By Molly McGrath
Let me start off by saying that American women just can’t relate to Pussy Riot.
Most American women have never served time in brutal Russian prisons or Serbian workcamps. Most American women don’t have to worry about the police coming into their house and quite literally stealing their belongings. Most American women are not being denied their rights by both the head of their country and the leader of their nation’s supposed religion.
What do we really know about Russian women?
I usually try not to jump to conclusions but would say that most of the women lined up to see original member Maria Alyokhina and more recent member (and journalist) Alexandra Bogino of the Russian punk rock protest group were not members of the Orthodox Church. Chances are, they were probably not even Russian. Ever since the cold war, Russia and America have been extremely disconnected. Before Pusssy Riot, American women were hardly aware of the situation for women in Russia. Knowing this is extremely important, because these activist women opened up a new window, allowing people all over the world to see what’s really happening to women in Russia.
My best friend, a 16-year-old daughter of a Russian Immigrant, has been raised in the Russian Orthodox Church, and we’ve discussed thoughts about Russian protest art several times. A huge fan of Pussy Riot, she says that the act is more influential in America than in Russia and that it actually created fear for many people in the Orthodox community. Russia has undergone two major revolutions in the last century (the Bolshevik Revolution at the beginning, and the falling of the Soviet Union towards the end) and the idea of another revolution is terrifying.
“Think about if you, a white woman, entered a Mosque and disrupted someone’s worship–that would make you a bad person,” she once said to me. Although that is true, I, as a white woman, am not forced into a Mosque the same way that Women in Russia are forced in the church. I am also not directly affected by the actions of Islam, whereas in Russia the leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, is petitioning to ban all forms of abortion throughout the entire country.
The 2016 American Election
In the provocative panel discussion, held at the Oriental Theater and moderated by Denver-based journalists Ru Johnson and Bree Davies, there was plenty of talk about the recent American election. Many American women are in fear after Donald Trump was elected, a man with bigoted ideals and allegations of sexual assault piling up in the double digits. One of the members of Pussy Riot even apologized for the results of our election. They also pointed out that the difference between Russia and America, however, is that Americans are still protected under the constitution and its checks and balances, a document which allows people to take serious political action, and cause serious political change.
When asked for tips to deal with a bigot for a president, both women stated how important it is to exercise all of your constitutional rights. They added that if you are not exercising those rights–if you stay silent and sulk or don’t vote–you are ruining the country for the rest of the people who are ready to take action.
Pussy Riot held court and schooled us all
Pussy Riot has essentially shocked some American women into a deeper understanding of their own privilege–thankfully. After the show, I spoke panel moderator Bree Davies, and she told me that, as a journalist, her pay over the past several years had been cut nearly in half. She added that her struggle–as a woman in America working a job she loves for a low wage–is comparatively nothing when held next to the struggle of women in Russia. So many of them aren’t able to work jobs they love at all, and are often paid far less than their counterparts in America.
What all of the American women present that night (hopefully) learned is how important it is to take action when you have the ability. And how important it is to stand up for people who enjoy less rights than themselves. Hopefully they all learned how important it is that–across the globe–people continue to fight for their civil rights, no matter the costs.
If Pussy Riot members can serve in Serbian work camps as a sacrifice for the rights of women in Russia, what is stopping American women from rioting and creating political art hers, daily? There is a lot that American women can learn from Pussy Riot–the big thing is to take action.
Editor’s Note: While the reporting, photography, and writing for this report was done in a timely manner, Editorial staff experienced a set of circumstances that made production and publication impossible until now. The story and the event, however, as well as the prescient and vital opinions and observations of our author are no less valid and important today as they were when they were first produced–in fact, they may be more so, and becoming more and more relevant and true every day. DenverThread apologizes for the timing of publication. Check out another review of this important event.