Not Riot Girls, Riot Grrrls

Aug 21 2012 @ 10:04am

Sarah Kendzior takes the Western media to task for their coverage of Pussy Riot, saying the band has too often been sexualized and trivialized:

The three members of Pussy Riot are "girls," despite the fact that all of them are in their 20s and two are mothers. They are "punkettes," diminutive variations on a 1990s indie-rock prototype that has little resemblance to Pussy Riot's own trajectory as independent artists and activists. "Why is Vladimir Putin afraid of three little girls?" asked a Huffington Post blogger who is not prominent but whose narrative frame, a question intended as a compliment, is an extreme but not atypical example of the West's reaction to and misunderstanding of Pussy Riot.

As far as Pussy Riot's problems go, being characterized as "girls" by the press ranks pretty low. So does the lack of vegan food in Russian prisons [PDF] (the object of a clueless campaign by fellow 1990s throwback Alicia Silverstone). Both are trivial compared to the two years of hard time they face. But Pussy Riot tells us a lot about how we see non-Western political dissent in the new media age, and could suggest a habit of mischaracterizing their grave mission in terms that feel more familiar but ultimately sell the dissidents short: youthful rebellion, rock and roll, damsels in distress.

Update from a reader:

Wait, a band with "Pussy" in its name is being sexualized? Oh, they must mean violent unrest on the part of cats. WTF?