina are, simply, quite vile, nasty misogynists. It would be very hard to argue the right to free speech based on their campaigns which is why the creation of Pussy Riot was both a necessity for publicity and a way of obfuscating Voina’s misogyny.

The relationship between Pussy Riot and Voina disturbs me but it also explains why Pussy Riot are getting so much “Western” media interest. Generally speaking, the media’s interest in Feminism is either to force women into accepting the pornographication and objectification of their bodies or to belittle, humiliate and denigrate feminists. I don’t think Pussy Riot would have received media attention in the “West” if they were male. I don’t know anywhere near enough about the internal workings of the Russian government so I can’t really comment on whether or not I think a male punk performance band would have been arrested in similar circumstances. But, I do believe that Pussy Riot is only garnering support in the “West” because of the holdover of the anti-communist hysteria, anti-feminist discourse and because of “benevolent sexism”. The inclusion of “free speech” is about the free speech of pornographers; it’s not about the free speech of feminists.

Pussy Riot are getting support from male artists like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Paul McCartney, and Stephen Fry because of “free speech”. I think their various personal histories of misogynistic discourse make their definitions of “free speech” both hypocritical and lacking in political analysis. I do truly believe a lot of their support is because Pussy Riot have vaginas and are young and pretty. It is benevolent sexism: the protection and support of pretty women whose personal voices are erased in order for the Menz to feel better about themselves [or ignore their own inappropriate behaviour]. Benevolent sexism is incredibly harmful to the Feminist movement because it gives the appearance of male support without acknowledging the conditions of that support; notably passing the Patriarchal Fuckability Test as Pussy Riot do.  I don’t think that this is necessarily a conscious decision on the part of some of their male supporters but I think it is there. This is not to say that Pussy Riot aren’t either deliberately using the PFT as a way of garnering support or that they aren’t aware of being used in this manner. It’s certainly not the first time women have used the benevolent sexism card to push through their legal demands.

It’s also worth acknowledging that the only major world artist whose been attacked for their support is Madonna who was labeled a moralising “slut” by Dmitry Rogozin, a deputy minister. Madonna expressed her support at a performance in Russia; as did the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Paul McCartney. I haven’t heard of anyone referring to members of RHCP as sluts. And, let’s be honest here, Anthony Kiedis’ sexual history isn’t exactly that of a man who respects women.  I also don’t see a group of celebs lining up to pay for the legal costs of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samustsevich as, apparently, Banksy did when he paid the bail of several members of Voina when they were arrested at a previous demonstration. Nor, do I see anyone really upset about the possibility of Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova’s young children being taken into care. After all, the loss of their children into foster care isn’t about the right to free speech for men. 

I also don’t think Pussy Riot were just arrested because they were criticising the Russian government. I think they were charged with hooliganism motivated by religious hatred because they identified as Feminist activists. This case is as much about silencing feminists as it is about the right to “free speech”. It is about patriarchal approval for the right kind of feminists: those who think that prostitution and pornography are valid “career choices” rather than the abuse and torture of vulnerable women. I doubt very much that the male celebs lining up to support Pussy Riot would be doing so if the women were also anti-pornography and anti-prostitution campaigners who refused to use the language of pornography in their campaigns. Similarities to the Ukrainian feminist group Femen, who have support in the “West” are striking.

I do believe the right to free speech is an important requirement in a democracy. But, we don’t have it now and we never really had it. Free Speech is about rich, white men being allowed to say whatever they want, whenever they want it. It’s about allowing pornographers to abuse and torture women’s bodies without taking any responsibility for the harm. So, whilst I have supported the campaign to free Pussy Riot, I have not been doing so uncritically under some misguided construction of feminism or free speech. 

I have been supporting Pussy Riot because no one deserves to be imprisoned for singing and dancing.

I have been supporting Pussy Riot because we need to change the discourse around free speech so that it applies equally to minority groups.

I have been supporting Pussy Riot because we need to stop using women’s bodies as political tools.

I have been supporting Pussy Riot because the #waronwomen is destroying women’s lives everywhere.

Pussy Riot:


The Pussy Riot “trial” of Nadezhda, Maria and Ekaterina started yesterday. It was the farce everyone expected it to be; with no real defence allowed. We all know they weren’t arrested for hooliganism but because of their [feminist] challenges to the Russian government. Their protests are brilliant; and far more feminist than the Ukrainian Femen has managed:

Amnesty International have now declared Nadezhda, Maria and Ekaterina prisoners of conscience, whilst those lurvely left-wing Dudes are lining up to defend the women [although I don’t see any evidence of helping to pay for their defence. Running about Moscow in a Free Pussy Riot t-shirt isn’t exactly a difficult thing for the Red Hot Chili Peppers to do. To be fair, they apparently wrote letters of support too, but, really, ponying up some cash would have been helpful too]. This is the Amnesty International Campaign:


Text ACTION7 and your full name to 88080 

I am writing to you to ask you to drop the charges of hooliganism against Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and immediately and unconditionally release them.
I believe that Maria, Ekaterina and Nadezhda have been detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and as such are prisoners of conscience. It is your duty to respect free speech and comply with international human rights law by releasing them immediately and unconditionally.
I also request that you promptly, fully and impartially investigate the allegations that the three arrested women have been pressured by members of the Centre of the Fight with Extremism and other officials.