Last night I saw Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, and now I’m convinced that Pussy Riot should be in jail, which I think was not the filmmakers’ intent.
The video shows three strong feminist women and their history of activism, culminating in their action in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The three who were arrested—Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich— are not the only members of their political collective, although you wouldn’t know that from the film. They also are not “girls,” they are young women in their mid-20s and early 30s, they are wives and mothers, they are educated and intelligent enough to have devised an ideological basis for their political protest. Yet since their arrests, they’ve been portrayed as “girls” who “didn’t realize” that defiling a revered place of worship would offend anyone, which is complete bullshit: The whole point of the action was to offend as many people as possible. If people weren’t offended, they wouldn’t pay attention. Well, they’re paying attention now; they’re paying attention all over the world.
The women of Pussy Riot must have realized there were likely consequences for their actions. Just as Edward Snowden was prepared to accept the loss of his well-paid job, the end of his comfy life, and his possible extradition to the US to face treason charges, so Pussy Riot should have been prepared for arrest, trial, and conviction. They say they are feminists: Let them act like feminists. Their prison sentences are the proof of everything they’ve said about Russian repression. Let them take the consequence of their actions like strong feminist women, not disingenuous, apologetic little girls. In the words of Sammy Davis Jr. “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”
Be punk, Pussy Riot: Be strong.
UPDATE 6/18: So what I was trying to say was unclear, and that is the fault of my writing. Mostly I was objecting to the documentary's portrayal of "girls," but also there's the rather alarming footage of the three prisoners apologizing and saying they "didn't mean to offend anyone." This is contrary to their otherwise strong statements--contrary, in fact, to their actions. The obvious injustice of two years in prison for their protest is what has called international attention to the very repression they were protesting. I have friends who participated in ACT UP's protest inside St. Patrick's Cathedral in 1989; no one went to prison, but it brought international attention to the AIDS crisis and forced the government to begin dealing with it. I hope Pussy Riot's Punk Prayer will turn out to be as influential. Also, one week on, Edward Snowden looks less like a hero. -B.