Pussy Riot's Closing Statement Does Not Back Down

What Women Really Think
Aug. 10 2012 3:33 PM

Pussy Riot's Closing Statement

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Pussy Riot's Nadezhda Tolokonnikova makes herself heard before a hearing in Moscow on August 8.

Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP/GettyImages

The trial for three members of Pussy Riot, a Russian punk band that got in a lot of trouble for a prank/protest event where they crashed the altar of Moscow's largest Orthodox Church to play a single anti-Putin song, concluded this week. The members gave closing statements, which they used to reassert their objections to the authoritarian state and the way that religious faith is being hijacked to garner support for government oppression. Business Insider ran a video and a translation of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's closing statement, where she clearly laid out the case for breaking the back of all oppressive institutions and linked her ordeal with that of many historical figures who have faced similar censorship efforts from social and governmental authorities. 

Essentially, it is not three singers from Pussy Riot who are on trial here. If that were the case, what’s happening would be totally insignificant. It is the entire state system of the Russian Federation which is on trial and which, unfortunately for itself, thoroughly enjoys quoting its cruelty towards human beings, its indifference to their honor and dignity, the very worst that has happened in Russian history to date. To my deepest regret, this mock trial is close to the standards of the Stalinist troikas. Thus, we have our investigator, lawyer and judge. And then, what’s more, what all three of them do and say and decide is determined by a political demand for repression. Who is to blame for the performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour and for our being put on trial after the concert? The authoritarian political system is to blame. What Pussy Riot does is oppositional art or politics that draws upon the forms art has established. In any event, it is a form of civil action in circumstances where basic human rights, civil and political freedoms are suppressed by the corporate state system.
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Pussy Riot set out to draw attention to the link between sexist, corporate, religious, and state oppression. Whether or not these three women go to jail, it can safely be said that they succeeded in their mission. As Jos Truitt of Feministing, who was raised Russian Orthodox, explained, decades of being stifled under the Soviets can make it easy for some of the faithful to convince themselves these women were doing something oppressive themselves by holding a harmless protest, but the way that everything has played out has made it all too clear that the church authorities pushing for punishment are drunk on their own power.

Various attempts to rationalize the persecution of Pussy Riot have been a lesson in how to make your opponents arguments for you. When Madonna openly supported the band during a Moscow performance, Dmitry Rogozin, a deputy prime minister, sent out a tweet in which he, instead of dealing with Madonna's arguments, called her a slut instead. When challenged on this comment on Twitter, he replied, "Either take off the cross or put on [under]pants." Pussy Riot took their inspiration from the '90s American punk rock movement Riot Grrrl, which sought to take feminist theory out of the classroom and into the streets. But now they're teaching the world how it's done. 

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

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