Freedom at Cost

Joanne Artman Gallery
Jul 26, 2018 11:01PM

In contemporary Russian culture, there is an adverse connotation to anything relating to Western liberalism. Open discussion of issues such as religious freedom, women’s rights, and gay marriage are still considered radically transgressive. Feminism is still a taboo topic, and #metoo is not a movement. In 2017 President Vladimir Putin decriminalized domestic violence making beatings legal, and women are still barred from working in some professions (due to soviet era laws that decreed almost 500 occupations as too hazardous or harmful to women’s health and childbearing) amongst other normalizations of sexism and diminishments of social protections. Yet in recent years, feminist groups have gained traction in metropolitan areas, growing in numbers online as well as in actions in the real world. There is an atmosphere of both hope as well as resilience despite setbacks.

Pussy Riot performing at Lobnoye Mesto in Red Square, January 20, 2012

(Image Courtesy of WikiCommons)

In a country ruled by a totalitarian dictator under the guise of presidential leadership, dissenting views can be dangerous – even deadly. Yet this hasn’t stopped activists, most visibly the feminist punk rock band Pussy Riot, from attempting to bring attention to humanitarian issues on a world stage by presenting attention grabbing, awe inspiring feats of political commentary via guerrilla performances in public spaces.

Like the Guerrilla Girls, members of Pussy Riot wear masks to cover their faces while also taking inspiration from the riot girrrl movement, opening a dialogue as well as developing a culture of protest. In their most publicized act to date, members did demonstrations against Vladimir Putin in 2012, leading to the lawyer for the Russian Orthodox Church to call feminism a “mortal sin.” In the act titled Punk Prayer, Pussy Riot led an expletive filled anthem against Putin at the altar of the revered Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. The members were detained and then jailed. Most recently the group did a pitch invasion at the World Cup in mock police uniforms to bring attention to human rights abuses in the country, an act for which members of the group remain currently in jail.

Members of Pussy Riot in Balaclavas (Image Courtesy of WikiCommons)

It is important to note, that the dangers of such actions are very much real. Consequences range from imprisonment to death.  Oksana Schachko, member of Ukrainian feminist group FEMEN was recently found dead in her Paris apartment. She was living there in exile following two kidnappings.

Both Pussy Riot and Femen are part of a rising wave of feminist protest groups from regions of Russia, Ukraine, and other parts of Eastern Europe. Politically conscious young women who cannot stay quiet in the face of corruption and human rights violations, who grew up with the memory of the Soviet Union as the distant past, and not their chosen future.

                                Writen by JoAnne Artman Gallery  ||

Joanne Artman Gallery