the baggy trousered misanthropist

missives issued from the lair

The whole ‘hoping this would just go away’ policy was not working out for the Russian authorities. Image: REUTERS/Mikhail Voskresensky.

Three members of a Russian punk band arrested for singing a protest song in an orthodox church have been sentenced to two years in jail.

In her verdict, Judge Marina Syrova claimed that Pussy Riot “committed hooliganism driven by religious hatred” and in doing so offended the church and religious people.


Pussy Riot. Guilty of turning the entire world into a Le Tigre gig. Image: AFP/GettyImages.

Singer/songwriter Kate Nash, who has been closely following the case, rejected this when she appeared on the BBC yesterday shortly after the verdicts were announced.

I feel really sad. In the statement released by the band [prior to the verdict] they apologised and said they were sorry for offending people.

It’s important for artists to be opinionated and to challenge the world they live in. I think so many musicians have got involved in this because they can relate to it and see themselves in that position.

Nash is one of several artists who have taken the case to heart in recent weeks. Paul McCartney, Madonna, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More have all publicly stated their support for Pussy Riot, and while this has been vital in bringing the case to the attention of the wider world, it is the action of the court that is going to be the decisive and motivating factor.

Image: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko.

By claiming the band had offended the church, the court were able to manipulate an emotive angle that justified the sentence to the Russian psyche. But in doing so they failed to understand the point that Pussy Riot themselves were trying to make; a rising number of Russians do not believe that the church should wield such power in the political landscape. They  understand that far from seeking to offend, the band were trying to point out that just as the religious are entitled to their views, so are they.

Until Pussy Riot, many Westerners didn’t realise the vast influence of the church in Russia. It isn’t something we are used to. We don’t comprehend the religious offence angle but we do comprehend the reality of jailing three young women, two of whom are mothers, for speaking their minds. Through their handling of this case, Russia has elevated Pussy Riot to the status of martyrs and their actions symbolic in the struggle for the right to free speech.

Pussy Riot protests broke out in cities across the globe yesterday, supporters easily identifiable by the colourful balaclavas that have been adopted in honour of the band. Celebrities from Mia Farrow to  Simon Le Bon have tweeted messages of support and events are being planned to keep the story in the news.

But it’s more than that. There is a generation of young women out there who have been taught that their bodies and minds are little more than vessels to be used and discarded at the whim of others. Now, through the actions of Pussy Riot and other high profile feminist activists, they have caught a glimpse of the power they can wield if they stand up and say what they feel and think, and use their bodies as they see fit.

And all because the Russian Orthodox church couldn’t stand up to a group of women charging into a church and shouting a few anti-establishment messages through their woolly hats.

Funny how things turn out, isn’t it?

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