THE PUSSY RIOT IN RED SQUARE

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Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news…if you haven’t heard of Pussy Riotlisten up.

(Just that name, Pussy Riot, gives me goose-bumps.)

In February this year, the colourful feminist Russian punk band, Pussy Riot, staged a surprise performance on the altar of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, a Russian Orthodox Church in Red Square, Moscow.

The girls were making a stand against the close ties between the post-Soviet leadership and the church, hence the choice of venue. They called on the Virgin Mary to expel Putin in the “punk prayer” Holy Shit.

Three of the women have been in jail since then and have now become a cause-celebre across the globe in a test of  President Vladimir Putin’s treatment of dissent.

Commentators from the music world such as Peter Gabriel and the Red Hot Chili Peppers as well as writers from the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times have labelled the cruel and unusually harsh attitude toward these vocal activists as political dynamite that may have far-reaching effects for the Russian government.

Sting has just joined Amnesty International in calling for their release.

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These outrageous gals are masked feminist superheroes. I kid you not.

They are everything I wanted to be when I was a little girl living in my ultimate fantasy world. All those pesky superheroes were men – Superman, Batman, Spiderman. Men in tights. As I struggled through my ballet classes clad in pastel pink leotards and stockings I would let myself drift into the dream that I was a super-girl, out there saving the world.

I have recently become aware of this real-life, kick-arse band of chicks who are doing exactly that. Tales of their recklessness are inspiring. Ten to 15 Russian feminist women don brightly colourful tights and dresses with matching balaclavas and gatecrash events, performing their particular brand of punk rock, to raise awareness for women’s issues.

Some sing and dance. Some play instruments and others video-record and then post the clip on YouTube. And to add to the mystique, like all good superheroes, they live in anonymity.

I have watched them perform and they strike me as a cross between The Wiggles, the Teletubbies and the Chaser. Only angrier. Edgier. And, well, punkier.

However, three members of Pussy Riot are now on trial for their antics which were the equivalent of Nick Cave and The Birthday Party jumping up in St Mary’s Cathedral and singing a song of prayer asking for God to reinstate Kevin Rudd and, frankly, the carry on in Australian politics is not far from such a circus.

Did the Russians see the irreverently funny side of this? Nyet!

The three are facing very serious charges of “hooliganism” which carries a sentence in Russia of up to seven years. That’s a long, cold time in hell for a political prank.

Hooliganism is almost revered in our country but in the land of the Russkies, these feisty buskies – Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikora, and Ekaterina Samutsevitch, all in their 20s – have been held in prison for months away from their small children.

The women faced court this week and statements have been read that acknowledge their deep remorse for any offence caused to the religious faithful but they are pleading “not guilty” to all charges.  

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Their supporters chanted: “Girls, we’re with you!” and “Victory!” as the women, each handcuffed by the wrist to a female officer, were escorted from a police van into the courthouse. The three were then marched out to go back to jail until at least January 2013.

The forces against arranged against them are mighty -the church, the state and a group of conservative Russian writers who have called for tough punishment.

Pussy Riot may have crossed the line of decency but sometimes you have to, just to be heard in this increasingly, nauseatingly polite world!

Inspired by this bunch of motivated, stockinged howlers, I am seriously thinking of starting my own all-girl political band.

We don’t have to be young and pretty because we wear masks (Kiss? Just saying). In the tradition of the riot grrrl art collective and Angelic Upstarts, I propose an older bunch of mothers who howl and stomp for better working pay and conditions… and that’s just the first verse.

Mumstomp? The Wobbles? Menopausal Mofos? Who’s with me?

Seriously, this spunky bunch of Russian rockers has managed, with one performance, to gain an audience of millions. And that, in terms of a protest, is called kicking some arse!

Is this hooliganism? Do these girls deserve seven years in a Russian prison?

We all wait and watch…fearing what is to come and singing a punk prayer for Pussy Riot.

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nikki mcwatters*Nikki McWatters has had a varied career, from film and television acting to teaching to legal counseling. She lives in Queensland with her husband and children. One Way or Another: The Story of a Girl Who Loved Rock Stars is her first book. It was shortlisted for the Emerging Author Award in the former Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards and is published by Black Inc.

You can follow Nikki on Twitter @nikkimcwatters or visit Nikki’s blog. To find out more about Nikki’s book, One Way or Another: The Story of a Girl Who Loved Rock Stars, go here

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