The Tale of Pussy Riot

I’ve never been to a pussy riot, but I’m willling to wager it’s a pretty full on experience. The clue’s in the name. Pussy Riot. WOAH. It definitely sounds like something you need a good nap before, and possibly a Red Bull to get you started. Maybe some Kleenex, or a code word for “let’s get the fuck out of here”. It conjures wild and surreal pictures. Women railing knickerless in a town square with placards saying things like “Ban the C-bomb” and “Look! No Pants! AND I HAVEN’T SHAVED!” General female craziness abounds in the brain. Ovary Raves in secret fields off the M25. Progesterone Proms – where everyone has to wear a corsage in the colour of their Favourite Emotion. The East-Anglian Labia Conference, where they all stand around the buffet table and tut at the cocktail sausages (before swallowing them whole).

It sounds, in short, like the kind of crazy-bird attention-seeking thing that usually would barely get an eyebrow raise from me (I’m vainly trying to guard against wrinkles – so something has to be pretty major for me to risk a crease that Amanda Holden would call a ravine and have botoxed immediately.)

Pussy Riot.

The Tale of Pussy Riot (ha – sounds like a Beatrix Potter book that never got published) is something that could so easily have passed me by. I wrote recently how I don’t have a telly or the internet at home, so news pervades my cotton wool cocoon with the invasiveness of a mild seabreeze. I used to be depressed by the same old stories, history repeating itself – the signs that humans never learn, or seldom learn enough. I would not have been – but now am – ashamed to admit that most of my news intake now comes via the grabbability of Tweets. If Stephen Fry tells me to read something, chances are I will. If one of the many wonderful writers I follow retweets something of interest, chances are I’ll click, and I’ll learn something. I’m not a fool – I don’t relinquish my scrutiny and believe everything I read – but I do pick up my nuggets of current affairs this way, like a magpie flying over a field of buttons.

It’s the last week alone that has made me realise my approach to news is not only highly random, but also irresponsible. I’m 32 for goodness sake. I should know what’s going on in the world. I should pay attention to what’s important. I should stop giggling every time someone says pussy.

So, on a responsible whim, I clicked on a link Salman Rushdie had retweeted, to the statements of the jailed members of the Russian punk-feminist group Pussy Riot. I took the time to read. It took a while. Those gals are quite wordy. After I had finished, I not only knew something more of the story, I knew something more about Russia, and the women who were (actually) not best represented by their vociferous band name, or even by their own actions.  I learnt these women by reading their words. And, aside from the occasional snobbish and patronising swipe at the entire population of Russia (apparently limp-brained buffoons who can’t think for themselves), they were some of the most inspiring, eloquent and intelligent words I have ever read. They were important words. They were words which lit the soul.

These girls – Maria Alyokhina, Yekatarina Samutsevich, and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova – whose crime it was to get up on the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow and dance around a bit (badly, like day-glo-wielding stoners at an Ovary Rave) chanting “Our Lady – Chase Putin Out” – have now had two years of their freedom, two years of their lives on this earth, gobbled by a state that wants to crush any expression which does not toe the party line, even when it results in the entire world protesting. This column is not the right place to dissect the politics of modern Russia, the boisterous union of a supposedly secular state and church – and I certainly am not the person to do it well – but this column could be a thing which plays a tiny part in granting the wish of Maria Alyokhina that their incarceration will not mean a loss of freedom:

“Nobody can take away my inner freedom. It lives in the word, it will go on living thanks to openness, when this will be heard and read by thousands of people.”

To play your tiny part, read the statements here (the second statement, by Maria is particularly engaging):

www.nplusonemag.com/pussy-riot-closing-statements

I’ve grown up a little because of this story. In fact I’d happily give my whole face over to eyebrow-raised wrinkles to give this story – this bright button in the field of so much ‘news’ – the response and respect it deserves.

I might stop giggling at the word pussy when it crops up in the news. I might even stop google-imaging other important stories – like Prince Harry’s nads. Maybe.

 

“Go girls! Buy you a pint when you get out.”
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